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Activity 8: Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

Reading and Reflection: 1 hr
Group Activity: 1 hr
Reflection: 30 mins


2 hrs 30 mins


Click here to read an introduction to Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development.

Click here to read about Piaget's stages of cognitive development

What are the educational implications of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development?

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is a valuable and helpful guide to teachers. It helps teachers, firstly, to assess the current level of thinking of each learner in a class, and secondly, to construct learning experiences for each learner which is suitable and appropriate to their level of thinking. By taking each individual learner into account, and thinking about how we can create the best learning experience to suit them, we are offering each of our learners quality learning experiences.

Here are some key points in how to apply Piaget’s theory in our classrooms:

  • There needs to be a match between the demands of a learning task and the current cognitive capacity (ability) of the learners. We need to assess where our learners are in terms of their levels of thinking, and then match our teaching methods, tasks, and the language we use to suit where our learners are. This goes hand-in-hand with one of OBE’s principles – Learning is characterised by what is appropriate (suitable) for each learner’s needs, interest and developmental levels. Piaget’s theory of stages can prepare us for the types of thinking we may expect at various ages and levels of schooling, but we need to add to this by carefully observing our learners and reflecting on each lesson we teach.

What do we mean by reflecting on each lesson we teach?

We need to think about each lesson we teach and ask ourselves the questions: "did the lesson work?" Was the method of teaching I used and the language I used suitable for my learners? What bits of the lesson did not work? Why did they not work? What can I do differently to make them work? Reflecting on our teaching practices will make us better teachers.

  • We must not assume that all learners in a given class will be at the same stage of cognitive development. (Remember that learners progress at their own pace and at their own rate of learning and development.) There needs to be a variety of learning experiences appropriate (suitable) for children at different levels of cognitive development. This is in keeping with OBE principles which state that individual learners’ needs must be catered for through multiple teaching and learning strategies and assessment tools, and that learners must be allowed to demonstrate their learning achievements and competence in whatever manner most appropriate (suitable) to their abilities.
  • Focus on what children at each stage can do and avoid what they cannot meaningfully understand.
  • Discovery learning is a powerful tool for teachers who are concerned with their learners’ cognitive development. It may seem more efficient when we simply ‘tell’ learners what to learn. However, learners need plenty of varied experience over time for the structural changes to their schemas to take place. In other words, they need to discover for themselves.
  • Learning through activity and direct experience is essential. Provide plenty of materials and opportunities for learners to learn on their own.
  • Because intellectual growth occurs when learners attempt to eliminate a disequilibrium, by assimilating and accommodating new information or experiences, instructional lessons and material that introduce new concepts should capture learners interest and curiosity. We need to put learners into suitable situations where they are actively engaged in tasks which moderately challenge their current way of understanding the world. This will not be achieved if we regard teaching simply as the job of getting learners to remember endless sets of factual information.
  • Since learners’ schemas are expanded and built on with time, point out to learners how new ideas and concepts relate to old ones, and allow learners a better understanding of already acquired concepts. Memorisation of information for its own sake should be avoided.
  • Begin lessons with concrete objects or ideas and gradually shift explanations to a more abstract and general level (especially with younger learners).
  • Structure learning situations which allow for social interaction, so that learners can learn from one another. The placement of a few advanced thinkers with less mature thinkers (mixed ability groups) is more likely to facilitate this process than putting learners in ability groups (homogeneous grouping).
  • To become aware of the type of thinking used by learners, ask them to explain how they arrived at solutions to problems.
  • Keep in mind that some high school learners may be more interested in possibilities than realities.
  • Allow for the possibility that younger adolescents may go through a period of egocentrism that will cause them to act as if they are always on stage, and to be extremely concerned about the reaction of peers.

Group Activity 8

  1. Write e-mail to your group and explain one way in which Piaget has most influenced your practice as a teacher, or where you can see elements of Piaget's theory in your teaching (without previously knowing about Piaget). Describe ways in which teachers who are not influenced by this factor could enhance their teaching by including this practice. Discuss this with your group.

  2. Record your reflective thoughts in your e-diary.

Summary of key learning points in this section

In the last section we have looked at the following aspects of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development:

  • The processes we use to organise and adapt to our world
  • The stages of cognitive development
  • The educational implications this theory has for teaching practice, and
  • The links between Piaget and OBE.


This assignment is to be completed once you have completed Activity 8.

Base this assignment on your understanding of the reading and activities you have completed in Activities 5-8.

What to do:

In an essay of no fewer than 800 words:

Explain how your knowledge of cognitive development has influenced your teaching with ICT. Focus on:

  • how the learner may experience your lessons differently;
  • what your and the learners' roles should be;
  • what the role of ICT in these lessons will be.

Use the word processor to write this essay.

What to submit:

Save the essay as <your_student_number>-Core1A-Assignment2

e.g. 205654321-Core1A-Assignment2

Submit this essay as a file attachment in e-mail to your tutor.



Click here to go to Activity 9 - What questions do I ask and why?

Learning, Teaching and Thinking with ICT

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