JeanPiaget pioneered the theory of cognitive development and could arguably be themost influential person in this field. Thework of both Lev Vygotsky and Jerome Bruner however, has been key in thediscrediting of Piaget’s work. This is not to say that Piaget did not have ahuge influence in the field of education, many of his theories are still used throughoutthe system today. This essay will delvefurther into the views of these 3 theorists, comparing and contrasting theirbeliefs on the different factors that influence a child’s physical, cognitive,social, emotional and moral development from birth to eight years. Vygotsky’stheory stresses the importance of social interaction in the development ofcognition. He believed that community played a core part in a child’sdevelopment, through others, whether teachers or parents, passing rules andunderstandings on to a child.
“Everyfunction in the child’s cultural development appears twice, first on the sociallevel, and later on the individual level. First between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally tovoluntary attention to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All thehigher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals.”(Vygotsky,1978, p.
57)Accordingto Vygotsky, a lot of the essential learning for a child happens via socialinteraction with a ‘more knowledgeable other (MKO), this is the first of 2 coreprinciples making up his theory. Essentially, each child is an apprentice and theirteachers, parents and carers are the mentors, “children till the age of two years are influenced primarily bybiological forces and socio-cultural influences” (Gray, C., 2015 p. 92). Theimplication of a more knowledgeable other is that the ‘other’ would be ateacher, parent or carer as stated above, this, however,could also be extended to older siblings and friends, essentially anyindividual with more knowledge on the chosen subject that the leaner.
Vygotsky’ssecond principle is the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). This strongly linkswith his first principle of the More Knowledgeable Other. The ZPD refers to thedifference between what a child can learn on their own compared with what theycan learn with direction from a skilled tutor/mentor. For example, a child maybe struggling when learning to read independently, given the assistance andsupport of a mentor, teaching the child how to sound out the different wordsand use different word recognition methods, the child will develop theknowledge and ability to read.
“whata child can do with assistance today, she will be able to do by herselftomorrow”(Vygotsky,1978, p. 87)LikeVygotsky, Piaget believed that “childrenare born with basic building blocks of cognition” (Gray,C., 2015 p. 92), this entails visualrecognition, memory, attention and speed of processing. He believed that toenable a child to flourish, peer interaction was a key part of it, specificallyif they were collaborating on tasks which would implement some sort ofdisagreement. He believed that this would help the children’s communicationskills, as well as help them with their intellectual development. His view was thatpeers would be role models for each other; a more able peer could explain thetask in a simpler way, allowing the more abled peer to learn a better understandingof the task themselves. This idea is like Vygotsky’s notion of a moreknowledgeable other and his theory ofsocial interaction playing a key part in the cognitive development process.
Brunertoo, acknowledged that peer interaction was important for a child’sdevelopment, especially the social environment, and placed more of an emphasison the social nature of development that Piaget did. Piagetbelieved that children learn from birth by grasping, sucking, and shaking. Thisbelief is part of Piaget’s stages of development, all of which occur in aparticular order with the child developing via adaption, organization and throughPiaget’s creation of Schemas; essentially building blocks of intelligentbehavior, flash cards for the brain if you will, explaining the world aroundthe child, each card telling the child how to respond in certain situations andwhat to do with information presented to them. Piaget’snotion involved four stages of cognitive development: 1. Sensorimotor stage (Birth through ages 18-24 months)i.
The main goal in this stage is for the child to achieveobject permanence; the knowledge that an object still exists even after beinghidden from view. 2. Preoperational stage (18-24 months through to age 7)i. During this stage,children can begin to think about things symbolically and their thoughts willbe egocentric, “According to Piaget, theegocentric child assumes that other people see, hear, and feel exactly the sameas the child does.” (McLeod, S.
A. 2015)3. Concrete Operational stage (age 7-11 years)i. This stage is the start of a child’s logical thought, thechild should be able to figure things out in their head.4.
Formal Operational stage (age 11+ through adolescence andinto adulthood)i. The final stage, the child will begin the long transitionto adulthood, developing the ability to understand abstract concepts. Piagetdidn’t explicitly state that each stage would be reached at a certain age butmost all explanations of the stages are accompanied by the average age in whicha child is expected to reach each stage.
Brunerputs a lot of emphasis on structured interaction between the child and teacher,enabling the child to achieve specific goals, this is called scaffolding, whichis set in place to help the child learn, this is very similar to Vygotsky’szone of proximal development and in fact, Bruner used this theory as a templatefor his own model. He believed that when a child begins to learn new concepts,they require help from peers, support. Once a child has been given the correctsupport and guidance, they become more independent, gaining knowledge and skillallowing the support to be gradually removed. Bruner’stheory involved three Modes of Representation (MoR) that unlike Piaget, are notnecessarily set in age-related stages butrather coexist together. Descriptions of Bruner’s ‘MoR’ will usually provideages but the modes are only loosely sequential with each mode transitioninginto the other.
1. Enactive (0-1 years)i. This is where a child will form muscle memory, i.e.
how tohold a bottle to drink milk.2. Iconic (1-6 years)i. A child will now store information in the form of pictures.
3. Symbolic (7 years +)i. The final mode, this is where a child stores information ina new way i.e. language.”representation is the way that wemanage to keep hold of our past experiences” (Bruner, 1966, p.
11)WithPiaget’s stages, a child will experience all four stages from birth up untiladulthood, the major difference with Bruner’s theory is that although a childwill experience all stages during childhood, the child will carry and continueto use them throughout their life. UnlikePiaget and Bruner, Vygotsky did not believe that a child’s development wasreliant on ‘stages’ but that a child’s development, largely cognitive, isinfluenced by the people the child interacts with on a daily basis. Vygotskymaintained that cognitive development is different within cultures, butPiaget’s belief is that cognitive development is predominantly universal withincultures. Bruner also states that culture is a huge factor in a child’sdevelopment and also argued this saying it “shapesour thinking and manner in which we construct our understanding of ourselvesand the world in which we live” (Gray,C., 2015 p. 139) Brunerbelieved that “Cognitive growth involvesan interaction between basic human capabilities and culturally inventedtechnologies that serve as amplifiers of these capabilities”. (Saul McLeod, 2008)these technologies include computers andtelevision but also the way a culture looks at a particular event. So, althoughBruner does look at culture he does notplace as much emphasis on it as Piaget and Vygotsky.
“learning is a necessary and universal aspect of theprocess of developing culturally organized, specifically human psychologicalfunction” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 90) Accordingto Piaget, thought comes before language with the latter depending on thoughtin order to develop. Vygotsky argues that although thought and language areinitially separate functions at birth, merging later in life at around the ageof three years, the development of language and thoughtgo hand in hand. Like Vygotsky, Bruner was also a strong believer in theimportance of language, he believed languagewas crucial when dealing with theoretical topics or intangible concepts. Brunerstates that “language can code stimuliand free an individual from the constraints of dealing only with appearances,to provide a more complex yet flexible cognition.” (McLeod, S. A.
2008.) Vygotskyputs language into three different forms, social speech, private speech andinner speech. Social speech is standard external communication used to conversewith other people, this is usually the case from age two.
Private speech isaimed at the self and according to Vygotsky, serves an intellectual purpose,this is usually seen from the age of three and is considered the merging pointfor language and thought. Finally, inner speech, this is, as the name suggests,silent speech to the self: ‘Inner speech is not the interioraspect of external speech – it is a function in itself. It still remainsspeech, i.e., thought connected with words. But while in external speechthought is embodied in words, in inner speech words dies as they bring forththought. Inner speech is to a large extent thinking in pure meanings.
‘(Vygotsky, 1962, p. 149)Piagettook a different stance on private speech, he had the notion of egocentricspeech (during the preoperational stage), in Piaget’s view, egocentric speech “is a symptom of the child’s cognitiveimmaturity and it serves no communicative or developmental function.” (Tan-Niam, Carolyn. 1992, pg. 55) Vygotsky, on the other hand,believes that private speech is an important transitional period for the child,language that would be used to aid during interactions becomes a cognitiveprocess and one that eventually develops into inner speech.
As achild grows, their cognition also grows, Piaget believed that for children agedtwo to four, imaginative play is a very important part of cognitivedevelopment. During this stage the child’s thinking becomes limited, thisincludes the child’s capacity to understand the world from someone else’s pointof view and how the child feels towards an object. Vygotsky believes that achild’s development through play is achieved through things such as nurseryrhymes, music, art and fairy tales, he believes these activities are moreimportant in the development of a child’s thinking.
Play can be tough todefine, it encompasses such a wide range of activities, from swinging andjumping to dress up and dancing. Bruner defines play as a purpose to “serve several centrally importantfunctions. First, it is a means of minimizing the consequences of one’s actionsand of learning, therefore . . .
it is . . . a less risky situation . .
.Second, play provides an excellent opportunity to try combinations of behavior that would, under functional pressure,never be tried.” (Gordon Biddle, K.,Garcia-Nevarez, A.
, Henderson, W., Valero-Kerrick, A., 2013., p. 266) For Bruner, play as a means for a child to expressthemselves, take risks, make mistakes and learn, all without the fear offailure. Piaget believed that cognitive development ties in with moraldevelopment, he states that children need the ability to think to be able tounderstand it. He believes that children up to the age of four are ‘pre-moral’,and between the ages of five and ten, see the world through a ‘heteronomouslens’, essentially, they believe that rules have an authority and tend not tobreak the rules as to avoid any punishment that entails after breaking them. Accordingto Piaget, children’s age is a huge factor in moral development, he says thatas a child grows and becomes older their views change.
“As children develop theability to put themselves into someoneelse’s shoes, their appreciation of morality becomes more autonomous(self-directed) and less black and white and absolutist in nature”. (Angela, Oswalt, MSW., 2010)Piaget called this “moralityof cooperation”, this start’s around the age of ten and continues throughoutadolescence into adulthood. Vygotsky’s theory doesn’t go into too much detail aboutmorality, he refers to it as moral behaviour, stating, “moral behaviour, like anything else, arises on the foundation ofinnate and intrinsic reactions, and evolves under the influence of methodicaleffects of the environment” (Vygotsky,L., (1997 p. 221). He believed that moral behaviour could betaught in schools as he suggested that both education and moral development goside by side.
Bruner’s view on moraldevelopment is subtler, not necessarily mentioning what aspects play a role inthe development of a child’s morals but he believes children have their ownknowledge and experiences, which evolve and grow through the scaffolding process.He suggests that If the right foundation is set in place for certain areas thatthis would help them develop their skills within that subject, also allowing the child to be curious and askquestions such as why is that wrong? What should I do instead? Piaget said that cognitivedevelopment is necessary to enable to thechild to develop their physicaldevelopment. Through physical interaction withthe child’s environment, the child canmake sense of the world and themselves. He suggested that children’s physicaldevelopment gradually evolves as the child gets older “physical maturation in which changes occur inevitably as theindividual gets older”. (Open LearningInitiative., 2018) Vygotsky, on the other hand, was criticised fornot looking at the biological factors for children, neglecting the biologicalline, and the physical maturation of the children in their first few years oftheir life. Vygotsky’s,Bruner’s and Piaget’s theories have all majorly influenced the upbringing ofchildren in modern society and whilst their theories have been the focal pointfor many debates and criticisms, the impact they have each had on the educationsystem it cannot be ignored with many methods widely used throughout theeducation system today.
Although this essay has discussed the criticisms ofPiaget’s theory, it should be remembered that he was the first psychologist tomake a methodical study of cognitive development, his influence on the fieldhas been huge and his ideas have spouted a large amount of research which inturn has largely increased the understanding of cognitive development as awhole. References Gordon Biddle, K., Garcia-Nevarez,A., Henderson, W.
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