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Children’s Cognitive Development: Alternatives to Piaget

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1 Children’s Cognitive Development: Alternatives to Piaget
Outline: Brief review of Piaget’s theory The role of culture - implications for Piaget’s theory The theory of Vygotsky The theory of Bruner (see intranet)

2 Summary of Piaget Stage theory of development - older children think qualitatively differently to younger children. In other words, at each successive stage, it's not just a matter of doing something better, but of doing a different thing altogether. 4 stages: Stage 1: Sensorimoter Period (0-2 years) Stage 2: Pre-operational stage (2-7 years) Stage 3: Concrete Operational Stage (7-11 years) Stage 4: Formal Operational Stage (11+ years) Development is the combined result of: maturation of the brain and nervous system experiences that help children adapt to new environments - adaptation: an organism’s ability to fit in with it’s environment (through the process of assimilation and accommodation).

3 Criticisms of Piaget Underestimated the ability of children
Tasks were methodologically flawed. As several studies have shown Piaget underestimated the abilities of children because his tests were sometimes confusing or difficult to understand. Underestimated the impact of CULTURE: Piaget’s tasks are culturally biased Schooling and literacy affect rates of development e.g. Greenfield’s study of the Wolof Formal operational thinking is not universal e.g. Gladwin’s study of the Polynesian islanders

4 Criticisms of Piaget Methodological issues
Piaget used naturalistic observations of his own children when they were only a few weeks old. The tendency for observers to be biased can be counteracted by using two or more observers (re: inter-observer reliability), but Piaget observed and made notes alone. Generalisations should not be made from research such as this, but Piaget did generalise and many of his ideas on sensori-motor and pre-operational stages are based on these observations.

5 Lev Vygotsky Lev Vygotsky
Because Piaget concentrated on the individual child, he failed to consider the effect that the social setting may have on cognitive development. The way that adults use language and gestures and the child's experience through social interactions are very influential on cognitive development (re: Vygotsky). Lev Vygotsky Work remained little known because it was banned by Stalin after Vygotsky’s death Collapse of the Soviet Union meant: greater dialogue between the West and Russia Vygotsky’s work translated into English

6 Vygotsky’s Main Ideas Vygotsky is credited with developing the concept of Social Cognition (aka Social Development Theory of Learning), which proposes that: Social Interaction and culture has a dramatic impact on cognitive development. Cognitive processes (language, thought, reasoning) develop through social interaction. Learning is largely mediated by social interaction of students and "More Knowledgeable Others" (e.g. teachers, parents, coaches, peers, experts, etc.)

7 Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
Vygotsky centred much of his research on a phenomenon he coined as "the Zone of Proximal Development," or ZPD. Vygotsky stated: “The zone of proximal development defines those functions that have not yet matured, but are in the process (of doing so)…” “…what is the zone of proximal development today will be the actual development level tomorrow – that is, what a child can do with assistance toady she will be able to do by herself tomorrow”.

8 Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
In this case “proximal” means what comes next. The idea is that a child is only able to take the next step in their cognitive development if another person – typically an adult – supports and prompts them to do so. This sort of assistance has been called scaffolding.



11 Scaffolding Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976) developed Vygotsky’s notion of a zone of proximal development. They introduced the concept of scaffolding, which refers to the context provided by knowledgeable people such as adults to help children to develop their cognitive skills. An important aspect of scaffolding is that there is a gradual withdrawal of support as the child’s knowledge and confidence increase.

12 Scaffolding Example Left to his own devices, could this boy make his sister a birthday cake? His mother uses scaffolding to create a situation in which he can begin to move into a zone of proximal development.

13 Differences between Piaget and Vygotsky
Source of cognitive development Piaget believed that the most important source of cognition is the children themselves. Piaget emphasised the role of an inbuilt (biological) tendency to adapt to the environment, by a process of self-discovery and play. Vygotsky emphasised the role of culture and experience. Vygotsky believed that what drives cognitive development is social interaction – a child’s experience with other people. Culture shapes cognition.

14 Differences between Piaget and Vygotsky
Language and Thought For Piaget, language is a product of cognitive development. In other words, cognitive development (IV) determines language use (DV). Vygotsky believed that language develops from social interactions, for communication purposes. Later language ability becomes internalised as thought and “inner speech”. Thought is the result of language. In other words, social interactions (IV) determines language use (DV).

15 Differences between Piaget and Vygotsky
Stage Theory Piaget emphasised universal cognitive change. Vygotsky’s theory can be applied to all ages (not a stage theory) and emphasised individual development. Discovery Learning (Education) Piaget advocated for discovery learning with little teacher intervention. Vygotsky promoted guided discovery in the classroom with the help of a MKO.

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