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4 Tutorials that teach Cognitive Development: Assimilation and Accommodation
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Cognitive Development: Assimilation and Accommodation

Cognitive Development: Assimilation and Accommodation

Description:

This lesson will differentiate assimilation from accommodation.

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Tutorial

What's Covered

This tutorial will discuss cognitive development as well as the cognitive theory of learning by focusing on:

  1. Jean Piaget
  2. Schema
  3. Assimilation/Accommodation

1. JEAN PIAGET

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist in the 1920s who developed the theory of cognitive development and the stages of cognitive development through his studies of children and his interviews with parents at that time.

And through him and other cognitive psychologists, we developed the cognitive theory of learning, which says that people take in information and construct knowledge within minds. So this is a little bit different from behaviorism, where the person is a passive participant in learning. They take in information and they put out behavior.

Different from this, is Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development, which says that individuals are active participants in learning. Internal cognitive constructs are made. It's also similar to Gestalt Theory where we're talking about the overall organization of the information our minds.

This also means that there are individual differences in learning and mental processes. What I think of as a chair might be a little bit different from what you think of as a chair, even though there might be similar sorts of characteristics that go along with that.

Term to Know

    • Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
    • Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development explains how children’s mental processes and understanding of the world changes in four stages: Sensorimotor, Preoperational, Concrete Operational, and Formal Operations.

2. SCHEMA

There are several key terms that we want to know in regards to the cognitive theory of learning. The first one is schema. A schema is the basic mental structures where we construct knowledge within our mind, where we take in knowledge and we put them together in some way.

Example You may have a schema of a chair. There might be individual differences on specifics, but basically most people have the same idea of what is chair; such as it having three or four legs, a seat, and a back rest.

Schema can take different kinds of forms too. It might not just be our ideas of a specific object. 

ExampleWe might have stereotypes for different groups of people, scripts for social situations. So it's what we think is likely to occur like when you're at a restaurant and a waiter asks what would you like to order, and you know what your responses will be; that's a general script for that situation.

Terms to Know

    • Schema
    • The basic mental structures around which we construct our knowledge.

World views are general philosophies. When someone says, "everyone only looks out for themselves" is a philosophy about people and the way they interact with each other.


3. ASSIMILATION/ACCOMMODATION

Knowledge is constructed into schemas in two different ways. First is assimilation, which is when we add new information to an existing schema.

Example You have a schema for a chair, and see a desk chair, one of those wheelie chairs you see in an office. You would all of a sudden assimilate that information into your existing idea of a chair to say, "well yeah. That is a chair as well, even if it has some slight differences to it."

The other way that we construct schema is through accommodation. This includes modifying an existing schema or making a new one altogether; it sort of splits up an existing schema.

Example You see a chair and also see a stool. You might originally have thought of a chair as having only four legs and a back rest. But when you see a stool, you might say, "ah well that's a chair as well. And I'll put it in with the same category, even thought it doesn't have a backrest."

Example When creating a new schema, you might see a chair and a couch. And originally you might try to group that as a chair. But you realize, "well that's not a chair at all. And so I'll create a whole new category for couches as well, so I can differentiate between those two things."

Terms to Know

    • Assimilation
    • Adding new information to an existing schema, or mental pattern.
    • Accommodation
    • Either modifying an existing schema to fit new information, or creating a new schema.

It's much easier to construct schemas through assimilation and accommodation earlier in your life. Generally children, young infants and young children, have few schemas. And so they're constantly finding new information in the world and modifying them.

Did You Know

Children's brains are much more flexible, elastic, and adaptable than an adult's brain.

Later on in life, knowledge can be more solidified with set schemas. It's a lot harder to accommodate them, to create new schemas or modify them. And this sort of goes along with the proverb, 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks.' Our brains aren't necessarily as elastic when we get a bit older, and often times we have set schedules and schemas and scripts for different situations.

Summary

This tutorial discussed Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development which states that individuals are active participants in learning. Schemas are basic mental structures to put information into context. Schemas are constructed by assimilation, adding information to existing knowledge and accommodation, creating new categories of information.

Good luck!


Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Erick Taggart.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Schema

    The basic mental structures around which we construct our knowledge.

  • Assimilation

    Adding new information to an existing schema, or mental pattern.

  • Accommodation

    Either modifying an existing schema to fit new information, or creating a new schema.

  • Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

    Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development explains how children’s mental processes and understanding of the world changes in four stages: Sensorimotor, Preoperational, Concrete Operational, and Formal Operations.