The process of cognitive development is highly complex, and various scholars sought to propose their view on how this process occurs. Cognitive development is usually defined as the process when a child acquires and learns various thinking processes (Galotti, 2015). Understanding cognitive development is crucial for educators because it enables them to support children throughout this process. The present paper will discuss two key theories of cognitive development and explore the implications for teaching and learning. The first theory has been developed by Jean Piaget, and the second is attributed to Lev Vygotsky.
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Piaget viewed cognitive development as a sequence of stages, including sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational (Sternberg & Williams, 2010). In contrast, Vygotsky (1962) believed the development process to be continuous. Moreover, Piaget emphasized the importance of independent learning, whereas the second theory views cognitive development as a social process (Vygotsky, 1962). In particular, Vygotsky (1962) argues that it is shaped by internalization and scaffolding, which reflect various strategies used by children to acquire new cognitive skills. Additionally, Vygotsky (1962) proposed the concept of the zone of proximal development, which is useful for understanding children’s abilities in independent and supported learning.
All in all, the theories view cognitive development from contrasting perspectives. However, they can still be used by educators to understand the process of cognitive development better. For example, educators could use them to understand how to best support children in overcoming specific challenges. Alternatively, educators can choose to teach beyond the theories. In order to do that, they could use a variety of proven teaching methods and tailor their approach to each individual student, thus finding what works best for them.
Galotti, K. M. (2015). Cognitive development: Infancy through adolescence (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Sternberg, R. J. & Williams, W. M. (2010). Educational psychology (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Vygotsky, L.S. (1962). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.