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Comparing Piaget and Vygotsky Concepts

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This job compares the ideas of Piaget and Vygotsky, discussing the following issues:

1. perspective on intelligence
2. ideas on stages of development from birth through adolescence
3. possible classroom applications of these theories

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Comparing Piaget and Vygotsky

Methods and approaches to teaching have been greatly influenced by the research of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Both have contributed to the field of education by offering explanations for children's cognitive learning styles and abilities. While Piaget and Vygotsky may differ on how they view cognitive development in children, both offer educators good suggestions on how teach certain material in a developmentally appropriate manner.

Piaget proposed that cognitive development from infant to young adult occurs in four universal and consecutive stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operations, and formal operations (Woolfolk, A., 2004). Between the ages of zero and two years of age, the child is in the sensorimotor stage. It is during this stage the child experiences his or her own world through the senses and through movement. During the latter part of the sensorimotor stage, the child develops object permanence, which is an understanding that an object exists even if it is not within the field of vision (Woolfolk, A., 2004). The child also begins to understand that his or her actions could cause another action, for example, kicking a mobile to make the mobile move. This is an example of goal-directed behavior. Children in the sensorimotor stage can reverse actions, but cannot yet reverse thinking (Woolfolk, A., 2004).

During a child's second and seventh year, he or she is considered to be in the preoperational stage. Piaget stated that during this stage, the child has not yet mastered the ability of mental operations. The child in the preoperational stage still does not have the ability to think through actions (Woolfolk, A., 2004). Children in this stage are considered to be egocentric, meaning they assume others share their points of view (Woolfolk, A. 2004). Because of egocentricism, children in this stage engage in collective monologues, in which each child is talking, but not interacting with the other children (Woolfolk, A. 2004). Another important aspect of the preoperational stage is the acquisition of the skill of conservation. Children understand that the amount of something remains the same even if its appearance changes (Woolfolk, A., 2004). A child in the preoperational stage would not be able to perform the famous Piagetian conservation problem of liquid and volume, because he or she has not yet developed reversible thinking - "thinking backward, from the end to the beginning" (Woolfolk, A., 33).

Concrete operations occurs between the ages of seven to eleven years. Students in the later elementary years, according to Piaget, learn best through hands-on discovery learning, while working with tangible objects. Reasoning processes also begin to take shape in this stage. Piaget stated that the three basic reasoning skills acquired during this stage were identity, compensation, and reversibility (Woolfolk, A., 2004). By this time, the child learns that a "person or object remains the same over time" (identity) and one action can cause changes in another (compensation) (Woolfolk, A., 2004). This child has an understanding of the concept of seriation - ordering objects by certain physical aspects. The child is also able to classify items by focusing on a certain aspect and grouping them accordingly (Woolfolk, A., 2004).

Piaget's final stage of cognitive development is formal operations, occurring from age eleven years to adulthood. People who reach this stage (and not everyone does, according to Piaget) are able to think abstractly. They have achieved skills such as inductive and deductive reasoning abilities. People in the formal operations stage utilize many strategies and ...

Solution Summary

Piaget and Vygotsky are discussed.