55 Quotes From Jean Piaget About Childhood And Learning

Jean Piaget is one of the most recognized psychologists and researchers for his contributions to developmental psychology and learning. In his famous theory he proposed several stages of cognitive development that all individuals go through.

Jean Piaget, a pioneering Swiss psychologist, revolutionized our understanding of childhood development and learning through his groundbreaking theories and empirical research. Piaget’s work emphasized the active role of children in constructing knowledge through their interactions with the environment, highlighting the importance of cognitive development in shaping learning processes.

Table of Contents

Piaget’s best phrases

Throughout his life, Piaget uttered several quotes that have remained in history In this article we review them.

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Now, let’s get started!

1. Scientific thinking, then, is not momentary, it is not a static instance, but it is a process

As a scientist, Piaget contributed notably to the study of cognitive development and intelligence.

2. When you teach a child something, you forever take away their opportunity to discover it for themselves.

Children are curious, and when curiosity leads them to investigate, the experiential learning that occurs is truly enriching.

3. Possibility… in the proper accommodation of sensory-motor intelligence, it plays the same role as in scientific discovery. It is useful only to genius and its revelations remain meaningless to unskilled workers.

The sensory-motor period is one of the stages of Piaget’s theory, in which the greatest achievement is the notion of the permanent object.

4. On the one hand, there are individual actions, such as pulling, pushing, touching, rubbing. These are those individual actions that give rise most of the time to the abstraction of objects

A great phrase from Piaget, abstraction is prior to the instrument of generalization and the child learns by manipulating objects. Piaget always thought that human beings are active in learning.

5. Scientific knowledge is constantly evolving; who finds himself changed from one day to the next

Scientific thinking is not static, it is constantly developing.

6. Look, I have no opinion on pedagogy. The problem of education greatly interests me, since it is my impression that there is much to reform and transform, but I think that the role of the psychologist consists above all of providing facts that pedagogy can use, and not of putting himself in his place to give advice.

Pedagogy can benefit greatly from psychology.

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7. The essential functions of the mind consist of understanding and invention, that is, the construction of structures by structuring reality

Creativity plays an important role in learning.

8. Each acquisition of accommodation becomes material for assimilation, but assimilation always resists new accommodations.

Assimilation is one of the most important concepts that revolve around Piagetian theory.

9. Knowledge is, therefore, a system of transformations that become progressively adequate

Learning is cumulative and develops, as Piaget explains.

10. Our problem, from the point of view of psychology and from the point of view of genetic epistemology, is to explain how the transition is made from a lower level of knowledge to a level that appears to be higher.

Same as in the previous point, a quote about cumulative learning.

11. I have always detested any deviation from reality, an attitude that I relate to my mother’s poor mental health.

A reflection carried out by Piaget, in which it is possible to appreciate a certain touch of irony.

12. What we see changes what we know. What we know changes what we see

What we see determines our thinking, but our thinking also determines how we interpret what we see.

13. The main objective of education in schools should be the creation of men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical, verify and not accept, everything that is offered to them

Piaget, in clear defense of creativity and active learning.

14. I couldn’t think without writing

A great quote that invites reflection.

15. What genetic epistemology proposes is to discover the roots of the different varieties of knowledge, from their elementary forms, continuing to the following levels, also including scientific knowledge

Piaget, making clear reference to genetic epistemology.

16. If you want to be creative, remain partly like a child, with the creativity and inventiveness that characterizes children before being deformed by adult society.

Children have a curious mentality in which they do not judge but are open to constant learning Something that many adults should learn

17. The relationships between parents and children are, without a doubt, not only those of restriction. There is spontaneous mutual affection, which ranges from first asking the child for acts of generosity and even sacrifice, to very moving manifestations that are in no way prescribed. And here, without a doubt, is the starting point for the morality of good that we will see developing alongside the morality of right or duty, and which in some people completely replaces

Parents are the most important educational agents, as they educate their children on topics as important as morals or values.

18. Good pedagogy must confront the child with situations in which he experiments in the broadest sense of the word: trying things to see what happens, handling objects, handling symbols, raising questions, seeking his own answers, reconciling what he finds in one occasion with what he finds on another comparing his achievements with those of other children

Children are active learners, explorers at their finest.

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19. If an individual is intellectually passive, he will not be morally free.

Learners must be explorers who build their own cognitive development.

20. In other words, knowledge of the external world begins with an immediate use of things, while knowledge of oneself is stopped by this purely practical and utilitarian contact.

Experiential learning is a very powerful form of learning. More than the rote one.

21. Education, for most people, means trying to lead the child to resemble the typical adult of their society… But for me, education means making creators… You have to make inventors, innovators, non-conformists

Culture attempts to shape our thoughts, our motivations, and even our expectations. This can be seen in an educational system that does not favor creativity at all. Luckily, there are many psychologists and educators who are trying to change this way of working.

22. Intelligence is what you use when you don’t know what to do

Problems and trying to solve them stimulate our creativity and intelligence.

23. What role would books and manuals have in this school then? The ideal school would not have mandatory manuals for students, but only reference works that would be used freely… the only essential manuals are those used by the teacher.

Piaget referring to what his ideal school would be like, the one that would benefit the students’ learning.

24. To express the same idea in another way, I believe that human knowledge is essentially active

Once again, the vision of this psychologist is clear. We humans construct our own learning.

25. Logic and mathematics are nothing more than specialized linguistic structures

Linguistic structures are the basis of our knowledge, says Piaget.

26. It is with children that we have the best opportunity to study the development of logical knowledge, mathematical knowledge, physical knowledge, among other things.

Children were the participants in Piaget’s studies.

27. Understanding is inventing

If we don’t understand something, we won’t be able to go further and be creative.

28. Children have a real understanding of what they only invent themselves, and every time we try to teach them something too quickly, we prevent them from reinventing themselves.

We should not impose learning, otherwise we will provoke memorization instead of understanding. Learning must be constructed by us.

29. Reflective abstraction is not based on individual actions, but on coordinated actions

Each stage of learning has its moment, according to Piaget

30. The second objective of education is to form minds that can be critical, that can verify and not accept everything that is offered to them. The great danger today is slogans, collective opinions, ready-made tendencies of thought. We have to be able to oppose ourselves individually, to criticize, to distinguish between what is right and what is not.

Piaget was always a defender of critical thinking.

31. The main objective of education is to create people capable of doing new things, and not simply repeat what other generations did

People must be able to carry out their cognitive development actively.

32. Knowledge cannot be a copy, since it is always a relationship between subject and object

Piaget is one of the greatest exponents of constructionism and this quote makes it clear.

33. This does not mean that logic is strong enough to support the total construction of human knowledge.

Another clear reference to constructivist theory, where Piaget was one of the most representative figures.

34. Knowing reality implies building systems in continuous transformation that correspond, more or less, to reality

We build knowledge to become our reality.

35. From then on, the universe is constructed in a set of permanent objects connected by causal relations that are independent of the subject and are placed in the time and space of the subject

The notion of the permanent object is one of the great achievements of the sensorimotor phrase.

36. A learned truth is nothing more than a half-learned truth, while the entire truth must be conquered, reconstructed or rediscovered by the student himself.

A quote that speaks of the truth and that encourages free interpretation.

37. Everything that is taught to a child is prevented from being invented or discovered.

The adult can provide the child with tools to learn, but it is the child who builds it.

38. Intelligence, the most plastic and at the same time the most permanent structural balance of behavior, is essentially a system of vital operations

There is a curious paradox between the stability of intelligence and its ability to adapt to the environment.

39. Every psychological explanation, sooner or later, ends up resting on logic or biology

Mental processes do not exist outside of biological processes outside of a logical analysis of their content.

40. To develop human intelligence it is essential to know mathematical logic

These dimensions of knowledge are an essential part of the intellect, according to Piaget.

41. We must start from this dual character of intelligence as something biological and logical at the same time.

The intellect exists thanks to the activity of nerve cells, but also thanks to the rules of logic.

42. To explain the psychological phenomenon well, it is necessary to study its line of formation.

What happens in the human mind It is the result of constant evolution and maturation

43. There are many similar aspects between the development of knowledge in a child, on the one hand, and the development of knowledge in the scientific world on the other.

Piaget establishes a comparison between both ways of extracting knowledge.

44. The fundamental idea of ​​my theory is almost always misinterpreted

This author and researcher warns of the need to pay attention to the nuances of his work.

45. Human knowledge is always an assimilation or an interpretation

Piaget emphasizes the importance of these learning mechanisms.

46. ​​Structure is the source of deductive ability

The deduction is based on formal rules

47. If knowledge were innate then it would be present in babies and other animals

A phrase about the possibility that there are principles of knowledge that exist innately.

48. Problems are solved according to different levels of knowledge

Each stage of cognitive development offers different solutions.

49. It is necessary to study how achieving new knowledge opens the mind to new possibilities

Learning involves make qualitative leaps in our level of knowledge

50. The development of intelligence is a sequence of deductive operations

Piaget believed in the importance of deductive reasoning as a driver of learning.

51. The first clear sign in the development of knowledge is constant creativity

lateral thinking It is a fundamental aspect of intelligence.

52. Operations are transformations that are reversible

In the mental games that make up learning, operations are always reversible.

53. I am a constructivist because I constantly build or help build knowledge

A phrase about Piaget’s philosophical foundations.

54. Mathematics is constantly under construction, and we can see this even in the daily life of a child

The development of mathematical ability is evolving.

55. A child never draws what he sees, he draws his interpretation of it

Piaget questions the idea of ​​​​portraying objectively.

Stages of Cognitive Development

Sensorimotor Stage (Birth to 2 Years)

Piaget’s theory posits that children progress through distinct stages of cognitive development, each characterized by qualitatively different ways of thinking and understanding the world. The sensorimotor stage, spanning from birth to approximately 2 years of age, is marked by sensory exploration, motor coordination, and the gradual emergence of object permanence—the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they are not perceptually present. During this stage, infants engage in sensorimotor activities such as grasping, mouthing, and visual exploration as they learn to coordinate sensory input with motor actions.

Preoperational Stage (2 to 7 Years)

The preoperational stage, extending from approximately 2 to 7 years of age, is characterized by the development of symbolic thought, language acquisition, and egocentric reasoning. Children in this stage engage in imaginative play, use symbols (such as words and drawings) to represent objects and events, and demonstrate egocentric thinking—the inability to consider perspectives other than their own. While children’s language skills and symbolic abilities flourish during this stage, their thinking remains predominantly concrete and limited by egocentrism and centration—the tendency to focus on only one aspect of a situation while ignoring others.

Concrete Operational Stage (7 to 11 Years)

The concrete operational stage, spanning from approximately 7 to 11 years of age, is marked by the emergence of logical reasoning, conservation skills, and the ability to perform mental operations on concrete objects and events. Children in this stage demonstrate conservation—the understanding that certain properties of objects (such as mass, volume, and number) remain constant despite changes in their appearance. They also develop the capacity for reversibility—the ability to mentally reverse actions and operations, facilitating problem-solving and deductive reasoning within concrete contexts.

Formal Operational Stage (11 Years and Beyond)

The formal operational stage, which typically begins around 11 years of age and continues into adulthood, is characterized by the development of abstract thinking, hypothetical reasoning, and metacognitive abilities. Adolescents and adults in this stage can engage in deductive reasoning, formulate hypotheses, and contemplate abstract concepts such as justice, morality, and identity. They also demonstrate metacognitive awareness—the ability to reflect on and monitor one’s own thinking processes, leading to greater self-regulation and autonomy in learning and problem-solving.

Constructivist Approach to Education

Active Learning and Discovery

Piaget’s constructivist approach to education emphasizes the active role of learners in constructing knowledge through firsthand experiences, exploration, and discovery. According to Piaget, learning is most effective when it is personally meaningful, intellectually engaging, and situated within authentic contexts that allow for active experimentation and problem-solving. Educators who adopt a constructivist approach encourage students to inquire, explore, and construct their own understanding of concepts through hands-on activities, collaborative projects, and open-ended inquiry.

Scaffolding and Zone of Proximal Development

Piaget’s ideas have informed contemporary educational practices such as scaffolding and the zone of proximal development (ZPD), as elaborated by Lev Vygotsky. Scaffolding involves providing temporary support and guidance to learners as they engage in challenging tasks, gradually withdrawing assistance as their competence and confidence increase. The ZPD refers to the range of tasks that a learner can perform with the support of a more knowledgeable individual, such as a teacher or peer. By providing appropriate scaffolding and challenging tasks within students’ ZPD, educators can promote optimal learning and development.

Impact on Psychology and Education

Enduring Legacy

Jean Piaget’s insights on childhood development and learning have had a profound and enduring impact on psychology and education. His theories have reshaped our understanding of children’s cognitive abilities, social interactions, and educational needs, influencing pedagogical practices, curriculum design, and educational policy worldwide. Piaget’s emphasis on active learning, discovery, and constructivist approaches has inspired generations of educators to foster environments that nurture curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking in learners of all ages.

Continuing Research and Application

Although Piaget’s theories have been subject to criticism and refinement over the years, his pioneering work continues to inspire research and innovation in psychology and education. Contemporary scholars have built upon Piaget’s foundations, integrating insights from neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and educational technology to advance our understanding of childhood development and learning. Piaget’s legacy serves as a testament to the enduring relevance of his ideas and the ongoing quest to unravel the mysteries of the developing mind.

Jean Piaget’s theories of childhood development and learning have transformed our understanding of how children perceive, think, and learn about the world. From his groundbreaking observations of children’s behavior to his influential stages of cognitive development, Piaget’s work has left an indelible mark on psychology and education. By illuminating the dynamic interplay between biological maturation, environmental experiences, and cognitive growth, Piaget has inspired educators, researchers, and practitioners to create learning environments that foster curiosity, exploration, and lifelong learning in children and learners of all ages.