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Unformatted text preview: terpret those experiences (Cohen & Younghee, 1999). Knowledge is not
simply reproduced or copied from experience. Instead, it is constructed by
transforming environmental information into knowledge that fits with existing
schemes. Consider the following example.
⇒ Mrs. Rayburn, a junior high science teacher is amazed how resilient
her students’ belief systems are. She will show them a science
demonstration that contradicts their beliefs, and the students will find a
way to make the demonstration fit with their beliefs. “I guess that’s
one reason why it is hard to change students’ misconceptions about
Accommodation is when environmental experiences cause a person to
change the nature of a scheme (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969). For example, the mother
in the previously described situation will want the child to understand that not all
men should be called daddy. In this case, accommodation would involve modifying the contents of the daddy scheme. Other adjustments can take the form
of creating new schemes to handle experience better or more efficiently. In either 6 case, existing schemes are inadequate to adapt to the environment, so changes are
made to the available schemes. Note the role of accommodation in the following
classroom example. Mrs. Pantera’s sixth grade science students often have developed
some understandings of physical science concepts like heat and
gravity. “I often need to assess students’ understanding of these
concepts before I introduce them. I can then try to create
experiences that allow them to confront and hopefully change their
From a Piagetian perspective, we are motivated to make sense of the
world so that we can adapt to its demands. To accomplish this, we must selfregulate and maintain a sense of balance among the many factors that influence
our ability to understand and to adapt to their environments. Piaget (1977)
referred to this cognitive balance as equilibrium. He used the term equilibration
to refer to self-regulating activities we engage in to achieve cognitive balance.
Equilibration involves assessing our current understanding in terms of
how well it explains our experiences, and maintaining an appropriate balance
between assimilation and accommodation in making sense of our experiences.
The general implications for classroom teaching are that learners are intrinsically
motivated to have the world make sense, and learners need to self-regulate their 7 own learning in order to make sense of the world. Both of these implications have
become cornerstone ideas in constructivist approaches to classroom learning.
Piagetian Stage Theory
Piagetians take a stage theory perspective on cognitive development both
for the overall course of cognitive development, and for the development of
particular cognitive structures (Thomas, 2000). In general, development occurs
through the series of four stages that are presented in Table 5.1. Piagetians tend to
make the following assumptions about the nature of these four stages.
• Each stage is defined by the development of cognitive struc...
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This document was uploaded on 03/29/2014 for the course EPS 324 at N. Arizona.
- Spring '08