PIAGET'S "AMERICAN QUESTION" - DO WE HAVE AN ANSWER?
Adey, P., King's College London, UK
Jean Piaget was irritated by people who asked him whether cognitive development could be 'accelerated' - he dubbed it "The American Question". But the question remains of interest to psychologists. This presentation will summarise 20 years of research in Cognitive Acceleration and consider how this work informs the principles of accelerating cognitive development. We will explore the distinction between 'learning' and 'development', debated since Vygotsky's time, suggesting that development implies something unidirectional, permanent, and of wide general applicability. Cognitive acceleration, then, implies the promotion of the development of a general cognitive processing mechanism which will have a broad effect on the individual's ability to process information. Evidence for such an effect must be sought in long-term far-transfer, and cognitive acceleration projects have demonstrated just this. But there remain questions about precisely how the process works. We make claims for the impact of 'cognitive conflict' of 'social construction', and of 'metacognition', but have failed to isolate the relative effect of each of these factors. In particular, although cognitive conflict and social construction may be theoretically and historically distinguished, in practice in the classroom it seems inevitable that they occur together, as two sides of the same coin. For psychologists it matters to understand as fully as possible how any particular effect has been achieved. In this paper I will consider this methodological conundrum and propose a theoretical resolution, through integration of the Piagetian and Vygotskian perspectives which have informed cognitive acceleration projects.