This paper discusses psychological theories of Piaget and Vyotsky in relation to their knowledge and learning. From observation, all educators tend to focus on what the learners should hear. Piaget and Vyogotsy use different approaches to explore how knowledge is acquired by learners. Most research findings agree with the fact that acquisition of knowledge primarily depends on continuation and that new presented materials are secondary.
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Piaget proposed the theory of “Developmental Growth of Schemata” which explores the role of schemata in relation to acquisition of new experiences. Just like adults, children use their earlier schemata and relate them with new experiences. But the difference between adults and children arises from perception of space and time.
Piaget presents his theory by critically analyzing developmental stages of schemata from babyhood to maturity. According to Corsini (1994), “Piaget presents four stages that characterize children’s knowledge which are; sensi-motor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational.”
After the end of each stage, some inclusive experiences are made available to make children understand new experiences. For instance, Piaget illustrates this by arguing that children cannot perform sums on the topic of ratios before they reach the formal operational stage. As a result, he argues that previous schemata play an important role in acquisition of new experiences by children.
Vygotsky proposed the theory of “Social Reconstruction of Prior Knowledge” which was majorly a response to the work of Piaget because he excluded social interaction in his theory. Unlike Piaget who capitalized on the maturity of schemata of an individual, Vygotsky argues that social interaction is critical for acquisition of complex knowledge.
In one of his investigations, Vygotsy examined the role of previous knowledge in scientific learning. He proposed that children have impulsive and scientific concepts which do not contradict but form part of a unification process. Vygotsky observed that spontaneous concepts grew gradually as a preparation of systematic reasoning.
From the theory of Piaget, educators today use some of his assumptions in acquisition of knowledge. Through his approach of spending a lot of time with children so as to understand their way of thinking, modern day educators use the same approach to know the learners better which is referred to as the clinical interview.
Today, educators are using Piaget proposals which suggest that children should be given an opportunity to do practical assignments so that they can get in touch with reality. From Vyogotsky’s theory, educators are using his approach through organization of cooperative learning actions with learners of different levels so that they can exchange experiences.
Piaget provided scientific evidence for his findings due to the fact that he used practical methods to illustrate his theories. Today, his theories of constructivism are widely used in non formal learning. For instance, learners intending to explore collections at ‘Natural History Museum in London’ are advised to observe real historical specimens. In order to support his ideas scientifically, Vygotsy regarded special education a laboratory from which laws of psychology were discovered (Brown, J.S., Collins, A., & Duguid, 1989).
From the two theories, we can derive some useful information that can help in development of knowledge in learners. From Piaget’s work, it is important to give children space and time to develop their knowledge. On the other hand, we learn that children need the support other children and adults to develop their understanding as proposed by Vygotsky.
Brown, J.S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18, 32-42.
Corsini, R.J. (1994). Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2nd Edition, New York: John Wiley, p 86-89.