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Compare Vygotsky's and Piaget's Approaches to Cognitive Development.

  • Date Submitted: 03/06/2011 08:45 AM
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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 create a castle out of the pieces. The way in which the adult guides the child in the situation is known as scaffolding. On the other hand, Piaget proposed that we will construct schemas which provide the basis to objects and events. For example, a child will have a sucking schema and knows the basic concept to getting a drink from an object, yet in order to account for different environmental changes; they will have to adapt the schema to their environment through processes known as assimilation and accommodation. Piaget also suggested stages which are related to cognitive development, for example a child will develop object permanence towards the end of the sensorimotor stage at around 2 years of age.

However, a significant criticism of Piaget’s theories comes from contradictory evidence such as that conducted by Baillargeon (1985) which demonstrates that children as young as 5 months could show an understanding of object permanence outlining limitations of Piaget’s theory as the stages appear to be too rigid, and that he under estimated children. This gives Vygotsky’s theory has an advantage as it can explain how we can show evidence of different cognitive processes at different ages through the idea of learning through scaffolding and social interaction.

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