Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Challenges to Piaget Theory

Piaget saw children as innovators who play an active role in their own development. Just one day’s interaction with a child will prove that. Kids interact with their environment and thus learn about the world they live in. Piaget presented some common sense insight on kids’ development that parents have noticed long before. But he did not just theorize he opened the door and challenged the inner working mind of children and as a result he carried out some remarkable studies on children. These studies influenced and supported Piaget’s theories of children thought process.

However, there are some challenges to Piaget’s Theory. Most of the challenges to Piaget’s Theory stem on infant behavior and little research on environmental factors. Here are a few challenges:

· The timetable of cognitive skills. Piaget only credited a cognitive skill only when the child/infant mastered the skill and not when the ability to do the skill first appeared. So it makes you wonder do cognitive skills really occur in stages. Kids are individuals that come from various back grounds so how do you fit each child into a stage?

· How do social & cultural influences affect these stages?

· Piaget assumes that there is a simultaneous progress of skills. How about training a child to master a skill that lies in another stage? Is that not possible?
-Anna Kuchment with Newsweek reported on parents who potty-trained their kids as
early as 3weeks old. That’s a milestone reserved for 1.5 to 3 years old.

· Limited adult supervision and interaction. Piaget promotes children’s own play.

So as future educators who plan on incorporating Piaget style teachings. We need to understand these challenges and have solutions to the gaps in this teaching style.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Piaget Video Stream

In this film Piaget’s student, Dr. David Elkind, introduces the research methods and terminology of Piaget’s theories. He uses real life examples of student's thoughts and concepts. The archival materials also document the course of Piaget’s life.

Video retrieved from:


Alternate website for the video


Jean Piaget Quotes

Here are some quotes from Piaget that makes you think...

"The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done - men who are creative, inventive and discoverers."

"Scientific knowledge is in perpetual evolution; it finds itself changed from one day to the next.”

"This means that no single logic is strong enough to support the total construction of human knowledge.”

"The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.”

“Knowledge, then, is a system of transformations that become progressively adequate.”

"During the earliest stages the child perceives things like a solipsist who is unaware of himself as subject and is familiar only with his own actions.”

Piaget Teaching Style

In order to use the Piaget Model effectively, it is important to understand the stages of learning that Piaget established. The stages are (in order):

  1. Toddler and Early Childhood - Sensorimotor (birth to 1 ½ years old)

  2. Middle Childhood - Pre-Operational (2 to 8 years old)

  3. Adolescence - Formal (14 years and up)

This model suggests that we learn to think differently as we grow up and gain experience; children are not unintelligent, just inexperienced. Below are some examples of the different exercises that can be used in schools to enhance learning in different stages.

  • Pre-Operational: Use drawings and illustrations to teach words, sounds, etc. Explain situations by acting out the directions given to the students. Cut out letters and words and allow the students to sound out/spell out the information. Allow students to play with items such as wood, sand, etc. to promote tactile stimulation.

  • Concrete:Use timelines to show spatial order. Use simple scientific experiments to show cause and effect, action-reaction, etc. Begin to read short books (short stories, small chapter books). Introduce word problems in mathematics. Ask open ended questions that require the students to use logic and reason.

  • Formal: Begin to use complex charts and graphs. Introduce materials that require many steps/processes. Challenge students to think outside their normal reasoning (ex.: Is there a chance that life exists on other planets? Why?) Have students defend both sides of an argument. Use media often in a classroom (ex.: use lyrics from a song to show the different elements of poetry.)

We found a website that gives wonderful examples on Piaget Stragtegies and techniques.

Appointments, Awards, and Publications

Principal Appointments
1921-25 Research Director, Institut Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Geneva
1925-29 Professor of Psychology, Sociology and the Philosophy of Science, University of Neuchatel
1929-39 Professor of the History of Scientific Thought, University of Geneva
1929-67 Director, International Bureau of Education, Geneva
1932-71 Director, Institute of Educational Sciences, University of Geneva
1938-51 Professor of Experimental Psychology and Sociology, University of Lausanne
1939-51 Professor of Sociology, University of Geneva
1940-71 Professor of Experimental Psychology, University of Geneva
1952-64 Professor of Genetic Psychology, Sorbonne, Paris
1955-80 Director, International Centre for Genetic Epistemology, Geneva
1971-80 Emeritus Professor, University of Geneva

Other Appointments
Swiss Commission UNESCO
Swiss Society of Psychology
French Language Association of Scientific Psychology
International Union of Scientific Psychology

Co-Director: Department of Education, UNESCO.
Member: Executive Council, UNESCO and 20 Academic Societies
Co-Editor: Archives de Psychologie and 7 other journals
Honorary Doctorates:
Harvard (1936)
Manchester (1959)
Cambridge (1962)
Bristol (1970)
CNAA (1975) and 26 other Universities

Erasmus Prize (1972) and 11 other international prizes.

Principal Publications
Piaget published more than 50 books and 500 papers as well as 37 volumes in the series "Etudes d'Epistémologie Génétique" (Studies in Genetic Epistemology). Almost all of these publications are listed in:
Jean Piaget Archives Foundation (1989). The Jean Piaget Bibliography. Geneva: Jean Piaget Archives Foundation. ISBN:288288012X
biographie. Revuee Européenne des Sciences Sociales, 14 (38-39), 1-43.

Main works include:
1918, Recherche. Lausanne: La Concorde.
1924, Judgment and reasoning in the child, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1928.
1936, Origins of intelligence in the child, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953.
1957, Construction of reality in the child, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954.
1941, Child's conception of number (with Alina Szeminska), London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1952.
1945, Play, dreams and imitation in childhood, London: Heinemann, 1951.
1949, Traité de logique. Paris: Colin.
1950, Introduction à l'épistémologie génétique 3 Vols. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
1954, Intelligence and affectivity, Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews, 1981.
1955, Growth of logical thinking (with Bärbel Inhelder), London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958.
1962, Commentary on Vygotsky's criticisms. New Ideas in Psychology, 13, 325-40, 1995
1967, Logique et connaissance scientifique. Paris: Gallimard.
1967, Biology and knowledge, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1971.
1970, Piaget's theory. In P. Mussen (ed) Handbook of child psychology, Vol.1. New York: Wiley, 1983.
1970, Main trends in psychology, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1973.
1975, Equilibration of cognitive structures, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.
1977, Sociological studies, London: Routledge, 1995
1977, Studies in reflecting abstraction. Hove: Psychology Press, 2000
1977, Essay on necessity. Human Development, 29, 301-14, 1986.
1981, Possibility and necessity, 2 Vols, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
1983, Psychogenesis and the history of science (with Rolando Garcia), New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.
1987, Towards a logic of meanings (with Rolando Garcia), Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates, 1991.
1990, Morphisms and categories (with Gil Henriques, Edgar Ascher), Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates, 1992.

This information is adapted from a biographical review of Piaget’s work:
Smith, L. (1997). Jean Piaget. In N. Sheehy, A. Chapman. W.Conroy (eds). Biographical dictionary of psychology. London: Routledge.

Why Do We Care?

As we've already stated, we're a group of future educators, not psychologists, so why do we study Piaget and his theories so closely? Well, in this case, "we" represent a group of students studying to be professional educators. We can hardly do so without knowing where our profession has been, and where we're heading. Piaget's work has had not only a significant impact on how Americans have approached teaching. According to Wikipedia's entry on this topic, During the 1970s and 1980s, Piaget’s works also inspired the transformation of European and American education, including both theory and practice, leading to a more ‘child-centred’ approach. In conversations with Jean Piaget, he says: "Education, for most people, means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of his society . . . but for me and no one else, education means making creators. . . . You have to make inventors, innovators—not conformists," (Bringuier, 1980, p.132). I would dare say that the personal philosophy of education that Piaget expresses above mirrors, or at least echoes, what most of us hope to inpsire in our future students.

Who is Jean Piaget?

Who is Jean Piaget? (1896-1980)

Jean Piaget is considered one of the most significant psychologists of the twentieth century. Piaget focused on the thought process of kids and coined this study genetic epistemology. Jean Piaget was born in Neuchâtel (Switzerland) on August 9, 1896 to Arthur Piaget, professor of medieval literature at the University, and of Rebecca Jackson. He died in Geneva on September 16, 1980.

He married Valentine Châtenay, one of his student coworkers in 1923 and had 3 kids. His children became the main focus of his research. At 11 years old, Piaget wrote a 1 page paper on his sightings of an albino sparrow. Thus the start of a brilliant scientific career!

In 1921, Piaget spent one year working at the Ecole de la rue de la Grange-aux-Belles, a boys' institution created by Alfred Binet. Alfred Binet developed a test for the measurement of intelligence, Binet’s IQ and Piaget began noticing that kids in different age groups answered questions differently than their older peers. Piaget theorized that the younger kids were not dumber than their older counterparts, but rather had different thought processes. Piaget standardized Binet's test of intelligence and did his own experimental studies of the growing mind. He published his first article on psychology of intelligence in the Journal de Psychologie in 1921. While working as the director of studies at the J.-J. Rousseau Institute in Geneva Piaget did research on the reasoning of elementary school children and published five books on child psychology. To his surprise, these books received widespread positive reactions. Piaget concluded that children's logic and modes of thinking are entirely different from those of adults. Piaget's research is known worldwide and is used as the template for early education systems. By the time of his death, in Geneva, September 16, 1980, Piaget had written over 60 books and published hundreds of articles.