Jerome Bruner

Noted psychologist Jerome Seymour Bruner, born on October 1, 1915, in New York City, wrote extensively about the theory of cognitive learning in educational psychology. He completed his undergraduate studies at Duke University and went on to study at Harvard University, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in 1941. He left Harvard in 1972 for a teaching position at Oxford University, where he remained until 1979, after which he returned to Harvard. He later joined the New York University of Law, where at age 93 he became a senior research fellow.

One of Bruner's most famous theories is known as the constructivist theory, which became part of the theoretical framework of psychology. The theory holds that children learn by building or constructing new concepts and ideas based on the knowledge that they have already acquired. Learning is an ongoing process that involves transforming and selecting information, creating hypotheses, and making decisions based on prior experiences and information.

The key point to Bruner's theory is that interpreting and deciphering experiences and information by comparing similarities and differences is the most important component of learning. It also emphasizes the importance of categorization in the process called learning. They go hand in hand; whenever one is perceiving, conceptualizing or learning, one is also forming and shaping categories.

Bruner's early work was focused on understanding what influences one's needs, expectations and motivations. He tried to understand the role that strategies play in the process of categorization and the development of the human mind. He came up with a novel idea, i.e., that children are very vigorous problem solvers and are actually able to explore difficult ideas and subjects. He emphasized the notion that learning must be structured and that structure must be the focal point of learning. Structure is the explanation of the relationship between all of the factual elements.

His theory of readiness in learning and the spiral curriculum were introduced in many schools. He theorized that one can teach any subject to children of any age and at any stage of their development in such a way that it fits their cognitive and learning capabilities. His theory of spiral curriculum claimed that basic ideas can be repeatedly revisited, constantly building on them until a level of understanding is achieved. Bruner was a strong advocate of encouraging children to learn analytical thinking.

In order to better understand the way a child thinks and absorbs information, Bruner investigated the motivational ideas associated with learning. He did not believe in the need for external competitive motivations, such as class ranking or subject grades, to achieve goals. Rather, he thought that the best way to stimulate learning is to create interest in the subject matter.

Bruner constructed four categories for the application of his theories of learning and teaching. The first is to personalize lessons by knowing the capabilities and predispositions of every child in order to foster interest in a particular. The second is to structure the content of the lesson in such a way that the children will grasp the material easily. Structure the content of the lesson to the children's level of understanding and make it interesting so the children will want to understand the material and to learn more.

When preparing classroom material, sequencing is a very important aspect. In order for children to comprehend whatever it is being taught, the material presented should follow a logical sequence of thought process. One thought should be built on the previous thought. If the sequencing is correct, the children will understand everything much more quickly and be able to drawn their own conclusions.

Finally, the teacher must be very selective with the use of rewards and punishments as reinforcements. A child must learn on his own and at his own pace. It is natural for a child to want to learn. Each child will, at times, some grasp the material more quickly than his or her peers.

Jerome Bruner: Selected full-text books and articles

Opinions and Personality By M. Brewster Smith; Jerome S. Bruner; Robert W. White John Wiley & Sons, 1956
Educational Psychology: A Century of Contributions By Barry J. Zimmerman; Dale H. Schunk Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. 17 "From The Process of Education to The Culture of Education: An Intellectual Biography of Jerome Bruner's Contributions to Education"
Perception: An Approach to Personality By Robert R. Blake; Glenn V. Ramsey Ronald Press, 1951
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "Personality Dynamics and the Process of Perceiving" by Jerome S. Bruner
Readings in Perception By David C. Beardslee; Michael Wertheimer D. Van Nostrand, 1958
Librarian's tip: "On Perceptual Readiness" by Jerome S. Bruner begins on p. 686
Contemporary Approaches to Creative Thinking: A Symposium Held at the University of Colorado By Howard E. Gruber; Glenn Terrell; Michael Wertheimer Atherton, 1962
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "The Conditions of Creativity" by Jerome S. Bruner
The Causes of Behavior: Readings in Child Development and Educational Psychology By Judy F. Rosenblith; Wesley Allinsmith Allyn Bacon, 1962
Librarian's tip: "Freud and the Image of Man" by Jerome S. Bruner begins on p. 1, "Social Psychology and Perception" by Jerome S. Bruner begins on p. 363, and "Learning and Thinking" by Jerome S. Bruner begins on p. 446
Piaget's Theory: Prospects and Possibilities By Harry Beilin; Peter Pufall Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1992
Librarian's tip: Chap. 10 "The Narrative Construction of Reality" by Jerome Bruner
Fifty Modern Thinkers on Education: From Piaget to the Present Day By Joy A. Palmer Routledge, 2001
Librarian's tip: "Jerome S. Bruner, 1915-" begins on p. 90
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