Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was a Swiss psychologist and genetic epistemologist (someone who studies the development of knowledge.) He began as a biologist, receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland in 1918.
Piaget is probably most known for his theory of cognitive development, which is also called developmental stage theory. He was one of the first educational psychologists to study how children develop understanding.
Prior to Piaget, teaching was thought of as “largely didactic, and focused on rote learning,”1 says Sue Robson in Developing Thinking and Understanding in Young Children. Piaget formulated the idea that children are not merely ‘mini-adults’ or empty vessels, but rather have their own way of thinking that is fundamentally different from the way adults think. One of Piaget’s central ideas is that humans create their own understanding of the world by interacting with the objects within it.
His ideas gained traction around the world, especially after the 1950s, and were seen as “legitimising the idea of learning through play,”2 says Robson.