Critically Evaluate the Relevance of Piaget’s Theory to 21st Century Developmental Psychology

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No one has had a bigger impact on developmental psychology than Jean Piaget. Piaget’s theory represents a constructivist view of development and is the best theory so far that integrates both a structural and functional explanation of cognitive development (Beilin, 1992). This essay will attempt to explain Piaget’s stage theory of cognitive development, while critically evaluating it’s relevance and the contributions that it made to give us our modern view of human development. Piaget (1952, as Cited in Sutherland, 1992) proposed that children progress through a series of stages of thinking that are qualitatively different from each other and correspond to broad changes in the structure of their intelligence. The main stages were known as; the sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational stage. These mental operations are organized into schemas, which evolve and are altered from one stage to the next. He theorized that there are invariant parts of thought; these include the organization of schemas and their adaptation through the process of assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is the process whereby a child takes in new experiences and applies it to existing schemas, for example, a child may have a schema that is related to it’s understanding of what a car is and as a result may generalize that all vehicles are cars (Smith, Cowie and Blades, 2011). Accommodation involves adjusting the mind to new experiences, where a child alters its existing schemas to fit in with the environment, so the child can now discriminate between cars and all other vehicles. Through both of these processes a child achieves a state of equilibrium, this equilibrium is not permanent as the child is learning from its environment, it is constantly going through a process of assimilation and accommodation (Sutherland, 1992). Piaget’s concept of
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