Assimilation and Accomodation

Why does a toddler call all four legged animals dogs? Assimilation. Understanding the process of assimilation and accommodation as described by Piaget was like a light bulb going off for me. Suddenly I understood what was happening in the Froggy's head. As an educator, we are repeatedly told that we need to "link to prior knowledge" so that whatever we are teaching makes sense to the student. Why is that important? Accommodation.

Back to our example of the toddler just learning the world. Toddler repeated comes in contact with furry four legged beast which is given the label "Dog" Through the part of language development / learning designated assimilation, the toddler is able to make the a connection between the label and the item presented. The toddler then uses that label for anything else that meets that general description. It takes accommodation to allow the child to see that a cat is different than a dog or a horse is different than a cow or that not all women are momma. Accommodation is much harder as they need to learn what the distinctions are while still making the connections.

Eventually as we grow, more of our learning becomes accommodation style and assimilation falls by the wayside. We "link to prior knowledge" and understand.


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