Jean Piaget’s work in understanding how the mind of children work, laid a foundation for cognitive thinking that applies to children of all ages. While today he is less credited for much of the thoughts and teaching methods, had it not been for his work, education would have taken a different course. Since he laid such a strong foundation on how children learn and grasp ideas, the instructional course in elementary schools are often indirectly related to his studies of children.
Then, as now, the best study of anything, mollusks, children, adults, the wilderness, is from first hand sources. As a youngster – up until the age of 21 – this Swiss biologist absorbed himself in the study of mollusks, and wrote numerous papers that were published about them. It is said, he even talked to them, and attempted to learn everything there was to know about these bi-valved sea creatures.
He then switched from the study of mollusks to the study of children. He talked to them, observed them, and finally arrived at conclusions on how they grasped ideas, at what ages certain attitudes and ways of thinking were most likely to occur. He fully understood that children learned in sequences, and concepts. As an example, an idea that a twenty-five year old adult could understand, would not be understood by a five year old. They must develop normally and at the rate that was most appropriate for them.
Categories of learning and the norm for each age according to their DNA , a map that dictates under what conditions a child can learn, when, how, why, etc., was not known then, but Piaget figured these things out as a life work:
From birth to eighteen months a child has an enormous amount of work learning and getting involved in themselves, their wants, their needs, and making themselves a part of their environment. Everything revolves around them and how they can accomplish their goals. To them, everyone else has no role except to cater to them and their whims, and stand around and be ready to clap and approve with appreciative coos and smiles when he learns to crawl, walk, and hold a spoon.
From two to seven, language and its use is a big part of their learning and their grasping of ideas. Words are important and they begin to use them in new and different ways. They do not tolerate other viewpoints well, but their own ideas are of the most importance.
Seven to eleven are expanding years for children. They are open to ideas that they now can grasp and this is a thrilling new experience. This is usually when lasting impressions are often made and will often continue throughout their life, although the patterns of thought will remain, these will expand and take varying twists and turns. This is a period of trying out what is learned and practice using ideas and language skills learned. Logic is introduced here and its first concepts are learned and improved upon as a child matures.
Onward, eleven and up, the world is theirs. Abstract thinking is opened to them, and to some degree they understand hypothetical ideas and the future is grasped and along with it ideology and other ideas make themselves known according to how well they are able to perceive their interior and their exterior world.
Most likely Piaget arrived at these various conclusion about children by observing them, talking to them, and abstracting ideas from them at various ages. He possibly would take ideas foreign to them – something a mature adult would know, as an example – and see how well children could understood these at various ages. He, most likely would have agreed that indeed children do say the darndest things. A notion Art Linkletter knew well.
(Unlike Piaget, Linkletter started on his career of interviewing and talking to children by asking his son at age five what he though of his first day of school. “I’m not going back.” His reason, he had not learned how to read, nor could he write and they wouldn’t let him talk.)
Paiget, unlike Linkletter, was probably just as amused at the remarks of children, but he took his fascination further. He wanted to understand the process by which their minds worked, and it can be said, and probably correctly, that curiosity drove most of his work, having himself a mind that was built on the principle of looking deeper and into what was said, how it was said, how come it was said, and what actions prompted the ideas that resulted in more actions, that in itself, generated more ideas.
Cognition, the science of internal thinking that was an outcome of Piaget’s inquisitive mind, is, in a way of definition, an ability of an individual to assess the quality, truthfulness, intensity and validity of their own thinking. Questions a cognitive thinker might ask are: Why do I think thoughts such as these? How are my thoughts being received by others? Why do I think in this way? Are there flaws in the way I think? How can I improve? Are my thoughts part of my inherited mental status, and if so how can I, by improved thinking change them?