Through the process of cognitive adaptation, the child achieves an equilibration state. This equilibrium is not permanent. Temporary disequilibrium occurs for adapting new properties of objects (Miller, 2002). Therefore, equilibration refers to the final level of achievement within each stage (Miller, 2002). Thus, children’s thinking develops changing the state of disequilibrium to equilibrium between the organism and environment through the processes of assimilation and accommodation.
Although Piaget’s theory has had impact on contemporary developmental psychology, it is not a perfect theory. A lot of pros and cons of his theory are reported until the present time. First of all, it can be said that a strength of the Piaget’s theory is that it has a huge amount of support researches. Piaget treated the real world problems which are capable of replicate in his research. Therefore Piaget’s theory has received a lot of longitudinal, cross-sectional and cross-cultural support over many years (Hill, 2001). It also should be stressed that understanding of child cognitive growth, based on Piaget’s theory, has had influence on education, including in child-centred learning methods in nursery and infant schools.
On the other hand, like all theories, Piaget’s theory is not free from criticism. First, much research has demonstrated that children possess many of the cognitive abilities that Piaget outlined at ages much earlier than he expected (Hill, 2001). Second, many researcher argued that Piaget severely underestimated social influences on development. In this point, Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development is quite often compared with Piaget’s one.
While Piaget’s assumption that developmental growth was independent of experience and based on a universal characteristic, Vygotsky stressed that child development is effected by social and cultural context, especially language. Vygotsky believed that biological and cultural development do not develop in isolation (Hill, 2001). Inadequate explanation of his concepts is the third problem. For example, although Piaget’s possessed functional invariants is the best framework to examine cognitive change, he did not explain precisely how sensorimotor thought becomes preoperational thought. Child abilities also quite often overlap in two stages. Therefore some researcher suggests that development might be better regarded as a continuous process (Hill, 2001).
Furthermore, more sophisticated research methods revealed some methodological weaknesses of Piaget’s theory. First, a frequent criticism is that Piaget’s experiments were over-complicated. Many tasks require several skills, such as attention, memory, and specific factual knowledge. Therefore there is a possibility that a child may have ability but unable to perform because of lacking one of the other required skills (Atkinson, et al. 2000).
Some researcher pointed out that, even in fairly uncomplicated tasks, Piaget’s experiments tend to ignore the child’s social understanding of the test and many have led the child to give a socially describe or expected answer instead of what child really thought and understood (Hill, 2001). Lastly, lacked scientific accuracy of experiments is often pointed out. In Piaget’s infancy research, he observed his own children. The results in this small size sample may have some biases (Miller, 2002).
Thus, although Piaget’s theory is very popular in current psychological field, some important aspects of the theory need to be considered in the light of more recent evidence. In conclusion, this essay has evaluated Piaget’s theory which is regarded as one of the most famous theory in developmental psychology. First, it has described a centre of Piaget’s theory, how children develop their cognitive structures through these four stages. Second, it has explained that the mechanisms of child development. Children’s thinking develops changing the state of disequilibrium to equilibrium between the organism and environment through the processes of assimilation and accommodation.
Third, it has indicated the strengths and weaknesses of the Piaget’s theory. According to this essay, it might be said that although there is a fact that Piaget’s method of observation led him to underestimate some important abilities, many researcher have accepted most of his concepts. It also might be said that his careful and detailed observations of child development enable us to understand child cognitive development deeply. It has brought a great impact on educational practice. His theoretical framework has provided a basis for more scientific studies and will undoubtedly continue to do so hereafter.
Atkinson, R. L., Atkinson, R. C., Smith, E. E., Bem, D. J., and Hoeksema, S. N. (2000). Chapter 3. Psychological development. In Hilgard’s introduction to Psychology (13th Ed.). USA: Harcourt Colleges Publishers Carlson, N. R., and Buskist, W. (1997). Chapter 12 Life-Span Development. In Psychology: the science of behaviour (5th Ed.). USA: Allyn and Bacon
Encyclopedia of Psychology, (2002) Genetic Epistemology (J. Piaget). Exploration in Learning and Instruction: The Theory Into Practice Database. [Online] Available: http://tip.psychology.org/piaget.html [01/12/03] Hill, G. (2001). A Level Psychology through diagram (2nd Ed.). Oxford: OUP Miller, P. (2002). Theories of Developmental Psychology (4th Ed.). Worth Press