Example Of Piaget’s Or Vygostky’s: Which Theory? Research Paper
A Research Paper
Psychology and Number
In this research paper, I will examine which theory has more relevance to a child’s cognitive development – is it Piaget’s theory about “inner timetable” or Vygotsky’s theory about the “process scaffolding”? To lay the foundation on this systematic inquiry concerning the two theories, I will present and discuss first their respective theoretical underpinnings. Then, based on my investigation, I will concur that either one or both theories can or cannot accelerate a child’s development by means of either or both processes or stages of the theories.
II. Piaget and Vygotsky’s Theories
An Overview of Piaget’s Theory
Jean Piaget’s (1896-1980), a Swiss psychologist known for his cognitive development theory in children, found out that children’s cognitive development builds on the gradual and organized unfolding of their genetic constitution in each stage in relation to their prior experiences. Genes turn on at a certain age and an atypical “leap” can result to a child’s cognitive advance, which is the case for exceptional, high achiever, gifted or savant children. Typically, however, a child’s development evidently show change at certain stages, which under Piaget’s, can be considered cultural normative universals (that is, commonalities in the development among children). For instance, during puberty, most children undergo this process of major cognitive changes.
According to Piaget’s structural-organismic perspective, all chidren go through each developmental stage. In the first or sensori-motor stage (from birth to two years of age), children are egocentric and depends mostly on their senses and motor skills to learn the permanance of objects. In the second stage or pre-operational stage (from age two to six years), children use the language that they acquired for their experience to grow more. Additionally, students use their imagination as they de-center themselves or become less egoistic. In the third stage or concrete operational stage (aged seven to 11 years), children develop objective, rational and logical interpretations through classification, conservation, inter alia. In the fourth stage or formal operational stage (12 years until adulthood), they think abstractly about broader issues (such as in politic, ethics, mathematics, etc.).
In view of the nature-nurture developmental issues, Piagetian theory focused on the interaction between children and their environment. Assimilation is innate in children and environmental influences allow for accommodation in them. Likewise, children are innately active, exploratory and curious. Also, children’s developmental changes are step-like wherein in each stage there is a complete re-organization. In addition, Piaget emphasized children’s individual characteristics in relation to the different cognitive stages over situational ones. Moreover, motivation is also innate in children such that they enjoy discovering the world. Further, Piaget claimed that all children undergo each stage, which highlighted cultural normative universals.
In line with the Piagetian terminologies, there is emphasis on organization, adaptation, assimilation, accommodation, qualitative change, egocentrism, constructivism and less flexibility among children. However, as children progress in each stage, their cognitive development levels up. Thus, beginning in organization, children’s abilities occur in predictable, regular and organized manner because of their genetic makeup and surrounding. In adaptation, children’s development is dependent on adjustments while interacting with their environment. In assimilation, children fit in new ideas into old ideas; whereas, in accommodation, they change their old ideas to suit them. Moreover, children’s development leads to qualitative change in their cognitive structure. Further, up to six years of age, children are egocentric until such time they become less egocentric (between age two to six years).
An Overview of Vygotsky’s Theory
Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), a well-renowned Russian psychologist, developed his socio-cultural theory, which emphasized the broad aspects of historical, social as well as cultural influences in children’s development. As a contextual theoretical developmental perspective, Vygotsky’s theory highlighted the significance of socio-cultural variations and the use psychological tools (such as, technology, memory aids, language).
Vygotsky focused on the process of scaffolding, wherein children interact with capable peers (for example, parents, mentors), and not on individual children. His emphasis was also on socio-cultural dyadic interaction, that is, between children and adults rather than on children themselves as they learn about society and culture. Hence, interaction between a child and mother, for instance, is more on how the former perform culturally defined action as taught by the latter.
Because children’s development is mediated by the social world, tautologically, children’s cognitive development is the result of the environment where they are in. They learn , for instance, from parents, peers and teachers the socially specific ideas, beliefs and actions. Nonetheless, Vygotsky found self-directed communication (that is, egocentrism) as being useful to children’s cognitive development. For Vygotsky, egocentrism positively impact on children’s cognitive development. After social language, children begins their self-directed communication outwardly until it is gradually internalized and subsequently abridged from six to eight years of age.
Apparently, under Vygotsky’s theory, children’s thinking vary significantly among societies and cultures, which results to extreme socio-cultural differences. All changes in children’s or people’s thinking is the result of the contribution society and culture have on them. Even as specific as play, Vygotsky thought of it as involving rules and that teaching children concepts beyond their grasp can be productive. However, children’s potential for learning new ideas should be assessed first in what Vygostky called “Zone of Proximal Development” or range of tasks learned that is dependent on prior independent or scaffolded learning before coming to the succeeding upper limit of learning another tasks.
I strongly believe that both Piaget’s “inner timetable” and Vygotsky’s process of scaffolding are equally relevent in their own ways of accelerating a child’s cognitive development because
Piaget and Vygotsky’s theory have their own strenghts and weaknesses (that is, one is more relevant over the other, and vice versa, in terms of the acceleration of children’s cognitive development). Nevertheless, at this juncture, I want to pinpoint out first that Vygotsky and Piaget’s strongest disagreement was on children way of discovering the world. For Vygotsky, children’s construction of reality is culturally defined (social constructivism) while Piaget’s is more on individual meaning-making or construction (cognitive constructivism) (Ormrod, 2011; Powell & Kalina, 2009). From here, I can say that both are relevant in accelerating a child’s development, as discussed further hereunder.
Under Vygostky’s theory, children are under the tutelage of more capable peers given their level of immaturity. They are dependent more on other people on how their succeeding learning is scaffolded using the norms and standards of society where they live. Initially, without the interaction between a child and a more capable peer, learning is less likely to advance. However, with more capable peers and the psychological tools to aid in children’s learning, learning is accelerated. However, when there are less capable peers to teach children, progress is stunted.
Compared to Piaget’s “inner timetable,” I believe it is more relevant in accelerating children’s cognitive development. First, children who go through one stage and pass it are more likely to advance to the next stage. If a child has advanced to a particular stage, inductively, s/he already passed the initial stages. Similarly, in Vygotsky’s process of scaffolding, a child’s advancement to the next stage follows from the premise that s/he has already received prior necessary support to go on to the next stage of cognitive development.
In another light or vieewpoint, Vygotsky’s process of scaffolding is more relevant when it comes to teaching children already proven and time-tested techniques, strategies, facts and other ways of learning old and new things. They can benefit more from the knowledge, skills and values of more capable peers (such as teachers) for them to accelerate more their learning. In comparison to Piaget’s inner timetable, there is fixed stage that children have to undergo. It means that a teacher, for instance, have to wait for that child’s age before accelerating children’s learning. However, as mentioned in the section on Piaget’s theory, there are exceptional children where a ‘developmental stage leap’ is possible (if and only if intended to be so by the Piagetian approach).
Thus, I believe that each theory is more relevant than its counterpart in its own ways. If Piaget does not allow exception in his theory, it is like saying that children’s development is boxed such that their learning cannot be accelerated by reason of the stage (specifically, age bracketing) where the chidlren are in. On the other hand, Vygotsky’s theory is also the same in such a way that children’s cognitive development will not accelerate unless scaffolded. It is also like claiming that children’s development will be scrawny when there is no capable peers to teach them. I disagree on both theories regarding accelerating children’s cognitive development when exceptions are not taken to be part of their perspectives.
In conclusion, no theory is more relevant than the other in their entirety. There will always be parts of a theory where it stands out than the rest, but not generally. Piaget’s “inner timetable” is more relevant when taking into consideration the normal cognitive development of children. Contrariwise, Vygostky’s “process of scaffolding” is more relevant than Piaget’s when taking into account how time-tested and proven ways could accelerate children’s learning. Nonetheless, not any of them is more relevant in their entirety when it comes to a holistic understanding concerning children’s cognitive development.
McLeod, S. (2012). Jean Piaget. Retrieved from Simply Psychology: http://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html
Ormrod, J. (2011). Educational Psychology: Developing Learners, 7th Ed. New York: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Powell, K. & Kalina, C. (2009). Cognitive and Social Constructivism: Developing Tools for an Effective Classroom. Education (130)2, 241-250.
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