Awareness And Understanding Of Developmental Theories Education Essay


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For the purpose of this report I will discuss two cognitive developmental theorists, Piaget and Vygotsky. During the report my aim is to show my awareness and understanding of developmental theories and how I am able to link the theories to the children within my placement.

"Cognitive development is the development of the mind - the part of the brain that is used for recognising, reassuring, knowing and understanding" (Meggitt and Sunderland Pg. 2, 2003)

Child development has been an area of study that has attracted an enormous amount of interest and debate since the last century. Jean Piaget (1886 - 1980) pioneered the theory of Cognitive development and has possibly been one of the most influential figures within this area. However, the work of Lev Vygotsky (1896 - 1934) has been paramount in discrediting a lot of the work carried out by Piaget. Although it should be remembered that Piaget's theories and studies have had major influence within the education system and are still apparent in today's society.

Piaget, a Swiss Biologist developed his theory based on his observations of his own children and came to the conclusion that children develop through a series of stages. The four stages he developed were based upon the significant ages starting from birth to young adult. Piaget believed that during this time vast stimuli which could reach different schema (mental structures/development stages).

The four stages are:-

Sensori-motor stage (birth - two years)

This relates to a child's first experience at being able to interact and manipulate the environment via assimilation of environmental stimuli.

Pre-operational stage ( two years - seven years)

A child's range of language is rapidly expanding through the child having abetter understanding of the world and their increased knowledge of conversation between people.

Concrete operations stage (seven years - twelve years)

A child shows a general decrease of centric thought and can apply the concept of grouping to concrete but not abstract objects, e.g., they can realise a penny and a five pound note look different but are still forms of money.

Formal operations stage (twelve years onwards)

Young people can now apply conversations to both concrete and abstract situations and they are also able to develop their own ideas about the world.

Lev Vygotsky was a Russian school teacher who later became a Psychology lecturer at a teacher training college. Vygotsky's theories were similar to Piaget's by their constructivist approaches to cognitive development, however in some ways Vygotsky challenged many of Piaget's conclusions.

Vygotsky's theory was drawn from his beliefs that the external factors that children experience within society play an important part in their cognitive development, where as Piaget believed it was the internal factors which were important.

The main factor behind Vygotsky's theory that a child's development and intelligence is dependent on a child's environment, the intellectual abilities of those around them and their innate ability to successfully interact with them.

When linking both theories to several five to six year old children within my class at my placement I noticed that although they were the same age, they all had experienced a different upbringing and as a result each have different intellectual and cognitive abilities.

Child A

This child has difficulties with recognising letters and the ability to write their own name.

Child B

This child is able to recognise some letter and can write their own name but tends to write the letters backwards.

Child C

This child is able to not only able to recognise quite a few letters but can write his own name and include his name within a sentence.

The differences between these children can be related to Vygotsky's theory and his belief that if children are given support and assistance by parents and adults with some form of intellectual ability they are more likely to do well.

This example discredits Piaget's theoretical beliefs that all children go through his four developed stages of development at the same time. The example is more favourable to Vygotsky's theory that external factors and not the internal factors that Piaget believes in play an important part in a child's cognitive development.

"What a child can do with assistance today, she will be able to do by herself tomorrow" (Vygotsky, Pg. 87, 1978)

Piaget and Vygotsky have both produced theories which still today influence the way society raises children today, and whilst they have contrasting ideas, many of their ideas are similar. As a result of Piaget's cognitive developmental theory, studies by many other influential psychologists were done to further Piaget's beliefs. As stated before, Piaget's theory is still in evidence in many schools and day care establishments within the education system today.

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