Piaget proposed that all children pass through an ordered sequence of stages of cognitive development. This development arises through the processes of intrinsic motivation, assimilation and accommodation and equilibriation.
Children's actions on the environment are the basic building blocks of development.
Piaget argued that children reason differently to adults, as their mental representations of the world are initially centred on their own perceptions and experiences of it. Cognitive development occurs as children become able to act on their environment in increasingly sophisticated ways. Children are therefore seen as active in constructing heir understanding of the world from an initial set of innate behaviours.
A pedagogical approach known as ‘discovery learning’ was developed as a result of Piaget's ideas about cognitive development. This positions the teacher as the provider of a developmentally appropriate learning environment, rather than as an active tutor.
Piaget has been criticised for failing to recognise the importance of the social context of children's cognitive activity.