The Cognitive Development of Vygotsky and Piaget

Essay details

Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

Download PDF

Piaget and Vygotsky had different perspectives when it came to cognitive development for children in early and middle childhood. Piaget’s theory centered on the self-constructed knowledge and this foundation for knowledge was led through the child’s exploration. Piaget had the perspective that development was universal, but some research on sociocultural perspectives has seen otherwise. Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development focused on learning as a social process and is socially generated out of interactions with more knowledgeable others whether that be peers or adults. In early to middle childhood, Piaget would say a child would make the transition from the preoperational stage to the concrete operational stage. In the preoperational stage egocentrism is apparent, dual-representation isn’t clear, and the ability to do conservation tasks is not yet learned. In the concrete operational stage of middle childhood, the child has made gains in logic and spatial reasoning. This stage shows that the ability to view other’s perspectives and dual representation has been learned. What is also seen in this Piagetian stage is that concrete information can be processed apart from abstract ideas. The development of cognitive skills through Vygotsky can be attributed to the support and guidance of someone more knowledgeable. This guided process through scaffolding and the zone of proximal development in the social world is the mechanism that aids a child in the cognitive development process.

Essay due? We'll write it for you!

Any subject

Min. 3-hour delivery

Pay if satisfied

Get your price

In early childhood, the child is egocentric. The child cannot think of others outside of themselves. An example of this would be an experiment on spatial perspective. This experiment on perspective-taking would ask the child to identify how the area would look to the doll on a mountain diorama. A child that is in Piaget’s preoperational stage would show egocentrism in this experiment by responding in their point of view regardless of where the doll was located. The idea of dual representation isn’t clear during the preoperational stage. The idea of an object having a symbolic function and an objective function isn’t quite clear. Deloatch (1997) explained, “Having two active representations of a single entity is generally difficult for young children (Zelazo & Frye, 1997, as cited by Deloache, 1997)”. “Because of their relatively limited experience with symbolic artifacts, young children are generally less sensitive than older individuals to the possibility that a novel entity has symbolic import, that is more than an object in and of itself” (Deloache, 1997). This ability to perceive other’s perspectives and represent a single entity as symbolic and its function were not yet gained. In middle childhood, the child ages seven to eleven enters Piaget’s concrete operational stage. This stage can be characterized as the ability to maintain concrete operations such as spatial reasoning and thinking processes that are now two-sided. During this stage, the child’s thinking and reasoning become more logical and organized. In conservation tasks in early childhood, the child is unable to think in this way and cannot accurately answer the conservation questions, whereas in the concrete operational stage a child can identify and process the conservation task. Although the ability to work through a conservation task has been learned, the idea of abstract reasoning isn’t yet mastered.

In middle adulthood, cognitive development has transitioned on to taking on the perspectives of others and taking on symbolic objects and perceiving it outside of their normal function. The ideas of dual representation have taken perspective, and the ability to view different viewpoints has developed. Vygotsky’s theory in the development of these cognitive abilities arises from the concepts of scaffolding and the zone of proximal development. The difference between Paget’s and Vygotsky’s theory is that Piaget believed that cognitive development was universal and when the child reaches their maturational timetable their biological motivation makes this learning possible. Vygotsky, on the other hand, viewed the social world as a mechanism for cognitive development. Vygotsky explained his theory of scaffolding as a more knowledgeable person guiding a child in developing their cognitive skills. This method of scaffolding could work by a more knowledgeable adult asking questions and leading the child in the right direction to figure out the task on their own while offering a sense of guidance and support. This differs from Piaget’s perspective because Piaget argued that children do not need the guidance of others but just need their exploration to activate and explore their world. The zone of proximal development contributes to Vygotsky’s idea that there is a “zo-pad” this zone of proximal development is the difference between a child’s independence in problem-solving, and the actual development under the supervision of a more knowledgeable person would guide their problem solving through collaboration. This zone must be in the realm of the child’s capabilities but also not easy enough where they could do it themselves. This balance will aid the child in the correct direction of cognitive development.

In the context of school in middle childhood, the theories of both Piaget and Vygotsky are evident. In a Vygotsky inspired classroom, teachers are partners in a child’s learning. The zone of proximal developmental occurs in activities such as gardening, and the child must actively participate in the project in small groups. Piaget’s theory on cognitive development can be seen through the Montessori method. In this type of nontraditional classroom, children are guided by their sense of discovery. In this specialized learning area, the children are self-motivated and can go out and venture on their own. These types of learning can aid in cognitive development through Vygotsky’s social processing and interaction and Piaget’s sense of self-motivated learning.

Piaget’s universality claim can be challenged by researchers who have found differences in terms of sociocultural perspectives on cognitive development in attention and literacy. In terms of discourse and learning, Michaels (1998) found cultural differences in classroom discourse. Micheal’s found that in terms of discourse between student and teacher was different amongst black children and white children.

This discourse is important in terms of literacy because if the acquisition of discourse isn’t gained early on this might lead to problems in literacy skills. Michaels (1981) explained, “Sharing time, then can either provide or deny access to key literacy-related experiences, depending, ironically, on the degree to which teacher and child start out ‘sharing’ a set of discourse conventions and interpretive strategies”. The differences in discourse were different due to socio-cultural differences, which isn’t consistent with Piaget’s universality claim. In Michael’s (1981) article, she found that the differences in discourse were the result of the different cultural and ethnic backgrounds of the students. “Rather, the problem appeared to relate more generally to differences in ethnic and communicative background, leading to unintentional mismatches in conversational style”. This sociocultural difference was also seen in attention skills. This research explored the serial and simultaneous attention skills in Mexican and European American children in folding origami. Correa-Chávez (2005) found that “Mexican heritage children whose mothers averaged 7 grades of school more commonly attended to events simultaneously. European heritage and Mexican heritage children whose mothers had more than 12 grades of school more commonly alternated attention”. This difference in attention has a cultural component and this variance in attention can be attributed to the child’s culture and their “observation of ongoing events” (Correa-Chávez, 2005).

The differences in theories from Vygotsky and Piaget explain how children develop cognitively throughout early and middle childhood. With Vygotsky’s method of the social process through interaction through scaffolding and the zone of proximal development cognitive development can be achieved. With Piaget, he explains cognitive development in terms of universal theoretical stages, and these are guided by a child’s self-motivation and discovery. From a cultural standpoint regarding attention and literacy, the idea of universality in cognitive development can be challenged and was done so by research on classroom discourse and the cultural variance in attention in Mexican and European children.

Get quality help now

Dr. Diane

Verified writer

Proficient in: Psychologists, Psychological Theories

4.9 (280 reviews)
“She understood my main topic well and follow the instruction accordingly. She finished the paper in a timely manner! I would definitely hire her again! ”

+75 relevant experts are online

banner clock
Clock is ticking and inspiration doesn't come?
We`ll do boring work for you. No plagiarism guarantee. Deadline from 3 hours.

We use cookies to offer you the best experience. By continuing, we’ll assume you agree with our Cookies policy.