A Study of the theories of Piaget vs. Vygotsky

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"Cognition refers to how one builds knowledge or the process of knowing, which includes ways of perceiving, and organizing information that one incorporates on building knowledge. " (Powell, 2006)

This paper will compare and contrast the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky.

Piaget and Vygotsky both played an important role in developing a sound scientific approach to examining the cognitive development process of the child active construction of knowledge. As similar as their theories were, there were a few major differences. First I will discuss Piaget.

Jean Piaget was a French scientist and philosopher dedicated to understanding how individuals gains knowledge. He studied the cognitive function of adolescents and came to the conclusion that each one of us were born with certain tendencies: thinking, organizing, into their own psychological schemas. He realized children use the concepts they store on an individual basis. They also interpret the information they store in order to make sense of their world. Piaget believed children were like "little scientists" gathering data, processing, and making sense of the information. (Powell, 2006) Piaget believed that kids develop in 4 major stages related to ego and selfcentered tendencies and motives. The bold terms explain Piagets' terms regarding children that are going through this development process. Equilibrationinvolves a cognitive conflict and happens when children roatate from one stage to another. There is a state of disequilibrium when there is a mental unbalance while they try to make sense and conflict resolution is occuring. Assimilation happens when students take new knowledge learned into their scemas that are alredy in place. Piaget studied children and created these 4 cognitive stages. He firmly believed in these stages and that children go through them.

Stage 1 - Sensorimotor stage (0-2 years)- Children develop from from their instinctual self-discovery stage from birth to the beginning of symbolic thought (until the end of this stage.

Stage 2- Pre operational Stage (2-7 years) - Children are egocentric and begin to develop language but overlook the point of view of others. This stage can be divided in 2 sub-stages symbolic functioning and intuitive thought.

Stage 3- Concrete Operational Stage- (7-11 years) - Reasonable concrete thoughts replace intuitive thoughts.

Stage 4- Formal Operational Stage - (11 years to adult) - Problem solving occurs stemming from a logical concrete view. This is a form of egocentrism.

In contrast to Piaget, Vygotsky a Russian psychologist and philosopher, who was best known for being a social constructivist appeared with a fresh take on the cognitive constructivist theory. He believed higher functioning in people came out of social processes. This is also known as culture. Vgotsky believed there were three ways a cultural process can be passed on from one person to another. The first is imitating, the second is instructed learning, and the last is collaborative learning. In a nut shell Vgotsky 's theory is development depends on social interaction with people and the means culture arms them with to help them form their view of the world! Vygotsky did not believe in the stages of development Piaget developed. This is a major difference. He thoughrt that a pedagogy creates and stimulates the learning process. The second element in Vgotsky's theory is the zone of proximal development. (ZPD) In order for ZPD to be successful 2 main components must be present. The first one is subjectivity and the second one is scaffolding.If scaffolding is productive a child can reach a higher level and eventually master a skill. Four main principles make up the Vgotsky's theories:

Children construct their knowledge .

Development cannot be separated from its social context

Learning can lead development

Language plays a central role in mental development

Teachers can help students create a sense of knowledge about their way of thinking or their mental processes, including the ability to understand how they can learn. An example would be a teacher's knowledge regarding their own ability to teach their content area. Teachers can apply both Piaget's and Vygotsky's theories in their classrooms in order to help their students. Both Piaget and Vygotsky's theories can be useful tools for a teacher to implement their lessons in the classroom setting. They assist teachers in understanding how children learn most effectively and achieve success in learning. Piaget's theory is very child centered and can be implemented to when and how a child is educated and in what manner. The role of the teacher is a facilitator they should not micromanage the students or their work, instead they should evaluate their level and set appropriate assignments. An example would be to give quizzes at different intervals to evaluate the progress of your students and then set assignments to address any problems. Vygotsky's theories can be worked into the curriculum in order to implement the Zone of Proximal Development for each individual child in your class. It can also be utilized for groups of students. Cooperative learning can also be implemented in the class with groups of students who are at different levels allowing them to work together in order to help each other. Scaffolding can be applied in the class by having the child in his or her ZPD in which the teacher only provides clues and prompts at different levels the teacher does not simplify the task at hand but role of the learner is simplified through a progressive intervention of the teacher.

In conclusion both Piaget and Vygotsky both have valid theories about how children learn. These theories determine how and at what time children learn in the classroom. Piaget developed and believed individuals learn through stages. Vygotsky did not believe in stages but believed in Zone of Proximal Development. In my opinion if their theories are not implemented in the classroom it would be a great detriment to the students!

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