As Piaget and Vygotsky
are both cognitive theorists, both theorized about the cognitive development of
children but with opposing views. Piaget strongly suggested that children are
builders of knowledge and thus shouldn't be pushed to learn, as they will use the
cognitive processes such as organization, adaption, and schemes to further
their own understanding and knowledge. Because he believed all normal children learn
in the same sequence, he developed stages of development in his theory. These include
the sensorimotor period, preoperational period, concrete operational period,
and finally, the formal operational period. Each stage has its respective age
span, and Piaget believed that it was within these periods of development that
all children learned very age specific movements, abilities, and concepts
rather naturally without much social influence.  

Unlike Piaget, Vygotsky's
theory claimed that in regards to development children will benefit through social
interaction. He believed that while children can construct knowledge and lead
their development, development cannot be separated from social context. Thus, a
child will only learn things within their teachers' cultures. He also believed
that language plays a central role in cognitive development, unlike Piaget who
viewed language as a mere milestone in development. Language is the key to
internalization, another important aspect of Vygotsky's theory. Because
Vygotsky believed in the role of the teacher, he developed the idea of the Zone
of Proximal Development, or the difference between what a child is capable of in
aided and unassisted learning. This allows the teacher to determine how much a
child can be challenged and when to incorporate the concept of scaffolding into
the lesson.

I think both Piaget and
Vygotsky have made major contributions to the study of cognitive development and
have influence the ideas used in education. To say one theory is better than
the other is something that is still being debated, and I think that will
continue for some time. When I think about being an educator I can easily see
myself using aspects from both theories, as some of their points are very
difficult to debate. Piaget's concepts of organization, adaption and schemes, including
assimilation, accommodation, equilibration and disequilibrium are all a major
part of the learning process and seem to work quite accurately as he has
explained them. As someone going into education however, I would like to think
that Piaget may be a little off when he suggested that a child doesn't necessarily
need a teacher, and thus I side with Vygotsky and believe that children gain
knowledge from peers, older children and adults who know more and have more
experience.

In a classroom setting
I would use a combination of these two theories. I feel that it is always important
to assess prior knowledge and see where the learners stand, as it is a huge
mistake to assume they know more than they actually do. After PK is assessed learning
can begin as the teacher is now aware of any possible misconceptions. Because learning
happens when children find themselves in disequilibrium, it is important that
we address these misconceptions that obviously require some accommodation. It is
here that I think Vygotsky's concept of internalization plays an important
role. When a child is in a state of disequilibrium it is important that he or
she be able to "talk" themselves through learning a new scheme to regain equilibrium.

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