- Term Papers and Free Essays

Does Knowledge Understanding And Competence Progress Through A Succession Of Stages?

Essay by   •  October 26, 2010  •  2,224 Words (9 Pages)  •  2,520 Views

Essay Preview: Does Knowledge Understanding And Competence Progress Through A Succession Of Stages?

Report this essay
Page 1 of 9

The question of how we develop has been one of much argument over the past decades. Jean Piaget (1896-1980) has done ground breaking research when it comes to understanding how we develop. As import he radically changed our perception of children. The tendency was to overlook them as if they were incapable of thinking and performing any logical tasks. Piaget found that children were not incapable of thinking as such, they merely think and reason differently and at a lower level.

His view is that we develop in stages, and he identified four stages every child goes through, all of them with their individual characteristics limits and new abilities. He found that children either had certain abilities or not and that this showed in their level of reasoning. He also found that the age-group and type of task which a child could perform were related.

The other theory is that development is continuous and that children don't gain abilities all at once they develop them over time, possibly well into their adulthood. This understanding is presented in mechanistic theories, this is mostly supported by challenging earlier finding, going over old experiments to see how sound they actually are and challenging the conclusions drawn from those data.

I will be comparing the different theories concerning how knowledge, competence and understanding develop. I will look at various research that has been conducted by i.e. Piaget et al, Mitchell, Wimmer and Hartl, and I will look at how these experiments set ups have been challenged and changed to see if they would obtain new results.

I will contrast both theories in an attempt to find out how development progresses.

Piaget presented a theory which explained how development actually proceeded. He was a constructivist who believed that children through experience gained new skills which allowed them to deal with more complex tasks but also to build upon that. When we talk about discontinuous development the general assumptions are that we mean that we move through a hierarchy of stages where a child's reasoning skills are qualitatively different in every stage and that you either have a skill or you don't. Also it means that stages are identifiable different from each other and that they are roughly the same for everyone.

Whereas continuous development implies that there are no identifiable stages as everyone is different and will acquire different skills at different speeds. They oppose Piaget's theory on the various points. They find he overestimates the difference between stages and underestimates he development within stages. Also if development is based on experience than it would be impossible for development to proceed as systematically as Piaget and alike suggests. Finally the experiments proving the stage theory require a certain level of language and other non-cognitive skills, which can lead to biased results.

Piaget tested his subjects on their ability to solve logical problems, and based on these results he developed his stage theory. Piaget distinguished four, sensorimotor period (birth to approximately 2 years old), preoperational period (approximately 2 to 7 years old), concrete operational stage (approximately 7 to 11 years old) and the formal operational stage (from approximately 11 years on). Every stage builds upon the one preceding allowing for more complex behaviour. The tests which he carried out focused on several areas of development; appearance-reality distinction, special cognition, conservation, class inclusion, transitive interference and perspective taking. He found that in every area children are able to arrive at more complex solutions as they progress through the stages.

A well known task to test children's ability to conserve (Piaget and Inhelder, 1956) is to present a child with two glasses, one wide and short the other thin and tall but both of the same volume. While the child watches the researcher pours the water from the short glass into the tall glass. A preoperational child without the skill to conserve will answer that there is more liquid in the tall glass then there was in the short glass. Piaget explains this by using the idea of schemes; a preoperational child has a simple scheme which takes one dimension into consideration (height) while a concrete operation child can take more dimensions into consideration when looking at the liquid as they have a more complex scheme.

Piaget also found that preoperational children were egocentric which means they can't think about others who think and feel differently. A famous experiment conducted by Piaget and Inhelder (1956) involved three mountains varying in size build on scale and displayed on a platter so the child could walk around it. Every mountain had a different object on top of the mountain but if you stood behind the highest mountain you couldn't see the other two mountains and their objects. The children were asked to walk around the mountains and acknowledge this fact. They then placed the doll behind the highest mountain and the child in front of the mountain where it could see all the objects. When asked what the doll would see, a preoperational child would not be able to recognise that the doll was seeing something different from herself. As children either seem to understand the doll sees something different from herself or not, this is considered to be a stage as this understanding cannot possible be a gradual process.

We develop, according to Piaget, because we accommodate and assimilate to adapt to our environment. We are born with reflexes, or very simple schemas, and as we grow older and gain more experiences we develop those reflexes into more complex schemes (i.e. ability to conserve is a scheme).

As this seems to be the case in all children up to roughly 7, it is argued that this is a pattern and that it belongs to a certain level of cognitive development and can therefore be traced back to the preoperational stage.

The skill which is called upon in the above experiments are described in the theory of mind which means being able to take into consideration what other people think and how they feel and distinguish between reality and belief. People who believe in discontinuous development say that this is a skill which emerges around four years old (Perner), people who don't believe it is a skill which starts to develop in early childhood and develops -probably- all during your lifetime.

An important feature of the conceptual mind is that you can predict the decisions someone else who doesn't have the correct information will make even though you have the correct information to make this decision. An experiment to test false belief - the ability to admit that you initially had the wrong idea about something - in



Download as:   txt (13 Kb)   pdf (145.4 Kb)   docx (13.5 Kb)  
Continue for 8 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 10). Does Knowledge Understanding And Competence Progress Through A Succession Of Stages?. Retrieved 10, 2010, from

"Does Knowledge Understanding And Competence Progress Through A Succession Of Stages?" 10 2010. 2010. 10 2010 <>.

"Does Knowledge Understanding And Competence Progress Through A Succession Of Stages?.", 10 2010. Web. 10 2010. <>.

"Does Knowledge Understanding And Competence Progress Through A Succession Of Stages?." 10, 2010. Accessed 10, 2010.