Skip to main content

Piagetian Theory

  • Reference work entry
  • First Online:
Encyclopedia of Science Education


It is ironic that Jean Piaget is widely known as a child psychologist, yet he himself did not identify with this label. Rather, he used the term genetic epistemology to describe his work. In this context, genetic does not refer to genes but to the origin and development of knowledge. Usually, epistemologyrefers to the study of the nature, sources, scope, and validity of knowledge, and it is considered to be a branch of philosophy. Piaget, however, did not believe that epistemological issues fall under the sole jurisdiction of philosophy. Instead, Piaget argued that empirical methods can contribute to the solution of epistemological problems, particularly because knowledge itself is in constant flux and always remains incomplete. Thus, rather than an end in itself, the study of cognitive development in children was for Piaget only one means to address epistemological issues. This also explains why Piaget was not at all interested in determining the cognitive level of an...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Institutional subscriptions


  • Chapman M (1988) Constructive evolution: origins and development of Piaget’s thought. Cambridge University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Müller U, Carpendale JIM, Smith L (eds) (2009) The Cambridge companion to Piaget. Cambridge University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Piaget J (1954) The construction of reality in the child. Basic Books, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Piaget J (1963) The origins of intelligence in children. Norton, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Piaget J (1970) Piaget’s theory. In: Mussen P (ed) Carmichael’s manual of child psychology, 3rd edn. Wiley, New York, pp 703–732

    Google Scholar 

  • Piaget J (1971) Biology and knowledge. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  • Piaget J (1972) The principles of genetic psychology. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Piaget J (1985) Equilibration of cognitive structures. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  • Piaget J (1995) Sociological studies. Routledge, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith L (1993) Necessary knowledge. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hove

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ulrich Mueller .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2015 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

About this entry

Cite this entry

Mueller, U., Ten Eycke, K. (2015). Piagetian Theory. In: Gunstone, R. (eds) Encyclopedia of Science Education. Springer, Dordrecht.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Dordrecht

  • Print ISBN: 978-94-007-2149-4

  • Online ISBN: 978-94-007-2150-0

  • eBook Packages: Humanities, Social Sciences and Law

Publish with us

Policies and ethics