A Biography Prof. R. Feuerstein
Reuven Feuerstein was born the fifth of eight children to a Hassidic family in the town of Botosan, Romania.
Having started reading and writing at the age of 3, both in Hebrew and Yiddish, he took upon himself, from the early age of 6, to help his playmates learn to read and write. While still at school, he would teach Hebrew to adults in the community, about to emigrate to Palestine.
Feuerstein attended Teachers’ College (1940-41) and Onesco College (1942-44) in Bucharest, obtaining a degree in psychology.
During these years, Feuerstein also worked as Co-Director and teacher in a school for disadvantaged and disturbed children in Bucharest.
Palestine & Switzerland
In 1944 he escaped from Europe and reached Palestine.
After one year at a teachers’ seminary, he started working as a special education teacher and counsellor in youth villages in Israel (1945-48), in which many children were survivors of the Holocaust.
When he contracted tuberculosis (1949) he was sent to Switzerland to recuperate. Resuming his education, he attended the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute in the University of Geneva and studied under Andre Rey* and Jean Piaget. He completed degrees in General and Clinical Psychology and obtained a license to practise psychology (1950-55).
The newly founded State of Israel was faced with mass immigration from a variety of countries and cultures. Feuerstein returned to Israel and continued working with Youth Aliyah (Youth Immigration) of the Jewish Agency.
Back in Israel, he set up the psychological service, which dealt with the difficult task of assessing and placing children who were culturally and environmentally deprived. Conventional testing would show poor performance and lead to pessimistic predictions.
Feuerstein developed a new approach, revolutionary at the time, which permitted him to consider the children by assessing how far they could be helped to change. With these orphaned children, Feuerstein’s optimism proved successful.
Feuerstein saw an urgent need to develop tools that would help educators to integrate children into the regular school system within the new Israeli society. Children from a variety of cultures, many of them alienated from their own cultures.
At this time, he began developing his theory that sees man as a modifiable creature in spite of severe conditions, low function, age, despair, emotional state or handicap.
Developing new tools
In 1965, Feuerstein, then Chief Psychologist at Youth Aliyah, established the Research Unit. The establishment of this Research Unit, supported by a small grant from Hadassah WIZO in Canada, helped process the data accumulated during Feuerstein’s Youth Aliyah work, and establish the theoretical framework necessary for the continuation of studies.
Immigrant children treated at the Hadassah-WIZO-Canada Research Institute (HWCRI) were culturally different in terms of language, previous education and skills. Some were also culturally deprived of both their original culture and of the new Israeli culture.
The educational system was not always able to accept the possibility that their low performance level could be merely the result of the cultural differences.
Feuerstein created a theoretical basis and applied systems that produced changes in the educational activities that rendered the pupils’ performances modifiable.
The data accumulated in the process of this work led to formulation of the concept of Structural Cognitive Modifiability (SCM) of human beings. SCM proposes that all humans can be modified, irrespective of the reason that made them dysfunctional or delayed their development.
This approach was not accepted by the educational milieu at the time. Professionals strongly believed in conventional tests and standard IQ tests, and this was considered a daring theory. Feuerstein found himself in constant battle with the educational system, educators and parents.
Feuerstein created a theoretical basis and applied systems, designed to test the pupils’ potential performance and render their functions modifiable. This includes the Mediated Learning Experience (MLE), and its applied systems – the Learning Potential Assessment Device (LPAD) and Instrumental Enrichment (IE) programme.
In 1993 Professor Feuerstein founded The International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential (ICELP). Departments and programmes of the HWCRI were expanded and integrated within the new centre. To this day, Feuerstein serves a Chairman of ICELP.
Reuven Feuerstein earned his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at the Sorbonne in Paris (1970). His major areas of study were developmental, clinical and cognitive psychology from a cross-cultural perspective.
He served as a Professor of Educational Psychology at Bar Ilan University in Israel (1970-95) and as an adjunct Professor at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education in Tennessee, USA (1975-90).
He received Honoris Causa from the University of Turin in Italy, as well as the prestigious Palrnes Académique prize, the Israel Prize for Education and the Humanitarian Award of Variety International.
Prof. Feuerstein has published numerous books and scientific articles. His theory and methods are studied throughout the world.
Over 2,500 publications – articles, books and theses – have been published in many languages on the MLE and its applied systems, developed by Prof. Feuerstein. Hundreds of conferences refer to his work.
Born in 1906 in Lausanne in Switzerland, died in 1965 in Geneva, psychologist, professor at the University of Geneva, Rey is especially known for its test of the “complex figure” which still is very much used in elderly and adult, child psychology. He had also invented a whole series of other test in psychology of the intelligence, neurology, on the memory, for the diagnoses and the vocational guidance.