Genetic epistemology: this is how knowledge is acquired according to Piaget.
Summary of genetic epistemology, developed through Piaget's theory of knowledge.
Jean Piaget is one of the most influential figures in 20th century psychology. His four stages of children's development, belonging to what has been called Piagetian genetic epistemology.
This theory is a set of postulates, ideas and formulations of the French psychologist on how children acquire knowledge, theory which we will explore below.
What is genetic epistemology?
Undoubtedly, Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is one of the most prolific authors in the field of cognitive development.. This Swiss psychologist focused his work on developing a theory of children's knowledge, on knowing how children get to know their world.
Piaget wanted to know which are the laws that make cognition develop. His theory centered on this question is what we know as genetic epistemology and with it he tried to discover the roots of the different types of knowledge, from the most elementary to the most complex.
Traditionally, the origin of knowledge has been explained by means of two explanations: the empiricist and the innatist.. According to the empiricist, knowledge comes from outside the human being and people learn to receive it more or less passively. On the other hand, the innatist holds that knowledge is an imposition of internal structures of the subject on objects.
Piaget was critical of both. He considered that empiricism defended an idea that could well be defined as "genesis without structures", while innatism would be "structures without genesis". Faced with these two historical explanations, Piaget presented as a solution his own position: there are no structures that do not come from other structures. All genesis or development requires a previous structure.
Piaget's genetic epistemology theory is based on the idea that the acquisition of knowledge is a process of continuous self-construction, hence it is considered a theory of genetic epistemology.hence it is considered a constructivist theory.
According to this way of looking at human development, the infant's knowledge is elaborated and reworked as the child develops and interacts with his or her environment. Children acquire knowledge in an active way, through their actions..
A central idea of cognitive theory is schemas, which would be units of generalized behavior (or action) that provide the basis for mental operations. Added to this, Piagetian theory is oriented toward how children acquire knowledge, not how adults do.
In his genetic epistemology, Piaget describes three types of knowledge:
1. physical knowledge 2.
Physical knowledge is that which concerns objects in the world.knowledge that can be acquired by means of their perceptual properties.
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2. Logical-mathematical knowledge
Logical-mathematical knowledge is that which is more of an abstract kindthat which must be invented.
3. Social-arbitrary knowledge
Social-arbitrary knowledge is specific to each culture. They are the data acquired by the subject when belonging to a certain society and interacting with its members.
The stages of development according to Piaget
These three types of knowledge form a hierarchy, going from the most physical knowledge as a base to social and arbitrary knowledge as the top of it.
Achieving a specific knowledge will depend on whether the knowledge of the lower level has been achieved.. For example, from an ontogenetic perspective, acquiring logical-mathematical knowledge cannot be achieved before physical knowledge.
This idea of hierarchy is expounded in greater detail by Piaget when he tells us that, as children grow up, they pass through a sequence of four stagesThe following are the phases that all of them have to overcome in order to acquire the three types of knowledge mentioned above:
1. Sensorimotor stage (from birth to 2 years)
The sensorimotor stage occurs before language has developed. During this period, the baby builds the notion of the permanent object and acquires the notions of space, time and causality.. He/she uses sensory and motor experiences to learn about the world around him/her and to relate to it.
2. Preoperational stage (ages 2 to 4 years)
During the preoperational period the acquisition of language and the first representations of reality..
3. Stage of concrete operations (reached between 6 and 7 years of age)
In the stage of concrete operations there is a greater consistency of object knowledge. Concrete operations directly affect the child's manipulable objects and must be linked to the immediate present. The child has the ability to perform logical mental operations..
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4. Formal operations stage (from age 12)
In the formal operations stage the child can work with hypotheses as well as objects. Initiated the adolescence it acquires the capacity to formulate a set of possible explanations and, later, to submit them to test to carry out its empirical confirmation.
The criteria of the stages of development
As we can see, each stage presents its own characteristics. All children go through these stages following the same order, although not at the same time. This means that it is expected that each child will exhibit the characteristics of each stage at some point in his or her life and eventually reach the stage of formal operations..
The criteria Piaget used to establish these stages were:
- Each stage should represent a qualitative change in the child's cognition.
- Children pass through this sequence of stages independently of culture.
- Each stage retains and includes the cognitive structures and skills of the previous stage.
- In each stage, the child's schemas and operations are integrated as a whole.
Added to Piaget's three types of knowledge and four stages we have the process of knowledge development, based on three principles: assimilation, accommodation and balance.assimilation, accommodation and equilibrium.
Assimilation occurs when the child incorporates new objects or events into his existing schemas..
Accommodation occurs when a child has to modify your existing schemas to incorporate new objects or events..
Balancing is described as the "master development process". This process incorporates both assimilation and accommodation..
At this point the infant begins to find shortcuts in their new way of thinking. This results in an imbalance, which is overcome by moving to the next phase. In other words, when the infant is in a certain stage of the Piagetian model and this imbalance occurs, in order to return to stability, he will move on to the next stage.
Strengths and weaknesses of genetic epistemology
One of the strengths of the theory is the structure and order it expounds. The theory serves as an interesting guide for educators by giving them basic guidelines on the types, stages and processes involved in the development of knowledge in childhood. in childhood. These ideas can be of great help when developing the educational plan and help teachers understand the current level of their students based on their age. It also serves to determine when to progress to more complex knowledge.
Among the weaknesses we find that, first of all, it has been seen that what Piaget advocated is not observed in all children.. Not all adolescents reach the stage of formal operations, and there are even adults who do not reach it. And even if children do reach this stage, it may be the case that they do not "remain" in it.
The second great weakness of the model is that, although the theory holds that children progress from stage to stage in the form of a qualitative change, the truth is that they seem to move forward and backward. That is to say, there would be children who would enter a stage, let us say the phase of concrete operations, and then go back to the preoperational stage.
The knowledge that children are supposed to attain is very unstable.This period of instability is the one that would occur at a moment of transition from one stage to another. The change does not occur abruptly or definitively; it requires time. It also happens that it has been seen that children can present very advanced cognitive strengths with respect to their age based on what Piaget maintained.
Finally, one of the most important criticisms that Piaget received was in relation to his idea of structure.. According to his critics, structure does not exist in the minds of children, but only in the mind of the Swiss psychologist. He himself replied that he defines structure as something the child knows how to do. The child does not have his own idea about the structure, there is no abstract idea about it in his mind, but his actions about what he should do are well coordinated, thus allowing him to deduce some consequences.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)