Jean Piaget (1896-1980) a Swiss psychologist who is acknowledged for his work on child development, and for the theory of cognitive development, known also as ‘genetic epistemology’. Piaget was the oldest child in the family of a Medieval literature professor. From early years, Piaget was a precocious child who took an early interest in nature. Due to his godfather’s urgings he started studying the fields of philosophy and logic. He later defined himself a s a ‘genetic’ philosopher that investigates the origin, nature, methods and limits of human knowledge.
Piaget gives a profound importance on the children’s education. He focused on two processes, assimilation and accommodation.
Assimilation is how humans perceive and adapt to new information while Accommodation is the process of taking new information in one’s environment and altering pre-existing schemas in order to fit the new information. He believed that assimilation and accommodation could not exist without one another
His theory was accessible in both educational and psychology fields. Piaget believed that the cognitive development was a progressive reorganisation of mental processes arising from biological maturation and environmental experience. Piaget disputed that intellectually we develop in a series of stages. The stages are associated to age and are progressive since one stage has to be achieved before you go to the next stage. Piaget’s theory is very instrumental in both educational and psychology fields. He believed that the cognitive development was a progressive reorganisation of mental processes arising from biological maturation and environmental experience. He suggested that the mind develops in 4 stages:
1. Sensory motor stage
2. Pre-operational stage
3. Concrete operations
4. Formal operations
1: Sensorimotor Stage
The sensory stage starts at birth until the child learns to talk. In this stage children are exploring and understand the world whilst acquiring knowledge and experiences. They start learning also from physical actions. Piaget also divided this into 6 other sub-stages:
Reflex – the movements and coordination of reflexes such as: sucking, grasping, following movements with the eyes.
Primary circular reactions – A behaviour that is not done on purpose but it creates an interesting result which is ultimately repeated by the child and learnt.
Secondary circular reactions – During this stage the child learns by repetition for example: the mother puts a cloth on the child’s face and repeats the action.
Coordination of secondary circular reactions – In this reaction the child learns the coordination of vision and touch. The child in this stage learns that just because he is not seeing and touching an object it doesn’t mean that it does not exist anymore.
Tertiary circular reactions – here the child learns by trial and error. They become intrigued with objects, checking their size, shape etc. During this stage Piaget calls the child ‘young scientist’.
Beginning of symbolic representation – During this last stage the child becomes imaginative. They develop the ability to form mental representations of objects.
2: Pre-operational Stage
This stage starts between 2-7 years of age. During this stage the child increases their pretend and role playing, but they still have difficulty in understanding other people’s point of view. They are called ‘egocentric’ as they think that everyone thinks like them and that the world revolves around them.
Between the age of 4 to 7 years, the children start asking a lot of questions. Their curiosity escalates so they start asking a lot of questions about why and how things are the way they are. By asking all these questions they start building their knowledge and instigate their thinking and reasoning.
4: Concrete Operational Stage
Children continue to learn and experiment as in the pre-operational stage. The difference is in their thinking. They start being more logical, flexible and organised, but still they do not understand abstract thinking. There are four characteristics in this stage of preoperative thought: Centration, Conservation, Irreversibility, Class Inclusion ; Transitive inference.
Centration means that they put all their attention and focus on one aspect of a situation while ignoring the others.
Conservation means that by changing the appearance of something does not mean that the object’s properties changed too.
Irreversibility means that the child are not able to think in reverse, they cannot mentally reverse a sequence of events.
Class Inclusion means that the children are unable to focus on two aspects of a situation therefore they choose one aspect and concentrate on it.
Transitive Inference means that the child is using previous attainments to complete the missing pieces.
5: Formal Operational Stage
This stage starts from 12 years up to adulthood. During this stage the children start to develop and understand abstract concepts such as: fairness, justice and peace. They develop deductive logic which help them in solving problems, and also combinational logic used a lot during mathematical algebraic formulas.
Piaget studied the various ways that a person acquires, retains and develops knowledge. Nowadays, Piaget’s theories are still being implemented in the classroom amplify the children’s education. Putting Piaget’s theories into practice is quiet simple, bringing effectiveness and benefits to both students and educators. Piaget acclaims that the educators should take a ‘mentoring role’ with the children encouraging them to be active and engage in activities.
Piaget emphasis that during the lessons the educators should include hands-on activities so that the children can see the results themselves. He also conceived that the children’s knowledge is acquired through trial and error. This is why we need to let the children make mistakes, so that they learn. Making mistakes mean that they are thinking and interacting.
Educators should pay attention to the students’ ways and development steps in reaching the final results and guide them accordingly. Teachers should adapt the lessons to everyone’s individual needs rather than generalise and push the student to one learning method. Children reach their developmental stages in differential stages since every human being is unique.
Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) was an Austrian neurologist who is known for his theory of personality (the theory which explains human behaviour). Freud became a medicine doctor in 1881 and in 1902 he became a professor. He believed that the events we encounter in our childhood will reflect and shape our adult lives. He was the founding father of psychoanalysis.
Freud believed that the mind was divided into three parts:
The unconscious mind are the thoughts and feelings that are suppressed in the brain and that they cannot be accessed by the conscious mind. Freud believed that the unconscious mind, the part that we cannot see is the most important as our past experiences are stored in this part of the mind and that it influences our behaviour and feelings in the future.
The preconscious mind are the thoughts and feelings that a human being is not presently aware of, but that they could be brought to consciousness. For example: presently you are not thinking about the address where you live but when it is mentioned you can reminisce it without any problems.
The conscious mind is all the mental processes that the human being is aware of. For example: you feel hungry and you decide to eat.
In 1923 Freud developed a more structural theory of the mind, called The Psyche. This consisted of the id, ego & superego. He believed that they are essential to human development.
1. The id is the pleasure principle (instant gratification) in a person and it works at the level of the unconscious mind. We are born with the id and we carry it through our whole lives. Id works on our instinctive part and it is the source of our desires and pleasures. Id is a very important part of us as it sustains our basic needs like: respiration, eating and sex.
2. The ego develops right after the id, during the first 3 years of a child. It is the reality principle in a person, and is the part which tries to satisfy the id’s desires and wants in rational ways, and to help the id make a conscious decision. The ego is not selfish like the id and it makes the id aware that other people have wants and needs too. The ego acts as a moderator between the id and the superego during conflicts.
3. The Superego is the last to develop between the age of 3 to 5 years. This is the perfection principle in a person, the part which applies the cultural rules, mainly thought by the parents and educators. The superego is the organised part of our personality and which is not fully conscious. A person whose super ego is very dominant may become a moralistic and judgemental person.
Freud concluded that the first 5 years of childhood are the most vital in the development. He emphasised that development is done through a series of stages, and that there should be a balance between the id, ego and superego for a well-adjusted personality to develop.
During the era, Freud lived in, women were forced to suppress their sexual needs which most of the time they ended with various types of neurotic illness. Freud tried to understand the cause by going back in their sexual history and how they handled these emotions such as: love, hate, shame, guilt and fear.
All of this led Freud in his theory of psychosexual development where according to him all the children are born with a libido (sexual pleasure). He observed that during the early stages of the child development, the child goes through five psychosexual stages:
1. The oral stage
The first of five stages that starts from birth up to the first year. It focuses on the mouth, lips and tongue since they are the first pleasures of a baby. Infants derive a sense of trust and comfort from this oral stimulation. There is a primary conflict during this stage where the child must learn to lose the physical intimacy such as: breastfeeding from their mothers. Fixation during this stage may result in an indifferent, offensive and immature personality, which later in adulthood could lead to problems with drinking, eating, smoking or nail biting.
2. The anal stage
This is the second stage following the oral and it commences from the first year and last up to three years. During this stage the libido changes and centres more on the anus. Here the child needs to learn toilet training and to control the bodily needs such as: emptying the bowels. At this stage Freud puts a lot of focus on how the parents act and approach their child’s progress in toilet training. It is very important that positive praise is given to the child in order for the parents to see positive outcomes. It is also very imperative for the parents to teach their child the importance of physical cleanliness. The positive praise will help the children to become competent, productive and creative adults. On the other hand, inappropriate parental practices will give negative outcomes and will produce messy, wasteful and destructive personalities, thus individuals become poignant, conventional, rigid and obsessive.
3. The phallic stage
Next in line is the phallic stage which starts at 3 years and lasts up to 5 years of age. Here the libido focuses on the child’s genitalia and the pleasure of masturbation. Children start to become aware of their bodies and to compare their own bodies with their peers and their parents. They are curious to note and explore each others genitals and it is here that they become aware of the physical differences and define ‘male’ and ‘female’ body. Freud also believed that sometimes during the phallic stage some boys start viewing their father as the competition for the love and affections of his mother, even though they are afraid that their father will punish them for these feelings. This is known as the Oedipus Complex.
4. The latent stage
This stage is the one before the last and starts from 5 up to 12 years of age (puberty). There is more physical development at the stage and so the libido becomes latent (hidden). During this stage the child amalgamates all the habits derived from the first three stages to form another important part of the character. Here the children focus more on developing their social skills, values and interaction with their friends and adults. They are eager in acquiring knowledge and new skills. Also during this stage the superego continues to grow while the id takes a step back. This is a very important stage for the children as they start to develop their self-confidence. Children who become fixated at this stage will result in immature adults and will have problems with relationships in adulthood.
5. The genital stage
This is the fifth and final stage of the psychosexual development. it initiates at 12 years and lasts up to 18 years and adulthood. Here the adults detach themselves from their parents and become independent. The genital stage helps the adult to resolve any remaining conflicts hey had during the previous stages, like the phallic stage, the genital stage focuses on the genitalia but this time it is consensual and adult-like rather than childish and immature. Here the adult should be well-balanced, warm and caring if he has gone through all the previous stage successfully while it could result I mental abnormality if gone through the stages unsuccessfully.