Discuss and Evaluate Vygotsky's Theory of Cognitive Development

Discuss Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development (8+16)
Vygotsky proposed that children’s development is affected by their culture and social interaction. He also suggested that children are not born with knowledge but they gain it through their social interactions with peers and adults; he does not rule out the importance of biological processes but proposes an interdependent relationship between biological development alongside social activity and cultural interaction.

Since language is our means of communicating cultural knowledge, it is extremely important in this theory. Vygotsky was particularly interested in the relationship between language and thinking processes; he believed language was crucial for cognitive development. This relationship goes through a set of developmental stages. Before 2 years, language is separate from thought; learning is through condition and speech is learnt later on but is only used to express basic feelings, it is regarded as prelinguistic. However by the age of 3, children are beginning to influence one another, by using language to problem solve; at this age children often speak to themselves out loud, as an expression of their thought process, like a running commentary of their actions and thoughts. By 7 years they are using language more extensively and effectively when solving problems; speech when problem solving becomes internalized.

Vygotsky (1987) does not refer to any specific stages for the development of thinking the same way Piaget does, but he had identified the processes of concept formation. He proposed four stages based on research evidence; children were given wooden blocks of varying height and shape and each was labelled with random symbols. The child had to work out what the labels meant. He observed that children went through three stages before achieving mature concepts; the stages of concept formation slowly increased in terms of the levels of difficulty on the task.

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