Piaget Theory

Implications for a Middle School Learner

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Piaget Theory Overview

Jean Piaget is a Swiss constructivist theorist, who developed the cognitive development theory. It is based on intelligence, logical thinking and the interaction between children and their environments. Piaget felt that children gained knowledge through their experiences. Piaget created four stages of cognitive development of a child. The stages are sensorimotor (ages 0-2), preoperational (ages 2-7), concrete operational (ages 7-11), and formal (ages 11-15). Each stage builds to the next stage and is completed in order. Physical environment, maturation, social influences, and equilibration are the factors that influence the stages. There is a foundation of knowledge given, which allows the child to explore and gain higher learning.
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Piaget's Formal Operational Stage (11+)

What defines this stage of development?

During Piaget’s 4th and final stage, individuals are capable of thinking abstractly, logically while continuing to hone their problem solving skills.

Abstract Thought: The ability to think abstractly is unique to the Formal Operational Stage. Before this final stage, individuals tend to focus on specific and concrete ways of thinking. With abstract thought, individuals are able to imagine situations that are not based on previous experience or knowledge.

Logical Thought: The ability to think logically emerges in the Formal Operational Stage. This allows individuals to think hypothetically, and allows them to reason specific situations with conscious thought. In this stage, an individual develops inferential reasoning- the ability to think and draw conclusions about concepts that have not yet been experienced.

Problem Solving Skills: In this 4th and final stage, individuals evolve their problem solving skills from trial and error to logical, thoughtful problem solving methods. In this stage, individuals should be able to systematically and effectively solve problems. Due to their ability to think abstractly and logically, they are able to imagine an outcome based on their previous experience, current knowledge and logic. This collaboration of cognitive development aides greatly in the problem solving process.


Cherry, Kendra. “Formal Operational Stage of Cognitive Development.”, 2014. 12 July 2014.

McLeod, Saul. “Formal Operational Stage.” Simply Psychology, 2010. 12 July 2014.
formal operational child

Piaget Theory in Practice: Middle School CTE Classroom

Piaget's Theory suggests that children learn through their interactions with the environment. Piaget's classroom will learn through discovery and invention of making sense of the environment and their surroundings. Strengths of Piaget's theory include - challenges, independent exploration, responsibility, and allowing students to be curious and interested.

Piaget’s Theory is perfect for CTE Multimedia Web Design. I say this because most students who learn HTML, Java, and C++ coding language actually learn from doing independent exploration, or as some would say trial and error. 80% of programmers would rather learn from trial and error versus being taught by someone else. A major reason is because programming is so in depth that the real power is students taking responsibility of doing the research and using trial and error. By doing this, they are learning what works and what doesn’t. I’ve noticed students who excel in math have a much easier time succeeding in my class. It is critical that students are able to learn through interactions and environment because it will allow them to do what kids do when they are young; (Dream, Come up w/ Creative Ways of Doing Things, Invent, Think Outside The Box, and Have No Fear).

I allow my students 20mins to show me what they know about the material we are about to cover. I allow them to show me from their CPU or come in front of the class and demonstrate. This method allows the students the opportunity to work on their presentation skills also. (I don't tell them this initially because I want to see how they function in front of a group. But as the year goes on I correct their flaws in presenting the material.) I also give my students the freedom to complete their assignments using whatever program they want. Every two weeks I have them use a method they aren't accustomed to. This helps me see who can adapt on the fly and excel. The beauty of Web Design is the fact that you have multiple ways of getting the same results.

Most individuals who operate under Piaget’s Theory go on to be Entrepreneurs, Inventors, and Pioneers because they think outside the box and have a vision in mind others can’t see at the time.

(Examples of individuals who fall into Piaget’s Theory include: Bill Gates, Garrett Morgan, Steve Jobs, Sean Combs, Pablo Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat and to name a few.)

Piaget Theory in Practice: Middle School Art Room

Formal operational thinking stresses the ability for a child to be able to think abstractly. Art class is the perfect place to show off these newly-acquired skills. In art, a student is taught to approach a problem without limits, to explore their minds, and embrace creativity. A great example is the sketchbook assignment. Students get a theme (aligned with ACT/SAT words) every week to explore. I pair two words and students have to imagine the scenarios, then brainstorm on the idea and come up with a list of solutions. "Aural Biped" would get the students thinking about how to illustrate a two-legged animal with an emphasis on something to do with an ear. This gives the students an opportunity to think abstractly and create an image with no basis in historical imagery.
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