Difference Between Piaget and Vygotsky

Piaget vs Vygotsky

This article attempts to provide an understanding of the two theories of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, highlighting the similarities and differences between Piaget and Vygotsky’s approaches. Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky are two developmental psychologists who have contributed immensely to the field of Psychology through their theories of cognitive development of children. Piaget can be considered one of the great pillars when it comes to Cognitive development in Developmental psychology especially due to his theory of cognitive development, which focuses on the progression of children to different stages at the end of which they achieve maturation. On the contrary, Vygotsky presents his Socio-cultural theory of development, which stresses on the influence that culture and language has on the cognitive development of children.

What is Piaget Theory?

According to Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, all humans experience an interaction between the internal development and the experience with the world around, which creates a change in life. This happens in two ways, firstly through the adding up of new information to existing ideas known as assimilation and the modification of cognitive schemas (mental shortcuts) to connect new information known as accommodation. According to Piaget, all children go through four stages of cognitive development. They are,

- Sensorimotor stage
– Preoperational stage
– Concrete operational stage
– Formal operational stage

From the birth of a child till about two years of age, the child is in the sensorimotor stage. During this stage, the child develops his senses and motor skills which allow him to understand the environment. Also, he learns of object permanence which refers to the realization that an object exists even though it cannot be seen, heard or touched. At the end of two years, the child moves on to the pre operational stage which lasts till the child is about seven years of age. Though the child is unable to engage in mental operations in terms of the true understanding of quantity and of causal relationships, the child rapidly engages in acquiring new words as symbols for things around him. It is said that children of this stage are egocentric which means despite the fact that the child can speak, he does not understand another’s point of view. As the child moves on to the Concrete operational stage which goes on till twelve years of age, the child begins to understand concrete relationships such as simple mathematics and quantity. By this stage, the cognitive development of a child is very much developed. Finally, as the child reaches the formal operational stage, the child is very mature in the sense, his understanding of abstract relationships such as values, logic is very advanced. However, Lev Vygotsky came up with a different approach to cognitive development of children through his Socio-cultural theory of development.

What is Vygotsky Theory?

According to the Socio-cultural theory of development,the child’s cognitive development is very much influenced by the social interactions and culture surrounding him. As the child interacts with others, the values and norms that are embedded in a culture are transmitted to the child where it affects his cognitive development. Hence, to understand the development is to understand the cultural context in which the child grows.Vygotsky also speaks of a concept called Scaffolding that refers to the provision of clues to a child in order to solve problems without waiting for the child to reach the necessary cognitive stage of development. He believed that through social interaction the child has the potential not only to solve problems but also use different strategies for the future.

Vygotsky considered language as an important part in his theory because he conceived that the language has a special role in cognitive development. Specially he spoke of the concept of self-talk. While Piaget believed this to be egocentric, Vygotsky saw self-talk as a tool of direction that assists thinking and guides the actions of individuals.Finally, he spoke of a zone of proximal development. While both Piaget and Vygotsky agreed that there are limitations to the cognitive development of children, Vygotsky did not confine the child to developmental stages. Instead, he said that given necessary assistance the child can achieve challenging tasks within the zone of proximal development.

Difference Between Piaget and Vygotsky Theories

What is the difference between Piaget and Vygotsky Theories?

When paying attention to the similarities in the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky, what is apparent is the fact that both view children as active learners engaged in a cognitive conflict where the exposure to the surrounding environment allows changes in their understanding. Both believe that this development declines with age. However, there are wide differences between the two as well.

• For instance, while for Piaget development precedes learning, Vygotsky believes the visa versa. He states that it is social learning that comes before development. This can be considered the key difference between the two theories.

• Also, though Piaget assigns cognitive development to stages of development which seems rather universal, Vygotsky uses a different approach which gives prominence to culture and social interactions as means of shaping development.

• Another difference between the two theories stems from the attention paid to social factors. Piaget believes that learning is more of an independent exploration whereas Vygotsky sees it more as a cooperative effort especially through the zone of proximal development as a child is being assisted to develop his abilities.

To sum up, both Piaget and Vygotsky are developmental psychologists who have presented theories of cognitive development of children and adolescents with the view of the individual as an active learner who uses the environment for his cognitivedevelopment. However, the key difference is that while Piaget uses universal stages of development and a rather independent approach of the learner, Vygotsky stresses on the social factors and the social interactions which influence development. Another important feature is that Vygotsky pays a lot of attention to the cultural attributes such as language and culture as a whole which creates an impact on the cognitive development of individuals, which is lacking in the theory of Piaget.