Comparing and Contrasting the Theories of Vygotsky and Piaget
Cognition is a process that takes place as a mental and thinking process. These processes include problem solving, memory and attention. This essay will examine the development of cognition through the contrasting and comparison of Vygotsky and Piaget theories. Vygotsky and Piaget are influential scientists who are the founders in analyzing the process of cognitive development by examining a child’s construction of knowledge in an active way (Flanagan, 199o6, p 72). The theories have been useful in understanding the development of a child.
Both theorists agree that the cognitive development of a child takes palace in various stages (Jarvis, and Chandler, 2001, pp 149). But their styles of thinking distinguish them. Piaget first revealed that the thinking and reasoning of children occurs at different time periods as they grow.
He distinguishes the four stages that occur in children’s’ lives which are very distinct and explain the development of cognition. The stages form his Piaget’s Stage theory, are preoperational stage, sensory motor stage, concrete operational stage and formal operational stage.
The first stage is the sensory motor which happens from the day of birth to around the age of two. At this stage the child only knows what is given to him. The child is concerned physical objects and his motor skills as well as the results of their movements (Thomson, Meggit 1997 P.107).
He learns of objects which exists even when such object are not visible to them. The second stage is the preoperational stage which is when a child is from two to seven years old. A child can speak and learn problem solving skills like counting and numbering. This stage is further divided to intuitive phase and preoperational phase.
The child concerns himself with learning verbal skills and making sense of the world which occurs in the preoperational phase. The intuitive phase is the Childs ability to make conclusion from his experiments with concrete objects. At this stage however, children are incapable to speak clearly (Jarvis, Chandler 2001 P.135). What they mentally mean may not be exactly what they express.
The final stage is the formal operational stage which occurs from the age of 12-15. At this stage the child’s thinking is more adult-like even in his thought process. They are capable of reasoning hypothetically, systematically and logically (Jarvis, Chandler 2001 P.139). With no need of physical things, the child is capable of imagining the shape of object, things which they have never existed or neither have they experienced. This means that the child is capable of Meta cognition, which is thinking about thinking.
Piaget further theorizes on Development and adaptation which is called constructivist theory which ahs process that contributes to the cognitive development of a child (Solso, Maclin, &Maclin, 2008, pp 243).
These processes are accommodation, assimilation and equilibrium. Assimilation is the internalization of new experiences to the cognitive structures which were in existence. Accommodation deals with the adjustment into new mental structures and equilibrium is when the person aims to strike a balance between the environment and himself between accommodation and assimilation that assist in solving problems (Thomson, Meggit 1997 P.105).
Assimilation-accommodation is a dual process which enables the creation a schema for knowledge organization. This schema assists the child to understand the world around him. A schema is cognitive processes which include information, ideas, plans and actions which grow as ones life experiences increases (Hayes a. 1999 P.98).
Vygotsky who is a Russian philosopher and psychologist is well known for his theory of social constructivist theory. This theory claims that culture is a social process which highly influences the mental functioning of an individual. Language as a second aspect is a psychological and social process which is shaped y culture and the Zone of Proximal Development is a development method which indicates that a child’s development is limited within specified time duration (Jarvis, Chandler 2001 P.149-150). These are the aspects which are not present in Piaget’s theory.
The older generation or the adults greatly influence the younger generation according to Vygotsky (Jarvis, Chandler 2001 P.149-150. This shows that the teacher has a great role to play in enabling the mental development of a child.
Children according to the theorist can learn social intervention and culture through social activities, such as writing, music, counting system, rules, and language. Language is a representation of symbol that enables communication. Equations concerning the world can be established by the child through language. It is a system that has made thinking possible because it is categorized into the social, inner and egocentric aspects.
ZDP determines the Childs ability to do or potentiality does something according to Vygotsky ((Flanagan 1999 P.72). A child can be able to perform problem solving tasks through independent and assisted performance in the process of learning (Flanagan 1999 P.73). Piaget’s description of the process of cognitive schema contrasts with Vygotsky’s Childs learning of culture.
Piaget’s believes that the developmental stages of cognitive development of a child is universal. He also acknowledged that the learning process might differ in rate due to factors of social influence and maturity. This means that at different level, a child adopts new skills and thus should not be forced to learn a complex skill beyond his level. Vygotsky on the other hand considers instruction as the prerequisite of cognitive development by assisting the learner into the ZPD.
Cognitive changes come before linguistic mastering according to Piaget. Vygotsky offers a different opinion by stating that language is what enables a child to develop cognitively and to think. Therefore, language moves from the social to individual which is in reverse order of Piaget’s claim. Though their concept of egocentric speech is different, they theorists agree that language plays and important role in cognitive development.
Piaget like Vygotsky agrees on the importance of the social and individual being but Vygotsky believes that the adults and friends of the child are responsible for child’s development and sharing of knowledge. Thus, a child according to Vygotsky is unable to learn alone for cognitive development (Flanagan 2001 P.72. Piaget in contrast claims that children are naturally inquisitive about the environment and their abilities thus they can advance their knowledge (Flanagan 2001 P.57).
Vygotsky analysis of the child development is slow and gradual on the important skills. But for Piaget’s theory, learning is symmetrical which happens in stages one occurring after another. Piaget theory does not consider the role of the child in his thought process. Vygotsky main criticism of Piaget’s theory is its assumption that cognitive development is an independent aspect that is divided into stages. This is that, certain characteristics do not simply stop at a point in child’s development. To Vygotsky learning is progressive. Another criticism is that instruction is an important process which facilitates learning. This is what Piaget overlooked.
Flannagan, C. (1999). Applying Child Psychology to Early Child Development. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Limited
Hayes, N. (1999). An Access to Psychology. 5th ed. London: Hodder & Stoughton Educational.
Jarvis, M. Chandler, E (2001). Angles on Psychology. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Limited
Thomson, H. Meggit, C. (1997). Human Growth and Development. Abingdon: Bookpoint Limited
Solso, R.L., Maclin, O.H., Maclin, M.K. (2008). Cognitive psychology (8th ed). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.