Piaget explained the importance of learning through play, in which children explored and experimented for themselves with minimal adult interactions. He considered development went through four stages: sensori-motor, pre-operational, concrete operational and the formal operational stage. (Papalia, Olds & Feldman, 2004). The sensori-motor period (0-2 years) is the 1st stage, as the infant’s interactions are based on exploring their environment through their senses and abilities to practice schemas, such as grasping and sucking, this also included practice play as the infant is able to repeat actions continuously but with no intention. This stage follows on to the pre-operational stage (2-7) where children’s language is developing rapidly, allowing them to express themselves. They are starting to use pretend play and parallel play which means children are talking but it is not directed to others. This also means that they only see the world in their terms, they are egocentric (Drewery and Bird, 2004). The concrete operation (7-11) and the formal operational (11-adult) periods are the third and fourth stages. These are not considered in early childhood education but are still important as they can think realistically and logically about situations and understand their world (Pulaski, 1980).
However, Vygotsky argued differently. He proposed that children are social learners and like to explore and discover new things with the help of adults and peers. This was scaffolding and the zone of proximal development (ZPD). He also considered culture surroundings, language and thinking (Whitebread, 2003 cited in Beaumont, 2002). He thought children could perform better with others than on their own. This is shown through the ZPD, the difference between what children can do alone and with help. Like Piaget, Vygotsky believed there were things that children couldn’t understand. However, Vygotsky believed that given proper help children could perform what Piaget would consider, not possible. Scaffolding however, meant that in order for a child to learn, a more competent adult or peer can help support and guide the child’s learning through the ZPD until the child is able to do the task alone which helps the child use private speech, a way of understanding is to talk to themselves and also to reason, problem solve, extend memory and imagination skills (Woolfolk, 2004 cited by Educational Psychology, n.d.).
Vygotsky considered cultural surroundings, language and thinking to be important. He said for children to learn, they need to interact through communication with others. This was explained through cultural influences and what was important within each setting. Language is part of culture, which is the key to communication about customs and knowledge of people. Through cultural tools, such as books and television, we could help extend children’s communication skills with others in their environment (Tauranga Regional Free Kindergarten Association, 2003).
These theorists can support learning opportunities within Aotearoa through experiences, events, and interactions with people, places and things. For Piaget however, his first two stages are only considered in early childhood education (Nuttall, 2003).
Piaget considers that children learn best when their left to discover their world by themselves through hands-on involvement but adults need to provide stimulating...