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Piaget and Vygotsky: Cognitive Development - Essay Example

They share an understanding that each individual, from birth onwards, undergoes change over time. The nature of cognitive change concerns the intellect, mental processes which pertain to intelligence, thinking patterns, problem solving, memory, learning and emotion. Cognitive change is based on the handling of content, encountered in the environment. The direction of that change is toward increasing sophistication and complexity. The implementation of early change involves the coming together of whatever is innate in the infant (whether hardwired reflexes or a more complete awareness or memory) and whatever is encountered and attended to in the environment. Later change is rooted in earlier encounters and their interpretation. Byrnes (1992) is interested in Meta Theoretical Belief Systems, in cognitive development theory construction and application. He identifies eight MTBSs that guide and constrain theory and developmental mechanisms, and can be useful in combining theoretical contributions to the field. They are: nativism, empiricism, constructivism, structuralism, functionalism, behaviorism, neobehaviorism, and cognitivism. He discusses two contemporary cognitive development theories, which combine constructs from several theoretical perspectives, to show examples of successful, coherent combining of theories. Noting that most of the current research in cognitive development focuses on infants and children, experimentally exploring the processes and timing of children’s understanding and symbolic representation of people, objects, events, space and numbers, Olson and Dweck (2008) call for a stronger emphasis on social phenomena and social influence in cognitive research investigations. Two of the grandfathers of cognitive developmental theory are Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. They had areas of commonality and difference with respect to how they viewed the nature and development of intelligence and the stages of development from birth to adolescence, and how their theories are applied in the classroom. Piaget is a structuralist (Strauss, 2000), an interactionist and a constructivist (Ginn, n.d.). He argues that infants are born with a weak structure of reflexes which are transformed into more complex structures in a particular sequence that does not vary in chronology (Ginn, n.d.). Both biology and interaction with the environment drive the child to construct knowledge and organize it in a way compatible with the emergent organizational structure. Piaget sees intelligence as involving the strength and completeness of the initial structures and experience, and the history of opportunity and taking advantage of the opportunities to act on the environment through encountering, interpreting and filing away symbolic representations of stimulating discoveries. Both Piaget and Vygotsky were convinced that infants come into this world with the basic prerequisites for intellectual development. They both saw that biology plays a role in the formation of intelligence, as does experience. Piaget talks about motor reflexes and sensory abilities (for example, exploring an object by immediately putting it in the mouth) which mature and give rise to new ways of organizing experience. Vygotsky talks about elementary mental functions (attention, sensations, perception, memory) which eventually develop, as a consequence of social action, into more sophisticated ...Show more
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Summary

Piaget and Vygotsky: Classroom Application To the average person, intellect is easy to take for granted. To a cognitive developmental theorist, or to students of theory, the development of the intellect is a fascinating miracle to ponder. Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky are two central contributors to cognitive development theory…
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