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Compare And Contrast Piaget And Vygotsky Education Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 2075 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Research into the way a person learns can be explained by looking at the psychological perspective. Cognitive development is concern with the ways in which children’s thinking develops in stages of life to adulthood. One of the most well known researches that can be applied to today is Piaget. This can be compared and contrast to Vygotsky’s theory however it can contradict against behaviourlist psychologist who say child’s knowledge is due to reinforcement or punishment. This essay will compare and contrast Piaget to Vygotsky and the application it has to education, with reference to strength and weaknesses.

Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who provided a highly influential theory of cognitive development. Piaget was struck by the fact that younger children gave different answers than other children, not because they were less intelligent but because they were interpreting the questions differently. Piaget saw children as scientists, and the believed they should learn by themselves.

Piaget believed that the child’s knowledge of the world is organised into schemas, structured patterns of knowledge and action. From birth the child has action schemas, enabling the child to know the world through acting upon it. During the 2nd year, the child begins to think about actions, and mental schemas develop. At all times, the child is motivated to keep their schemas organised, to incorporate new experiences into existing schemas, and to develop new schemas. Piaget considers we are innately programmed to adapt to our environment.

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Piaget used the term adaptation, to refer to the way the child learns as a result to their encounters and interactions with their environment. Adaptation takes 2 possible forms, Assimilation; this is when the child learns something that readily slots into their existing schemas. Accommodation is when the child has to change their existing schemas in order to take in a new experience. A schema allows an individual to make sense of the world as scheme are experiences, memory and information. This shows that cognitive development in a child is the process of revising knowledge to fit the ideas into this world. Another important point in Piaget’s theory is the existence of a third functional invariant called equilibration to keep the whole system in balance. Any changes in any part of the system will cause imbalance or disequilibrium. Equilibration keeps assimilation and accommodation in balance. Piaget developed a model of self – regulating interaction which showed a link between the nature of the physical and social environment with the child’s cognitive structure.

Piaget’s view is that cognitive development happens in stages, and at each stage the child recognises the way they think. Piaget identified 4 stages of cognitive development. Stage 1 is the ‘sensorimotor stage’ from birth to 2 years. This is when the child knows the world initially through sensation and action. Piaget studied the sensorimotor phase by observing his own children. There are 2 principle features of this stage. First, those children develop object permanence, the realisation that objects exist permanently even when the child cannot see them. Second, is action schemas, by which the child knows the world through sensation and action, are supplemented and superseded by mental representations. Piaget divided the sensorimotor phase into 6 sub-stages. However, not everyone agreed with Piaget’s claim about object permanence. Bower (1981) showed that if an object disappeared behind a screen and then the screen was lifted, babies as young as 5 months would show surprise if the object was not there. This suggests that they did except the object to be there. However, the issue is not so much at what age these changes occur, but that they could occur and Bower’s evidence merely suggests that Piaget may have underestimated what infants could do.

The ‘pre-operational stage’ (2-7 years) is when the children understand the world through visual appearances and non-logical assumption. From the age of about 2 years, children have mental schemas and can symbolise objects and actions in the mind as representational thought. Thought can be expressed through fantasy, play, language and drawing. Piaget divided the pre-operational Piaget divided the pre-operational stage into 2 sub stages, the preconception stage- from 2-4 years and the intuitive stage- from 4-7 years. In the pre-conceptual phase, children’s grasp of concepts is vague. They may, for example, think that if a dog is small enough it becomes a cat. Egocentrism is perhaps the most serious limitation in pre-operational children’s thinking. Typically, preoperational children said that the scene would look just the same as from their own viewpoint

The next stage is the ‘concrete operational stage’ (7-11 years), the child develops a degree of logic and reason, but is limited to practical problems and specific examples. Children develop mental operations Egocentrism is left behind, children become decentred, and they master principles of classification and class inclusion, and eventually full conversation of volume, number and quality. Their understanding of the world is fact-based and practical rather than theoretical.

The last stage is the formal ‘operational stage’ (11 years), the child achieves mature thinking and is capable of abstract theorising and scientific reasoning therefore they are fully developed by the age of 15. Formal operational adolescents are scientific in their thinking, use abstract logical reasoning and theorising, make hypotheses and test them systematically, and deduce conclusions from premises. At this stage, language plays an important role in thinking, and this means that instruction can play a more direct role than in earlier stages.

There are weaknesses to this theory. Piaget underestimated the age at which children could so things- this may be because he failed to distinguish between competence (what a child is capable of doing) and performance (how a child performs on a particular task). Piaget’s studies tested performance and then he assumed that a child who failed simply lacked underlying cognitive structures, that he believed were needed to succeed on that task.

Piaget underplayed the role of language and social factors in cognitive development. In an earlier experiment she found that children who were non-conservers differed in terms of the language they used from children classed as conservers. Non-conservers mainly used absolute rather than comparative terms and single term for different dimensions such as ‘small’ to mean ‘short’, ‘thin’, or ‘few’. These findings suggest that cognitive and linguistic development is tied together, but which comes first despite many shortcomings, the strengths of Piaget’s approach and theory should not be overlooked. Piaget produced the first comprehensive theory of children’s cognitive development. The theory has been more extensively developed than any other. It has changed our ideas about children and has had a general influence on educational practice. Like all good theories, it has also generated research.

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Vygotsky development is a social process which contributes to the cognitive development through social interaction. Vygotsky (1935- 1978) “through social interactions with more experienced and knowledgeable member of society – parent, teacher…- children are able to acquire the knowledge and skills that culture deems to be important.” Vygotsky believed that culture teach people how to think as well as what to think as he put a lot of emphasis on practical way of learn and remembering. He used the expression zone of proximal development (ZPD) to express the area between the level of performance a child can learn alone and of which the child can achieve with someone with knowledge’s help. Vygotsky believed that children cannot be accelerated beyond this zone. Therefore children learn little when left alone to struggle but neither do they learn when someone takes over their task. The term scaffolding can be used to express how a child learns according to Vygotsky. This can be defined as support frame work for children’s learning. When the child becomes more capable and confident a gradual withdrawal of help with scaffolding is an important aspect. Roger (1990) argue “children become better problem solver if they practise solving problems with their parent or more experience children.”

Vygotsky further believes that language is important; the use of speech influences their cognitive development. In early days, children talk to themselves when playing; this is referred as ‘private speech’. Berk (1994) demonstrate that private speech is important as it a child would use it more when doing a difficult task compare to a easier one. Piaget notice this as well and referred to this as ‘egocentric speech’, because of the inability at pre school level to think from another perspective, in comparison Vygotsky state children talk to themselves in power to help them with their level of behaviour, and how to reflect and organise their behaviour in certain situation.

Like Piaget, Vygotsky believe children are active in their own learning, by exploring their environment which helped shape their own knowledge. Vygotsky theory can be applied to education as it is concern how a child is taught. Vygotsky emphasized that the most important force into a child development was the social environment unlike Piaget theory of development heavily focus on the evolutionary biology.

Both psychologists took notice in children pretend playing and becoming roles of people in society. Vygotsky however noticed that pretend play places the children in a zone of proximal development in which the play in advance of their real capabilities as they take the role as doctors, parents, teachers, as pretend play is based on rules. This guide behaviour in these roles, indirect they learn norms of society and how people expect them to act.The main difference between both psychologist is the degree social and interpersonal interaction causes development.

Piaget idea had a huge influence on British education. The Ploweden report was an prominent, influential and emphasised many of Piagetian principles such as development age, readiness and the developmental stages. This document was published in 1967 and principles it brought to education was that children should discover for themselves and being active learner. Teachers role if to ask question and provide material to provide the children in state of disequilbration that enable them to modify their schema. Piaget theory suggests child centre learning, as all children mature at different rates, this help create small group activity and different children learn in different way.

Vygotsky’s theory has high implication for education; especially in the recent years as he stresses out the importance of social interaction with more experienced others as an essential, as education was a fundamental aspect of human development. Peer tutoring is a key concept as children learn little when on their own or from a teacher who so advance, but rather with children a year or two ahead of those being taught. This is seen to be scaffolding. The zone of proximal development helps as a guide to help children achieve according to their abilities. Finally as Piaget influences argues children should be ‘active learner’, Vygotsky believes children should learn through play, especially through role plays as children operate beyond their usual level of thinking.

To conclude, both theories have an effect to education and different ways of learning to a certain extent, however they are both different in a significant way even though there are similarity such as a strong debate between nature and nurture. How this can be seen to an advantage as both theories put together help each other to explain cognitive education biological and environmental influences. As Vygotsky overemphasised the role of social factor, Piaget overestimated the difference between stages.


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