At which point does the external and internal world separate?


Some things that I’ve been thinking about as I’m reading Piaget’s The Child’s Conception of the World (1921):

  • What are the natural concepts of the world formed by children at the different stages of their development*?
  • What is the schema/scheme of reality which prompts this thought (of the child’s)? In other words, what is the child’s reality?
  • When does the distinction of external and internal world start?
    • What prompts the shift?
    • Does the move away from egocentrism (ages 6-7) allow for the development of empathy? Actually, what is the relationship between egocentrism and empathy in children?
  • What does it feel like when there is no distinction between the external and internal world?
  • How can the art-making experience help illuminate these naturally formed ideas/concepts of the world/realities (for the child, for the child’s peers, for the teacher)?
    • What would my elementary school visual arts curriculum look like?

Also, what if I replaced the word “child” with adolescent or adult? What changes? What stays the same?

By the end of my student-teaching experience, I’m hoping to reach more clarity towards these questions (I won’t ever completely know. Oh the mysteries of the mind.) I’m thinking about breaking down each chapter every night and thinking about my teaching experience (I’m currently working with 2 year olds all the way to 8 year olds) in relation to Piaget’s cognitive development theory and maybe creating and some sort of artwork in response to each chapter to better process my feelings towareds the readings…

* Piaget’s 4 stages of cognitive development.

  1. Sensory motor stage: birth – 2 years old. Children take in the world through their senses (touching, putting things in their mouth, etc). Very egocentric stage, meaning that at this stage, children are completely preoccupied own perspective and therefore unlikely able develop the ability to see other individual’s perspective.
  2. Pre-operational stage: 2 – 7 years old. Children take in the world through imaginative play. Little balls of playdough suddenly become cookies that children will likely feed to you. “Operational” is used here to describe reality-based logic. They are egocentric.
  3. Concrete observational stage: 7-11 years old. Children take in the world by figuring out how things “work” in the real (logical) world through a series of classifications. According to Piaget, they also acquire the ability to see other’s perspective, thereby making them no longer ego-centric. I’m extremely curious about the how the shift from egocentrism to sociocentrism (?) occurs. Is there something happening at a cognitive level, or at a social-interpersonal level, that leads to this shift? Is it in part because children at this age are more social towards each other?
  4. Formal observational stage: 11 years old to onwards. Children take in the world by developing metacognition (“I am aware that I know this and that, and these are my beliefs and values”) and abstract thought (“knowing this right now, what happens if I do this? What are the possible outcomes?”).

** I’m reminding myself that in critique of Piaget’s 4 stages of rather regimented and rather too clearly delineated stages development, one’s growth can be viewed as “phases”. I’m thinking about Judy Burton’s lectures on how we grow in phases and at each phase there seems to be some scuffling/moving of back and forth before we reach to the next phase. In her words: at each pivotal phase of development, we take “two steps back, then one step forward”… very much like doing a dance, which I find to be a lovely thought.

***Vygotsky counter-theory to Piaget, the zone of proximal development, also come to my mind: what we can and can’t do is bridged by the help we receive from others. I think Vygotsky also talks about cultural and environmental influences to cognitive development.

****These cognitive development theories certainly do not have to be mutually exclusive and can all be applied simultaneously too, I suppose.

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