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Jean Piaget's Educational Theory
Sean Hughes


Analyst: Sean Hughes


1. Theory of Value: What knowledge and skills are worthwhile learning? What are the goals of education?

Piaget portrayed the child as a lone scientist, creating his or her own sense of the world. The individual will interpret and act accordingly to conceptual categories or schemas that are developed in interaction with the environment. The knowledge of relationships among ideas, objects, and events is constructed by the active processes of internal assimilation, accommodation, and equilibration (B: p. 39).

Until children construct a certain level of logic from the inside, they are nonconservers because they can only base their judgement on what they can see (C: p. 261).

An understanding that a person's development through the four stages of cognitive development depends on the maturation of his or her nervous system and on the kinds of experiences he or she has had (E: p. 192-193).

Understanding children's understanding must guide teaching practice and evaluation (F: p. 259). Children all over the world go through stages and educational practice can be improved by a better match between the child's level of development and that imbedded in the test and curricula (D: p. 98).

2. Theory of Knowledge: What is knowledge? How is it different from belief? What is a mistake? What is a lie?

The study of children was thus a means of explaining the nature of human knowledge (C: p. 260).

Three kinds of knowledge: the physical which is knowledge of objects in external reality; the social which are written and spoken languages; and the logico-mathernatics which is the relationships created by each individual (C: p. 262).

Constructivism is an attempt to secure the objectivity of universal knowledge without either the ontological slum due to realism or the endemic relativism of nominalism (1: p. 261).

Children will not be constrained by tradition, social heteronomy. The children will have their own capacities for independent thought, individual autonomy (L p. 258).

The child was then forced to make some addition to its mental apparatus; cognitive accommodation occurred, and the child moved on to a new equilibrium (A: p. 87).

3. Theory of Human Nature: What is a human being? How does it differ from other species? What are the limits of human potential?

The biological structures that enable an organism to deal effectively with its environment (A: P. 8 5).

Like other living creatures, children have to survive in the world around them; and their ways of thinking, although different from those of adults, allow them to get by and so are of great intrinsic interest (A: p. 85).

Child growth was a continuous process; the stages were not as discrete as, for example, the stages in the life cycle of an insect (A: p. 87).

From birth onward, intellectual competencies undergo continuous development until they attain their adult forms. Even later in life, that development never ends (M: p. 202).

4. Theory of Learning: What is learning? How are skills and knowledge acquired?

Each child builds on the previous stage of cognitive development, increasing the child's ability to solve more complex problems (E: p. 189).

The fundamental basis of learning, was discovery. To understand is to discover, or reconstruct by rediscovery, and such conditions must be compiled with if in the future individuals are to be formed who are capable of production and creativity and not simply repetition (G: p. 1).

Assimilation and accommodation are two sides of adaptation, Piaget's term for what most of us would call learning (H: p. 3).

To reach an understanding of basic phenomena, children have to go through stages in which they accept ideas they may later see as not truthful (G: p. 1).

5. Theory of Transmission: Who is to teach? By what methods? What will the curriculum be?

In autonomous activity, children must discover relationships and ideas in classroom situations that involve activities of interest to them. Understanding is built up step by step through active involvement (G: p. 1).

Transmission can be effective only in virtue of the prior construction of a system of thinking. Teaching can incline, but not induce, such construction through the judicious design of contexts (1: p. 259).

Organized or informal education can help most by making sure the children are supported morally, psychologically, materially, and intellectually in their efforts (J: p. 139).

6. Theory of Society: What is society? What institutions are involved in the educational process?

Children are social beings who do not develop in cognitive isolation from others (F: p. 259).

Their thinking about the external world is always in terms of their own perspective, their own position within it (K: p. 32).

Proposed that experience in cooperative relationships with equals was necessary for the achievement of mature thinking. Children have to overcome obedience to authority, but rather than positing transference, cooperate with peers as the antidote (L: p. 376).

7. Theory of Opportunity: Who is to be educated? Who is to be schooled?

Piaget's concern was for the individual child, not the child in a social context. He was not interested in individual differences and cultural influences (B: p. 39).

Everyone goes through the stages in the same order, but not necessarily at the same age (E: p. 19 3).

Believed that ethnic rivalry, nationalism, and class warfare were no longer acceptable in a world that had become increasingly international and interdependent. Piaget's early work show his interest in decentering (giving up a narrow ethnocentric position and coordinating one's views with views held by others) to be political and psychological (L: p. 376).

8. Theory of Consensus: Why do people disagree? How is consensus achieved? Whose opinion takes precedence?

The consistency of reasoning that Piaget predicted children would show across many tasks has not been found (K: p. 57). Piaget did not make enough of an effort to validate his theories by looking for alternative or rival explanations and then devise careful experiments to test his views (A: p. 89).

Piaget's theory has maintained continuity in most of its core assumptions (M: p. 191).

Emphasis on the importance of a single theory to provide consistency in teaching practice and evaluation (F: p. 1). Americans tended to see his theory differently, as cumbersome expressions of a dated biology that needed to be replaced by modern theories of learning (L: p.372).



A: Cleverly, J. Phillips, D.C. Visions of Childhood Influential Models From Locke to Spock. Teachers College Press, New York. 1986.

B: Oxford, R. (1997). Constructivism: shape-shifting, substance, and teacher education applications. Peabody Journal of Education, 72, 35-66.

C: Ewing, J. Kamii, C. (1996). Basing teaching on paiget's constructivism. Childhood Education, 72, 260-264.

D: Elkind, D. The Hurried Child, Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, New York. 1988.

E: Understanding Psychology. Random House, New York, 1986

F: Taylor, J. (1996). Piagetian perspectives on understanding children's understanding. Childhood Education, 72, 258-259

G: Building an Understanding of Constructivism, (http:Hwww.sedl.org/scimath/coml2ass/vOlnO3/2.bLmij. 6/18/01.

H: Boeree, G. Jean Piage . (http:Hwww. crystal inks. com/pi aget. htm). 6/18/01.

I: Smith, L. (Sept-Oct 1996). With knowledge in mind: novel transformation of the learner or transformation of novel knowledge. Human Development, 39, 257-263.

J: Papert, S. (1992). The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. New York: Basic. 137-156.

K: Siegler (1991). Piaget's Theory of Development. 17-57.

L: Youniss, J. (Nov-Dec 1995). The skill useful classic concept of development. Human Development, 38, 373-379.

M: Beilen, H. (Mar 1992). Piaget's enduring contribution to developmental psychology. Developmental Psychology, 28, 191-204.


Sean Hughes.  "Jean Piaget's Educational Theory ."  Extramares.  Ed.  Cecilia Bustamante.  Austin: Editorial Poetas Antiimperialistas de América.   5 de Diciembre de 2005.
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