elebrating September 17th in Argentina is the day of the Psicopedagogo. Get to know why and how Jean Piaget has anything to do with this celebration.
As soon as we came to the world we started to create bonds with people. We had no choice, we needed them and they also needed us for their own development. During our first years of life, the ones where we experience most profound changes are not only physical or cognitive but social too. As infants, our needs are very basic: food, warmth, protection, but also affection and attention. Our social life starts taking shape with the first relationships we establish with our parents or caregivers and later on with other significant people such as teachers that will play a big part in both cognitive and emotional development.
Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was an outstanding Swiss scientist who turned his interests to the investigation of intellectual development in children. He was also interested in what he called “social education”, which includes the family, school and other social institutions. His studies were initially carried out on his own three children but later he moved forward with groups of children aged 0-16 years old. The information collected during this time is still valid nowadays and helps us to understand the way children learn , as well as their learning potential.
It is believed that Piaget’s theory refers only to those under 12 years old; however, every age group has its own developmental characteristics. The same goes for schools or other institutions where education takes place. Every child brings with him a different physical and mental development that must be taken into account when establishing activities to encourage learning.
The Swiss scientist used the term “schemas” to describe children’s cognitive mechanisms, which develop in a hierarchical manner. He stated that there are four: sensorimotor (0-2 years), preoperational (2-7 years), concrete (6-11 years) and formal (10-15 years).
The sensorimotor schema is the first one that appears in our lives and it’s about physical objects and events. During this stage children learn how things work through their senses; they construct a mental image of an object through tactile, visual and auditory information. At this level, children think the world is stationary, despite that they may have seen objects moving.
The second stage is named preoperational thinking and it begins at about 2 years old when language develops drastically. This way children are able to communicate their experiences with others, to share information and establish relationships; therefore this schema has an important impact on social development. This is the age where children usually ask a lot of questions. At this moment they are egocentric, unable to conceive that other people can have different thoughts and opinions than them.
The concrete operational schema develops in 6-11 year old children who start using logical reasoning with things instead of just their senses. They understand rules, can classify objects according to characteristics and justify their choices. They are interested in the environment around them, they plan ahead to achieve results and want to know how things work. This schema has an impact on school learning because children learn concepts following a logical order, not only memorizing information but understanding the process of reasoning behind it.