Piaget: the pioneer of human cognitive development
Piaget, a Swiss academic, started life as a zoologist, went on to work with Binet on the IQ test and then took an interest in the development of the human mind. He discarded Freud’s developmental theory, correctly in my view, although I am a Freudian, and developed his own model, which in my opinion is clearly correct http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Piaget
He sees the development of children as 1. sensorimotor, when the child is a mass of mewling and puking, so to speak,
2. the pre-operational, when the child begins to acknowledge people and things, 3. the concrete (the most important in early primary) when the child learns to do things, such as count, tie shoe-laces, swim etc (characterised by counting on the fingers) and
4. the formal, that is the ability to think abstractly, the essential determinant of higher intelligence (think of a triangle. Can you see one? That is formal or abstract thinking). The stages of the devlopment are blurred, but pre-school is pre-operational (with thinking like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds), juniour school is concrete with the beginnings of formal/abstract and secondary and beyond is abstract: all children should be abstract thinkers by 15 but that would be a very late developer.
The important issue is to ensure that each child moves from the concrete to the abstract: the 11+ was mostly a test of abstract thinking. Grammar school children and indeed higher thinkers are simply good at abstract thinking, such as imagining non-existent problems in maths or inventing a story: think of it as “imagineering” or constructive dreaming. Fantasising is chaotic dreaming, abstract thinking is directed dreaming.
The present government has seen the benefits of Piaget’s thinking and has re-configured the “Headstart” system to accommodate his ideas, quite rightly in my opinion.
All parents should have some knowledge of Piaget’s ideas