Gardner Unschooled Mind

Gardner, H. (1991). Unschooled mind: How children think & how schools should learn. New York: Basic Books.


Ch. 2: Conceptualizing the development of the mind.


Early Studies of the Mind

  • Dr. Arnold Gesell determined the chronological milestones through which children pass developmentally.
  • At this same time, learning theory and behaviorism was coming out in they psychology world. Behaviorists believe that all organisms can produce desired behaviors when they are rewarded and stop certain behaviors when they are punished. John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner were behaviorists.


Jean Piaget’s Pioneering Studies of Cognitive Development

  • Knowledge is constructed.
  • Children pass through a series of developmental stages. Once a child passes through a stage, the stage no longer exists. The change is so profound that is seems like the previous stage never existed.
  • Stages:

    • Infancy = sensorimotor
    • Early childhood = preoperational
    • Young school child (ages 7 & 8) = concrete operational
    • Adolescents = formal operational
  • Piaget’s work has limitations. Piaget’s shifts do not necessarily occur across all domains, which is what he had suggested. Piaget believed that the system developed together; however, research is showing that parts can evolve independent of one another thereby occurring at different rates. Piaget’s field of vision was narrower than he believed. Piaget believed that once a child passed through a certain stage, the knowledge from the previous stage disappeared. The child essentially forgot what was happening. New researchers are suggesting that children, once in the operational stages, keep the misconceptions. These misconceptions lay repressed under the new knowledge and occasionally resurface. He didn’t look at other areas of intelligence besides mathematical and logical.
  • Development occurred around the understanding of numbers.
  • Assimilation and Accommodation


The Mind After Piaget

  • The Neo-Piagetians

    • They expand Piaget’s theory to add emotional development to the equation.
    • Information-processing researchers use the metaphor that the child is a computer and they relate the cognitive development to parts of a computer.
  • Noam Chomsky and the Biological Perspective

    • Knowledge is innate. It must be activated or stimulated.
    • Chomsky focused on language.
    • Believed that systems unfold biologically, which is in contrast to the information-processors.
    • “…Chomsky endorses inborn knowledge at the expense of knowledge constructed over time, domain-specific faculties rather than general problem-solving skills, and the realm of language, rather than number, as the most prototypical paradigm for conceptualizing knowledge (p. 34).”
    • Eric Lenneberg noted that there were critical periods in the acquisition of language.
    • If the learning theory doesn’t explain language acquisition, then it isn’t a good theory – according to Chomsky.
    • We have an innate model of syntax (grammar). There is a universal grammar no matter what language that you learn. There is a syntactical structure to all languages.
    • There are some things in the brain already that shape and form what information comes in.
    • There has to be something in the environment to activate it.


Spanning Biology and Culture

  • Humans have a higher intelligence than lower-order animals because they can combine mechanisms or systems to execute a new task. Also, humans are aware of how the mechanisms function and how they can be used to perform a task.
  • Vygotsky, Bruner, and Cole argued that a cultural component exists as part of the developmental theories.