Piaget's theory of cognitive development has deepened our understanding on cognition. Through a constructivist approach, Piaget theorised that children actively construct knowledge through experience and interactions with the environment (Sutherland, 1992). Furthermore, Sutherland, 1992, explains that his theory focuses in developmental changes in thinking and argues that knowledge is developed through both physical and logical, mathematical experience. However, Piaget's theory has been criticised thoroughly, from underestimating children's abilities to ignoring post adolescent development (Lourenco & Machado, 1996). In this essay, Piaget's cognitive development will be evaluated by first summarising the key points of the theory and then discussing its main criticisms[avz1] .
According to Sutherland, 1992, the stage theory has three periods: the sensorimotor activity, pre-operational and operational thinking (Concrete and formal operations). The theory states that the child has to go through all of the stages in order to develop their cognition and that learning involves the processes of accommodation (the capacity to adapt their mind to a novel experience) and assimilation (the ability to alter the experience within the mind) which are balanced by equilibration (when either process dominates alternately until an equilibrium is reached for that stage) (Sutherland, 1992). Moreover, as argued by Sutherland, 1992, sets of schemas are used by the child in order to help them adjust to their environment by changing it. The key points of his theory reflect Piaget's interest in the development of cognition and how knowledge is acquired.
In addition to this, his work was highly influential at the time, ideas about cognition development where oversimplified and misunderstood. Therefore, Piaget's ideas of children and toddlers thinking and learning differently to adults, as well as the idea that babies could think and learn, were revolutionary (Sutherland, 1992). Despite this, his ideas have gone through many criticisms, and his theory has been developed over the years[avz2] .
It is argued that one of Piaget's main criticisms is that he underestimates children in his theory (Lourenco & Machado, 1996). Donaldson argued that most preschool children are capable of solving problems associated with operational thought if they were given help and was very critical of Piaget's experimental methodology as situations weren't presented as optimal and helpful as they could have, not showing us the child's true potential (Sutherland, 1992). Though there is evidence that proves higher competency in children than previously thought by Piaget (see Donaldson, 1978. and Grieve & Hughes, 1990), the studies that try to demonstrate operational thought on preoperational children haven't brought any evidence that these competencies are equivalent to the operational and the logic mathematical competencies which Piaget was interested (Lourenco & Machado, 1996).
Another criticism to Piaget's theory is that he establishes age norms disconfirmed by data. Operational thought in pre-operational children has been shown to have controversy as it has been theorised that children develop operational thought not in one bunch, but in different areas of cognition (Sutherland, 1992). Furthermore, the sensorimotor stage has lacked evidence on babies thinking ability (Sutherland, 1992). Lourenco and Machado, 1996, argued that Piaget was primarily interested in sequence of changes instead of age attainments. Furthermore, it is argued that Piaget characterizes development negatively, however, his theory is based on the conception of development as a transition from absence to presence which is what constructivist beyond Piaget claimed.
Likewise, Piaget's theory is disputed to be an extreme competence theory. This is because during his concrete operations experiments, the basis of his theory was settled upon the child's completion of different tasks which, as discussed above, where criticized of being, in other words, difficult. However, Piaget's relative lack of interest in performance factors diverges from his concerns which mainly prioritizes the mystery of knowledge, the identification of new types of thinking in development and Piaget's lack of interest on performance variables can be overcome from within (Lourenco & Machado, 1996).
Besides this, his theory is said to neglect the role of social factors in development. It[avz3] is when we only interpret structured of the whole functionally that we see inconsistency between the structuralism in Piaget's theory and developmental asynchrony (Lourenco & Machado, 1996). However, if we see structures of the whole as levels of organization and take into account that there is always a multitude of factors intervening in each task, then the contradiction disappears.
Furthermore, the idea that Piaget's theory describes but doesn't explain is one open for discussion. According to Armando and Orlando, 1996, this is an oversimplification as some of Piaget's deepest concerns and insights were forgotten instead of being explored systematically. In the paper, it was stated that piagetian critics have yet to rise to the challenge posed by Piaget's 1978 claim that the two great mysteries of knowledge cannot be solved solely within a functionalist framework.
Moreover, in the same paper the claim that Piaget's idea is paradoxical because it assesses ideas through language was discussed. This was said to be incorrect when examined in detail and that is both pertinent and opportune; pertinent because it comes from within the theory and opportune because piaget did not integrate the communicative component of interaction with the operative component of that same interaction, investigated later during his structuralist years. This calls for deeper exploration rather elimination of this part of his theory.
In addition to this, it was claimed that piaget's theory ignored post adolescent development. This was criticised as he did not ignore postadolescent development and empirical studies have not shown unambiguously that from an operational viewpoint the postformal stage is more advanced than its predecessor. Most of the proponents of the new stage sat that piaget's formal stage provides food model to conceptualize their own postformal stage.
Finally, the theory is criticised as it appeals to inappropriate models of logic. This ignores the fact that he was mainly concerned with an operational logic as he revised his model of formal operations extensively as he moved towards a logic of significations that stresses that from its very beginning knowledge always involves organization, inference, and meaning.Throughout this essay, the main criticisms of Piaget's theory were evaluated. It can therefore be concluded that despite the theory's criticisms, piaget's theory of cognitive development is hugely influential, even today. The theory has since been further developed and some of the main criticisms examined in order to improve upon the theory so we can understand how cognition develops