Cognitive Development - Reflective Statement

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Thirteen years ago I first started learning to play the guitar and today I am still very passionate about developing my skills on the instrument. Looking in detail at the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky, this reflective statement will explore my learning journey of playing the guitar and a challenge I faced with my development explaining the impact it had with reference to the chosen theories.

Jean Piaget and Lev Semanovich Vygotsky were two of the most influential theorists that contributed to how we view cognitive development today. Piaget was born in 1896 in Neuchatel, Switzerland to a father who was a scientist and a mentally ill mother. Like his father, this led him to spend most of his time in scientific study rather than perusing more conventional leisure activities. He was a very gifted as a child and at the age of 10 had published his first scientific article. At 14 he was offered a curators position at the Geneva Museum of Nation History and at 18 he had gained his first Bachelor’s degree. He then completed his PHD and by the time he was 21 he had published 25 scholarly papers. From his studies with children in Paris, he became convinced that children think in ways that are qualitatively different than adults. He passed away in 1980 at the age of 84 (Krause, Bochner, Duchesne, & McMaugh, 2010). Like Piaget, Vygotsky was born into an intellectual family in the southern Byelorussian town of Gomel. Intellectually gifted as a child with an extraordinary memory, he was educated at home and later won a place at the University of Moscow in 1913. After completing university with a degree in law, he returned to Byelorussia and taught a range of subjects to adults and children including language and literature, logic and psychology, and art history and theatre. During this teaching he became interested in children with learning difficulties and intellectual disabilities inspiring him to develop research clinics that conducted research on such children. He was particularly interested in devising ways in which to assess children’s intellectual abilities and to evaluate the efficiency of intervention strategies. In 1924 he moved to Moscow to work with other psychologists and together they developed a ‘cultural-historical’ or ‘sociohistorical’ view of human development that emphasized cognitive activities such as thinking, memory and reasoning until his death in 1934. The Russian communist party banned his work from 1936 to 1956 and it wasn’t until the 1960’s that his work was well known around the world (Krause, Bochner, Duchesne, & McMaugh, 2010).

Piaget believed that rather my development of playing the guitar being continuous, it related to a series of distinct sequentially proceeding ‘stages’ of cognitive development from birth to my now adulthood, with thinking at one stage being qualitatively different from thinking at the next (Krause, Bochner, Duchesne, & McMaugh, 2010). He identified four universal and invariant stages that all children must progress through in sequence in order to reach the level of cognitive development that demonstrates a capacity to think abstractly and use reason. These four stages in order are the ‘sensorimotor stage’ from birth till two years, the ‘preoperational stage’ from two till six or seven years, the ‘concrete operations stage’ from seven till eleven or twelve years, and finally the ‘formal operations stage’ from eleven or twelve years till adulthood. Piaget identified what he called ‘developmental milestones’ for each of his stages that were key achievements to be attained by a child in each cognitive level (Krause, Bochner, Duchesne, & McMaugh, 2010). I first picked up a guitar to play when I was seven years of age so according to Piaget I probably would have been entering into my concrete operations stage. This meant that I had achieved the developmental milestone of ‘conservation’, which is the understanding that objects or quantities remain the same despite changes in personal...
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