Children’s cognitive growth helps them analyze their experiences and settings as they become more conscious. Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist, believes children from the moment they are conceived until they become independent individuals, need to be taught how to think and not what to think. Cognitive development theories are mainly applied by educationalists in classrooms though are influenced by works done by development psychologists like Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development deals with how people achieve, create and utilize knowledge while Lev Vygotsky investigated how social interactions impact learning and the cognitive growth of humans.
Cognitive development theories created by psychologists Piaget and Vygotsky are frequently employed to better understand children’s learning. Piaget states that language is the result of cognitive development, whereas Vygotsky sees language as the key to cognitive development (Sternberg & Williams, 2002). On one hand, Piaget’s theory is based on how a child reacts and demonstrates comprehension and accomplishment without adult assistance, but on the other hand, Vygotsky suggests assisting these processes with some light guidance. Piaget’s theory is more cognitive constructivist, while Vygotsky’s is a social constructivist. Where Piaget’s theory believes people learn from their own experiences, Vygotsky considers how people learn by interacting with others. Finally, Piaget’s theory states that development is universal. Vygotsky opposes the concept and posits that development differs with cultures.
Piaget’s cognitive development concept is a field of study in neuroscience and psychology that focus on how people think, survey and solve problems. Individuals pass through four stages of cognitive development: the sensorimotor stage, pre-operational stage, concrete stage, and formal operational stage (Sanghvi, 2020; Babakr et al., 2019). Children in the sensorimotor stage, usually between 0 to 2 years develop their sensory impressions and motor skills. Pre-operational stage involving children aged 2 to 7 years, asserts children develop and understand signs, and start mastering language. With the concrete operational stage, children involved lie between the ages of 7 to 12 years, and it is within this stage, that children learn logical skills. The reasoning process begins at the concrete operational stage, where children can think operationally and understand a conversation. The formal operational stage occurs between 11 to 15 years when children begin to think differently. Children acquire systematic or logical reasoning abilities in a formal operational stage, which help them achieve the ability to think scientifically.
Vygotsky’s theory defines internalization as where one’s cognitive development is influenced by society. One adopts the morals and ethics of a clan for themselves and begins to see the culture’s beliefs as their own. Vygotsky’s theory strongly believes that the role of education is to provide children with experiences that will help them socialize and interact with one another (Pathan et al., 2018). Through interaction, children will acquire the cultural values in society, thereby encouraging their learning through the zone of proximal development. Scaffolding is the Vygotsky principle of the sociocultural perspective. Scaffolding facilitates students while learning new skills or concepts to assist individuals in being self-reliant. Scaffolding enables students to learn independently by providing clues to better approach challenges.
Teachers can add to what the two psychologists presented concerning children’s cognitive development. Both Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s theories give a distinctive approach to cognitive development though differ from each other. Teachers can take a reasonable approach to teaching regarding how children develop thinking processes and by making learning student-centered. Teachers should therefore encourage and focus on the learning process by using active methods, rather than concentrating on the end product of learning. The active methods used need to encourage the reconstructing and rediscovering of truth as well as be collaborative so that children can learn from one another. The teacher’s role is to therefore facilitate learning instead of directing tuition.
Babakr, Z. H., Mohamedamin, P., & Kakamad, K. (2019). Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory: Critical Review. Education Quarterly Reviews, 2(3), 517-524.
Pathan, H., Memon, R. A., Memon, S., Khoso, A. R., & Bux, I. (2018). A critical review of Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory in second language acquisition. International Journal of English Linguistics, 8(4), 232.
Sanghvi, P. (2020). Piaget’s theory of cognitive development: a review. Indian Journal of Mental Health, 7(2), 90-96.
Sternberg, R. J., & Williams, W. M. (2002). Educational psychology. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.