Western thinking and school system has been dominated by views that focus on the role of the individual in constructing the world and reality. Often it is debated whether children of a certain age do or do not have a certain ability or structure.
The child has been described as a solo child, coping principally on his or her won trying to sort out and represent the world.
Little attention has been paid to the social world.The dominant metaphor for a learner has been something between Rodin’s thinker and Huck Finn heading off to the territories – a singular, lone, figure arm-wrestling the world some conundrum, or a conceptual matter to the table”
Today, many developmental psychologists acknowledge the importance of individual and social factors.
Piaget and Vygotsky
Two different perspectives on development have been put forward by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget and Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky.
Vygotsky focused on the social world.
It is important to note that Piaget recognised the importance of the social world, but he focused on the individual. Vygotsky’s theory is built on the assumption that intellectual development cannot be understood without reference to the social world.
Influence on Development
It has been assumed within the Piagetian tradition that it is not possible to influence a child’s development by instruction. In contrast, within the Vygotskian tradition, a more competent adult or friend controls and guides the child’s activity and helps the child to complete the task.
Both Piaget and Vygotsky looked at how children learn language, and they were fascinated by the relationship of thinking and language learning.
Piaget’s idea was that children learn through action, and the more active a child is the more he will learn. Children construct their own learning and from the beginning, the child learns through physical interaction with the world. Language is not inborn, rather the development of language is dependent on general cognitive skills.
In Vygotsky’s view, language is vital for a child’s development, and it is through conversations with adults and other children that a child learns. Children learn through using tools or signs, such as counting, writing, maps, and language.
Internalised Speech – Egocentric Speech
In Vygotsky’s view a child talks to himself when they are trying to solve a task. The child has learnt from others to talk and use language as a tool. After a while, this talking disappears and it has become thoughts.
Piaget believed that a child talks to himself because he is egocentric and cannot use speech to interact with parents and friends.
From Piaget we can pick up the idea that it is important to leave the child space and time to develop their own thinking, and from Vygotsky that a child learns and develops together with adults and other children.
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