04 March 2013

From Concrete to Formal: Jean Piaget and Junior High

Back when observing children wasn't creepy, it was science.
My preparation for the Praxix PLT test has brought me to Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher Jean Piaget. Piaget's crudely summed up tagline could be stages of development.

But first, let's start with schemes. No, not the secret plan you have to foil your neighbor, we're talking about how you see your world in contrast to how your neighbor sees it. We process information and categorize it according to our schemes, using the following tricks:

  • assimilation—you fit the new experience into an existing scheme, such as seeing a clog and identifying it as a type of shoe
  • accommodation—the new experience doesn't quite fit into your existing scheme, so you modify it or create a new one, like realizing the clog is made of glass and therefore couldn't be an actual shoe
  • equilibration—that time between assimilation and accommodation, when you're figuring out whether to modify a scheme or create a new one, like the deliberation of deciding whether a glass clog is a shoe or a decoration
As for the actual stages of development, here they are:
  1. Sensorimotor (0–2 years old) — they just use their body and senses to explore the world, and that's all they know
  2. Preoperational (2–7 years old) — uses symbolic representation (i.e. language and writing), play and pretend for learning
  3. Concrete Operations (7-11 years old) — can perform mental operations with objects but not statements, can connect ideas
  4. Formal Operations (11+ years old) — hypothetical reasoning, analyzation
So in the junior high setting, we're dealing with kids transitioning from concrete operations to formal operations. I'm thinking I should start out with simply connecting ideas concerning my subject, but moving on to students getting a lot more creative, manipulating those ideas in ways I don't actually show them.

A crude summary, I know, but sometimes crude summaries are enough to pass high-stakes tests.

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