The Contributions To Education Education Essay

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PERSONAL INFORMATION: Jean Piaget was a Swiss scientist noted for his extensive research related to child development and how children learn (Piaget). In studying children and the way they think, Piaget was able to form theories on how people in general develop knowledge through actual, tangible research he conducted at the Rousseau Institute in Geneva (Butler-Bowdon). In accordance with the underlying principle of constructivism, Piaget believed that knowledge is not the ability to memorize teacher directed facts, but instead knowledge is the ability to transcend what one knows into a broader or improved understanding of material and the experiences in which the material is presented. The life experiences each child brings to the classroom will help determine how they process new material. Believing this, Piaget asserted that people glean knowledge either through accommodation or through assimilation and ultimately that how each individual perceives reality affects how they perceive new information (Piaget). <>

CONTRIBUTIONS TO EDUCATION:  Piaget's most prominent contributions to education include his theories on cognitive developmental stages and his theory on how children inherently learn. According to Piaget, children learn through a process known as adaptation which is the ability to adjust to one's environment (The Theories of Jean Piaget). <> Piaget has asserted that there are two main components to adaptation: assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation occurs when the child uses an old schema or skill out on a new object. For instance, a child may typically place toys into his/her mouth. When confronted with a new toy such as a beach ball the child will use his old schema for toys which is to try to place the ball into his mouth. Accomodation, on the other hand, is when the child realizes the old way will not work. For instance, the beach ball will not fit into his mouth for sucking on. The child will have to adjust his prior schema to more suitably use the beach ball. So no he may still "mouth" the beach ball but will not be able to activitely place the beach ball into his mouth. So the child is either applying previously acquired skills to a new situation in order to understand it or adjusting the skills or accomodating acquired skills to better understand a situation. Another key component of Piaget's learning theory is that in order for children to actively construct their knowledge and understand new content they must have the maturity requried to comprehend it. Essentially, Piaget's theory implies that there is no sense in teaching material to a child until they reach a certain level of maturity because are not able to process it any earlier. His theory provides an explanation, based on observation and research, on when children can understand certain material. Humans progress through a series of cognitive stages including the Sensorimotor Stage which is when children are from ages zero to approximately 18 months. At 18 months they cognitively mature into the Preoperational Stage and this lasts until around age seven. These first two stages are primarily based around the theory that young children are highly egocentric or that they see that world as revolving around them or based on what they know. From the ages of seven until about 11 children are in what he referes to as the Concrete Operational Stage and from age 12 on through adulthood humans are in the Formal Operations Stage. At this level children begin to understand the view points of other people, however some people never mature far into this cognitive stage. Piaget's stages of cognitive development are controversial because many theorists believe the ages he suggests that the stages begin are too inflexible. Many believe that children can, indeed, learn material ahead of their current maturity and that the level of understanding is based more on approach and material rather than solely on level of maturity (Barnes). <>

Vygotsky (1896-1934)   Lev Vygotsky was a Russian psychologist that beileved that a child's social interaction with others played a huge role in their development. Vygotsky beileved that children learn through acitve play. Vygotsky is known for introducing scaffolding and the zone of proximal into classrooms. The zone of proximal is refered to as the distance between a child's independent learning abilities and the learning that is guided or from a more knowledgeable other. This can be from a teacher, peer, or from the child learning to problem solve. It is when the child is in the middle area that they learn.  need citation


PERSONAL INFORMATION: Jerome Bruner was born in 1915 in New York. Bruner was a dedicated psychologist and educator who had a large impact on education in the United States. In addition to many of the known concepts of cognitivism, Bruner strongly emphasized the role culture played in the learning process. Bruner believed that children are naturally curious and inherently sensitive to the cultural climate around them. The culture children live in affects who they believe they are, what they believe they can accomplish, and how they process newfound information. One controversial theory of Bruner's is that children are predisposed to become like their parents. His primary example is that children raised in middle class homes will become middle class citizens in the future. Without exposure to cultures existing in low socio-economic communities they will not have the ability to learn about and appreciate the elements inherent to those cultures (Kinnes).  <>


CONTRIBUTIONS TO EDUCATION: Bruner essentially designed a teaching strategy to help students (or any learners) understand and construct or expand upon their knowledge. The first principle is that in order for learning to take place the instruction must incorporate relevant material that draws the learrner in by way of interest. Next, instruction must be based on what the students is ready to learn. Essentially this means that the instruction should be based on the student and where they are at as far as attention span and their current knowledge base. A high school graduate will need to be presented material differently than a preschooler. The third and final principle instruction should be based on is that it should be designed to encourage higher level thinking. Content should leave room for expansion on what is being learned. This is essentially constructivism at its core (Kinnes).  <>


Principles/Underlying Concepts: 

  Learning is an active process and knowledge is subjective as each person creates personal meaning out of experiences and integrates new ideas into existing knowledge structures. In order for us to teach the children better, we ourselves must understand the way students are thinking when they become aware of the world and take for granted that their ideas are right. One key concept to constructivism is that "constructivism" in and of itself is the act of constructing meaning from one's environment. When students memorize rote facts they may be able to list the facts in order but not neccessarily with any amount of understanding. When students apply new found interests and knowledge to relevant, real-life scenarious they are demonstrating a constructed understanding of the knowledge. Children may make mistakes in how they construct or combine elements of information but this is all part of the learning process (Constructivism-A Learning Process).> 

Classroom Implications. 

Constructivist classrooms are diverse due to the fact that the teachers will take in the culture of the children. (what do you mean by "take in the culture"?) The teacher's role is to build an environment that allows children to make choices, which is done through learning centers and therefore constructivist classrooms tend to be on the noisy side.  Constructivist classrooms believe (classrooms can't believe anything) that learning is an active process and the belief that knowledge is constructed by the child and not transferred from the teacher to the child. The teacher is a facilitator and observes the child and looks to guiding the child rather than enforce rules. Constructivist classrooms do more at promoting the children's social, cognitive, and moral development than teacher-centered programs. (Devise & Kohlberg). (Don't see bibliography information for this source) Also the teachers in a constructivist class  refer to primary sources, raw data, and when it comes to providing experiences for the students instead of solely relying on anothers' set of data they use interactive materials.

Constructivist theory of cognitive development

Like Piaget and Vygotsky, Bruner believes the child has to learn for itself by making sense of its own environment.  In fact Bruner could be seen as an 'extreme constructivist' since he believes the World we experience is a product of our mind.  What we perceive and think of as our World is constructed through our mind as a product of symbolic processes. 

Bruner rejected the idea of stages as popularized by Piaget and to a lesser extent Vygotsky.  Rather than looking at the ages of developmental changes Bruner concentrates more on how knowledge is represented and organized as the child develops. 


Modes of representation

This looks as though its stages but it isn't!  With stages the child would progress from one to the next and then, crucially, leave the old way of thinking or operating behind.  For Bruner, the earlier ways of thinking are still used later in life where they can be very useful for some tasks.

Modes of representation are the ways (or format) in which the child manipulates information.


1. Enactive (First year)

This is similar to the first half of Piaget's sensori-motor stage of development.  The child has little in the way of mental faculties so 'thinking is a physical action.'  Knowledge is what the child can manipulate or do with movements, for example tying knots, pointing etc.  In later life the enactive mode will allow riding a bike, swimming, driving a car and so on.  These are automatic patterns of activity that have been 'hard wired' into our muscles.  Thinking about how we do them or trying to explain to others in words how to tie shoe laces or ride a bike is practically impossible because they are enactive.  As for Piaget, the gaining of object permanence is a major qualitative change in the child's thinking.


2. Iconic (Second year)

This is similar to the second half of Piaget's sensori-motor and preoperational stages of development.  For the first time the child has mental images that allow it to retain pictures after the stimulus has gone.  Drawing is now possible.  These icons or images are built up from past experience and based on a number of exposures to similar objects and events.  Our image of a cup isn't based soley on seeing one cup but on seeing many.  However, at present the child lacks the ability to solve problems.

3. Symbolic (six or seven years onwards)

This is similar to Piaget's concrete operational stage of development.  For Bruner, symbols include words (language), music, numbers and so an.  Anything we use to symbolize something else.  The precise timing of this one depends on the child, particularly its language ability.  For the first time the child can categorise, think logically and solve problems.


Bruner's main interest was in the child's transition from iconic to symbolic modes.

A major implication of Bruner's theory is that cognitive development can be speeded up by training children in the use of symbols.  Some of the studies that follow (e.g. Frank) suggest that this is the case.  Clearly this runs counter to Piaget who believed progress through his stages was biologically determined. 


Culture provides the 'instructions' about how humans should develop and these are passed on from one generation to the next.  Bruner clearly disagrees with Piaget's view of the child as isolated and learning on its own.  The child works with others to develop its framework for thinking and this framework is culture-dependent. Again we see the influence of Vygotsky Š

Bruner and Kenney (1966)

Aims- what age children start to use symbolic mode of representation.

Method- children aged 3-7 shown a board divided into 9 squares. On each square was a plastic beaker. Beakers of different sizes & widths, tallest at back & widest on left, each child had to look at the beakers. There was a reproduction test were the beakers were mixed up and the child was asked to put them back how they were.

Transposition test removed beakers and asked them to put them back in a mirror image of the original arrangement



Reproduction task

Transposition task

Age 5



Age 6



Age 7



Most 5 year olds correctly completed the reproduction test however few under 7 could complete the transposition task, most over 7 could complete both tasks.

The reproduction task was designed to use iconic representation, as the child forms a mental picture and copies it however the transposition task could not be done as it doesn't look like original arrangement.


The study supports the view that children on average begin to acquire the symbolic mode at around 6 or 7 years of age. The task required the ability to mentally transform the visual information and was dependent on statements such as 'it gets fatter going one way and taller going in another' etc.  The children were using language (symbolic mode) to guide their thinking.



Implications Related to Technology Use:

There are many ways technology has had implication on technology. For example, when the television were made the late 1950's and 1960's, and the printing press that produces our books for knowledge (fragment). As cited in Matusevich, Collins (1991) states, "So, inadvertently, technology seems to be coming down on the side of constructivist, who have been trying--unsuccessfully to date--to change the prevailing societal view of education" (p. 31). Matusevich believes this is why student are self-directed learners now. Matusevich also states that, according to Mann (1994) the new technology help authenticate knowledge for students to use real situation when learning and using constructivism in the classroom. Mann (1994) said that "educators have taken a more creative approach by allowing technology to play a role in the teaching and learning process." The article also gave examples of how  technology has been intergrated into lessons that were learnt. One of Mann's (1994) the examples elaborated on an experiment done on some high school to learn english as an second language, which indicates how techology has expanded in education. This information is not very current--over 10 years old