Compare and contrast the Piagetian and Vygotskian constructivism. Describe the targeted behaviors of assessment when adopting each theoretical framework.
To best compare Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky’s methods of constructivism we need to establish what their theories were and their foundations. Jean Piaget is best known for his stages of development. Piaget “saw children as constructors of their own knowledge, taking information from the people and objects in their environment and making meaning from them” (Aubrey & Riley, 2019). He saw the child as observing the world around them, processing the experiences they have, and then building their knowledge based off of those experiences. Piaget identified assimilation and accommodation as the processes in which human beings are able to transform their experiences into knowledge or in other words, construct their knowledge foundations and build upon them. When students are unfamiliar with a new experience they are in a state of disequilibrium and try to achieve a state of equilibrium by assimilating or accommodating the new experience. His stages of development were the sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage and formal operational stage. The sensorimotor stage began as soon as the child was born and extended until the age of two. This stage focused on the child’s development of their senses as well as movement. Preoperational stage occurred during the ages of two and seven years old and this stage focused on the child recognizing their limitations and required constant stimulation in order to learn. The concrete operational stage happened between the ages of seven and twelve and is where the child “is able to perform more complex mental operations” (Aubrey & Riley, 2019). The final stage of Piaget’s development is the formal operation. This stage occurs between the ages of twelve and nineteen. The students are able to capitalize on their mental processes and require less physical stimulus to solve problems or understand abstract situations. Piaget ultimately believed a child would benefit best from independent analyzation of the world around them. Vygotsky conversely supported the idea of social interactions being the best way for a child to learn. Lev Vygotsky held and supported the belief that social constructivism “which stresses the significance of both culture and environment in the way in which we understand the world around us” is how we should expect a student or child to learn and grow (Aubrey & Riley, 2019). Vygotsky also proposed that play is one of the most important factors for a student to establish and grow their intelligence. He also came up with the zone of proximal development (ZPD) which identifies the differences between how a child or student can learn, whether that be alone or with help from a teacher or another adult (Aubrey & Riley, 2019). Piaget and Vygotsky have the similarity of that they both wanted the educational field to recognize how active the learning environment should be in order to better help students to succeed. Piaget’s theory was focused more so on identifying the age of the student and proceeding with their education from that point whereas Vygotsky wanted to assist the students by exploring how their social interactions could help their development. Piagetian and Vygotskian constructivism can be combined to identify a learner’s cognitive and social attributes to promote their educational career. The targeted behaviors of assessment when adopting Piaget’s theories would be to identify the student’s level and where they are at in his stages of development. Depending on where an educator is would determine where their assessment should be. Formal assessments would not seem to accommodate the Piagetian constructivism but summative assessments throughout the school year would better help the educator understand the student’s progress. Vygotskian is similar in the assessment style due to how heavily dependent on the students’ social interactions applying to the students’ learning.
Aubrey, K., & Riley, A. (2019). Understanding & using educational theories. London: Sage Publications.
Laura wants to be a scientist and fight for climate change in the future, thanks to the youth ranger program she participated in for many summers at Big Bend National Park. She has a vague idea of what it takes to be a scientist: go to college (start with a community college and then transfer maybe?), choose a STEM major, work hard and get a 4.0 GPA (is that really necessary? What about a 3.5?), and maybe graduate school. However, as a ninth grader, she is not very sure about it. No one in her family has attended college. Sometimes she thinks math is boring. Science class is much more fun, but her classmates always call her a nerd (especially when she puts on her safety goggles). And think about that many years of schooling she needs to take (and the teasing she may have to tolerate); she feels frustrated from time to time. Fortunately, she keeps a 3.8 GPA, all teachers like her, and she does not have to worry about her next meal. If you are Laura’s teacher or parent (pick one) and learn about Laura’s challenges, how would you help her? Integrate two of the following theories and develop a set of intervention strategies including 1) conceptualization of the problems at hand, 2) goal(s) of intervention, 3) a brief intervention plan, and 4) a brief evaluation plan. Discuss how the theories shape your plan.
- Self-determination theory
- Expectancy-value theory
- Growth mindset
- Self-regulated learning
Taking the viewpoint from a teacher to Laura, I would help her by helping her gain some perspective and drive to pursue her goals. Laura has a vision of what she would like to accomplish with her post-secondary education but does not necessarily understand what that entails or how to attain her goals. Oddly enough Laura reminds me of my own pathway to where I am now. My parents did not necessarily push me towards a collegiate pathway and instead made it seem as if I was made to get married and be a homemaker. I had always found the idea of college intimidating and had no idea where to begin. When I showed interest in pursuing higher education my parents stated that if I would like to do that I would need to figure it out by myself and pay for it myself. I eventually was able to figure out where to begin and chose a science degree (geoscience to be exact). All of that to say that I wish I had a mentor of some sort to help guide me and push me to understand how important things like GPA and self-discipline are important to achieving a successful education. Laura’s personal needs are met, such as having her meals consistently provided, and the self-determination theory is when people, like Laura, feel as if their personal needs are met “tend to perceive their actions and choices to be intrinsically motivated” (pg 126). Laura is somewhat motivated but seems to require more outside motivation in order to better achieve her goals. She is allowing her peers’ opinions of her excitement for science to affect her motivations and goals. Laura would seem to benefit from utilizing the growth mindset and instead of seeing college as a maybe, changing that mindset to a definite. As her teacher I would help her identify the colleges that would best help her continue her dream of becoming a climate change scientist. At the early stage of the growth mindset the learner “may not have fixed mindsets in every context of their lives; they may believe that they can grow in one area of learning but not another” (Robins, 2012: 54) and this is evident by Laura’s belief that she is not good at math but is obviously excelling in her science classroom. Her mindset towards math should be addressed and reset to believe that if she applies herself she can excel at that content as well. The problems at hand are Laura’s lack of confidence for herself and her future. We would need to set out some goals and provide more guidance for what college entails and how to achieve that goal. Her idea of starting at a community college and transferring is definitely a good idea but would need to be followed. This is what I did when I began my college career and ended up spending more years than I would like to admit at the community college level achieving the minimum and working full time. The goals of her intervention would be to help her recognize the steps to obtaining a college degree and becoming a scientist focusing on climate change. We could sit down and research what types of science degrees would best align with her goals and aspirations. The brief intervention plan would be to identify the areas where she might achieve better grades. For example, if she is finding math boring perhaps changing the mindset and identifying ways to find math more interesting. One reason could be that she is not pushing herself or is in a classroom that is teaching to a lower level than she should be taught at. The evaluation plan would consist of setting goals (set by Laura) and setting future dates to evaluate where her plan is and perhaps adapting some of the goals. Laura is a freshman and has four years to get her goals aligned with what she would like to achieve in life.
- Robins, G. (2012) Praise, Motivation and the Child. London: Routledge.
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