Theories for Teaching and Learning


Our view on how we know children learn was greatly impacted through work of Jean Piaget. After many years of research and data collecting Jean Piaget created Piaget's Four Stages of Development which are used throughout the world. 

Piaget's Four Stages of Development

Sensorimotor Stage: 0-2

Infants gain their earliest understanding of the world through their senses

Preoperations Stage: 2-6

Young children can use symbols for objects, such as numbers to express quantity and words such as mama, dogie, hat and ball to represent real people and objects. 

Concrete Operations: 6-11

School-age Children can perform concrete mental operations with symbols-using numbers to add or subtract and organizing objects by their qualities, such as size and color. 

Formal Operations: 11-Adult

Normally developing early adolescents are able to think and reason abstractly, to solve theoretical problems, and answer hypothetical questions. 

What Piaget did not want to measure how well children could count, spell or solve problems as a way of know their I.Q. He was more interested in the fundamental concepts like the idea of a number or time and how they emerged. To Piaget, children come to understand the words around them through experiences and solve problems using prior knowledge and what they discover around them ("JEAN PIAGET COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT webquest created by surumbu | Create WebQuest", 2019). 

This is much different than the No Child Left Behind Act that was adopted in 2002. The No Child Left Behind Act was in effect from 2002-2015. It was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015 by President Obama. When NCLB was the law, every public school in the Untied States was affected. This act was to ensure that every child who may be experiencing poverty, who are minorities, who are receiving special education services and those who have limited or no English had the same opportunities as everyone else. While this was a great step for those children who are at a disadvantage it also introduced new accountability measures for school which effected the students in big ways. Annual testing is the biggest impact we know see. Schools are required to give students statewide math and reading test every year in grade 3rd through 8th and then again in 10th through 12th grades. Testing can be hard for some children no matter if we are ensuring that every child has the provisions they need to complete the test, true accruate results cannot be complied. This tests results showed the academic progress of each school and those schools not meeting the adequate yearly progress or AYP were subject to penalties ("No Child Left Behind (NCLB): What You Need to Know", 2019). 

The NCLB act did lead to inclusion in our schools however it also focused on standardized testing which leads many teachers to "teach to the test" and not allow children to experience hands on which is how Jean Piaget explains in his stages. 





Explain how Jean Piaget's work has affected the role of the contemporary early childhood educator. 

Explain how the No Child Left Behind act has evolved into the ESSA. 


Piaget (1936) was the first psychologist to make a systematic study of cognitive development. A theory of child cognitive development, cognition of children and research and results that revealed different cognitive abilities were all part of his contributions.

Piaget believed that children go through four stages of cognitive development. Development changes as a child grows and matures. Every child will go through the stages in the same order, and no stage will be missed. Descriptions of each stage include indications of the age a child would be when he or she reached a particular stage however Piaget did not claim a stage would be reached at a certain age.

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is a broad scope theory about the development of human intellect. Piaget believed that childhood plays an essential and active role in development. Piaget’s idea is primarily knows as a developmental stage theory. This theory explains how people learn, obtain, create and use knowledge. Piaget believed that children learn through experiences and observation of the world around them.

Key terms and principles of the theory

  1. Concentrated on children
  2. Focused on development
  3. Rather than a gradual increase in number and complexity of behaviors, concepts and ideas it proposes discrete stages of development
  4. This theory’s goal is to explain the processes in which the infant and then the child develops reasoning


No Child Left Behind Act

The No Child Left Behind act complied searched that was conducted by staff members of the President Bush Administration

In 1950, the United States workforce consisted of 20% professionals and 20% skills laborers. The remaining 60% consisted of unskilled labor. Students who did not complete academic competencies were part of the 60% unskilled labor and were able to find employment. Moving forward to the year 2000, Education and success would become officially linked. In order to be successful and find gainful employment, one must obtain a diploma ("JITE v41n2 - The No Child Left Behind Act: A Look at Provisions, Philosophies and Compromises", 2004).

The No Child Left Behind act wanted to ensure that every child had the opportunities to obtain academic success.

NCLS’s Four Primary Areas

  1. Highly qualified teachers
  2. State Accountability
  3. Research
  4. Parent Choice

This act lead to inclusion and was the starting point for what we now know as The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA is the main law for K-12 public education in the United States. Under ESSA, states get to decide the educational plans for their schools. Every parent can now ensure that their child’s need are being met and taken into consideration. This is very important for those families who have children with special needs.


While there are some parts of the NCLB that are incorporated into the ESSA, there are more parts of the act that school must incorporate. Each school is required to have a plan that consists of the following

  1. Academic standards
  2. Annual testing
  3. School accountability
  4. Goals for academic achievement
  5. Plans for support and improvements
  6. State and local report cards

Academic Standards

Standards that are focused and challenging in the subjects of reading, math and science that are applied to all students, including those with learning and thinking delays.

Annual Testing

In grades 3-8 and once in high school, students must test in math and reading and test in the subject of Science ones in elementary, once in middles school and once in high school.

States must also provide accommodations for those students with 504 plans and IEP’s

School Accountability

Under the ESSA, each state must use at least five measures to evaluate how schools are serving students. Some of those measures include: Kindergarten readiness, College readiness and discipline rates.


Goals for Academic Achievement

These goals are set by each state to help struggling students catch up and close the achievement gap.


("No Child Left Behind (NCLB): What You Need to Know", 2019) 

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): What You Need to Know. (2019). Retrieved 11 December 2019, from… 





Final Thoughts

Piaget's impact

Physical experience consists of manipulating objects and gaining knowledge from them. Putting into practice and providing developmentally appropriate activities that give children the opportunity to have hands on experiences in and out of the classroom is following what Jean Piaget outlines in his theory

No Child Left Behind act

While the NCLB was replaced by ESSA many still support parts of the act that have been changed. The requirements for highly qualified teachers, research-based instructions and basic reporting are some of the parts of the NCLB that were taken out or replaced. 


Pioneers In Our Field: Jean Piaget - Champion of Children's Ideas | Scholastic. (2019). Retrieved 9 December 2019, from… 

No Child Left Behind (NCLB): What You Need to Know. (2019). Retrieved 10 December 2019, from…

JEAN PIAGET COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT webquest created by surumbu | Create WebQuest. (2019). Retrieved 10 December 2019, from…

JITE v41n2 - The No Child Left Behind Act: A Look at Provisions, Philosophies and Compromises. (2004). Retrieved 11 December 2019, from

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): What You Need to Know. (2019). Retrieved 11 December 2019, from…