Jean Piaget is a famous Swiss psychologist who revolutionized the understanding of children and their development.
His cognitive theory placed emphasis on conscious thoughts as opposed to the psychoanalytic theories that highlighted the role played by unconscious thoughts. While Piaget believed that both good nature and nurture are vital in healthy development, his cognitive theory mostly focused on nurture or environmental factors.
Jean Piaget’s theory of child development influenced many modern-day practices we have adopted, as well as gives directions for how we can further improve. At the same time, it is always motivating for the kids to bring light to the inspiring child development quotes that have been cited by famous theorists. Hence, this blog highlights some of the direct quotes from Piaget’s work.
The cognitive revolution of development
Piaget posited that every child goes through 4 stages of development, each associated with age and qualitatively different in terms of thoughts, understanding, and behavior. These included the sensorimotor stage (Birth to 2 years), preoperational stage (2 to 7 years), concrete operational stage (7 to 11 years), and formal operational stage (11 years through adulthood).
Piaget was a staunch critic of the positivist and behaviorist school of thought that had swept across the nation, influencing everything from educational and child-rearing practices to what was considered a topic worth studying in psychology.
He held on to the constructivist school of thought while proposing his theory as well as critiquing the educational system while offering further directions. Some of the direct quotes from Piaget’s seminal works that have been translated from French are given below:
A. The Psychology of the child– Jean Piaget & Bärbel Inhelder
1. “The child is of considerable interest in himself, but interest in psychological investigation of the child is increased when we realize that the child explains the man as well as and often better than the man explains the child.”
2. “While the adult educates the child by means of multiple social transmissions, every adult, even if he is a creative genius, nevertheless began as a child, in prehistoric times as well as today.”
3. “Mental development during the first eighteen months of life is particularly important, for it is during this time that the child constructs all the cognitive substructures that will serve as a point of departure for his later perspective and intellectual development, as well as a certain number of elementary affective reactions that will partly determine his subsequent affectivity.”
4. “Although the child’s actions seem to reflect a sort of magical belief in causality without any material contact, his use of the same means to try to achieve different ends indicates that he is on the threshold of intelligence.”
B. To Understand is to Invent: The future of education– Jean Piaget
1. “Kindergarten for underprivileged children should offer them ethically and intellectually stimulating surroundings in which the atmosphere and above all the abundant and diversified material employed will compensate for the shortcomings of their family life and arouse their curiosity and energies.”
2. “Programmed instruction is indeed conducive to learning, but by no means to inventing, unless,…, the child is made to do the programming himself.”
3. “The comprehension of elementary mathematics depends on the formation of qualitative structures (number, for instance, appears psychologically as a synthesis of the inclusion of classes and serial order), and the more the preliminary formation of the logical functions is facilitated, the greater the receptivity to mathematical instruction at every level.”
4. “The so-called aptitudes of “good” students in mathematics or physics, etc., consist above all in their being able to adapt to the type of instruction offered them, whereas students who are “bad” in these fields, but successful in others, are actually able to master the problems they appear not to understand – on condition that they approach them by another route.
What they do not understand are the “lessons”
and not the subject.”
5. “A student’s incapacity in a particular subject is owning to a too-rapid passage from the qualitative structure of the problems (by simple logical reasoning but without the immediate introduction of numerical relations and metric laws) to the quantitative or mathematical formulation (in the sense of previously worked-out equations) normally employed by the physicist.”
6. “What is desired is that the teacher ceases being a lecturer, satisfied with transmitting ready-made solutions; his role should rather be that of a mentor stimulating initiative and research: The very optimistic outlook resulting from our research on the development of basic qualitative notions, which ought to constitute the foundation of elementary instruction in the sciences, would seem to suggest that a fairly far-reaching reform in this area would help answer society’s need for scientists. The use of active methods which give broad scope to the spontaneous research of the child or adolescent and require that every new truth to be learned to be rediscovered or at least reconstructed by the student, and not simply imparted to him.”
7. “The teacher-organizer should know not only his own science but also be well versed in the details of the development of the child’s or adolescent’s mind.”
8. “One can anticipate a great future for cooperation between psychologists and mathematicians in working out a truly modern method for teaching the new mathematics. This would consist in speaking to the child in his own language before imposing on him another ready-made and over-abstract one, and, above all, in inducing him to rediscover as much as he can rather than simply making him listen and repeat.”
9. “To understand is to discover, or reconstruct by rediscovery, and such conditions must be complied with if in the future individuals are to be formed who are capable of production and creativity and not simply repetition.”
10. “In order to understand certain basic phenomena through the combination of deductive reasoning and the data of experience, the child must pass through a certain number of stages characterized by ideas which will later be judged erroneous but which appear necessary in order to reach the final correct solution.”
11. “At present, future researchers are ill-prepared in (conducting interdisciplinary nature of research) respect, owing to instruction which aims at specialization but which ends in compartmentalization – the reason being a failure to understand that all thorough specialization necessarily involves relationships between many fields.”
12. “In view of this it is obvious that if the teaching of the sciences is to adapt to the conditions of scientific progress and form creative rather than imitative minds, it should stress structuralism, which with its interdisciplinary vision is gaining more and more acceptance and support.”
13. “Instructors should be sufficiently penetrated with the spirit of epistemology to be able to make their students constantly aware of the relations between their special province and the sciences as a whole. Such men are rare today.”
14. “The first lesson to be drawn from current interdisciplinary trends is the need to look closely at the future relations between the human and the natural sciences and the resulting necessity of finding a remedy for the disastrous consequences of dividing university instruction into “schools” and secondary schools into “departments,” both of them separated by airtight compartments.”
15. “There is (the) a social problem of upgrading the teaching profession at the primary and secondary level, for the public does not estimate its services at their true value (hence widespread disaffection and teacher shortages), which constitutes one of the major threats to the progress and even survival of our ailing societies.”
16. “The proposition “every person has the right to education,” as solemnly affirmed at the beginning of Article 26 (of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights voted by the United Nations), means, therefore, in the first place, “every human being has the right to be placed in a scholastic environment during his formation which will enable him to build until completion the basic tools of adaptation which are the processes of logic.”
17. “In any case, it should be underlined right away that the right to an ethical and intellectual education implies more than a right to acquire knowledge or to listen, and more than an obligation to obey: it is a question of a right to forge certain precious spiritual tools in everyone, which requires a specific social environment, not made exclusively of submissiveness.”
18. “Affirming the right of all human beings to education is to take on a far greater responsibility than simply to assure to each one reading, writing, and arithmetic capabilities; it is to guarantee fairly to each child the entire development of his mental faculties and the acquisition of knowledge and of ethical values corresponding to the exercise of these faculties until adaptation to actual social life. Moreover, it is to assume the obligation- keeping in mind the aptitudes and constitution that each person possesses-of not destroying or spoiling those possibilities that he may have that would benefit society first of all, or of allowing the loss of important abilities, or the smothering of others.”
19. “The right to education, therefore, is neither more nor less than the right of an individual to develop normally, in accord with all the potential he possesses, and the obligation that society has to transform this potential into useful and effective fulfillment.”
20. “Compulsory elementary schooling (as well as its extension to adult illiterate groups) makes no sense until it is free of charge.”
21. “The school examination is not objective, first because it contains a certain element of chance, but mostly because it depends on memory more than on the constructive capabilities of the student (as if he were condemned never to be able to use his books once he was out of school !). Anyone can confirm how little the grading that results from examinations corresponds to the final useful work of people in life.
22. The school examination becomes an end in itself because it dominates the teacher’s concerns, instead of fostering his natural role as one who stimulates consciences and minds, and he directs all the work of the students toward the artificial result which is success on final tests, instead of calling attention to the student’s real activities and personality.”
23. “If “every person has the right to education,” it goes without saying that parents also have this right, and “prior right” as well. They have the right to be, if not educated, at least informed and even instructed about the better education that their children should receive.”
24. “That “education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms” is really to create individuals capable of intellectual and moral autonomy and of respecting this autonomy in others by applying the rule of reciprocity that makes it legitimate for themselves.”
25. “On the whole, whether it is a question of the education of the mind and of intellectual functions, or of education of the ethical conscience if the “right to education” implies that it envisions “full development of the human personality and . . . the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” it is important to understand that such an ideal cannot be attained by any of the common methods. Neither the independence of the person, which is assumed by this development nor the reciprocity that is evoked by this respect for the rights and freedoms of others can be developed in an atmosphere of authority and intellectual and moral constraints. On the contrary, they both imperiously demand a return, by their very make-up, to the “lived” experience, and to freedom of investigation, outside of which any acquisition of human values is only an illusion.”
Piaget was and still is a very influential figure in the field of psychology. With the many examples of cognitive skills, his cognitive theory of development had repercussions for many fields including that of teaching, learning, child rearing, pediatrics, etc. His work and words led to a significant amount of reform and change, in a positive and progressive direction and are quite visible in today’s practices. Furthermore, his emphasis on the importance of the learning environment in early childhood education has also led to a positive impact on the education system in modern times.
- Huitt, W., & Hummel, J. (2003). Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Educational psychology interactive, 3(2), 1-5.