Various developmental theories explain learning processes and provide psychologists with recommendations on how to facilitate children’s development. The understanding of these theories is important because it helps to create environments that would support education efficiency and protect students during the process of identity formation. Considering this, the present paper will review three of the most influential developmental theories by Piaget, Vygotsky, and Erikson, while also explaining their significance.
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The Understanding of Theories
Each educational psychologist must know and be able to implement learning theories in practice to harmonize education. These theories demonstrate how people acquire knowledge and use their skills throughout the lifespan. For example, Piaget’s theory of developmental stages suggests that children between the ages of seven and eleven only commence developing their ability to manipulate symbols logically and systematically (Aliakbari, Parvin, Heidari, & Haghani, 2015).
With this in mind, an educator will develop a course by learners’ developmental levels. For elementary students whose abstract thinking abilities are still limited, teachers will provide various visual aids. They will try to involve learners in many experiments in order to help them relate newly acquired knowledge to concrete, real-life examples and references. As a result of harmonizing educational practices with learners’ needs, there will be a greater chance to improve academic performance and foster children’s healthy development.
Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory of Cognitive Development
Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development is one of the most influential in the field of psychology. It suggests that children’s cognitive development is affected by the overall sociocultural context in which they live, as well as social interactions in which they engage within this context (Psychology Notes HQ, 2018). As a result, children tend to adopt the values, worldviews, and opinions of adults with whom they communicate.
Each person, including myself, was influenced by adults during childhood, and our personalities and behaviors were shaped by common social norms through disapproval and rewards. I do not recall an example of a negative impact, but I remember that, in my school, teachers inspired students to be more accepting of others by encouraging collaboration and open and respectful discussions in the classroom.
Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
In contrast to Vygotsky’s theory that stresses the importance of social impacts on children’s development, Piaget’s theory suggests that cognitive development is universal and defined by physiological factors. At the same time, Piaget also noted that the way a child interacts with and explores the environment contributes to his or her development (Aliakbari et al., 2015). Considering this, Piaget’s theory seems to have more practical implications as it is more specific and indicates developmental milestones that should be achieved. However, the concepts of Vygotsky’s theory, such as the principle of proximal development, can be used when engaging students in group work. In this scenario, children with lower-level skills will be paired with those with more advanced skills, and, thus, their development will be accelerated.
Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development
According to Erikson’s theory, people come through several developmental stages throughout the lifespan. During adolescence, they are expected to develop a sense of identity and social role (Psychology Notes HQ, 2017). The problem is that children are not encouraged to think about their identities and social roles early enough and are not educated on how to do that. As a result, many high school graduates make opportunistic choices of their future professions or even decide not to study anything at the college level because of the lack of interest in any field. To promote identity development in adolescents, parents and educators should encourage them to engage in active exploration of their multicultural heritage, as well as various social role alternatives.
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The reviewed theories by Vygotsky, Piaget, and Erikson can be used as guidelines when forming educational systems. They all suggest that learning is an internal process that can be fostered through the stimulation of thinking, comprehension, and systematization of knowledge. By getting familiar with the major theoretical concepts, psychologists or educators can use their instructional skills more efficiently when working with students in distinct learning situations.
Aliakbari, F., Parvin, N., Heidari, M., & Haghani, F. (2015). Learning theories application in nursing education. Journal of Education and Health Promotion, 4, 2.
Psychology Notes HQ. (2017). Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. The Psychology Notes Headquarters. Web.
Psychology Notes HQ. (2018). Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of cognitive development. The Psychology Notes Headquarters. Web.