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The construction of the thought process; like remembering, problem solving, and decision making, is all apart of what's called cognitive development. The basic premise of cognitive development is the way a person perceives, thinks, and understand the goings-on around them through the combination of genetics and learned factors. Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky were influential in the understanding of this form of development conveyed by their respective theories. Cognitive Development starts at birth and progresses as a child starts to learn and grow mentally. If a person, especially an educator, can understand how a child develops cognitively adaptations can be made to fit the specific needs of a child. Constructivism is an approach to teaching and learning based on the premise that cognition is the result of mental construction (McDevitt, and Ormrod, 2006). A students belief, attitudes and how they are shown how to do things affects how one learns. This assertion is one expressed and agreed upon by both Piaget and Vygotsky. Both also agreed that societal influences created the boundaries that surrounded cognitive development. Being Constructivist and recognizing the influence of ones surroundings are about the only similarities that are shared by Piaget and Vygotsky's theory share.
Each theorist had key ideas that their theory of cognitive development was built upon. These ideas differed from each other. As in Piaget's, he theorized that intelligence is produced by action. He strongly felt a child learns best through interaction. (Huitt, & Hummel, 2003) Vygotsky disagreed, instead he felt learning occurred before development and they learn because of history and symbolism ( Van der Veer, 2008). Further more, Vygotsky would argue that children not only needed but valued others input in order to grow psychologically, a point that Piaget disagreed with. Piaget beloved that there are four phases to cognitive development that occurs. The first stage, referred to as Sensorimotor Stage, begins at birth to two years. In this stage a child relies heavily on instinctive behaviors naturally learned, like sucking. Piaget beloved intelligence manifests itself through physical motor activities such as crawling or walking. These attributives dominate in this phase although; some language skills are developed as well. Piaget continues his phases into the ages two through seven with the preoperational stage. During this stage, Piaget believes a child is egocentric with his thoughts. Basically, Piaget says at this time, a child thinks if he believes or sees things one way, that is the way everyone sees it. During this stage the blossoming of oral language, memory and imagination also occurs. The third stage, labeled concrete operational stage, continues on into the ages of seven and into eleven. A dramatic change in how a child thinks happens at this time. One begins to think in a more logical fashion. Piaget rounds out his stages with the final one named the formal operational stage. The formal operational stage refers to the ability to master abstract thoughts and symbols relationally are the premise of this stage. Very few people will ever reach this part of Piaget's Cognitive Theory. Those who do are also able to process scenarios that may occur (McDevitt, and Ormrod, 2006).
Breaking cognitive development into stages was a process that Vygotsky disagreed with. He thought there to be no stages at all as well as no time frame in which they are expected to occur. He had different components to his ideologies in reference to development, like the use of private speech. Private speech, put simply, is the practice of talking to oneself. He asserted that this process contributed to a child's problem solving skills, as the child would talk it out to himself before acting. Private speaking might become less of a prevalent aspect over time but is never fully outgrown. Next, Vygotsky focuses on the zone of proximal development. This form of development refers to things a child may no be able to do on their own right away but in time will. Vygotsky firmly asserted it was imperative for a child to work within his zone in order to achieve maximum learning (Van deer Ver, 2008). The final key to Vygotsky's theory lies in the term scaffolding. Using encouragement and assistance by way of advice is how scaffolding is defined. Hints and pointers are employed by an influential presence in a child's life who has already mastered these concepts like self regulating or problem solving (Mcdevitt & Ormrod, 2006).
Cognitive theories, like the ones developed by Piaget and Vygotsky have been put into practice by teachers, educators, and therapist alike for years. Both theories are valid, plausible and easily can be put into practice, especially in a class room. For example, Piaget's preoperational phase is dominant in a kindergarten classroom, where five year olds reign. Piaget's phase states that child is egocentric in his thinking. This can be portrayed in a simple scene taken from a child's recess time. One child loves hide and seek. They play it as a family quite frequently at home. The rules at home dictate one must count to 20 but another student argues that is not right. But the first child insist since this is the iron-clad rule because he assumes if he thinks its played that way, everyone does, thus personifying the preoperational phase. Similarly, Vygotsky's theories are also plausible. A good example can be found in a second grade classroom. No two children think alike is a given for they all develop on different levels. Like, some children have mastered simple arithmetic, where as others struggle with the concept. One way to lend assistance would be through the use of math manipulative, like candy. It would hold the attention of those who understand that while further assisting those who haven't.
Cognitive development has shaped the way an educator approaches a student. Piaget and Vygotsky have given one peek into the developmental minds of a child. Without these theories, an educator's influence may not be as effectively utilized like it should.
Van Der Veer, R. (2008). Lev Vygotsky: continuum library of educational thought. Continuum.
McDevitt, T, & Ormrod, J.E. (2006). Child development and education. New York: Prentice Hall.
Huitt, W., & Hummel, J. (2003). Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved 09/18/2010 from http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/cogsys/piaget.html