The Legacy of Jean Piaget

When one discusses legacy, this has little bearing on the lifespan of a human being, and much more to do with the effects that their lifetime had on humanity as a whole. A legacy is what you leave behind you, and in the field of educational psychology, there have been many influences that affect the way that children learn and develop their cognitive skills. Every child in every classroom across the world will be taught their daily lessons drawing from the experiences and research of Jean Piaget, who was born in a great time of change in Europe, in the town of Neuchatel in Switzerland in 1896 and was the eldest child in a family of scholars, his father being a professor in medieval literature.

The pride that his parents felt when the child wrote a piece of schoolwork on observations of a sparrow were well founded, since it was within the childhood of Jean Piaget that the foundations of a life’s work would be rooted. His interest in nature took him into adolescence and perhaps the inquisitive nature of his studies into mollusks and the intricacy of the papers written on such a specialized subject were the basis for his thoughts about how people learn.

During his University years at the University of Zurich the student felt drawn towards the subject of psychoanalysis and furthered this in his work in France, in a boys school that had been founded by Alfred Binet and it was within this scholarly atmosphere that Jean Piaget learned about tests that were being formed to measure the intelligence of children within a learning environment.

His study of learning went on for the whole of his life, devoting himself to progressing the understanding of how people learn, and when one looks at the academic history of Piaget, and links this with his practical skills of watching his own three children learn and prosper, both the family and learning experience linked to give the man an amazing insight both from a practical and academic level.

1925-1929 Sociology and History of Science
1929-1939 History of Scientific thinking.
1929-1967 The International Bureau of Education
1938-1951 Psychology and Sociology
1939-1952 Sociology
1940-1971 Genetic and experimental psychology
Piaget also formed the Center for Genetic Epistemology which he was involved with up to his death.

Of the great thinkers of our times, Piaget’s aim throughout his education and career was to learn how knowledge grows and the stimuli that encourages growth. The genetic epistemology theory was created by Piaget and studied the roots of growth of knowledge in children though what he was trying to achieve was to discover was how knowledge was passed within the human organism and his findings lead him to believe that adult and child learning had distinct differences, and was able to further define this into age groups:

0-2 year old were taught by motor skills.
3-7 year old learned by intuition
8-11 years old learned by concrete reference
12-15 year olds added another dimension of abstractions

Through these complex studies, what was found was that education could be tailored to the needs of children of varying ages in order to give them the best stimuli for their age group rather than treating education as a generality which didn’t take into account the learning capabilities and stimuli of the levels achievable at different ages.

His work was astounding and made a profound difference to educators and children alike, and within the legacy he has left, his Society carries on the work that he started and is a Society for the Study of Knowledge and Development where scholars, teachers and educational psychologists can get together and continue the learning process that he started.

In the classroom, children are taught using the example shown by Piaget and although his name is not well known to the children themselves, the legacy that the man left behind him grows within the world and is reflected by each child who learns, and each educator that teaches them.