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Piaget and Vygotsky were both important contributors to the cognitive development theory. Both Piaget and Vygotsky were thought of as constructivists. Constructivists believe that learning is affected by the manner in which an idea is taught as well as by the student's attitudes and beliefs toward it. Piaget and Vygotsky shared the similarity that they believed cognitive growth was established by different societal influences. This is where the similarities of the two really stopped.
The major ideas of Piaget and Vygotsky's theory were different on the development of intelligence. Piaget believed that the development of intelligence came from involvement. Piaget believed that children would learn through interacting with things around them. He believed that the learning would take place after development had occurred. Vygotsky felt that learning happens before development can occur and that children learn because of history and symbolism (slavin, 2003, p.30, 43). He also believed that most children value the responses that they receive from their surrounding and from others they are around. Piaget didn't believe that input of others was very important.
Piaget's theory of cognitive development consists of four different stages. The first stage he refers to is the sensor motor stage. The stage likely occurs between birth and two years. In the beginning of this stage children rely totally on reflexes such as sucking and rooting. Children will learn to crawl and walk during this stage. Physical activity is where most knowledge is learned at this stage. The preoperational stage is the second part. This occurs between the ages of two and seven years. It is this stage that children believe that everyone thinks exactly like themselves. The use of language, memory and imagination grows rapidly during this time. This stage is like Vygotsky's repertoire of play and his belief, "The process of trying to communicate with others results in the development of word meanings that then for the structures of consciousness."(slavin, 2003, p.30, 43) The concrete operational stage is Piaget's third stage. This happens between the ages of seven and eleven years. Children experience a major change in the way they think. Thinking becomes more realistic during this stage. The last step to Piaget's theory of cognitive development is the formal operational stage. It has been determined that only a small percentage of people will ever achieve formal operational thought (slavin, 2003, p.30, 43). This stage contains those who have the ability to achieve abstract thought. This includes the ability to complete complex problems in different subjects. It is during this stage that you learn to process hypothetical situations. I have described Piaget's four stages of cognitive development. While Piaget theory has the four stages I have discussed, Vygotsky alleged that there are not exact stages at all to his theory. The first point of Vygotsky's theory is talking to oneself. He said this kind of private speech was important because it helped children in thinking through a problem and reaching a decision. This type of private speech will eventually internalize as one grows but it never completely goes away. The second aspect of Vygotsky's theory is the zone of proximal development. This is referred to as the level of development immediately above a person's current level. This consists of many things that children might not be able to do by themselves, but are close to achieving it. Vygotsky felt it was extremely important to work in the zone proximal development to achieve maximum learning (slavin, 2003, p.30, 43). Piaget and Vygotsky were very different and there aren't that many similarities to discuss. Both of them did believe that the stages of development occurred in different phases. Piaget believed in four stages and Vygotsky believed in 3 phases.
Teachers and classrooms have been using the cognitive development theories of Piaget and Vygotsky for quite some time now. Piaget views children in the preoperational stage and therefore they tend to be somewhat egocentric. A possible application from Piaget's view would consist of where you would sit down with preschool children and talk with them about their own views. Preschool children would believe they only view things that way. During class a child might bring in a ball to share. One child in the classroom might believe that a ball brought in to share is better to roll, while another child may feel it is better suited for throwing. In this situation neither child is actually wrong. The ball can be used for both actions. If Vygotsky were to demonstrate this lesson in a classroom, he would want this activity to be done in a group for social learning. Vygotsky believed that one learns from peers therefore he would want this to be a social learning event. Piaget within this lesson would focus more on the individual and not what the student could learn from another child.
I have identified the cognitive development theory and the roles that Piaget and Vygotsky have in this theory. This theory is very important in how children learn and think. Both theorists offer us some incredible insight on how children learn. With this information it is possible for a teacher to create a more productive learning environment for each child.