Reuven Feuerstein (b. 1921) is a Romanian-born clinical psychologist of Jewish origins, who conducts research into developmental and cognitive issues from a cross-cultural perspective. In particular, his interests include Down syndrome, traumatic brain injured patients and autism.
Feuerstein's theory that intelligence is not fixed but modifiable is a regarded as a groundbreaking approach. Put in his own words: "Intelligence is not a static structure, but an open, dynamic system that can continue to develop throughout life." Feuerstein is the chairman of the International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential (ICELP), based in Jerusalem, Israel. He started his career in Bucharest at the start of World War II. After the war, when he was living in Israel, the clinical psychologist started helping children who had survived the Holocaust.
Feuerstein earned a teacher's degree in Bucharest in 1944 and went on to attend a teacher's seminary in Jerusalem before resuming his education in Switzerland in 1949. In 1955, he earned a degree in general and clinical psychology at the University of Geneva, where he was taught by Andrey Rey and Jean Piaget. In 1970, Feuerstein acquired a PhD in developmental psychology at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Swiss-born psychologist Piaget (1896-1980) had a strong impact on Feuerstein's work. According to Piaget's theory, children are not passive recipients of information, but scientists who actively construct knowledge. Feuerstein is well known in his own right for developing the theories and systems of Structural Cognitive Modifiability (SCM), Mediated Learning Experience (MLE), Dynamic Assessment - Learning Propensity Device (LPAD), Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) and Shaping Modifying Environments (SME).
The MLE is a method based on the systematic interaction between the learner and the mediator. Mediation differs from traditional teaching and seeks to influence the student's cognitive structure. The mediator makes conscious efforts to improve the learner's problem-solving skills and critical thinking capacity. Feuerstein developed the so-called Cognitive Map, which is an analytical instrument designed to identify the learner's understanding problems. The learning activities can be grouped according to seven parameters. These parameters encompass subject matter, problem-solving skills, mode of instruction, level of complexity and level of abstraction.
The Feuerstein Method is designed for boosting children's mental ability. In his research Feuerstein proved that there is no genetic predisposition or fixed conditions which predetermine mental capacity and learning. According to his method, all people are able to improve their achievements. Furthermore, their cognitive capacity can be modified via mediated learning experiences.
According to Feuerstein's theory, cognitive deficiencies can be identified and corrected. His method gives guidance on how to build the learner's cognitive structure, strengthen his or her learning tactics and enhance problem-solving skills. The development of the learner's cognitive functions is analyzed via the LPAD — a system which helps a mediator analyze the learner's cognitive development. Unlike standardized tests, LPAD does not draw upon single responses. Instead, the mediator takes into account his or her observations of the learner's repeated responses.
Feuerstein developed his Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) method to help the learner build critical thinking skills. The method, which is based on paper-and-pen exercises which are visually stimulating, has proved to be efficient in addressing math problems. It is also applied for the work with autistic children and those diagnosed with the Down syndrome. The program aims to change the passive cognitive processes of participants, encouraging them to acquire an independent thinking style. FIE includes 15 instruments, with each of them addressing a specific cognitive deficiency. It is recommended that these are applied for one hour between three and five days a week.
The instruments in FIE include non-verbal exercises, such as organization of dots, orientation in space, numerical progressions and syllogisms. Exercises related to temporal relations and transitive relations are meant to strengthen the learner's comprehension skills. The advanced levels of an extended program include work with absurdities, analogies, illusions, language and symbolic comprehension, maps and auditory and haptic discrimination. FIE is used in 28 languages in more than 80 countries around the world.
Feuerstein's Modifying Environment is another method which is designed at promoting cognitive development. Feuerstein believes that the environment has to ensure equal opportunities and accessibility and to provide conditions for what he describes as "positive stress." Individualized instruction and mediation are also included as part of this method.