Early Education and Piagetian Theory

Applications Versus Implications
  • Rheta DeVries


Preschool educators have struggled for a number of years with the question of the educational significance of Piaget’s research and his theory of knowledge. This question is difficult for at least two reasons. First, the theory is not a theory of teaching, and its educational significance is thus not obvious. Second, the theory is a dynamic one, and the significance of any part must be understood in relation to its role in Piaget’s continuing epistemological search for answers to the question of how knowledge develops. In preschool education, the first efforts to use Piaget’s work have been direct applications of a few isolated parts taken out of their epistemological context. Unfortunately, these applications have had the effect, in practice, of reducing Piaget’s theory to something less, and even to something different, than it is. Later efforts are only just beginning to shift the emphasis away from direct applications of isolated parts to broader implications of the theory as a whole. At this point in the history of early education, it seems useful to review the assimilations of Piaget’s theory in preschool education. The purpose of this chapter is to consider the applications in light of the theory as a whole, to outline aspects crucial to education that are unrecognized in these applications, and to consider the direction of future efforts.


Early Education Preschool Education Pretend Play Constructive Process Concrete Operation 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rheta DeVries
    • 1
  1. 1.College of EducationUniversity of Illinois at Chicago CircleChicagoUSA

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