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Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget

“The principal 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.” – Jean Piaget, The Origins of Intelligence in Children, 1953.

Jean Piaget was a well-known Swiss psychologist. Born on 9th August, 1896, he was a philosopher as well as a developmental psychologist who laid great emphasis on educating children. He emphasized that education is the savior of the future generations as well as a necessity for healthy upbringing of the entire society. He studied natural history and philosophy. While working with Alfred Binet, developer of Binet intelligence tests, Piaget noticed a pattern in a set of questions that young children consistently answered wrong. This inspired him to delve further into children’s mind. Having realized the limitations of traditional research methods when conducting psychoanalysis on children, Piaget came up with a new method of examination.  He conducted interviews where he would ask a series of standard questions and then based on their response, some non-standard questions. He reached the conclusion that the chain of reasoning in children and adults differs significantly. He observed that the knowledge that children acquire is grouped into schemas. Each new piece of information is either merged into the same schema, modifies the existing schema or creates a new schema altogether. He is mostly remembered for his contribution to research in children’s cognitive development.

Piaget observed the cognitive development of his own children and came up with a model to describe the stages that children pass through in the development of intelligence and reasoning. The theory consists of four stages; (1) the sensorimotor stage (2) the preoperational stage, (3) the concrete operational stage, and (4) the formal operation stage. He concluded that children’s reasoning was not faulty but when compared to adults it was erroneous due to the limited experiences of the children about the natural and social world. Jean Piaget believed that knowledge didn’t mean to learn some facts and be able to repeat them but to make connections and to understand how it all fits together. Thus he concluded that efforts to introduce abstract concepts to children at a young age would not result in conceptual learning but would only lead to memorization (rote learning). Although Piaget did not know how to apply his theories to education, he was a proponent of hands-on learning.

Numerous teachers have adopted his philosophy, moving on from traditional teaching methods to more interactive tactics for subjects such as science, math, languages and social studies. Overall, his work in child cognition transformed how children, their mental capabilities and their reasoning are perceived. Piaget died at the age of 84, having given birth to new fields in science including genetic epistemology, cognitive theory, and developmental psychology among others. During his lifetime, Piaget authored numerous books and papers including The Child’s Conception of the World (1926), The Origin of Intelligence in Children (1936), and The Early Growth of Logic in the Child (1958).

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