CHILDREN'S MINDS by Margaret Donaldson
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Are some of Piaget's intellectual development theories refutable, as developmental psychologist Donaldson maintains? And if so, how should those revised insights apply to teaching in the early school years? Donaldson's challenge, plausible rather than conclusive, concerns several specific Piagetian tasks: how they are worded and what they measure. Children are less egocentric than Piaget claims, she asserts; they can make deductions and see other points of view, especially if the questions build on their own experiences. As evidence, she cites several task experiments specifically designed to test for the same understandings as Piaget's tasks, using less alien, more concrete or close-to-home notions. (She considers his questions unnatural, so ambiguously worded that they may skew results.) Such issues are legitimate, but one must note the possibility that in apparently simplifying the question, the researcher may have made the task not just less peculiar but also easier. In addition, Donaldson tends to generalize rather quickly, and leaves some questions--some big questions--unanswered. For example, more children get right answers on the amended tasks. But why don't all children do better? And one must recognize the time lapse between the first appearance of an intellectual skill and full mastery of it. (A child may say ""flew"" at two, ""flied"" at three--a sophisticated, language earning mistake.) Regardless of these reservations, Donaldson's contentions deserve a wide hearing, for the implications are manifold and fundamental, affecting schoolroom procedures and materials in an effort to provide children with a more supportive scaffold. Donaldson introduces these intricate traceries clearly, remaining lucid while working on epistemological complexities. Given her focus--the value of adapting learning tasks to a child's experience--one can see the source of her appeal to Jerome Bruner, who has given the book a strong endorsement. Given her intellectual enthusiasm and respect for Piaget, one can expect others to do likewise.

Pub Date: March 26th, 1979
ISBN: 0393951014
Publisher: Norton