Outline the main similarities and differences between Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s explanations for cognitive development in children.
Piaget and Vygotsky were both, looking into the same period of cognitive development in infants and children and sharing the same basic concerns. Piaget (1896-1980) developing his theory slightly earlier than Vygotsky (1896-1934) who worked to show that there were certain flaws in Piaget's theory of genetic epistemology. Vogotsky and his social-cultural theory of cognitive development might be seen as the Soviet counterpart to Piaget's western individualist perspective. Piaget focused on cognitive development as essentially egocentric, Vygotsky challenged this with the idea of the individual as being a product of their social and cultural, environment. They are each however, highly influential contributors to the field of child cognitive development, both working within the realm of classical constructivist theories of cognitive development. However they reach different almost diametrically opposing conclusions regarding the cognitive development in children.
Piaget's studies of child behaviour were essentially observational made at his Centre of Genetic Epistemology. Piaget observed that children behaved in similarly ways to those in at similar ages. (Martin at al. 2009, P. 61) and made comparable mistakes. Piaget understood this to mean and in fact concluded from his observations, that children progress through a series of predefined developmental stages, highlighting the importance of actions and problem solving in a process of assimilation and accommodation of new schemata and concepts. The child moving from disequilibrium into equilibrium as new schema are assimilated and in time accommodated. Piaget referred to this as 'cognitive equilibrium'. (Martin et al. 2009 P. 61) He considered learning to be a solitary personal process. Whereby each child might pass through a series of cognitive developmental stages. The period of each stage is fairly static and the child is held there for the duration of it's completion. There not being much variation between children and no overlapping. This progression passes through four universal stages: Sensory motor, Pre-operational, Concrete Operational and Formal Operational.
Vygotsky looking into the same period of development as Piaget and seeking to counter Piaget's essentially individualist theory, placed his research into a social and historical context. He emphasized the importance of social interaction in human development. (O’Hara, 2007 ch. 34 p. 241) Examining the processes of affiliation, play, learning and peer influences, Voygotsky highlighted the importance of social interaction in the development of higher mental skills.
Pieget and Vygotsky where deeply concerned with what drives development. For Piaget it was the individuals natural maturation and the conflict caused between the assimilation and accommodation process. Whereas for Vygotsky learning was motivated by the enjoyment of the environmental experience, play and interaction. Wishing to discover the source of cognition, they both looked at the child's self role and the extend to which the child is an active player in her own development. Piaget felt that the child was in essence a 'lone scientist' exploring the world, passing from stage to stage, organizing schema to maintain equilibrium. For Vygotsky she was a product of interaction with her environment, developing understanding and knowledge through 'interactive feedback' in the 'Zone of Proximal Development' within the dialectical model, “Dialogues”. Both Vygotsky and Piaget had the common goal of finding out how children develop ideas and translate them into speech.
Piaget was keen to show that the child's development was predetermined by universal cognitive structures and that this was the same for all children, independent of environment and culture. For Vygotsky cognitive development was very much about...
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