Monday, November 26, 2007

Jean Piaget Human Intelligence

Jean Piaget
(August 9, 1896-September 16, 1980)Swiss Biologist and Child Psychologist
Student of: Simon
Influenced by:
Students: Inhelder
Influenced: Sternberg, Gardner
Time Period: The Great Schools' Influence
Ph.D. in the Natural Sciences, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland (1918)
Postdoctoral studies in psychoanalysis, University of Zurich (Winter, 1918-1919)
Publishes his first biology paper (on the albino sparrow) at age 10 (1907)
Théodore Simon asks him to standardize Cyril Burt's intelligence tests with Parisian children (1920)
Publishes his first article on the psychology of intelligence (1921)
Research Director, Institut Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Geneva (1921-1925)
Professor of psychology, sociology and history of science, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland (1925-1929)
Professor of the History of Scientific Thought, University of Geneva (1929-1939)
Director of the International Bureau of Education, Geneva (1929-1967)
Director, Institute of Educational Sciences, University of Geneva (1932-1971)
Professor of Psychology and Sociology, University of Lausanne, Switzerland (1938-1951)
Professor of Sociology, University of Geneva (1939-1952)
Chair of Experimental Psychology, University of Geneva (1940-1971)
Professor of Genetic Psychology, the Sorbonne, Paris (1952-1963)
Founder/Director of the International Center for Genetic Epistemology, Geneva (1955-1980)
Founder, School of Sciences, University of Geneva (1956)
Emeritus Professor, University of Geneva (1971-1980)
Ph.D. in the Natural Sciences, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland (1918)
Postdoctoral studies in psychoanalysis, University of Zurich (Winter, 1918-1919)
Definition of Intelligence
"Intelligence is an adaptation…To say that intelligence is a particular instance of biological adaptation is thus to suppose that it is essentially an organization and that its function is to structure the universe just as the organism structures its immediate environment" (Piaget, 1963, pp. 3-4).
"Intelligence is assimilation to the extent that it incorporates all the given data of experience within its framework…There can be no doubt either, that mental life is also accommodation to the environment. Assimilation can never be pure because by incorporating new elements into its earlier schemata the intelligence constantly modifies the latter in order to adjust them to new elements" (Piaget, 1963, p. 6-7).
Major Contributions
The theory of Genetic Epistemology*
Ideas and Interests
Jean Piaget was a precocious child who demonstrated a keen interest in animal life and an encyclopedic knowledge of biology and taxonomy. When he was ten years old, he began volunteering at the Neuchâtel Museum of Natural History. The museum's director, the seventy year-old naturalist Paul Godet, took him on as his assistant and apprentice, and paid him for his work by giving him rare specimens for his personal collection (Vidal, 1994). Piaget continued to work at the museum for four years, and his interest in the natural sciences continued to grow. His professional accomplishments in this area were numerous, beginning at age ten when he published a paper on the albino sparrow, and culminating with a doctoral thesis on the classification of mollusks when he was twenty-one.
After completing his Ph.D., Piaget spent several months studying psychoanalysis at the University of Zurich. He was a promising student, and his contemporaries believed that he would eventually make important contributions to this field (Vidal, 1994). However, a serendipitous opportunity presented itself, and Piaget soon found himself working for Théodore Simon, co-author of the Binet-Simon intelligence scale. Simon placed him in Binet's laboratory, and set him to work standardizing Cyril Burt's reasoning tests on Parisian children.
Piaget thought that the standardizing task was dull, and he never finished it. However, his clinical interactions with the children were not without interest. He began to notice that children of similar ages made similar types of mistakes, and it occurred to him that Simon, Binet and Burt might be asking the wrong question: Perhaps the key to understanding human intellectual development is not in what children get wrong, but how they get it wrong. It was clear to Piaget that childish reasoning is not merely less accurate than adult reasoning; it is qualitatively different (Wadsworth 1996). From this point forward, Piaget dedicated himself to answering the question "How does knowledge grow?"
Piaget eventually came to believe that intelligence is a form of adaptation, wherein knowledge is constructed by each individual through the two complementary processes of assimilation and accommodation. He theorized that as children interact with their physical and social environments, they organize information into groups of interrelated ideas called "schemes". When children encounter something new, they must either assimilate it into an existing scheme or create an entirely new scheme to deal with it (Wadsworth 1996).
Piaget also believed that intellectual development occurs in four distinct stages. The sensorimotor stage begins at birth, and lasts until the child is approximately two years old. At this stage, the child cannot form mental representations of objects that are outside his immediate view, so his intelligence develops through his motor interactions with his environment. The preoperational stage typically lasts until the child is 6 or 7. According to Piaget, this is the stage where true "thought" emerges. Preoperational children are able to make mental representations of unseen objects, but they cannot use deductive reasoning. The concrete operations stage follows, and lasts until the child is 11 or 12. Concrete operational children are able to use deductive reasoning, demonstrate conservation of number, and can differentiate their perspective from that of other people. Formal operations is the final stage. Its most salient feature is the ability to think abstractly.
A central tenet of Piaget's Genetic Epistemology is that increasingly complex intellectual processes are built on the primitive foundations laid in earlier stages of development. An infant's physical explorations of his environment form the basis for the mental representations he develops as a preoperational child, and so on. Another important principle of Piaget's stage theory is that there are genetic constraints inherent in the human organism-You can challenge a child to confront new ideas, but you cannot necessarily "teach" him out of one stage and into another. Moreover, a child cannot build new, increasingly complex schemes without interacting with his environment; nature and nurture are inexorably linked. As Piaget put it:

Intelligence does not by any means appear at once derived from mental development, like a higher mechanism, and radically distinct from those which have preceded it. Intelligence presents, on the contrary, a remarkable continuity with the acquired or even inborn processes on which it depends and at the same time makes use of. (Piaget, 1963, p. 21)

Attempts have been made to correlate performance on Piagetian conservation tasks with standardized intelligence test scores, and the results have been mixed. (Kirk, 1977). Ultimately, an intelligence test built on a Piagetian framework would have to function very differently from intelligence tests like the Wechsler or the Stanford-Binet. In addition to recording a child's correct and incorrect responses, the test administrator would also have to ask the child to explain why he answered in a given way. Piaget suggested that one way to reconcile these two approaches would be to adopt a method clinique, whereby a traditional intelligence test could serve as the basis for a clinical interview (Elkind, 1969).

Stages of Development

Much of your teaching depends on cognitive abilities -- sharing information with your students and looking for signs that the information is understood. As a result, you should understand cognitive stages.

Child psychologist Jean Piaget described the mechanism by which the mind processes new information. He said that a person understands whatever information fits into his established view of the world. When information does not fit, the person must reexamine and adjust his thinking to accommodate the new information. Piaget described four stages of cognitive development and relates them to a person's ability to understand and assimilate new information.

Sensorimotor: (birth to about age 2)
During this stage, the child learns about himself and his environment through motor and reflex actions. Thought derives from sensation and movement. The child learns that he is separate from his environment and that aspects of his environment -- his parents or favorite toy -- continue to exist even though they may be outside the reach of his senses. Teaching for a child in this stage should be geared to the sensorimotor system. You can modify behavior by using the senses: a frown, a stern or soothing voice -- all serve as appropriate techniques.
Preoperational: (begins about the time the child starts to talk to about age 7)
Applying his new knowledge of language, the child begins to use symbols to represent objects. Early in this stage he also personifies objects. He is now better able to think about things and events that aren't immediately present. Oriented to the present, the child has difficulty conceptualizing time. His thinking is influenced by fantasy -- the way he'd like things to be -- and he assumes that others see situations from his viewpoint. He takes in information and then changes it in his mind to fit his ideas. Teaching must take into account the child's vivid fantasies and undeveloped sense of time. Using neutral words, body outlines and equipment a child can touch gives him an active role in learning.
Concrete: (about first grade to early adolescence)
During this stage, accommodation increases. The child develops an ability to think abstractly and to make rational judgements about concrete or observable phenomena, which in the past he needed to manipulate physically to understand. In teaching this child, giving him the opportunity to ask questions and to explain things back to you allows him to mentally manipulate information.

Formal Operations: (adolescence)
This stage brings cognition to its final form. This person no longer requires concrete objects to make rational judgements. At his point, he is capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning. Teaching for the adolescent may be wideranging because he'll be able to consider many possibilities from several perspectives.
from Patient Teaching, Loose Leaf Library Springhouse Corporation (1990)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Biography of Jean Piaget

A Brief Biography of Jean Piaget

Jean Piaget (1896-1980)Jean Piaget was born in Neuchâtel (Switzerland) on August 9, 1896. He died in Geneva on September 16, 1980. He was the oldest child of Arthur Piaget, professor of medieval literature at the University, and of Rebecca Jackson. At age 11, while he was a pupil at Neuchâtel Latin high school, he wrote a short notice on an albino sparrow. This short paper is generally considered as the start of a brilliant scientific career made of over sixty books and several hundred articles.
His interest for mollusks was developed during his late adolescence to the point that he became a well-known malacologist by finishing school. He published many papers in the field that remained of interest for him all along his life.
After high school graduation, he studied natural sciences at the University of Neuchâtel where he obtained a Ph.D. During this period, he published two philosophical essays which he considered as "adolescence work" but were important for the general orientation of his thinking.
After a semester spent at the University of Zürich where he developed an interest for psychoanalysis, he left Switzerland for France. He spent one year working at the Ecole de la rue de la Grange-aux-Belles a boys' institution created by Alfred Binet and then directed by De Simon who had developed with Binet a test for the measurement of intelligence. There, he standardized Burt's test of intelligence and did his first experimental studies of the growing mind.
In 1921, he became director of studies at the J.-J. Rousseau Institute in Geneva at the request of Sir Ed. Claparède and P. Bovet.
In 1923, he and Valentine Châtenay were married. The couple had three children, Jacqueline, Lucienne and Laurent whose intellectual development from infancy to language was studied by Piaget.
Successively or simultaneously, Piaget occupied several chairs: psychology, sociology and history of science at Neuchâtel from 1925 to 1929; history of scientific thinking at Geneva from 1929 to 1939; the International Bureau of Education from 1929 to 1967; psychology and sociology at Lausanne from 1938 to 1951; sociology at Geneva from 1939 to 1952, then genetic and experimental psychology from 1940 to 1971. He was, reportedly, the only Swiss to be invited at the Sorbonne from 1952 to 1963. In 1955, he created and directed until his death the International Center for Genetic Epistemology.
His researches in developmental psychology and genetic epistemology had one unique goal: how does knowledge grow? His answer is that the growth of knowledge is a progressive construction of logically embedded structures superseding one another by a process of inclusion of lower less powerful logical means into higher and more powerful ones up to adulthood. Therefore, children's logic and modes of thinking are initially entirely different from those of adults.
Piaget's oeuvre is known all over the world and is still an inspiration in fields like psychology, sociology, education, epistemology, economics and law as witnessed in the annual catalogues of the Jean Piaget Archives. He was awarded numerous prizes and honorary degrees all over the world.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Piaget and Stages of Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget’s Background:
Jean Piaget was born in Switzerland in 1896. After receiving his doctoral degree at age 22, Piaget formally began a career that would have a profound impact on both psychology and education. After working with Alfred Binet, Piaget developed an interest in the intellectual development of children. Based upon his observations, he concluded that children were not less intelligent than adults, they simply think differently. Albert Einstein called Piaget’s discovery “so simple only a genius could have thought of it.” Piaget’s stage theory describes the cognitive development of children. Cognitive development involves changes in cognitive process and abilities. In Piaget’s view, early cognitive development involves processes based upon actions and later progresses into changes in mental operations.

Key ConceptsSchemas – A schema describes both the mental and physical actions involved in understanding and knowing. Schemas are categories of knowledge that help us to interpret and understand the world. In Piaget’s view, a schema includes both a category of knowledge and the process of obtaining that knowledge. As experiences happen, this new information is used to modify, add to, or change previously existing schemas. For example, a child may have a schema about a type of animal, such as a dog. If the child’s sole experience has been with small dogs, a child might believe that all dogs are small, furry, and have four legs. Suppose then that the child encounters a very large dog. The child will take in this new information, modifying the previously existing schema to include this new information.Assimilation – The process of taking in new information into our previously existing schema’s is known as assimilation. The process is somewhat subjective, because we tend to modify experience or information somewhat to fit in with our preexisting beliefs. In the example above, seeing a dog and labeling it “dog” is an example of assimilating the animal into the child’s dog schema.Accommodation – Another part of adaptation involves changing or altering our existing schemas in light of new information, a process known as accommodation. Accommodation involves altering existing schemas, or ideas, as a result of new information or new experiences. New schemas may also be developed during this process.Equilibration – Piaget believed that all children try to strike a balance between assimilation and accommodation, which is achieved through a mechanism Piaget called equilibration. As children progress through the stages of cognitive development, it is important to maintain a balance between applying previous knowledge (assimilation) and changing behavior to account for new knowledge (accommodation). Equilibration helps explain how children are able to move from one stage of thought into the next. Kendra Van Wagner