Jean Piaget was a biologist from Switzerland who became interested in how humans acquire knowledge. He began studying children of different ages to find out how they understood different phenomena.
Key Concepts of Piaget’s Theory
Based on many detailed observations and research, these are the key factors of his theory.
- The young child’s view of the world differs from the view of older children and adults. The perception of the world changes as the child grows and develops.
- Intelligence, or knowledge, is constructed. It is from experience that the child’s view of the world is built.
- The child regulates the development of his or her own knowledge. As the child grows and matures, experiences the physical environment and has social interactions with others, the child gains knowledge.
- Activity is an essential feature of intellectual development. Children need both mental and physical activity in the form of concrete material experiences in order to learn.
- Play is an essential feature of intellectual development. It is through play that a child comes to terms with the experiences they have and make them their own.
- Thinking is more important than talking. Logical thought is developed through actions, not language.
- Different kinds of knowledge are acquired in different ways. Physical knowledge is learned through concrete activities, social knowledge is learned through active interchange with others.
Goals of the Piagetian Learning Style Theory
The goals of the preschool curriculum based on Piaget’s theory of learning is to support the development of each child’s intelligence, or knowledge. The goal is not to speed up development, but rather to ensure that each child has the opportunities to use his or her knowledge as fully as possible at each level of development.
Curricula based on this concept should include four factors. The curriculum should allow for the differing rates of maturation of the children. It should provide opportunities for the children to act on the physical environment. It should provide interaction with one another. And, it should allow the children the autonomy to self-regulate through these activities. Children should be encouraged to select their own problems, to advance in their own ways, to reach their own conclusions, and to accept the outcomes. The premise of this is that the child will take increasing responsibility for his or her own actions.
The Rewards of a Piagetian Based Learning Experience
Based on teacher observations and research, the rewards for the children and teachers are many. The children are able to pursue activities that interest them, and are fun and challenging to them as well. They are creative and seek their own ways to interact with the physical and social environment. Given concrete activities, the child is enabled to build his or her world through personal experience which creates a sound foundation for further development and education.
Although setting up a classroom and planning curriculum based on Piaget’s theory can be a bit more challenging for the teaching and administrative staff, the outcome can be very successful for the children. Instead of learning from a teacher-directed activity the child is learning by participating in self-chosen activities and experiencing the outcomes that build concrete knowledge one step at a time.