A Biological Theory of Knowledge

Piaget never left biology, he had a lifelong interest in the plantsedum, varieties of which are common in many rock gardens. Similarily, Piagetstudied the snail Limnaea Stagnalis for years. Piaget transplanted sedum plantsinto the Savoy Alps in order to see how the plant reacted to coldertemperatures. The plants reacted by yeilding smaller, thicker leaves in orderto increase photosynthesis. He also transplanted the snails from tranquil watersto turbulent rocky shores, the snails reacted by changing their shells from anelongated shape to a globular shape.

Piaget felt that living organisms are self-regulating in their choicesof ways to adapt. This differs from Darwin who saw organisms as passive anddependent on mutation and millions of years of evolution for survival. Piagetfelt that adaptation was a continuous process in which the hereditary structureof the organism interacts with the environment in such a way as to reconstituteitself for better survival (Pulaski, 1980). Piaget saw a link between biologicalintelligence and human being intelligence.

Piagetian theory explains how human intelligence develops through anintellectual regulatory process geared by adaptation to the environment. Duringthis on-going relationship with the environment the child exhibits certainorganizations based upon assimilation- the taking in process of experience, accepting new encounters and fitting them into existing schemes, andaccommodation- the reaction of the individual who encounters newexperiences that are not consistent with existing schemes and so the personmust change their scheme to accept or accommodate the new information. Piaget felt that a baby is an active and curious organism, thatreaches out and seeks to regulate a balance between assimilation andaccomodation. This balance is what Piaget describes as equilibrium.

Piaget considered the process of equilibrium an important factor in thecognitive growth and development of a child. It was for this reason Piagetinsisted that children must be allowed to do their own learning. Piaget realizedthat humans progressively develop or mature to higher states of cognitivedevelopment andrealized that children acquire knowledge transmitted by parents, teachers,and books, he called this "social transmission." Piaget believed thatwhen a child hears contradictory statements that challenge establishedschemes, equilibrium is disturbed. Piaget called such a disruption inequilibrium "cognitive conflict or disequilibrium." When children experience cognitiveconflict they set out in search of an answer that will enable them to acheivestates of equilibrium.

Piaget felt that all children go through certainstages of intellectual development in the same order, even though thechronological ages may vary between bright and dull students.