Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Learning Theory of Piaget and Inhelder

Gallagher, J. and Reid, D. (1981). Genetic epistemology as a learning theory. In The Learning Theory of Piaget and Inhelder, Chapter 1, pp. 1-11. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

  • Unlike most learning theorists, Piagetians do not explain learning as a reording of facts that are internalized through frequency and contiguity. Instead, they argue that a learner always makes inferences that go beyond the observable aspects of the world
  • Piagetians claim that what children are able to observe about the world is more dependent on what they already know than what actually exists.
  • The theory developed by Piaget and Inhelder is more than a theory of development. It also offers us a great deal of understanding about how children learn.

Six principles of learning derived from Piaget and Inhelder's genetic epistemology are:
1. Learning is an internal process of construction; that is, children's own activities determine their reactions to environmental stimulation.
2. Learning is subordinated to development; that is, competence is a precondition for learning.
3. Children learn not only by observing objects but also by reorganizing on a higher mental level what they learn from coordinating their activities.
4. Growth in knowledge is often sparked by a feedback process that proceeds from questions, contradictions, and consequent mental reorganization.
5. Questions, contradictions, and the consequent reorganization of thought are often stimulated by social interaction.
6. Since awareness (or conscious realization) is a process of reconstruction rather than sudden insight, understanding often lags behind action.

Other ideas and points:
  • Learning does not stem from observation or experience alone
  • Children are sensitive to stimuli only when they have the competence to understand
  • To grow in knowledge, children must both discover and invent.
  • Genetic epistemology differs from the more traditional approaches to learning in that it does not postulate that growth in knowledge is only the "result of experience." Instead, genetic epistemology emphasizes the active role of the person.

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