After reading Chapter 6, I learned Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s theories on cognitive development. Even though they shared some similarities in their constructivist theories of cognitive development, they also had a few differences. They both believed that children actively construct their knowledge and understanding, but the way that they think and understand differ (Sanrock, 2018, p. 200). Piaget based his theory on interactions and adapting to the real world, while Vygotsky based his theory on social interactions.
Piaget believed that children’s’ biology and experience play a part in their cognitive development (Sanrock, 2018, p. 183). There are 4 stages children must go through, at certain ages, as they are cognitively developing; children and adolescents cannot skip stages, they must go through one stage before moving to the next. Piaget’s first stage in cognitive development is the sensorimotor stage, when infants, up to age 2, understand the world around them by touching, seeing, hearing, and tasting. In the beginning of this stage, infants will try to reach for any object that is directly in front of them, but by the end of this stage, 2 year olds will have the ability to use symbols and form mental representations (Santrock, 2018, p. 186).The preoperational stage is the next stage, children ,from 2 to 7 years old, use drawings and words to display the world. As children are developing, they start to wonder why things happen the way they do, which is why they start asking a ton of why questions. In the concrete operational stage, Piaget’s third stage, children can revise real objects mentally. When children get to this stage, they can categorize things in their minds. They can also put things together to form a conclusion. The fourth and final stage is the formal operational stage, adolescents think in a more logical way. Adolescents become more self-conscious, which contributes to their uniqueness and invincibility (Santrock, 2018, p. 195). When Piaget applied his theory to education, he believed that teachers should not help children get to the next level of development. Children will get to the next stage of development when they are ready.
Vygotsky believed that children use tools from society to cognitively develop and influence their way of thinking. Their cognitive development depends on tools provided by society, and their minds are shaped by the cultural context in which they live (Santrock, 2018, p. 200). To Vygotsky, language plays an important role in children’s’ cognitive development and helps them achieve different tasks. Children start off by talking to others, then eventually form their own thoughts. Vygotsky suggested that children who use a lot of private speech (inner thoughts) are more socially competent than those who do not (Santrock, 2018, p. 200). To Vygotsky, learning is more effective when teachers are able to change the level of support (scaffolding). In other words, when learning a new material, a teacher can give thorough instructions, but as the children are becoming more comfortable with the material, the teacher should provide less assistance. Each child is different and has their own Zone of Proximal Development (the ability to complete a task only with the help of others, without the help, the child is unable to complete the task).
Piaget and Vygotskye both believed that children should construct their own understanding about a task. The difference between them is the source of the process, Piaget believed that the children’s biology contributed to their cognitive development and should explore independently, with no help. On the other hand, Vygotsky claimed that cognitive development comes from the world around them. To relate, when potty training my daughter, I tried just buying a potty that she liked and placing it in the bathroom. She would always go into the bathroom to look at it but did not actually use it. After 2 weeks, I decided to switch my method and start taking her to the potty every 30 minutes and make her sit down. After the first time using it, we made a celebration song. After a week, she started going to the bathroom by herself and I would hear her mumble the celebration song. For the first 2 weeks, I used Piaget’s theory and was not aware, I was not helping her and letting her figure it out of her own. I figured when she was ready, she would go. The last week, I used Vygotsky’s theory, where I gave her help in the beginning and when she became more comfortable with what she had to do, I backed away to let her continue on her own.
Santrock, J. W. (2018). A topical approach to life-span development (9th ed.).