How can you compare and contrast the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky?


Quick Answer

Both Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky's theories on childhood cognitive development have greatly influenced 20th century academia, but their views on what prompts development differ greatly, particularly in regard to how children's minds convert observations into knowledge. Piaget claimed that children have innate age-based triggers, and Vygotsky maintained that all development is stimulated by the social context in which it occurs, explains SimplyPsychology.

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Full Answer

Several T-charts, flow charts, and Venn Diagrams have been created to illustrate the parallel but contrasting theories of the two philosophers. Although both saw education as very important, believed that children learned best in a positive social environment, and thought that knowledge construction began with observation of the world, they disagreed on how the mind processed and used educational opportunities.

According to Piaget, children go through four developmental stages during which they learn to view the world and based on these observations form assumptions. In short, as children grow and learn, they must process any foreign or conflicting observations and either adapt it to fit their assumptions, or modify former assumptions in order to accommodate the new observation.

Vygotsky, however, did not believe in set states but that children exist on a continuum of understanding. He said that people can only interact with and hope to understand new knowledge that is within reach of their pre-existing knowledge, or within "the zone of proximal development." In this way, education builds on funds of knowledge and cultural understanding through shared tools, scaffolding and relatable content.

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