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Compare Vygotsky's And Piaget's Approaches To Cognitive Development

1104 words - 5 pages

Vygotsky suggests that cognitive development occurs as a result of social influence due to the inheritance of cultural tools and learning from others through scaffolding. An opposing view is that of Piaget who proposed learning is construed through adapting schemas and a stage theory in which a child has to be biologically ready in order to develop cognitive abilities.

Vygotsky proposed a zone of proximal development which refers to the area between what a child is able to accomplish by them self and what they can do with the aid of another, such as a parent. For example, a child can play with Lego just joining the pieces together, but with the aid of an adult they would be able to ...view middle of the document...

A similarity between both theories is that both can be applied to educational contexts and have had contributions to improving the quality of learning. Piaget can be applied through discovery learning, the idea that a child learns better as a result of independent exploration of their environment whereas Vygotsky can be applied through guided participation and having another person aid a child when learning, for example a teacher. Although Piaget had an impact on the approach to education in schools, a limitation is that if a child has no input from another individual, they may be unable to understand more complex ideas therefore their development could be compromised, this gives Vygotsky’s’ theory an advantage as it outlines how important aid from another is when learning and has been shown by Hedegaard (1996) who investigated working within the zone of proximal development with Danish primary school children. The children were presented three interrelated topics and were presented through various interactional methods such as group discussions. The findings were that the children were successful when answering questions, which provides strong support for applying Vygotsky’s theories to education. However, as the sample only consisted of Danish primary children and therefore lacks external validity and cannot be effectively generalised to other populations.

Another advantage that the theories of Vygotsky have over Piaget is that they aren’t culturally specific, whereas Piaget’s theories are westernised and cannot account for other cultures. This was demonstrated by Gladwin who conducted a study on Polynesian children and found they could display complex cognitive processes such as navigating from the stars yet failed to understand conservation etc, whereas according to Piaget they should have had an understanding. Vygotsky’s theories can account for this as the children may have learned such difficult tasks through social interaction and the inheritance of cultural tools, therefore showing a particular strength of the theory as it can be applied to cultures outside of westernised society.

Another weakness is Piaget’s theory is reductionist and only explains development in terms of innate and maturation factors. He ignored the importance of the social and cultural contexts which a child is exposed to during development. This gives Vygotsky an advantage as he does...

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