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Perspectives on Educational Change
Compiled and Edited by Dee Dickinson

Reuven Feuerstein


The Hadassah-Wizo-Canada Research Institute, where the theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability (SCM) and its three applied systems -- namely the Learning Potential Assessment Device (LPAD), Instrumental Enrichment (IE), and the Shaping of Modifying Environments -- as well as the pivotal theory of Mediated Learning Experience (MLE) have been developed and implemented, is undergoing very meaningful changes in its goals, size, and modality of functioning. The International Center for Learning Potential is being called into life by the dramatic increase in requests for the Institute's service and training programs, which have already become overloaded.

Recognition of the theory of SCM and its associated systems is being used throughout the world in 25 countries. The latest, the 26th, is China, in which the book on IE, written by the author in collaboration with Prof. Yaacov Rand and the late Prof. Mildred Hoffman, has been translated. We are told it is arousing great interest with positive feedback. Chinese scholars in psychology and education consider IE with its underlying theory of SCM to be a useful tool for the needs of hundreds of millions of people in China, confronted as they are now with the need to adapt to changes in technology and in their lifestyle.

The International Center will have three major departments that will dovetail in an integrated manner: Research and Development, Training, and Service. The first, Research and Development, will focus on the further development of instruments and modes of application in response to the particular needs of specific populations. Research will be important for evaluating the results of applying the three systems of the LPAD, IE, and the Shaping of Modifying Environments, and thereby also analyzing feedback in order to define what new development is necessary. An example of such development is our program for training youngsters with Down's syndrome and learning disabilities to become caregivers to the elderly and handicapped. We developed this project by taking into account a few relevant requirements for a suitable career for such youngsters: first, very limited competition in this field because of the growing great demand for manpower and lower social desirability; second, the consonance of the personality characteristics and abilities of people with learning disabilities, in particular with Down's syndrome, with the requirements of this occupation. After initial doubts, the outcome of our experience has been extremely positive. From an experimental program with 11 students, we have expanded to a framework which will make it possible to include 40 students at a time in the two-year course. Ongoing research will help improve the curriculum and modes of approach, the selection process for candidates, and also the discovery of other suitable occupations for these youngsters that will help them become independent, useful members of society.

Training is the second department. The International Center is partly a response to pressure on the part of hundreds of people seeking longer periods of training than the annual two week International Workshops held over the last 18 years in Jerusalem; this center will offer possibilities to participants to become qualified as trainers of our applied systems in their respective fields. Our method of training people in the theory and its derived techniques has become insufficient for the best possible application of our program. In particular, the growing cross-cultural application requires more access to the theory in order to extend the derivation of universally applicable rules and techniques.

The International Center will incorporate a broad interdisciplinary team with representatives from education, psychology, neurology, pediatrics, sociology, cultural anthropology, social work, criminology, and auxiliary functions, such as speech, psychotherapy, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy. In the process of working together they will apply the systems and will shape modalities of approach for children and adults who need various applications from these fields of study. Cooperating experts from this wide range of professions will be able to interact, and, with the help of the theory of SCM, develop an all-encompassing approach to benefit children maximally while simultaneously both enriching themselves and those who come for training. These students, similarly coming from this wide professional range, will be oriented in the theory of SCM and will learn how to apply one or more of the related systems and intervention programs while working with children and adults included in our Service department. Those who are interested will be given the chance to participate in research projects.

The International Center will have a close affiliation with a number of universities interested in introducing some of the programs generated by the International Center into their framework. This will enable it to offer academic course credits and dissertation supervision. It is strongly hoped that the International Center will be able to offer stipends and will involve exchanges of faculty and students.

The third department within the International Center, Service, will allow for expansion of the current program at the Institute for directly helping individual children and young adults. This will serve not only for solving problems of the child by offering dynamic assessment and Mediated Learning Experiences, but its work will be coordinated by the other two departments, Research and Development and Training. People coming to train will also become part of the staff giving service.

One of the most rapidly developing areas in the last few years is the application of Mediated Learning and the intervention programs in industry. Especially in France, hundreds of industrial plants, including some of the most prestigious, are using IE and MLE to prepare their manpower for the great technological changes taking place in modern industry. As it was described by the head of a steel mill in Haironville, "We are among the oldest establishments in the field of iron and steel. Three hundred and fifty years of our existence have been marked by very limited change. In the first 300 years, only one technique was used in our industry. In the last fifty years, about ten techniques have been introduced. Now we have to prepare our manpower for techniques which we have not yet even identified. For this, IE (or as it is called in French, PEI) is most helpful." This is true for a very large number of industries, including Thompsons, Peugeot, SNECMÃ…, and Hewlett-Packard.

In a conference organized by ASP, an office to coordinate the various programs, that took place at Aix-le-Bains, France, at the end of January, 1990, the different applications of IE and MLE were described by those using them. This conference was headed by the DFD and their directors, M. Dominique Delage and Mlle. Camille Lirot. In another group involved in the application of IE in continuing education at the Sorbonne in Paris, M. Alain Moal and Mme. Sorel are piloting a very interesting approach in which MLE, in conjunction with IE, is being used to shape the curriculum which is offered to adults in continuing education.

Other countries such as Portugal and Spain are interested in using this approach in their industries, not only as preparation for future technologies but also to help those who have become unemployed through the great recent changes in industrial technology. This process requires a total reorientation in these potential workers by mediating those prerequisites of learning that will enable these people to learn the new ways of thinking, perceiving, and functioning necessary for their adaptation.

We have just learned about such an initial course that applies an IE program in a high-tech laboratory in the United States, where until now use of our program in industry has lagged behind Europe. With this first systematic application, we hope to learn about the conditions under which American industry can best benefit from a program meant to develop the self-directed flexibility of workers, reopening them for learning processes and orienting them towards a new way of thinking and a more efficient way of approaching new technology.

The theory of MLE itself is being applied in varied areas. At the Second International Conference on Mediated Learning Experience conducted by Professor Katherine Greenberg, in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the summer of 1989, forty-five lecturers presented their applications of MLE in a great variety of areas ranging from early childhood and children at risk to higher education. Many who teach science to people of the Third World have adopted MLE as a way to prepare them for careers in science. A number of dissertations have recently been published, such as that by Prof. Mehl from South Africa. The theory of MLE is becoming increasingly widely used as a theory of instruction where the need to modify the learner's capacity to learn is the major goal.

The American College Board has become interested in using the dynamic assessment process in the LPAD for people who want to enter college but cannot pass the standard static methods of assessment such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Our more recently developed group LPAD test is becoming recognized as a useful system-oriented approach for group settings such as those school classrooms which are known to have difficulties in promoting their students to higher education. The results of group dynamic assessment, showing the individuals' and the group's profile of modifiability through a mediated test approach, help to reshape the goals of these individuals. There is a great potential with large-scale application of the group LPAD to significantly affect the prospects for higher level of education and occupation of large sectors of disadvantaged populations. In the Third World such development is vital for their economic and social welfare. Large numbers of individuals examined with static measures, such as the IQ or other achievement tests, are doomed to fail and to perpetuate their disadvantaged conditions. For these people only dynamic assessment can reveal their true capacities to learn.

The third applied system, derived from the theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiabililty and now in the process of development, is the Shaping of Modifying Environments. It is mostly a conceptual approach that will enable people to guide those responsible for environments in which children and young adults are educated as to how to shape these environments so as to create the conditions necessary for the individuals' modifiability. Our experience has shown that even if we accurately diagnose the potential for change and then succeed to increase the modifiability of individuals, there is still more to be accomplished. What is crucial is that individuals be surrounded by an environment that enables them to materialize this modifiability. The author and Prof. Jerold Beker from the University of Minnesota are examining precisely what is necessary to turn an environment into a modifying one.

We are hoping that the large group of those who we have already trained will become part of the growing circle of Friends of the International Center to maximize its effort to help those in need through research, training and direct service. The new International Journal for Mediated Learning Experience (Howard Sharron, Editor, 6/7 Hockley Hill, Birmingham B18 5AA, England) will publish ongoing research, international modalities of application and critical review, serving researchers in this field.

About: Reuven Feuerstein

"Intelligence is not a static structure, but an open, dynamic system that can continue to develop throughout life!" Dr. Reuven Feuerstein's revolutionary words, not yet widely accepted by the psychological and educational establishments, make an enormous difference in how we perceive the role of education. If intelligence is modifiable, and if indeed intelligence can be taught and learned, education has a much greater role than might have been previously imagined.

Dr. Reuven Feuerstein, a clinical psychologist who studied at the University of Geneva under Jean Piaget, Andre Rey, Barbel Inhelder, and Marguerite Loosli Uster, went on to earn his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at the Sorbonne. He is currently the director of the Center for Development of Human Potential in Jerusalem. From 1970 until the present Dr. Feuerstein has served as Professor in the School of Education at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel; he is also the Director of the Hadassah-Wizo-Canada Research Institute, in Jerusalem, Israel.

His life's work has been the development of the Theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability and its emergent practices of dynamic assessment, active intervention, and placement of both children and adults in "shaping environments."

From 1940-44, Dr. Feuerstein was co-director and teacher in the School for Disadvantaged, Disturbed Children in Bucharest, and from 1945-48 he worked with child survivors of concentration camps. During the 50's, he served as director of Psychological Services of Youth Aliyah in Europe.

There are currently under way more than 1,000 research projects on his work throughout the world involving all age groups from infancy to old age, in every setting from jungles to board rooms, and with every ability level from the profoundly retarded to the highly gifted. In 1990 Dr. Feuerstein was decorated by the President of France for his work in training French workers, managers, and executives in the skills of intelligence.

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