Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development and Len Vygotsky’s sociocultural perspective have played critical roles in educational psychology. Both of these major frameworks will be analyzed and compared. From these two different standpoints, it will be illustated how a particular concept or cognitive skill can be taught.
Russian psychologist Len Semenovich Vygotsky (1896-1934) was a fundamental figure in the exploration of “the sociocultural theory.” His ideas played crucial roles in the pedagogical framework of children and education. Thoroughly, he examined the sociocultural theory which emphasizes the role in development of cooperative dialogues between children and more knowledgeable members of society. Children learn their culture (ways of thinking and behaving) through these interactions (Berk & Winsler 19). Vygotsky believed that our mental structures and processes can be traced back to our interactions with others (Berk & Winsler 12-15). Social interactions not only have an influence on our cognitive development, they actually create our cognitive structures and thinking process (Woolfolk 39). During shared activities between the child and another person, higher mental processes are first co-constructed. This is a social process in which people interact and negotiate (usually verbally) to create an understanding or solve a problem (Woolfolk 39). The processes are then internalized by the child and become part of the child’s cognitive development. The final product is shaped by all participants (Berk & Winsler 15). For example (Tharp & Gallimore 14): A six-year-old has lost a toy and asks her father for help. The father asks her where she last saw the toy; the child says “I can’t remember.” He asks a series of questions- did you have it in your room? Outside? Next door? To each question, the child answers, “no.” When he says “in the car?” She says “I think so” and goes to retrieve the toy.
Vygotsky once stated that “ever function in a child’s development appears twice: first on the social level and then later on the individual level; first between people ‘interpsychological’ and then inside the child ‘intrapsychological’ (Berk & Winsler 12.)” For instance, the strategy for finding the toy was initially co-constructed by both- the child and the adult. The next time that child loses a toy it is probable that he/she may have internalized a strategy on how to find the toy (by recalling all the previous places that the toy was last seen). This adult guidance provides early support while students build the understanding necessary to solve problems (Woolfolk 59). Eventually the child will be capable of functioning independently in the process of problem solving. In this scenario, perhaps the child may be capable of finding the toy with no help the next time this problem arises. Vygotsky emphasized the importance of cultural tools, which enables the transfer of cognition from the social to the individual plane (Berk & Winsler 21). Cultural tools include material tools such as: computers, scales Internet, rulers, ect. On the other hand, psychological tools include: symbol systems, numbers, language, graphs, maps, codes, languages, ect. These tools allow people in society to communicate, think, solve problems, and create knowledge (Woolfolk 41). These tools are used in daily activities by the child in formal and informal settings, with the help from an adult. An example of using a psychological tool to aid in the advancement of development would be the construction of a map. In this scenario, collaboration would occur between the child and the teacher on how to represent the concepts of people and spaces. In return, these co-constructed ideas are internalized within the child and development occurs. “Learning leads development (Wood 101).” These tools are...
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