Using Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development to Develop an Effective and Efficient Classroom Plan

As the children grow, it is their nature to be eager to learn what goes on within their surroundings. However, this eagerness and curiosity diminishes if the early childhood educators fail to develop a teaching plan based on the individual needs of the child. As aspiring preschool teacher, it is my responsibility to continuously engage the children, understand how best they can learn and develop a classroom plan that is pupil driven (Morrison, 2009). There are various theories that early childhood educator can use to develop an effective and efficient classroom plan. One of the most commonly used theory is Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. This theory has outline the activities that early childhood teacher needs to incorporate into the learning process and how to organize a classroom layout to effective foster the learning process through the five domains.

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            It is important to understand the concepts of Jean Piaget’s stage theory of cognitive development in order to create an effective and efficient plan and a classroom layout. According to Piaget’s stage theory of cognitive development, cognitive thinking occurs in a systematic manner through an anticipated series of stages (Lefrancois, 2012). As soon as the child is born he/she interact with happenings in the surrounding and he/she immediately start to learn about these happenings. This suggest that the continuous interaction with surrounding which form the basis of this theory represents Jean Piaget’s concept of adaptation. Jean Piaget perceived that children make use of the past experience they have learned about to adapt and grow in the new experiences.

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            The process of adaption may take place in two different way: assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is described as a situation whereby a learner attempt to integrate new information into something they have already acquire. Assimilation strategies can fail sometimes and causes the children to enter into state of disequilibrium. This state of disequilibrium automatically initiate the second method of adaptation which is accommodation. This second form of assimilation happens when the acquired information cannot be utilized to adapt and grow in the new experience (Lefrancois, 2012). Therefore, the child must accommodate the new experience regardless of the existing challenges. Adaptation is described as a process whereby a child changes the behavior or knowledge to fit the new experience. Jean Piaget believes that it is the tension between accommodation and assimilation that leads to adaptation, cognitive development as well as the complex comprehension of the things that happen in our surrounding.

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            Based on Piaget’s cognitive development stages, a child falls into sensorimotor stage when he/she is born. This means that preschool child is categorized under preoperational stage, which is the stage between the ages of two to seven years old. However, it is at the age of 18 to 24 months that the child develop cognitive comprehension of the events and objects in the environment. It is also at this age that the child starts to develop language and thinking in terms of words. It is the development of the language that signifies the end of the sensorimotor stage and the beginning of the preoperational stage.

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            At the preoperational stage, the child performs more activities than at the sensorimotor stage, which an infant. The child is capable of internalizing events and objects to form a concept. Although thinking is more advanced at preoperational stage, the child’s cognitive development is very immature (Jaruszewics, 2012). As a result, thoughts of preschoolers are considered as pre-concepts since they are still immature and not as logic as those of an adult. This is also attributed to the fact that preschoolers tend to make inference through deduction, a process known as transductive reasoning. Making inferences through this process especially classifying events and objectives may lead to correct or incorrect conclusions.

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            The outcome of correct and incorrect inference in classifying the events and objects is attributed to the constant changing of classifying rules by the preschoolers. The cognitive process that instigate constant changing of classifying rules is referred to as syncretic reasoning. This explains the reason why the preschooler sometimes exhibits incorrect deductions by perceiving inanimate objectives to be alive. As the child grows, their ability to conceptualize objective and events on their surrounding improve cognitively (Jaruszewics, 2012). This is why at around the age four, the child advances from pre-conceptual thinking to intuitive thinking. This stage is characterized by classification, perception-dominated, egocentric and intuitive errors. These errors is brought about by the ability of the preschoolers to solve the emerging problem using intuitive mental images instead of logic reasoning which is common among the adults. As a result, preschoolers do not believe that we perceive the world around us differently.

            Jean Piaget explained that preschooler at the preoperational stage lack the ability to comprehend relational terms such as harder, larger and darker. They also lack the ability of organizing or arranging the objectives from the smallest to the largest and vice versa. In addition, the do not possess conservation which assists them to comprehend that the physical attributes of an object remain unchanged even when their appearance changed (Morrison, 2009). However, it is important to understand that preschoolers learn at different rate and some might lacked in some areas while other excelling in terms of cognitive achievement. Analysis have shown that preschool children can excel by comprehending a wide range of numbers. Also, at this group some preschoolers develops a vast capabilities of symbolizing the world through the use of language.

            This reminds us the importance of developing a classroom plan that supports the needs of an individual child. Therefore, it is difficult to determine exactly how and when a child perfect a specific skills. Nonetheless, preschoolers shows the ability to express their feelings using words and control their movements as compared to toddlers. This means that preschoolers are more active learners and it is the responsibility of the teachers to ensure that create favorable learning environment that support their exploration and play (Lefrancois, 2012). Secure and safe learning environment is the key to the preschoolers. This also means that preschoolers should have absolute trust on their caregivers in order to feel free to explore their environment. In addition, they require a wider range of materials and experience in order learn effectively. By providing all these materials and required experience, preschoolers are able to participate in a more complex activities that requires high integrated development of conceptual, feelings and thoughts understanding.

            Studies have indicated that both social and physical environment determines children’s socio-emotional, linguistic, cognitive and physical development. Furthermore, classrooms not only supports children’s learning process, but it also reduces significantly the occurrence of behavioral problems since concrete classroom enhances social cooperation.

Classroom environment

            It is paramount for the teacher to understand that classroom layout must support creative play. The setting of classroom layout should be child centered in the sense that it provide the learning materials and environment that inspire imaginative play such as plenty of toys and other learning materials (Morrison, 2009). One area of the classroom should be soft cozy filled with books that exits children to read. The general classroom atmosphere should be welcoming and fun to children as well as the parents. Considering all these factors, the classroom should be supported by the preschool curriculum in order to ensure uniformity in terms of developmental learning.

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            Jean Piaget indicated that classroom layout should inspires the preschoolers to take different roles meant for other people. For instance, the drama area should virtually have areas for putting on costumes based on the play, the kitchen area with brooms, stoves, sinks, dishes and food, the babies’ room with cribs, swing, blanket and strollers as well as toys that inspires the children to take up the roles of an adult. The arrangement of the classroom in this manner helps the preschoolers to overcome the issues of egocentrism.

            The other aspect that needs to be considered while creating classroom layout is the space that provides the children with the opportunity to engage in hands on activities such as magnetic wall with letters, play or clay dough, water and sand table as well as painting/writing easels including other activities that support learning activities among the preschoolers. Studies have shown that using objects that changes shape through hand twisting helps the preschoolers to develop a conservation, which is known to be a challenge to the preschoolers.            

Jean Piaget further emphasized in his theory of cognitive development stage that space for free movement in the classroom is very crucial. The space allows the children to engage in activities such as group games, dancing as well as other group oriented activities that support learning process (Jaruszewics, 2012). It is through the space that the children get the opportunity to enhance their emotional/social skills as they interact with other children.

It is important to understand that regardless of the philosophy that preschool program lean towards, the overall objectives is to ensure that the classroom environment support nurturing and learning of children in every aspect. Analysis indicated classroom layout for preschool program should support emotional and social development through positive cognitive, intellectual and interactions development as well as creating opportunities for children to play and explore thus enhancing fine motor development skills (Morrison, 2009). Jean Piaget is one of the theorist that provided preschool teachers with the foundation that helps the children learn effectively in the appropriate classroom environment. From the above diagram, it is clear that Piaget’s classroom provide all the areas that support social-emotional, linguistic, cognitive and physical development of preschool children.

            The key aspect for the preschool teachers and those aspiring to be preschool teachers in the future is to create a classroom layout that support the philosophy of delivering the best to the preschool children (Jaruszewics, 2012). Studies have shown that creating a classroom layout that support a mix philosophy of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development stage and preschool curriculum. This kind of classroom layout is founded on constructivist theory and developmentally which is an appropriate practice. An example of this mix methods are Reggio Emilia, High/Scope Approach and Montessori Method.

            Although these preschool programs looks similar, each has a unique aspect that support children’s learning in one way or another. Based on the needs of each child, these methods can be blended or tailored to meet the needs of each child especially those with special needs and requires more attention. Studies have shown that preschool stage is a period characterized by rapid development and growth. As a result, the teacher should ensures that the child optimizes this stage to learn all that is require to support his/her development (Lefrancois, 2012). For example, some of the concepts that are being taught in this stage are applicable in the future. Take for instance the stacking of pink cubes from the largest to the smallest by the children does not only enhances mastering and practice of physical skills, but it also support the child to develop seriation. This concept have proved to be very important in the later stage particularly in understanding mathematical concepts.

Activity for each developmental domain

            In early childhood education, there are four developmental domains: emotional, physical, social and cognitive. These developmental domains supports children to use their imaginative, thinking skills as well as their senses to learn and explore their surroundings.

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Emotional activity

Topic: Expressing feelings using hand movements

Materials: Hands, list of emotions

Procedure

            The teacher starts the activity by engaging the children about the different emotions they encounter on their daily life. The teacher will list down different types of emotions such as excited, happy, angry, mad and sad. The next stage is to show children using hand movements how to express this emotions. This activity is aligned with Piaget’s stage theory since children can learn by expressing their emotions.

Physical activity

Topic: Obstacle course

Materials: Chairs, tumble mats, tables and desks

Procedure

            This activity starts by engaging children to move chairs, tables, tumble mats and desks in the position. Each child takes a turn to maneuver through the obstacle until the end of the course. The objective of this activity is to support the children to physically develop by crawling and climbing through the obstacles. The activity is aligned with Piaget’s stage theory since it limits sit in setting and encouraging explorations.

Social activity

Topic: Knock knock, the mail is here

Materials: Hole puncher, stapler, scraps of paper, yarn or colored ribbon and felt material or construction paper.

Procedure

            Use the felt material or construction paper to create a mail like object by stapling and tying the colored ribbon or yarn on the mail like object. Divide the children into two groups, one group will be mailperson while the other group would be recipients. The mailperson would deliver the mails to the recipients by approach to the desks recipients and knocking to symbols the delivery of the mails. Through this activity children would be able to enhance their social development. This activity is aligned with Piaget’s stage theory since it provide children with opportunity to interact and socialize.

Cognitive activity

Topic: Building a house

Material: Paper, pencils, interlocking blocks and wood building blocks

Procedure

            Divide the children into two groups and instruct them to sketch the house they would be constructing. Ask the children to calculate the number of blocks they would require to complete constructing the house. Provide the groups with interlocking blocks and wooden to build the house. The objectives of this activity is to support the children to enhance their cognitive development. It aligned with Piaget’s stage theory since it support exploration and creativity of the children.

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