Piaget vs Vygotsky: similarities and differences between their theories

The methods and guidelines of teaching have been strongly influenced by the theories of Jean Piaget I Lev Vygotsky. Both authors have contributed to the field of education and psychology, offering explanations of how learning and cognitive development occur at an early age.

Piaget and Vygotsky may differ in some aspects of their theoretical propositions, but they both offer teachers and educators good recommendations on how to maximize the learning process in childhood and adolescence. Although Piaget and Vygotsky are often presented as rivals, both theories have been very useful for the fields of psychology and education. this demonstrates the complexity of human cognitive development.

Jean Piaget’s Theory of Learning

the Learning theory by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, considered the father of constructivism, focuses on the cognitive development of children and adolescents. His theory describes and explains the changes that took place in logical thinking at these ages. Piaget suggested that cognitive development takes place through a series of stages of maturation and experience: sensory-motor, preoperative, concrete, and formal operations.

If you want to know more about the stages of the cognitive development of Piaget, you will find all the necessary information in this article of the psychologist Adrián Triglia: “The 4 stages of the cognitive development of Jean Piaget”.

Piaget discovers in his theory that through interaction with the environment, we acquire new information. But as a constructivist psychologist and educator, in his research he realized that children play an active role in the acquisition of knowledgeIn other words, he saw them as “little scientists” who were actively developing their knowledge and understanding of the world.

A schematic summary of his theory

In short, the key points of his theory are listed below:

  • Cognitive development occurs after a series of universal stages.

  • Children are active learners who acquire knowledge by interacting with their environment.

  • They learn through assimilation and accommodation, and complex cognitive development comes through balance.

  • Interaction with the physical world is the key to cognitive development.

If you want to deepen the theory of Jean Piaget, this other article by Bertrand Regader will be of great help to you: “The theory of learning of Jean Piaget”.

Sociocultural theory of Lev Vygotsky

Lev Vygotsky is also one of the most influential and important authors in the field of education and psychology. the Theory of socio-cultural development de Vygotsky states that people learn through social interactions and their culture. Vygotsky explains that dialogue is an important psychological tool in the development of a child’s thinking, and as children grow and develop their basic language becomes more complex.

Language is the key to human development because this happens through processes of exchange and transmission of knowledge on a communicative and social medium. In other words, the transmission of knowledge of culture takes place through language, which is the main vehicle of the development process and which decisively influences cognitive development.

Moreover, as a constructivist psychologist like Piaget, he believes that children learn actively and through practical experiences. Now, Vygotsky believes that learning is built through social interactions, with the support of someone more expert. Not like the Swiss psychologist, who asserts that knowledge is built individually. Vygotsky was important to be able to understand the collaborative learning and to learn more about the influence of the socio-cultural environment on children’s cognitive development.

His theory in a few blows

a few the basic principles of Vygotksy’s theory are the following:

  • Children thrive through informal and formal conversations with adults.

  • The first years of life are crucial for development, because it is here that thought and language become more and more independent.

  • Complex mental activities begin with basic social activities.

  • Children can perform more difficult tasks with the help of a more experienced person.

  • Difficult tasks promote the growth of cognitive development.

If you would like to explore this important theory further, simply click here: “Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory”.

Similarities between the two theories

Vygotsky and Piaget’s theories, however, have similarities there are also some differences. Let’s start with the similarities.

Piaget and Vygotsky are two constructivist theorists, although the latter is considered the main precursor of social constructivism. They both believe that children are active learners who actively organize new information with existing information. Therefore, Piaget and Vigotsky they postulate that knowledge is constructed by each subject and is not the result of an acquisition of answers.

Both authors believe that over time cognitive development decreases. They also believe that cognitive development begins with conflict. For example, in the case of Piaget, when the child realizes that a new idea does not correspond to his previous knowledge, he must then seek a new answer to allow the balance.

In addition, Piaget and Vygotsky they share the idea of ​​the importance of the game in the psychological aspect, Educational and social of the human being. Finally, they both believe that language is important for cognitive development, but from different angles.

Differences between the two theories

After seeing the similarities between the theories of these two authors, we move on to the differences:

1. Knowledge building

As we can see, both authors are constructivists, but Vygotsky differs from Piaget by the role played by environment and culture. For Vygotsky, in addition to seeing the child as an active subject who builds his knowledge, emphasizes taking into account the social, which helps mediators to transform reality and education. These mediators have a guiding role to help them in the learning and development process.

In the case of Piaget, learning is done individually. It is the conflict between the new and the known that leads the individual to seek balance.

2. Stages of development

Piaget’s theory deals with cognitive development in universal stages. On the other hand, for Vygotsky, these stages do not exist, because in the construction of knowledge through social interaction, each culture is different and therefore cannot be generalized.

This means that, for Piaget, the potential for cognitive development depends on the stage at which the subject is. On the other hand, for Vygostky, the potentiality of cognitive development depends on the quality of the interaction and the area of ​​development close to the subject.

3. Role of learning

Vygotsky believes that development depends on learning and that children learn through history and symbolism. Instead, Piaget thinks otherwise. In other words, learning depends on development. Piaget says intelligence comes from action and does not place as much importance on outside influences.

4. The role of language

Piaget maintains that egocentric speech manifests the inability to adopt the perspective of the other and, since it does not adapt to adult intelligence, egocentric speech disappears. By Vygotsky, egocentric speech helps children organize and regulate their thinking.

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