Cognitive Development Theory: Piaget vs. Vygotsky

Essay by grkmthUniversity, Bachelor's January 2010

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Cognitive Development Theory: Piaget and VygotskyWhy is it that a four year old thinks there is more of water in a tall narrow glass than there is in a short broader glass, when both glasses contain the same amount of water? The answer can be found if one determines the child's developmental level of cognition. In exploring the concept of cognitive development, two names are sure to come up, Piaget and Vygotsky.

Cognitive development theory was first coined by Jean Piaget as a biological approach to child learning. Cognitive development theory states that cognitive development can be defined as a process of gradual and orderly changes in a person's brain and behavior that take place throughout childhood and beyond, that make a person's mental process more intricate and sophisticated (Slavin, 2006). The nature of these changes and how these changes proceed is a topic of much debate throughout the years.

Although Vygotsky and Piaget both have theories of cognitive development, they agree on only a few points.

Piaget and Vygotsky are both considered to be constructivists. Constructivism is an approach to intelligence and learning based on the premise that cognition is the result of " the mental construction of ideas with building blocks of information". Said another way, students learn by connecting new information together with what they already know. The mechanism in which an individual forms this intelligence is where these two theorists differ. Piaget believed that intelligence came from experience and action. Having a doctorate in biology, he believed that an individual can only reach the next level of aptitude if that individual had adequately developed cognitively. Vygotsky thought just the opposite, that is, one can only develop when one has reached a higher level of intelligence, hence intelligence drove development (Slavin, 2006).

Both Piaget and Vygotsky both...