The phenomenon of cognitive development has been studied extensively, with multiple theories having been produced in an endeavor at explaining and examining the subject matter. Currently, the consensus regarding the definition of cognitive development seems to suggest that the subject matter should be interpreted as the process of maturing and gaining perceptual and information processing skills (Sternberg & Williams, 2010). Nevertheless, the polemics concerning the issue of cognitive development and its true meaning persists, with several definitions still being significantly different yet providing a legitimate explanation of cognitive development.
Specifically, focusing on the difference in perspectives provided by Piaget and Vygotsky is essential for understanding the nature of the argument. Piaget essentially focuses on the nature of cognition as a unique skill observed in humans (Sigelman et al., 2019). Compared to him, Vygotsky’s explanation of cognitive development centers on social interactions as the fundamental aspect of it (Stevens-Fulbrook, 2020). Specifically, Piaget defines cognitive development as the social process that occurs in four key stages (the sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational ones) (Sigelman et al., 2019). Therefore, there is a significant difference between the specified definition and the one provided by Piaget, who defined cognitive development as the process that occurs on an instinctive level in young children, and Vygotsky, who posited that the process of cognitive development takes place s a mostly social phenomenon.
Piaget’s theory provides an explanation of the key stages of development and skills acquired at each, thus, informing teaching approaches. In turn, Vygotsky introduces a critical notion of the zone of proximal development, which implies the presence of background knowledge that needs to be expanded with each lesson, thus, allowing a learner to build a new skillset on the foundation of already existing knowledge (Sternberg & Williams, 2010). The specified approach is central to the current curriculum framework in most academic institutions since it introduces an intuitively understanding approach to teaching and learning.
Understanding the theory of cognitive development is vital for teachers since the specified framework offers opportunities for encouraging early childhood development in learners and provides them with the tools necessary for their further progress. Specifically, the skills of analysis, conceptualization, and critical and abstract thinking, assist learners in gaining new skills and processing new information, thus, building a sufficient knowledge base (Stevens-Fulbrook, 2020). Thus, by integrating strategies that activate early childhood development, the teachers can spur the learners’ progress.
Furthermore, it is possible for teachers to reach beyond the theories in question. Specifically, the theories by Vygotsky and Piaget can serve as the principal sources of learning about early childhood development specifics. However, when modeling teaching approaches, educators need to expand the available strategies and integrate innovative tools that will provide learners with new experiences and, thus, create premises for early childhood development. Moreover, the theories in question can guide educators to create programs for children with cognitive or developmental impairments, therefore, allowing them to experience the full gamut of learning opportunities and obtain the same range of skills and information as the rest of the learners do. Overall, educators need to go beyond the theories of Vygotsky and Piaget while also keeping the essential frameworks in mind in order to create additional opportunities for all learners and create a truly inclusive environment.
Though the consensus regarding the definition of cognitive development has not been reached yet, the importance of studying the subject matter further remains strong. Specifically, by exploring the specifics of early childhood learning and exploring it beyond the theories of Vygotsky and Piaget, one will create teaching strategies that will cater to the needs of all learners and create a truly inclusive environment. Therefore, cognitive development frameworks, including innovative ways of viewing the process in question, must be integrated into shaping teaching strategies.
Sigelman, C. K., De George, L., Cunial, K., & Rider, E. A. (2014). Life-span human development. Cengage Learning.
Sternberg, R. J., & Williams, W. M. (2010). Educational psychology (2nd ed.). Pearson.
Stevens-Fulbrook, P. (2020). Vygotsky, Piaget and Bloom.: The definitive guide to their educational theories with examples of how they can be applied. Paul Stevens-Fulbrook.