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There are a number of theorists that have shared their views and ideas, about how a child develops. In doing so it has allowed theorists to extend and make sense of what has been told or disagree and coming with their own views of how a child develops. Much of the research and ideas that are used in our present day to determine when a child is a mature, when they feel emotion, and other important factors that to which there are no strict answers for. I would be looking at Vygotsky and Piaget the two theorists that offer theoretical perspectives on how a child develops. This would help us to understand and determine whether 'teaching' or 'facilitation' is what Vygotsky and Piaget would endorse.
Constructivism is a philosophy of learning founded on the premises that, by reflecting on our own experiences. We as life - long learners, construct our own understanding of the world we live in. Each of us expand and generate our own rules as we go through different experiences in order to make sense of our experiences. Learning is merely a process, adjusting our beliefs either by adjusting adding or eliminating them to accommodate the new experiences. In this we see how: "Constructivism has made and will make a significant contribution to educational theory and practices" (Airsan, 1997, P. 444).
As stated by Airsan, constructivist compares the "old" view of knowledge to a "new" constructivist view. In the "old" knowledge was fixed and independent of the learner, and the learner would accumulate truths to more knowledge one possesses. The "new" view is tentative, subjective and personal, for they make their own meaning from their beliefs and experiences.
"Thus constructivists believe that knowledge cannot be justified as 'true' in an absolute sense. Within our realm of contemporary educators we can find two broad interpretations: Psychological constructivism, articulated by Piaget, and Social constructivism, associated with Vygotsky. There are two major issues shape theses interpretations: "(1) education for individual development versus education for social development and (2) the degree of influence that social context has on individual cognitive development." (Richardson, 1997; Vadeboncoer, 1997)
Most of the modern day theory and the relationship to socialization, is vastly contributed by the work done by Jean Piaget. He proposed that a child progresses through a series of cognitive stages of development, just as they progress through these series of physical stages of development. According to Piaget, the rate at which a child passes through these cognitive stages may vary but will eventually pass through them all in the same order. These 4 stages are:
Sensorimotor stage (Birth to 2 years old): The infant develops and understanding of himself or herself and reality through interactions with the environment. The infant is able to differentiate between itself and other objects. Learning takes place via assimilation (application of previous concepts to new concepts) and accommodation (is the altering of previous concepts in the face of new information)
Preoperational stage (ages 2 to 4): The elementary forms of logical concepts are not yet formed. The child needs concrete physical situations. Here objects are classified in simple ways, especially by physical features.
Concrete operations (ages 7 to 11): As physical experiences accumulate, accommodation is increased. The child is able to think abstractly, and logical structures are used to explain his or her experiences.
Formal operations (beginning at ages 11 to 15): Cognition reaches its final form. By this stage, the person no longer requires concrete objects to make rational judgements. He or she is capable of deductive and hypothetical reasoning enabling the child the ability for abstract thinking, similar to that of an adult.
According to De Vries the most important aspects of Piaget was, "understanding scientific concepts is a matter of progressive construction through stages where reasoning becomes increasingly more adequate and corresponds to what society considers correct. In this conception lies the possibility for going beyond society and constructing something new to society" (De Vries, 2000, P.13).
The theoretical framework of Vygotsky on the other hand revolved around the theme that social interaction plays a fundamental role and mediates the development of the cognitive structures. Vygotsky states: "Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first in the social level, and, later on the individual level; first between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychologial). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals"(Vygotsky, 1935/1978a, P. 86).
A second aspect of Vygotsky's theory is that the potential for cognitive development depends upon the "zone of proximal development" (ZPD). Key practical implications from Vygotsky's notion of the zone of proximal development were drawn which he expresses as follows:
"What we call the zone of proximal developmentâ€¦is the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers." (Vygotsky, 1935/1978a, P.86)
Vygotsky's theory was an attempt to show that what we regard as true knowledge is the end product through socialization. Therefore his key principles were namely: Cognitive development is limited to a certain range at any given age and the other being full cognitive development requires social interaction.
Piaget and Vygotsky were similar in many ways. They both were for the notion that students have active participation in their development of their cognitive structures. Piaget was more interested of the developmental stages in determining with what they should be able to do. Vygotsky on the other hand approved of Piaget's theory and took it one step by comparing the learner's actual development to their potential development. The potential area he called the 'zone of proximal development.' This zone is where the learner might be in need of some assistance.
Now that we have established the theories that Piaget and Vygotsky has formulated, let us look at teaching versus facilitation before we agree or disagree whether or not they will endorse either or both.
Teaching is a process whereby a teacher leads a group of learners in acquiring new skills, knowledge or understanding. Most subject area teaching involves telling and teaching the students. There are measurable outcome at the end. Here we have a content expert, which presents information, and provides the right answer. Teaching as analysed by Stewart "builds on a classic division of teaching activities into intellectual (or logical) acts and strategic acts" (Case R, 1994, P.288). Intellectual acts include, explaining, defining, justifying and demonstrating. Strategic acts refer to such actions that entail motivating, planning, encouraging, guiding, disciplining and evaluating. These acts as stated by Stewart are not to take place in a teaching context although it could be a means to support or conduct instruction.
According to Stewart, facilitation is that of helping or making it easy for students to learn together in a group, or to achieve something together as a group. This form involves helping the learner to discover by themselves. In this scenario we have a facilitator, who guides the process and provides the right questions. Thus for Stewart, to facilitate learning is merely "to provide or arrange a set of external material conditions or social circumstances that make learning easier; a person who is facilitating learning is not to be actually teaching" (Case R, 1994, P.288).
Looking at Vygotsky's theories we can clearly see as agreed by Hatano that Vygotskian educational practice "relies heavily on direct teaching for solution routines for testlike problems" (Hatano, 1993, P.154). So Vygotsky would endorse 'teaching' rather than 'facilitation' to assist the learner to understand abstract concepts and later to relate to everyday concepts as they develop their cognitive structures.
Piaget's stages of cognitive development shows that would encourages learners to discover for themselves through interaction and rather than the presentation of readymade knowledge. As stated by Piaget (1932/1965), "regulation by others hinders the development of self-regulation or autonomy" (De Vries, 2000, P.12). Therefore the idea of 'teaching' will not allow the learner the development of self regulation which promoted by Piaget, "giving the learner extensive opportunities to make decisions, to make rules by which they will regulate themselves and to regulate group games" (De Vries, 2000, P.12). Piaget will happily endorse 'facilitation.'