ADAPT Program -- Accent on Developing Abstract Processes of Thought


Date of this Version

February 1998


An expanded version of this article was published in two parts in The Genetic Epistemologist, 26:2 (1998) and 27:3 (1999). The Genetic Epistemologist was (at that time) the quarterly newsletter of The Jean Piaget Society. An online version of this paper appears @


At 9:30 am, on Thursday, February 1, 1973, I was sitting in the Trianon Ballroom in the Hilton Hotel in New York City listening to a talk by John W. Renner on "Intellectual Development and Science Teaching", based on the work of Jean Piaget (Renner, 1972). During his discussion of how the world looked to a science student using concrete reasoning I had an "ah-ha" experience. When I got back to the UNL campus, I found out that Renner's talk was based on his earlier paper in the American Journal of Physics, "Are Colleges Concerned With Intellectual Development?" (McKinnon & Renner, 1971). These two presentations of Piaget's work by Professor Renner had convinced me that there was, in Piaget's work, a way of understanding the inexplicable performances of college students in my physics courses. As I began to explore these ideas with other faculty, I discovered a small number of faculty members in other disciplines who were able to understand student difficulties within their disciplines in a similar manner. We decided to try to do something about it.