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Essay Plan: Vygotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development(see Pennington p.53-57 and Gross p. 498-500) Start by giving some historical background on Vygotsky: He was Russian, his theory was developed in the 1920s but not published in English until the 1960s. Vygotsky stressed social (see below) and cultural factors – children learn what is culturally relevant to them. Western children are at ease with computers because they are a central part of their culture. Explain how Vygotsky saw children as apprentices (learning from others) whereas Piaget saw children as scientists (discovering things for themselves). Next, say how Piaget was criticised for ignoring social factors (the role of other people in cognitive development) – remember he was more interested in discovery and the process of adaptation. Vygotsky, on the other hand, stressed the social world and claimed that learning or development can only occur through others. Give the quote (or as much as you can remember): Vygotsky (1978) states: "Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). Describe what Vygotsky means by internalisation and give an example (learning to count is a good one). Explain the Zone of Proximal Development. Draw the diagram – remember to use the key words (actual and potential). Give an example. Explain how the ZPD also accounts for individual differences because two different people of the same age can be at different points on the line. Piaget’s stage theory cannot do this because he says that if you are age 4, for example, you must still be in the pre-operational stage. Describe the process of scaffolding – give an example (learning to drive is a good one). Use Wood & Middleton (1975) as empirical support – see p.54 (Pennington). Explain the implications for the classroom: Piaget – children should be given the opportunity to explore, experiment and discover things for themselves Vygotsky – children need structured guidance and teaching from adults and/or experts in order to develop. Evaluate the theory: o Vygotsky’s theory does answer many of the criticisms made against Piaget (see points above) o His theory implies that development can be artificially accelerated by lots of guidance, but this is not so – children often only learn when they are ready to learn, e.g. language. o His theory suggests that adults (parents) always act in positive and helpful ways towards their children. This is not always so, parents sometimes deceive their children about issues such as sex and death.
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