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The application of Piagetian and Neo-Piagetian ideas to further and higher education

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Piaget's theory of learning and stage theory applies to adults, as well as to children and adolescents. Some implications of this are worked out. According to Sutherland (1982) and others not all adults can be assumed to be formal operational thinkers. More than half are concrete operational (or at an even lower stage) at the age of 16. However some mature adults may develop late to the formal operational stage. Whether this is the case or not has yet to be determined empirically. The ideas of some other educational psychologists who have developed Piaget's ideas for adults are outlined and evaluated. These stem from a number of theoretical perspectives: (i) neo-Piagetian: Kohlberg, Peel and Labouvie-Vief; (ii) theorists synthesizing Piaget's ideas with those of others: Kolb, Biggs and Pascual-Leone; and (iii) others striking out in alternative directions: Perry and Gilligan. If accepted, these findings have important implications for teaching in both further and higher education. Neither can continue to assume that all students can operate at a formal operational stage. In further education and training courses teachers may need to assume that students need a practical element to their learning. In higher education teachers need to cater for some students who are concrete operational or transitional between concrete and formal operations.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 1999

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