Piaget and Vygotsky opinions differ regarding the importance social interaction plays in the area of speech and thought. Piaget believed that cognitive development precedes social speech, that speech is just a mental representation of intelligence and plays no significant part in a child’s acquisition of cognitive development. Piaget drew this conclusion through his observations of young children talking aloud to themselves while exploring their environment. He named this use of language egocentric speech.Piaget saw this egocentric speech falling within the pre-operational stage of cognitive development.
He believes all children are initially egocentric (their understanding revolves around their own single perception of the world) during this stage. He did not believe that this form of speech played any significant role in the child’s cognitive development. In comparison, Vygotsky believed that cognitive development is dependant of a child acquiring social/external speech. Vygotsky saw speech as having two functions; internal and external speech.He believed that children need to initially learn to communicate (externally) through socialization and that it is not until social language is acquired that children have the ability of internal speech (verbal thought). Vygotsky carried out observations and experiments to help understand the role that egocentric speech plays within the area of problem solving.
He used some of the same experiments as Piaget, although he added a new angle to Piaget’s original experiments by including frustrations and difficulties.He concluded from this research that egocentric speech (thinking aloud) increased when a child became frustrated proving to him that it was being used as a thought process and that as a child gets older that this external speech gradually disappears and is replaced by internal thoughts. He believed the acquisition of internal thought to be necessary for a child to attain higher levels of cognitive development. Piaget and Vygotsky differed on their opinions regarding the way social interaction should effects early year’s education.Piaget has been a major contributor to the way professionals plan for children within early year’s educational settings. He viewed play as a vehicle for learning in which children gain valuable experiences, knowledge and understanding.
He suggested that children are ‘active learners’ and that they require first-hand experiences in order to learn and discover. Piaget theorized that cognitive development can not be accelerated through adult instruction.He believed that development is a biological process, not a social one and that social interaction with adults can actually limit progression because the child will accept an adult’s viewpoints without first experiencing the stimuli necessary to form their own conclusions. His assertion was that children should be provided with the opportunity to work alone to solve problems, hence the commonly used term in early years provision ‘discovery learning’ or learning through play. Vygotsky research and findings have also been instrumental in shaping early years education.
He suggested that it is the combination of adult tutoring and peer support (peer contact is only of use if the peer has skills that the child doesn’t possess) that is a key factor in early year’s educational development as it enables the child to move from one zone (level of ability) to another (The Zones of Proximal Development). This support is gradually withdrawn as the child becomes more able. Vygotsky theorized that intellectual development is continually evolving, without an end point and is not completed in such liner stages with the potential of reaching a final stage/level of cognition as Piaget theorized.
In conclusion I believe that some aspects of Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s theories are complementary (for example they both believe in some form of stages of development) however the major difference between the two is the importance they place on social interaction and its’ effect on cognitive development. They both take into account individual and social factors but again where they differ is in the direction they view these factors as coming from. Piaget believes that cognition starts with the individual and progresses to social awareness, and Vygotsky believes that cognition starts with social awareness and then moves to the individual.I personally am of the belief that cognitive development is greatly influenced by social interaction and therefore tend to lean more towards Vygotsky’s social constructivists approach to child development.
This assumption possibly stems from my own personal beliefs and assumptions which I have constructed through my experiences working as an early year’s educator. It is my belief that as an adult I play an important role in the cognitive development of the children in my care, and I believe that the adults’ role or the more able other is crucial in supporting the ongoing child’s cognitive development.I believe this is achieved by extending and scaffolding learning, developing the child’s communication skills, planning a challenging environment, supporting children’s spontaneous play and developing learning through planned play.References Oates, J. Wood, C. and Grayson, A. (2005) ‘Psychological Development and Early Childhood’ Blackwell Publishing in association with The Open University (ED209 Book 1) Video band 1 ‘Children Learning’ (The Open University)