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The Genetic Epistemologist

The Journal of the Jean Piaget Society

Volume 25, Number 3 (1997)

Genetic Epistemologist Homepage

Table of Contents:

  1. De la pédagogie A book review by Les Smith

  2. Minutes of the October 1997 Board of Directors meeting

  3. 15th Advanced Course of the Archives Jean Piaget

  4. JPS Symposium 1998 - Chicago

  5. JPS Symposium 1999 - Mexico City

  6. New JPS Web Site Address

A Book Review by Les Smith

Jean Piaget. De la pédagogie. Paris: Editions Odile Jacob, 1998. pp.282. ISBN: 2-7381-0548-3

Silvia Parrat-Dayan and Anastasia Tryphon make an arresting claim in their introduction to this collection. "Rare are the authors who think of him (Piaget) as a theoretician of education. (Despite his two books) Piaget’s writings on education have remained practically unknown, which leads to the view that he had nothing to say on this subject" (p.7). They set out the contrary view that "pedagogical reflection, even if it is not central to his work, has always existed in Piaget and has accompanied his epistemological reflection" (p.8). They deserve the credit for making accessible this set of seventeen papers.1 The great merit of this collection is twofold. Firstly, its papers span forty-five years. They complement and extend Piaget’s (1970, 1976) two available texts on education. They show that problems of education were continually addressed by him. Secondly, there is a pedagogical account in these papers. In my view, this account is distinctive so I plan to bring out its three features, covering epistemology, evidence and teaching.

Piaget (1970) defined education as a relation between two terms. One term is the growing individual, the learner. The other term is the values into which the educator is charged with initiating the learner. Under this definition, education is value-laden and content-free. Piaget declined to specify "the" values of education. Rather, values are invoked by the teacher as values of the society in which the teacher and learner happen to live. Some educational values are epistemological and so they fit Piaget’s definition. Autonomy is one such value (there are several others which I discuss elsewhere under the mnemonic AEIOU: autonomy, entailment, intersubjectivity, objectivity, universality). Autonomy is contrasted with heteronomy and anarchy (p.165). Autonomy is not anarchy since critical thinking and self-indulgent thinking are not the same thing. Autonomy is excluded when knowledge is acquired heteronomously out of suspect obedience. Children who produce correct answers on the basis of a teaching procedure marked by the "halo of explicit or implicit authority which is attached to teacher’s word or to the textbook" (p. 216) may have been changed by their schooling but not in an altogether epistemologically valuable way. What is epistemologically valuable is learning "to think...and to criticise freely (in virtue of) that individual’s own submission to a discipline" (pp. 162-3). In learning, there has to be obedience. But the key question is whether "reasoning is an act of obedience, or is obedience which is an act of reason" (1995a, p. 60).

Obedience to reason is based on the use of "a psychological instrument" (p. 120), an intellectual tool at the individual’s disposal. Thus the "primordial question is to know what are the child’s available resources (disponibilités)" (p. 26). This is an empirical question. Piaget (1985, p.4) made clear his stance that any living mind has the capacity to learn and to develop. And this occurs as a lawful process which he set out to chart in his epistemology. If there are developmental laws, they cannot be suspended in teaching, even if they are disregarded. Such disregard is analogous to making a medical diagnosis or medical treatment in disregard of the laws of physiology (p. 193). If there are developmental laws, their scope requires delimitation across domains (p.181). "Our real conclusion is that on all of the most essential points, experimental verifications are necessary. What is missing most of all from pedagogy are controlled studies. We know more or less what is done in different schools in Europe, but we know almost nothing of the outcomes of our methods–from the most classical to the recent–on the child’s mind itself" (p. 61). Indeed, in his own professional work as Director of the International Bureau of Education during 1929-67, he set out "not to takes sides for or against any method, but to show why it has been adopted or rejected and with what results. (This amounts) not to praise or criticism but to demonstration of actual relationships" (p. 122). On methodological grounds, this position is unassailable. Yet it continues today to be honoured in its breach both in the politics of education and in good practice pedagogy.

Pedagogical conclusions cannot be simply "read off" from psychology. Although Piaget (1932, p.414) pointed this out long ago, his advice has been disregarded in the educational commentary on his work which, quite frankly, has often been flawed (a point which was not lost on Piaget, 1980).

Piaget has been widely interpreted as an apostle of readiness. True, Piaget’s dictum was "follow the child’s natural development" (p.263). This is comparable to the injunction that engineers should follow the laws of physics. The existence of physical laws is compatible with their creative use by engineers in due cognisance of them, for example in the design and manufacture of automobiles. And so it is–or should be–in the pedagogical use of developmental laws. There is a spectacular mismatch between the readiness injunction accepted by commentators and Piaget’s own epistemology directed on the (re-)construction of knowledge (p.216) - the development of lively, enquiring minds as HMI used to put it a decade ago. In Piaget’s pedagogy, "the role of the teacher becomes central as the animator of discussions in consequence of having been the instigator, within each child, of the taking of possession of that remarkable power of intellectual construction which is manifest in all genuine (réelle) activity" (p. 191; my emphasis). There is scope for good teaching in the design of situations where knowledge is transformed by the learner instead of being simply transmitted by the teacher (1995b, p.333). Piaget (1995a, p.57) argued that the transmission of knowledge is a necessary aspect of learning and development. But it is not sufficient without autonomous transformation.

Piaget has also been regarded by commentators as an apostle of individualism. In fact, in his own pedagogical account, shared activities have as a rightful a place as individual activities. Good teaching requires "collaboration in work" (p. 45). Indeed, "the group develops the intellectual independence of its members" (p. 159), whilst "weak and lazy pupils, far from being abandoned to their lot, are stimulated and obligated by the group" (p. 166). These claims are not made without professional evidence (pp.144-46, 272). But this evidence is under-determining since it is not specifically used as evidence in his own pedagogical writings. Even so, there is an epistemological rationale. "Human knowledge is essentially collective and social life constitutes an essential factor in the creation and growth of knowledge, both pre-scientific and scientific" (Piaget, 1995a, p. 30). This implies in the classroom "a social element of cooperation" (p.148). If there is, in general, a social element in the construction of all knowledge, why should peers be excluded from working with each other? In any case, Piaget’s (1995a, ch. 2-3) exchange model presupposes cooperation in the development of intellectual structures which are "both collective and individual" (1995a, p. 94). Self-government is also recommended since it "consists in attributing to pupils a share in the responsibility for scholarly discipline" (p.167). Learners are agents of their own learning. Examples include "the simple organisation of work in common by the pupils themselves, responsibility for collective discipline, extra-mural organisations (scholarly societies, clubs, etc)" (p. 273). Other examples are national and international activities (p.262). At issue here is the humane and honest view that "nothing teaches the humanity of judgment and true modesty so much as daily contact with equals exercising free speech and possessing a spirit of comradeship" (p. 136). True enough, good teaching requires "rediscovery by oneself" (p. 46). But this process includes self-government, "a process of social education, aiming–like all of the others–to teach individuals how to escape from their egocentrism so as to collaborate between themselves and to submit to shared rules" (p.128). Once again, Piaget stressed the requirement for evidence about self-government in the classroom (p.48). Yet evidence is not used as such in his own pedagogical discussion. Even so, there is a convincing rationale in his epistemology. Teaching can be defined as the answering of the questions which learners in fact ask in response in situations designed by the teacher to elicit questions which ought to be asked about the content in some domain (pp. 147, 191). Self-government is a method for reducing the mismatch between learners’ questions and the questions which should be asked for progress in learning to occur.

Pedagogically speaking, there is a general argument here with three premises. Firstly, action is the source of knowledge, whether this is the actions of individuals or groups. There is a requirement for both in classroom learning (p.272). Secondly, any action is liable to distortion. In individualised actions, this is egocentrism which occurs in all individuals at all ages (p.108). In group actions, distortion occurs through sociocentrism, manifest as unilateral respect for its (i.e. the group’s) values and knowledge to the exclusion of all others (1995a, p.282). It amounts to an epistemological tyranny (p. 162). There is a consequential reduction in the capacity to think, where "to think is to search by oneself, to criticise freely and to demonstrate in an autonomous fashion" (p. 163). Thirdly, neither type of action is capable of surmounting these epistemological liabilities alone (1995a, pp.153-4). Only if both types of action are taken together is it possible for progress to occur. On the one hand, "the life of the group is the indispensable condition for individual activity to be disciplined and to escape anarchy" (p. 157; my emphasis). On the other, "each individual is called upon to think and rethink the system of collective notions on his own account and by means of his own logic" (1995a, p. 138; my emphasis).

Piaget’s De la pédagogie cries out for translation into English in its own right. It offers an accessible account of Piaget’s constructivist pedagogy. It is also a valuable pointer in showing how pedagogy could have a better foundation in developmental psychology and epistemology.


1. The titles of these papers are:

Processes in moral education (1930)

The spirit of solidarity in the child and international collaboration (1931)

Psychological introduction to international education (1931)

Child psychology and teaching of history (1933)

Social evolution and the new pedagogy (1933)

Psychological comments on self-government (1934)

Is education for peace possible? (1934)

Psychological comments on group work (1935)

Education of liberty (1945)

Moral development during adolescence in two types of society: primitive society and "modern" society (1947)

Psychological comments on primary teaching in the natural sciences (1949)

Modern pedagogy (1949)

Art education and child psychology (1954)

The current relevance of John Amos Comenius (1957)

Initiation in mathematics, modern mathematics and child psychology (1966)

An hour with Piaget: mathematics teaching (1976)

An action plan for UNESCO (1951).


Piaget, J. (1932). The moral judgment of the child. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Piaget, J. (1970). Science of education and the psychology of the child. London: Longman.

Piaget, J. (1976). To understand is to invent. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Piaget, J. (1980). Conversations with Jean Piaget. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Piaget, J. (1985). The equilibration of cognitive structures. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Piaget, J. (1995a). Sociological studies. London: Routledge.

Piaget, J. (1995b). Commentary on Vygotsky’s criticism. New Ideas in Psychology, 13, 325-40.

Leslie Smith
Department of Educational Research
Lancaster University
E-mail: l.smith@lancaster.ac.uk

Table of Contents


The Jean Piaget Society: Society For The Study Of Knowledge & Development

Saturday, October 4, 1997

Hyatt at University Village, 6255 Ashland, Chicago, Illinois

Present: Edith Ackerman, Eric Amsel, Marvin Berkowitz, Thomas Bidell, Terrance Brown, James Byrnes, Michael Chandler (presiding), Theo Dawson, Rheta DeVries, Rolando Garcia, Susan Goldin-Meadow, William Gray, Patricia Greenfield, Melanie Killen, Chris Lalonde, Cynthia Lightfoot (recording), Orlando Lourenço, Constance Milbrath, David Moshman, Larry Nucci, Geoffrey Saxe, Ellin Scholnick, Judith Smetana, Cecilia Wainryb.


A. The 1997-2000 Board:

Edith Ackerman

Rolando Garcia

Orlando Lourenco

Sue Taylor Parker / Connie Milbrath

Judith Smetana

B. New Officers & Special Ex-Officio Members:

Eric Amsel (1998 Program Organizer)

Chris Lalonde (GE Editor)

Saba Ayman-Nooley (LAC Chair)


A. The minutes of the June, 1997 meeting were approved as recorded.


A. Eric Amsel has expressed interest in organizing a symposium to honor Ed Reed at the 1998 JPS meetings. We are asked to forward suggestions for speakers.

B. Killen’s motion to waive registration fees for invited speakers will be addressed.

C. The Outreach Committee has submitted for consideration a proposal aimed at providing financial support to international scholars.

D. Considerations of accepting advertisements in the GE, as well as surveying the readership regarding its preferences for print versus electronic formats, may need to be held until the publication schedule is back in order.


A. Announcements (Chandler)

i. The plan to launch a Society-sponsored journal was judged to be premature; it may be revisited in the future.

ii. Symposium proposals. Although the Bearison/Selman proposal for a Symposium focused on theory and practice has generated a great deal of interest and support on the part of the Board, it been withdrawn from future consideration. Meacham’s earlier proposal on the topic of Teaching Piaget was tabled at Jacks request.

iii. Outreach Committee composition. Gil Noam will replace Susan Goldin-Meadow as co-chair of the Committee. Anastasia Tryphon will serve in an ex-officio capacity.

iv. Sinclair bibliography. Rheta DeVries is not yet prepared to put forth a formal proposal for assembling a bibliography of Mimi Sinclair’s works.

v. The American Psychological Society will organize a summit meeting May 1-3, in Santa Barbara, and has invited the JPS to send 1-2 representatives. It was agreed to accept the invitation.

vi. Adjustments to the standing agendas of Board meetings. Prompted by the need to make some decisions earlier in the year - e.g., those concerning outreach for the next years conference, and the approval of the budget - certain items of business may be moved ahead on the agendas of Board meetings. The Standing Committees are asked to consider their tasks in light of potential schedule changes.

B. The President Elect’s Report (Nucci) deferred

C. The Vice President’s Report (Byrnes)

i. The call for papers was sent out in a timely fashion.

ii. Program Committee for 1998. Byrnes reported that he has composed a group of 10 individuals who will help to review proposals. Although distributing the review task to fewer individuals makes for a heavier work load for each than has been the case in recent years, it is anticipated that such a move will result in a more efficient review process. We discussed ways of expressing our gratitude to those willing to serve in this capacity - for example, by providing them with opportunties to act as discussants or session chairs. Chandler urged that a motion to modify standard review procedures be brought to the Board next year in light of the outcome of this years experiment.


A. Finance Committee (Bidell/Gray/Moshman)

i. Finance Committee Report. Moshman reported that the Committee had discussed and endorsed the draft of the budget put forward by the Treasurer (below).

ii. Treasurer’s Report.

a. Supporting invited speakers. Gray presented a framework for establishing standard levels of financial support (waiving registration, providing per diem, covering the cost of accommodation, etc.) for various categories of participation in the annual Symposium (plenary speaker, invited symposium participant, etc.). The proposal was endorsed by the group, with the understanding that funding for special arrangements (e.g., assisting international plenaries) can be negotiated as necessary.

b. Symposium fees and membership dues. Gray noted that on-site registration remains problematic, and suggested that on-site registration fees be raised. Bidell considered that incentives for early registration may have the additional benefit of increasing attendance. Gray has observed that many individuals attend the meetings but do not register, and called for greater vigilance. Scholnick raised for discussion LEAs request for an additional $3.00 per volume to compensate for increased mailing and production costs. There was a motion to approve the request. The motion carried. There was a motion to raise membership fees by $5.00 (excepting Patrons and Sustaining members) to underwrite the LEA increase. The motion carried.

c. Approval of budget. Gray distributed a proposed, projected budget for 1998. A move to accept the budget carried, with the following stipulations: 1) change in LEA account, as per above; 2) change in membership fees, as per above; 3) over-budget decisions will be handled through the Presidents office.

d. Investment. Bidell argued that our financial footing would gain greater purchase if we were to implement a sound investment strategy. Amsel moved that such a strategy be developed by the Finance Committee in consultation with the President.

e. Compiling a financial history. Gray discussed his ongoing efforts to organize data concerning the history of the Society’s finances and membership. He distributed preliminary results of these efforts showing historical trends regarding membership, symposium attendence, and so forth.

B. Local Arrangements Committee (Ayman-Nooley, Greenfield, Milbraith, Nucci)

i. Ayman-Nooley circulated a report detailing the location, cost, and availability of various hotels, and their proximity to student dormitories. She recommended that we consider establishing a pattern of annual Symposium venues in order to enter into longer term negotiations with specific hotels.

ii. Publicity. Greenfield recommended, and indicated in her proposed revisions to the Symposium Manual, that it become standard procedure for the LAC to procure mailing lists from the Growing Mind and SRCD, and to procure other mailing lists, according to the theme of each annual Symposium. She also recommended 1) advertising via email, 2) local advertisement close to the time of the Symposium by the LAC, 3) encouraging Board members with expertise in the content area of the annual theme to generate mailing lists. Brown suggested that the job of promoting the Symposium be given over to a committee of liaisons, and that a specific individual be charged with the responsibility of promoting the conference, including assembling a calendar of advertising activities.

C. Membership Committee (Berkowitz, Lightfoot)

i. Berkowitz distributed a report detailing the Committees accomplishments and recommendations. Accomplishments include the implementation of a letter writing campaign for non-renewing members; the updating, printing, and distribution of the JPS Membership Brochure; arranging to exchange mailing lists with the Association for Moral Education; sending solicitation letters and brochures to members of the AME and other societies. Recommendations include developing a means of having the Brochure included in the conference registration materials of related societies; target for retention those first time members who attended the annual Symposium and failed to renew; target international scholars for membership; increase benefits to members, e.g., provide a membership directory.

ii. Although his term as Committee Chair has expired, Berkowitz volunteered very graciously to continue the highly successful annual letter writing campaign for nonrenewals which he initiated during his term.

D. Outreach Committee (Noam)

i. Responding to a mandate to increase both international membership and outreach to scholars in applied areas, Noam circulated a proposal to budget $3500 to fund the presentation of a symposium at next years conference. Ideally, the symposium would bridge the goals of outreach to international and applied groups by inviting international scholars whose principal interests include practice/application. Akerman suggested that such a combination of largely orthogonal agendas could prove problematic. Berkowitz and Lourenço spoke in favor of an international symposium. Bidell asked for a more detailed justification of how the undertaking would expand our membership. Speaking in support of the spirit of the motion, Chandler asked that it be tabled pending a more detailed plan which could be initiated for the 1999 Symposium in Mexico City. There was a discussion of the functions of the Outreach Committee. Addressing the perceived disunity in the component parts of the Committees mission, Chandler urged members to reflect on the meaning of outreach, and the identity of the committee.

E. Publications Committee

i. Symposium Series Report. Scholnick reported on the status of the Symposium Series volumes. The Killen/Langer volume is in the hands of the publisher; the other two are proceeding as they should.

ii. GE/Web Report. Lalonde circulated a report detailing the status of the GE publication schedule, and issues affecting the web site and JPS listservers. Regarding the publication schedule of the GE, Lalonde noted that vol. 24, no. 4 is printed and ready to mail; that vol. 25 no. 2 should be out in 2-3 weeks; and that vol. 25 nos. 3 and 4 are still in need of content. We were all asked to consider submitting material for the GE in order to help resume a more regular publication schedule. The readers survey, meant to assess preferences for electronic and print versions of the GE, is delayed for a year . Regarding issues affecting the web site, Lalonde recommended that we acquire our own domain name which will, among other things, provide us with a permanent address, and facilitate communication among web site users. Chandler expressed appreciation for Lalonde’s work to move the listservers.

iii. Translations Advisory Committee Report. Brown reported on the large and difficult task of translating Inhelder’s book, and his efforts to bring the english and french publishers into accord. He will inquire into the possibility of translating Neuchatel’s homage to Piaget. Another possible future translation project is Piaget & Garcia’s Psychogenesis and the History of Science.

F. Nominations Committee (Nucci)

i. Nominees to the Board. Striving to strike a balance between the need for continuity in the composition of the Board, and the need to bring in persons new to the Society’s governance, the Nominations Committee circulated a strong list of potential nomineees each of whom were discussed and rank ordered. The intention for the current year is to fill three slots with individuals who have had prior experience on the Board, and two slots with individuals without such experience.

ii. Ex-officio members. Chandler noted that Board business and communication have been occasionally stymied by the fact that some ex-officio members are uninformed of their nominations to particular committees. Amsel asked that the nomination process and obligations (including the 1-year tenure) of ex-officio members be made more explicit. It was agreed to reexamine the process. Chandler will invite comments and circulate several possible models for consideration.

G. Symposium Committee (Saxe)

i. The 1997 Symposium Volume. Saxe reported good progress on the volume, "Culture, Thought, and Development", which is due at the publishers in March, 1999.

ii. Symposium Manual. The committee is in the process of updating the Symposium Manual according to its experiences in Santa Monica, Bill Gray’s recommendations related to financial affairs, and Theo Dawson’s recommendations related to producing the Call for Papers and the Program.

H. Symposium 98

i. Organizers’ Report (Byrnes/Amsel). Byrnes and Amsel circulated an overview of the 1998 Symposium program, "Language, Literacy, and Cognitive Development". The presentation of the conceptual rationale, and descriptions of invited speakers and symposia generated the kind of enthusiastic and spirited intellectual discussion that keeps JPS Board membership interesting. There was an animated debate about the place of epistemology in JPS symposia, and a suggestion that a place be set in each annual program for a symposium or conversation hour devoted to topics in epistemology.

I. Symposium 99

i. Organizers’ Report (Bidell/Brown/Garcia). The organizers circulated a proposal for the 1999 Symposium which is to focus on reductionism. As this will be our first step into Latin America, careful attention has been given over to issues of language, local arrangements, and publicity, in addition to the usual concerns of composing a scientific program. The proposal made plain that the organizers have anticipated and accomplished much already to ensure that our first step into Latin America finds firm ground in Mexico City. It also underscored our collective and committee obligations to assist in the process of resolving a variety of complications arising from the venue, many associated with language and translation - for submissions, presentations, the symposium volume, publicity. All of this is in addition to deciding on which palace to sleep in. Possible Thursday start dates were discussed, including May 27, and June 3, 10, or 17.

J. Proposals for 2000 and Beyond (Chandler)

i. Chandler circulated a draft of a proposal for Symposium 2000 which will have as its focus the construction of folk and scientific theories of knowledge. His intention is to organize a group to help in the shaping of the proposal. A listserver will be created to facilitate discussion.

K. Other Business

i. The Winter Executive Committee meeting will convene in Chicago. The original meeting date of Feb. 7, 1998 has been subsequently changed to Jan. 24, 1998.

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Working with Piaget. In memoriam Bärbel Inhelder

15th Advanced Course of the Archives Jean Piaget

Geneva, September 21-24, 1998

The name of Bärbel Inhelder is generally associated with Jean Piaget, the founder of genetic epistemology. For about 40 years, Bärbel Inhelder collaborated with the "patron" providing him with an important part of the experimental data on which he built his theory. However, her specific and determinant contribution in the development of the Piagetian theory has not yet received the credit it deserves. Very few people know, for instance, that she was at the origin of the discovery of the stage of formal operations.

Her attachment and admiration for Piaget led her to create, in 1974, the Fondation Archives Jean Piaget, a research center, whose aim is to study Piagetian theory. It is within this framework that Bärbel Inhelder organized, for many years, a series of advanced courses for researchers and advanced students. Thus it is natural that, one year after her death, the Archives Jean Piaget have decided to honor her in their next course entitled: Working with Piaget. In memoriam. Bärbel Inhelder. This course aims at bringing to the fore Bärbel Inhelder’s works, not only the ones she co-authored with Piaget, but also all those, that were personal and have partly remained unknown. Following the chronological order of these works, the advanced course will deal with various topics such as conservation, mental handicap, perspective taking, formal thought, longitudinal and intercultural research, learning of cognitive structures and strategies in problem solving. The advanced course consists in a series of one hour conferences, followed by a 15 minute discussion. Each topic will be addressed by a researcher of international renown, who will highlight Bärbel Inhelder’s contribution, as well as the actual state of the domain. In addition, 4 workshops developing the different presentations of the conference will give the opportunity to the participants to discuss and exchange actively their ideas.

One afternoon will be devoted to posters presentations related with the various themes of the course. For the guidelines for poster presentations please contact the organizers. Deadline for poster submissions: April 30, 1998.

Tentative Programme

Trevor Bond, James Cook University of North Queensland, Australia. Formal operations: Inhelder’s psychology meets Piaget’s epistemology

Terrance Brown, Chicago, Jean Piaget Society, USA. The pragmatic subject: Inhelder’s particular contribution to our concept of the one who knows

Peter Bryant, Oxford University, Great Britain. Learning and cognitive development

Michael Chandler, Jean Piaget Society & University of British Columbia, Canada. Viewpoints and visual rhetoric: A reprise of Inhelder’s contributions to the perspective-taking literature

Wolfgang Edelstein, Max Planck Institut für Bildungsforschung, Berlin, Germany. Individual development and social structure: Longitudinal investigations

Ernst von Glasersfeld, University of Amherst, USA. Scheme theory as a key to the learning paradox

Patricia Greenfield, University of California at Los Angeles, USA

Howard Gruber, Columbia University, New York, USA

Marc Lejeune, Université de Liège, Belgium. From Piaget and Inhelder’s contribution to the study of mental image to recent developments (paper in French)

Benjamin Matalon, Université de Paris 8, France

Jean-Louis Paour, Université de Provence, France. From structural to functional "diagnosis": A dynamic conception of the mentally retarded (paper in French)

Anastasia Tryphon, Archives Jean Piaget, Université de Genève, Switzerland

Jacques Vonèche, Archives Jean Piaget, Université de Genève, Switzerland

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28th Annual Symposium of The Jean Piaget Society

Language, Literacy, and Cognitive Development

June 11-13, 1998, Chicago, Illinois

General Theme

Distinguished speakers including Dedre Gentner, Susan Goldin-Meadow, Katherine Nelson, and Colette Daiute will consider issues such as (a) the effects of spoken language, gesture, and literacy on cognitive development; (b) the special status of language as a priviledged domain of learning; and (c) the plausibility of nativistic conceptions of cognitive development.

The full program for this symposium is available on the JPS web site: www.piaget.org

Program Highlights

Plenary Sessions

Katherine Nelson, City University of New York Graduate Center

Developing and Using a Social Symbolic System

Nelson, K. (1996). Language in cognitive development: Emergence of the mediated mind. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Dedre Gentner, Northwestern University

Relational Thinking and Relational Language

Gentner, D. & Markman, A.B. (1997). Structure mapping in analogy and similarity. American Psychologist, 52, 45-56

Imai, M. & Gentner, D. (1997). A cross-linguistic study of early word meaning: Universal ontology and linguistic influence. Cognition, 62, 169-200.

David Olson, Center for Applied Cognitive Science, OISE

What Writing Does to the Mind

Olson, D. R. (1996). Literate mentalities: Literacy, consciousness of language, and modes of thought. In D.R. Olson & N. Torrance (eds.), Modes of thought: Explorations in culture and cognition. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Susan Goldin-Meadow, Univ. Of Chicago

From Hand to Thought: Gestural Communication in Deaf and Hearing Children

Goldin-Meadow, S. (1997). The resilience of language in humans. In C.T. Snowdon & M. Hausberger (eds.), Social influences on vocal development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Colette Daiute, City University of New York, Graduate Center

Symbol and Subjectivity: Insights from Studies of Written Language

Daiute, C. (1993). The development of literacy through social interaction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Invited Symposia

Language and Theory of Mind

Derek Montgomery (Chair), Janet Wilde Astington, Janette Pelletier, Jennifer Jenkins, Nancy Budwig, Twila Tardiff, Henry Wellman, Alison Gopnik

Contemporary Trends in Scientific Methodology: Assessing the Development of Language and Meaning

Theo Dawson (Chair), William P. Fisher, Willis Overton, Trevor Bond

The Inter-related Development of Inscriptions and Conceptual Understanding

Richard Lehrer and Leona Schauble (Chairs); David Olson

The Weft of Words: Discourse, Narrative, and Transformation

Cynthia Lightfoot (Chair), Michael Bamberg, John Shotter, Carol Feldman

Giving Vision to Personal and Societal Understanding: Children Communicating through Drawing

Peter B. Pufall (Chair), Saba Ayman-Nolley, Lora Taira, Brenda Allen, Elizabeth Pufall, Sarrita Min, Claire Golomb

Constructivist Approaches to Literacy Instruction: What Some Teachers Have Learned

(Joint session with ACT)


Topics include the influence of literacy on memory development and metalinguistic knowledge, dual representation and symbol use, morality in the real world, the development of logical reasoning, the grasp of musical consciousness, problematic aspects of contemporary psychology, children’s understanding of goal-directed behavior, the development of representation, and the pragmatic dimension of language.

Paper and Poster Presentations

Topics include language, math learning, social influences on cognition, social understanding, theoretical issues, moral reasoning, literacy and narratives, conceptual learning, reasoning, and memory.

Discussion Sessions

The current status of Vygotsky’s proposals on private speech

Eugene Abravanel (Chair), Laura Berk, Douglas Behrend

Teaching Piaget

Trevor Bond (Chair), Gwen Fischer, Sherrie Reynolds, William Gray, Janet McCarthy Gallagher, Leslie Smith, Christopher Lalonde

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JPS Symposium 1999 - Mexico City


Reductionist Illusions

The 29th Annual Symposium of the Jean Piaget Society will take place in México City, June 2-5, 1999 in the magnificent Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso founded around 1588 and located in the historical center of the city. The meetings will be held in the beautiful amphitheatre decorated by Diego Rivera's first mural. Plenary sessions will be in both English and Spanish with simultaneous translation. Proposals may be submitted in either language. There are many hotels available for the symposium in the historic center of the city in the vicinity of the cathedral, the Zocalo, and the excavations of the Temple Mayor of the Aztecs.

More information, including the Call for Program Proposals, can be found on the JPS web site. The site also contains electronic submission forms. Information and submission forms are in both English and Spanish.

Symposium 1999 Homepage

Table of Contents

JPS Web Site Address Change
Chris Lalonde

The Jean Piaget Society Web site has a new, and permanent, home. The web site can now be found at: <http://www.piaget.org> For those unfamiliar with the web site, it contains everything I’ve been able to amass about the society and its doings over the last 4 years. The site holds meeting minutes, the full text of our symposium programs, on-line versions of the Genetic Epistemologist, announcements, links to other sites etc..

This is the third move in just over 4 years and will be the last move that necessitates a change to our internet address. The Board of Directors recently approved the purchase of the domain name "piaget.org" which allows us to establish a permanent home on the internet. The site is now being hosted on a web server located at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. While changing circumstances may dictate yet another move to yet another server at some point in the future, such relocations will be transparent to users: the address will remain "www.piaget.org".

The acquisition of our own domain name also allows us to create a set of permanent e-mail accounts for JPS officers. At present, there are 3 such accounts (with more to come). Messages sent to "president@piaget.org" will be delivered to the whomever occupies the JPS presidency; messages to "webmaster@piaget.org" will be directed to the person charged with maintaining the web site; and messages to "editor@piaget.org" will reach the GE editor. Suggestions for other addresses are welcome.

These changes do not affect the general Jean Piaget Society e-mail discussion list. The e-mail address for the discussion list remains <piaget-list@unixg.ubc.ca>. If you’d like to join the list (anyone interested in knowledge and development is welcome), you can do so from the web site <www.piaget.org> or by sending an e-mail message stating "subscribe piaget-list (your name)" to <majordomo@unixg.ubc.ca>.

I have labored hard to make this transition as painless as possible for users of the site. For those of you who have "bookmarked" our previous web address, you will notice that your web browser will automatically redirect you to the new site when you try to use the old address. Although this redirection service will remain available for the foreseeable future, I’d urge you to bookmark the new address now.

I have been spending many hours attempting to update the many "search engines" that might point users to the old address (e.g., yahoo, alta-vista, excite) but this is, by nature, a slow process and does not cover all places on the internet. If you come across a listing anywhere on the net that contains the old address, please send me a note (webmaster@piaget.org) and I will attempt to have it updated.

As always, if you have suggestions about the web site, please feel free to contact me. I’m particularly interested in collecting and presenting information that will help satisfy the curiosity of students interested in Piaget. I receive at least one request per day asking for information of one kind or another. These range from the annoyingly general to the absurdly precise (and these are real examples):

(a) "I have a paper due on Tuesday and I need to know about Piaget."
(b) "On page 101 of Structuralism, Piaget refers to ‘dialetical pluralism.’ What does he mean?"

I want to respond to these queries with something more substantial than:

(a) "Any good textbook on developmental psychology should contain a chapter on Piaget."
(b) "Um, what do you think he means?"

While our web site currently contains a wealth of information about the Society, there is precious little about Piaget. I’d like to remedy that if for no other high-minded reason than to reduce the volume of requests that I receive. Without meaning to start a war over which of Piaget’s writings are most important, or over the dangers of using secondary sources, I am still determined to add some kind of introduction to Piagetian thought to the web site. If you have any ideas about the creation of a reading list, or know of ready-made summaries that could be made available over the internet, I would welcome your input.

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Last update: 20 September 1998