Is it time to reevaluate his theories?
Few people have had more influence on schooling in
the 20th century than Jean Piaget, the Swiss biologist
and developmental psychologist.
But many modern
developmental psychologists, brain-researchers and effective teachers
are now querying some of Piaget's main theories.
In brief, Piaget claimed that children everywhere in
every culture grow through a fixed sequence of intellectual growth-stages
from infancy to adulthood.
Italy's famed educator Maria Montessori also proposed
that children develop in sequence. But both researchers disagreed on
the exact timing of that sequence.
Piaget believed that children had specific periods of
"cognitive" or intellectual development, with children not
reaching their "concrete operational" stage until age
seven. Followers of his theories have therefore urged that specific
"skills" such as reading and writing should not be
developed until that "concrete operational" stage.
Montessori, on the other hand, believed that, while
children have specific "sensitive" periods for
development, they should be encouraged to develop all of their
senses from a very early age, and that self-learning should be based
on the way those senses develop. As a result, most Montessori
preschool centers encourage children to develop, from the first year
of life, a series of sequenced skills that lead to fluent writing by
age four and reading around the same age.
Yet other researchers say it is easy to
teach children to read at an even younger age by using the latest
world's biggest-selling non-fiction book in 1999, The Learning
Revolution, provides easy-to-read comparisons behind the various
developmental theories – and, more importantly, shows what works
best in practice.
Co-authors Gordon Dryden and Dr. Jeannette also provide
an excellent summary of various theories of curriculum development,
down the ages. And they come down strongly on the side of "no
dogma: use commonsense and pick the best from all theories – but
only if it works in practice."
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