Dr. Rheta DeVries, 75, of Little Rock, AR departed this life May 28, 2012. Before retiring from the University of Northern Iowa to return to Little Rock, Dr. DeVries achieved international fame as an academic and pioneer in early childhood education.
She obtained her doctoral degree in developmental psychology from the University of Chicago, and was profoundly influenced by the work of Swiss Psychologist Jean Piaget, who attempted to explain the process by which people learn. Inspired by his work, she, along with cohort Constance Kamii, coined the term, “Constructivist Education,” to describe an alternative instructional model to be used with young children. Dr. DeVries was a meticulous researcher, in the fields of perspective-taking, conceptions of shadow phenomena, Piagetian measures of intelligence, and early childhood science curriculum. Her published works include books and a multitude of published articles that applied Piaget’s theories to classroom instruction.
Her work culminated in the establishment of the Freeburg Program, a research and experimental constructivist school, under the auspices of the University of Northern Iowa. During its six years of existence, educators from the United States and the world came to observe the teaching methods employed at the school.
As a leader in the constructivist education movement, Dr. DeVries and her associates conducted workshops both nationally and internationally to aid educators in implementation of constructivist principles in their classrooms. As a result, many practicing educators and children all over the world have benefited, either directly or indirectly, from her expertise.
Dr. DeVries is survived by. a sister, Carol Majors (Weaver), niece Leanne Franzetti, nephew Lee Majors (Paige), nieces and nephews Warren, Michael, Maria and Olivia Franzetti, Mary Carol and Meredith Majors.
Dr. DeVries was preceded in death by her parents, Carl and Lorraine Goolsby and brother Edward Carl.
A memorial service will be held Thursday, June 7 at 2:00 at Second Presbyterian Church with Dr. Karen Akin officiating.