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Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget (1896-1980)

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist, whose development theories have been widely discussed in both psychology and educational fields. To learn, Piaget stressed the holistic approach. A child constructs understanding through many channels: reading, listening, exploring, and experiencing his or her environment.

A Piagetian-inspired curricula emphasizes a child-centered educational philosophy. His work has been labeled an interactionist as well as a constructivist. His interest in cognitive development came from his training in the natural sciences and his interest in epistemology. He saw cognitive growth as an extension of biological growth and as being governed by the same laws and principles. He argued that intellectual development controlled every other aspect of development - emotional, social, and moral.

Piaget may be best known for his four stages of cognitive development model. He discovered that children think and reason differently at different periods in their lives. He believed that everyone passed through an invariant sequence of four qualitatively distinct stages. Invariant means that a person cannot skip stages or reorder them. Although every normal child passes through the stages in exactly the same order, there is some variability in the ages at which children attain each stage. The four stages are:

However, his four stages have not often held up well. Donald Clark lists several of the reasons in a blog post, Piaget — why teach this stuff? Note that he tends to get a bit overly-aggressive in his comments, but the posting is still a good read. I have listed some of his highlights below:


Berger, K. S. (1988). The Developing Person Through the Life Span (2nd ed.). New York: Worth Publishers Ltd.

Bower, T. G. R., & Wishart, J. G. (1972). The effects of motor skill on object permanence. Cognition, 1, 165–172.

Papalia, D. E., Olds, S. W., & Feldman, R. D. (1998). Human Development (7th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Rose, S. A., & Blank, M. (1974). The potency of context in children’s cognition: An illustration through conservation. Child Development, 45, 199-502.

Samuel, J. & Bryant, P. (1984). Asking only one question in the conservation experiment. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 25, 315-18. Retrieved on September, 25, 2010 from: http://www.holah.karoo.net/samuelstudy.htm

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