PIAGET'S THEORY: CONCRETE OPERATIONAL STAGE (7-12 YEARS)
PIAGET'S THEORY: CONCRETE OPERATIONAL STAGE (7-12 YEARS)
At this age, children can easily tell you that if a fence breaks, the dog will be able to escape and get out. However, they cannot think easily about abstract things such as what it will really mean for the family if a parent loses a job.
According to Piaget's theory, it isn't until children enter adolescence that they become capable of more abstract 'formal' operations, involving representations of things that are intangible and abstract (without any tight link back to a tangible place, person or thing) such as 'liberty', 'freedom' or 'divinity'
Piaget said that during the concrete operational stage, children begin to group operations together, because he believed that cognitive operations are organised into a system or structure, and that at this stage, children cannot think of related operations without their opposites e.g the term 'greater than' without 'less than'
He described multiple operations that children begin to master in middle childhood, including conservation, decentration, reversibility, class inclusion, seriation and transitivity. These new skills are often noticeable by other outside observers familiar with childrens' progress.
According to Piaget, the thinking of children at the concrete operational stage is no longer affected by egocentrism or centration, so all of the inabilities from the per-operational stage become abilities.(The Three Mountains Task can be used as research evidence)
The change from pre-operational thinking to concrete operational thinking involves the use of mental operations. Logic and maths develop, and children begin to understand what the following mathematical operators mean: + - X ÷ > < =. A mental operation, according to Piaget, is the ability to accurately imagine the consequences of something happening without it actually needing to happen. During a mental operation, children imagine 'what if' scenarios which involve the mental transformation of people, places and things they've experiences in the world.
These sorts of operation are 'concrete' because they're based on actual people, places and things that children have observed in the environment. Children's mental representations remain concretely linked to things they've seen and touched throughout the middle childhood period. Because their representations are limited to tangible, touchable and concrete, their appreciation of the consequences of events is similarly concrete and limited in scope.
Evaluation of Stage Theory
The stage-by-stage nature of Piaget's theory, with each stage linked to an age group for whom the stage is typical, strongly suggests to may people that at a particular age, children are supposed to be functioning at a particular stage.
It's important to keep in mind that Piaget's theory is intended to talk about how an average child might be functioning at a particular age; it's not a pronouncement about how any particular individual child should be functioning. Children develop uniquely and at their own pace depending upon their genetic makeup, environmental supports and their learning experiences.
Different children will show mastery of specific operations sooner than others will, or display them in situations but not others. Newer research also shows that context affects childrens' abilities as well. Most children will display more advanced operations when in familiar or mandatory environments. They may become confused and perform more poorly when confronted with novel situations.
There are several different forms of conservation, and - according to Piaget - most children acquire conservation skills in the same order. There are many other forms, such as conservation of length. The four main forms are:
Conservation of number
Conservation of liquid quantity
Conservation of weight/mass
Conservation of volume
In everyday life, children demonstrate conservation of number, when they realise 10 cookies will remain constant in number no matter whether they're spread out or stacked into a tower. Children who grasp conservation of mass realise that their body weight will remain consistent whether they stand up straight or sit cross-legged on a scale. Similarly, children who understand conservation of length understand that a rope is the same length regardless of whether it's laid out straight or coiled up. Children who understand conservation of area know that the total space on a tabletop remains constant regardless of whether it's cluttered with objects or cleared
Piaget used this term when referring to a child's inability to transfer learning about one type of conservation to other types. He believed that it occurs because because some physical properties are easier to understand than others; therefore the child masters different types of conservation tasks at different ages.
Evaluation of the Stage
Children between the ages of 7 and 12 do learn a range of cognitive operations relating to logic and maths
However, they also acquire a huge amount of new knowledge that aids cognitive development and has no relation to maths or logic, so Piaget overlooked vast areas of information that children are introduced to at this stage.
found that concrete operational children often show conservation for materials they're familiar with before materials they're unfamiliar with. This means that Piaget may have underestimated the importance of specific learning experiences in children's cognitive development at the expense of the general cognitive operations he emphasised in his theory.
Decentration involves the ability to pay attention to multiple attributes of an object or situation rather than being locked into attending to only a single attribute. When children are asked to compare the amount of juice in two glasses (conservation of liquid quantity) it's their ability to decentre that enables them to consider both the height and width of the glasses in arriving at their decision.
Reversibility takes conservation one step further. Children capable of conservation appreciate that an object's quantity isn't altered simply by transforming how that object appears. Children capable of reversibility appreciate that if an object's quality is altered through subtraction or addition, the object's original quality can be restored by reversing the alteration. This capability is possible due to the children's ability to run backwards through a series of remembered events so as to see how something transformed could be restored to its initial state
Beyond conservation, Piaget also believed that children in this stage master class inclusion; the ability to simultaneously sort things into general and more specific groups, using different types of comparisons. Most children develop class inclusion ability between the ages of 7 and 10. Developing this is very useful as children in school begin to understand and appreciate science, which involves making such comparisons
Seriation involves the ability to put things in order based on quantity or magnitude. In the laboratory, Piaget tested children by showing that they could arrange sticks of different lengths into order from the smallest to the largest. Children might demonstrate their mastery of seriation by arranging stiffed animals from smallest to biggest on their shelf. They often use these skills in school contexts
At this stage, children can make transitive inferences, which rely upon the ability to recognise relationships among elements in a serial order. They cannot apply this to abstract tasks however, only concrete items like people