Sample Psychology Coursework Paper on Cognitive Development

Cognitive Development

Part One

One aspect of Piaget’s developmental theory that I concur with is its portrayal of a qualitative process of children’s cognitive development with growing age. Piaget’s theory advanced the idea of stage-based development of human intelligence, dealing with the process in which human beings acquire, construct, and utilize knowledge in a gradual progression. Piaget recognized cognitive development as a sequence of progressive restructuring in mental processes owing to experiences of the environment and biological maturation. In this context, children construct and adopt an understanding of the surrounding world by adjusting to the experiences of discrepancies between personal knowledge and discoveries in the world, hence acquiring new knowledge. This concept in Piaget’s theory is suitable as a basis for the design of educational programs in terms of enforcing teaching and knowledge levels that match the level of children’s developmental preparedness.

One element of the theory that I disagree with is the idea that children have to take initiative on the environment to revise their thinking and knowledge. This notion represents a narrow approach towards understanding the process of learning because cognitive development involves extensive interactions between the environment and the individual, rather than being self-generating. Piaget’s notion portrays the environment as a passive factor in the child’s cognitive development, ignoring the active and practical role that the environment plays in shaping the child’s knowledge and new conceptualizations through experience. In effect, Piaget considers cognitive development as a self-generating and self-developing process, disregarding the environment as a vital influence. In practice, children are likely to fail to notice certain perspectives and elements in the environment, and hence miss the benefit and influence of these aspects in their cognitive development. Piaget’s idea would imply that the application of specific teaching strategies aimed at fostering optimum learning for children in education environments is useless, which is not true.

Part 2

Both Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories address the process of cognitive development among human beings. While Piaget considered children as active learners who develop and adopt knowledge from environments through accommodation and assimilation, Vygotsky identified formal and informal conversations with adults as a principal influence in children’s development. One limitation of Piaget’s theory concerns his ignorance of the influences of cultural-specific factors on the process of cognitive development. Piaget developed his theory based on observations of children in a specific cultural and social class in Switzerland, specifically his own children and those of well-educated professionals with high socioeconomic status. His use of such an unrepresentative sample in a specific social group with similar conditions and influences in life as the foundation of his theory makes its arguments and concepts difficult to generalize. Considering the differences in experiences and exposures that different societies and social groups and classes influence in children’s lives, Piaget’s theory is inadequate in capturing the potential influences of these differences in cognitive development.

To rectify this deficit in Piaget’s theory, I would conduct a study to observe differences in the cognitive development of children of a similar age in multiple social class, society, cultural, and education model environments. The purpose of such an experiment would be to establish whether differences in the exposures and experiences of different children in varying social class, society, cultural, and education contexts have significant effects on their processes of knowledge development. Such an experiment would address the problem of Piaget’s reliance on a small and unrepresentative sample of children to develop the theory.