Jean Piaget

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Why is Piaget's work important for those working with children and young people?

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Piaget's work, specifically his stages of development, are important when working with children because the stages provide a guideline for how a child thinks and views the world within a specific age group. I found his stages particularly helpful when teaching at a daycare/preschool. I noticed many teachers expecting a...

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2 year old to always follow instructions and to refrain from touching things like dirt or puddles outside. According to Piaget, children at this age connect play to the 5 senses and learn from trial and error. Another thing I noticed in the preschool class is that the children need to be hands on. At that age they learn best by doing, so having them sit and watch a teacher perform an experiment is not as beneficial as allowing them to perform their own experiment.

Overall, Piaget's stages help differentiate what is and is not appropriate for teaching methods when working with children.

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I believe a brief personal anecdote can help explain. While in college, learning to be a teacher, and taking education courses, Piaget was a huge part of the curriculum. I was very frustrated with having to learn Piaget's theories on child developmental psychology. I didn't understand what it had to do with being a classroom teacher. Then I became a classroom teacher that taught middle school and high school, and Piaget instantly made more sense.

Piaget believed that there are stages to a child's psychological development, and he even gave rough age ranges as to when each stage takes place. Each stage is a description of what the child's mind is actually capable of working on and through. Some stages relate to language development while others are about when a child is ready for concrete logic or abstract reasoning. His work is a valuable resource for men and women that work with children and young people, because Piaget's model can be used as a guide to help educators dial in the teaching and learning process to most benefit the learner. For example, it doesn't do much good to design high level, abstract reasoning questions for 2nd graders. Piaget would say that child's mind is incapable of processing that kind of learning in a big and beneficial way. The child will be capable of it, but it's not necessarily something that can be rushed and trained into a child ahead of time. Just like the physical body grows and develops at a relatively predictable rate, a child's psychological growth and development behaves in the same manner. Educators need to understand each stage and be able to identify which stage a child is in. That way the educator is able to meet the learner at the right stage/level.

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I think that Piaget's work is so significant to people who work with children because it enables them to understand that children's development is based on stages.  The construction of identity and knowledge as one predicated upon the development of stages helps to explain the intellectual growth of children.  I think that this becomes essential in working with children.  The ability of children to understand different concepts and different approaches in teaching concepts as based on stage development is of vital importance to those who work with children.  I think that Piaget's ideas can help to construct the notion of learning as not something linear and not something as depository, but rather as an element that must be understood in accordance to the stage of the child.  In this, Piaget's work becomes invaluable to educators and those who work with children for it allows one to understand why children learn at the rate they do.  This is essential for those who work with children as it helps to explain some of the most fundamental issues behind why children learn and how to proceed with instruction of children.

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