Eleanor Ruth Duckworth was born in 1935 in
Montreal, Canada. Her parents, Jack and Muriel H. Duckworth were Canadian peace workers and community activists.
Duckworth studied philosophy as an undergraduate. She received
a fellowship to the Sorbonne and during her graduate work there she was a student of Jean Piaget's. She worked
with Piaget and Barbel Inhelder, a developmental psychologist, as a Research and Teaching Assistant at the Institut des
Sciences de l'Education in Geneva, Switzerland. Her years with Piaget and Inhelder provided the foundation of her work
throughout her career.
In 1962, at Inhelder's recommendation, Duckworth participated in the
Elementary Science Study - a curriculum development and science education reform project in Watertown, MA. The
goal of the project was to "put materials into the childrens' hands from the start and help each child investigate through
these materials the nature of the world around him". (Elementary Science Study, 1970) Teachers used materials
such as bulbs, batteries and butterflies to provide their students with meaningful experiments. Duckworth's goal was
to incorporate Piaget's theory and clinical method into the classroom.
In 1964 Duckworth acted as the translator and interpreter of Piaget
at an education conference at Cornell University. The short paper she wrote for the conference "Piaget Rediscovered"
was the foundation of the book that came out of the conference, a collection of papers on developmental psychology and curriculum
development. The conference and the book it produced were responsible for the renewed interest of the educational community
in Piaget's work.
Eleanor Duckworth returned to the Universite de Geneve to complete her
Ph.D. in 1977. After completing her studies she returned to her work in curriculum development and teacher training.
Together with Jeannne Bamberger of M.I.T. she started "The Teacher Project" which developed research experiences for elementary
school teachers. Out of this project came the Moon Group, a group of teachers who explored the behavior of the moon
as a practice of learning and teaching. This project and her research with Piaget are the foundation of her book "The
Having of Wonderful Ideas". (Wikipedia, Duckworth, n.d.)