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Compare and Contrast Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s Theories of Cognitive Development
The field of Cognitive Development focuses on the way in which individuals acquire knowledge and understanding about the world around them over the life course (Gazzaniga & Heatherton, 2003). The following outlines two major theories in this realm, namely Jean Piaget’s stage theory of cognitive development, and Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of cognitive development.
Piaget emphasised developmental changes in the organisation of children’s thinking processes and the ways that differences in these structures are reflected in children’s learning at different ages. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory suggests that a child’s level of competence interacts with her social environment producing advances in thinking and understanding (Hetherington & Parke, 1999). This essay seeks to compare and contrast both of these theories in terms of constructivism and socio-cultural context, key processes, role of language, views on education and teaching implications.
Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
Constructivism and Sociocultural Context
The essence of Piaget’s developmental theory is that intellectual development can only be accounted for by considering the dynamic and continuous interaction of child and environment (Schaffer, 2004). Piaget did not believe that a sociocultural context was important in terms of development. He viewed development as coming from the child’s ’inner maturational promptings’ or ‘spontaneous discoveries’ (Crain, 2000). In essence he viewed the child as an isolated unit whose cognitive development wasn’t contingent on cultural or societal influences.
Piaget adopted a cognitive constructionist approach. He believed that children are active seekers of knowledge. Rather than waiting passively to seek out information from their environments they continuously and actively seek out information and adapt it to knowledge they...