Holistic Child Compare and Contrast Essay

Subject: Psychology
Type: Compare and Contrast Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1379
Topics: Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology

Jean Piaget was a psychologist and an epistemologist from Swiss.  He is best remembered for his work in child development. His theory’s views; that is, Piaget’s theory of cognitive development and epistemological, are used in the modern education.  According to Piaget, the cognitive stages of development are divided into four.  The first stage is the sensor motor stage which is the period from birth to acquiring language. The second stage is the preoperational stage which lasts from age two to seven. The third stage is the concrete operational stage which occurs between age seven and eleven. The last stage is the formal operational (Piaget, 2013). 

At the preoperational stage; that is, Piaget’s second stage, the child cannot comprehend complex logic or manufacture information.  This stage is characterized by playing and imitation. Children exhibit egocentrism; that is, they view things in their own perspectives.  The child play is characterized by symbolism and the manipulation of symbols. Through the observation of sequences, Piaget concluded that at the end of two years the operational stage occurs (Piaget, 2013).

The operational stage does not adequately explain the mental operation. The child develops concepts and imaginary beliefs. The child is unable to perform mental tasks and he has difficulty in seeing other people’s point of view.  The symbolic stage is divided into two. The first is the symbolic function substage, which occurs between ages two and four.  This is where children think images and are able to represent things by symbols. The second stage is the intuitive substage this is whereby children are curious and ask questions (Piaget, 2013).

Piaget’s third stage is the concrete operational stage which occurs between age seven and eleven. During this period, the child is able to apply logic to concrete situations.  They can almost solve problems like adults. Hypothetical thinking does not apply to the child. The child at this age draws reason that may result in a conclusion.  At this age, the child is able to eliminate egocentrism and accommodate other people’s ideas.  

Piaget theory has however received criticism.  The first critique is that development does not occur in an order.  This suggests that Piaget theory of cognitive development is an approximation. In some cases, children exhibit the ability to solve complex problems at an early stage as opposed to Piaget’s theory in which the ability exhibits itself later (Lourence & Machado, 1996).  Piaget’s theory includes all domains.  It states that cognitive development occurs across all fields of knowledge such as physics, logic, and mathematics. Piaget did not take in to account the difference in children’s performance, and how children perform differently across many domains.

Piaget’s theory also underestimates the effect of culture on cognitive development. His theory suggests that a child goes through the cognitive development by himself and draws his own conclusion. In reality, however, the social interaction helps the child in the cognitive development, which Piaget fails to recognize.  Psychologists such as Vygotsky thought that language played an important role in cognitive development than Piaget implied (Watson, 2012). 

Piaget’s theory has also been applied in the field of education. The theory has enabled teachers to focus on how the child thinks and not just the end product.  Focusing on how the child thinks enables the teachers to provide a better learning environment for the child. Piaget’s theory encourages the importance of children’s active involvement and self-motivation in learning through a visual and practical approach.  Piaget’s theory also discourages premature teaching as it undermines the pure cognitive understanding (Berk, 1986). 

Another theory that is currently used to determine a child development theory is the Vygotsky work which is known as Social Development Theory. Vygotsky was a student of literature, law and cultural studies at the University of Moscow.  He applied his education and became a theorist of development studies and human psychology. His theory has been applied in many fields including education. Vygotsky in his work stated that social interaction plays an important role in cognitive development. He emphasizes on the importance of language in conversing with the world (Vygotsky, 1962).

Vygotsky’s work, however, differs in a number of ways from Piaget’s work.  First, Vygotsky theory claims that cognitive development occurs from social interaction and guided learning while Piaget claims that cognitive development occurs from children’s independent explorations, and that is how they acquire knowledge.  Second, Vygotsky emphasizes that culture affects cognitive development while Piaget emphasizes that cognitive development is a process that occurs in stages.  Third, Vygotsky insists that cognitive development differs across different culture while Piaget insists that cognitive development is the same across all cultures.  Fourth, Vygotsky, in his theory, shows the importance of adults in cognitive development while Piaget insists that children should stick to their peers, as they will help them with their social development.

Vygotsky work has also been applied in the field of education. Vygotsky work has helped tutors to provide hints and instructions to students, which helps them with their assessment (White, n.d.).  Vygotsky’s work has enabled educators to provide ways of assisting children with their development.  The teachers can provide hints for a child in a particular zone; this helps in simplifying the learners work through the intervention of teachers.  However, other people may argue that Vygotsky’s work is student-centered.  The claim is that it emphasizes on learning on the scientific concept which is different from learning formal reason in Piaget’s theory. His theory also leaves little room for novel interpretation (White, n.d.).

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Jerome Bruner also had his theory of development. He had three modes of representation of development. The first stage is Enactive, which is the representing of knowledge by action.  The second stage is Iconic which is the process of converting images into visuals. The final stage is symbolic representation this refers to the use of words and other symbols in describing new things (Bruner, 1961).  His ideas have been applied in the field of education.

 He believed that a child’s learning should be in the way he views things.  He also championed that curriculum should be taught in a way that fosters problem-solving skills.  He believed that mastery of a skill should be in a way that leads to mastery of more advanced skills. Brunner encouraged teaching by concepts that are organized and learning through discovery.  He also believed that culture should shape how people should organize their opinion and other people’s opinion (Bruner, 1961).

Brunner’s work has been applied in different sectors of education, for example, instructions should be given to different learners according to their level of understanding and learning modes.  It has also developed the need for teachers to revisit their work before teaching; this is for the teacher to grasp knowledge.  Teaching aids have been provided to assist children in their learning. Student’s previous knowledge is used to help acquire new knowledge. His theory has enabled learners to categorize information in order to see differences and similarities between them.  Children should be motivated and teachers should be aware that grades and competition are not good for learning (Bruner, 1961).

Bruner’s theory has also received criticism.  His instruction objective learning is not focused on schooling, but on obtaining end results; the learning tends to be descriptive and not prescriptive.  Giving instruction to learners is designed in a way that knowledge is readily grasped.

The work of psychologists Skinner, Pavlov and Bandura came up with a theory that simple stimulus produces a response, which was produced by another stimulus at first, and that behavior is learned through the environment.  Skinner’s interest was in learning and behavior.  According to Skinner, learning is about changing behaviors and students are supposed to be tested on their listening and learning by being asked questions.

Their theory has encouraged the conditioning study behavior; that is, children are motivated by medals and prizes.  It has also enabled the teachers to reinforce punishment and condition the student’s behavior.

There are critics of the theory.  Some who argue against the theory claim that people react differently to different situations, and not have the same response as the theory suggest.  They also argue that the theory neglects factors such as genetics, learning difference, and brain.

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  1. Berk, L. E. (1986).  Relationship of elementary school children’s private speech to behavioral accompaniment to task, attention, and task performance.  Developmental Psychology, 22(5), 671-680. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.22.5.671
  2. Bruner, J. S. (1961).  The Act of Discovery. Harvard Educational Review, 31, 21-32. – References – Scientific Research Publishing. 
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  7. Vygotsky, L. S. (1998).  Infancy. In R. W. Reiber (Ed.), The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky (Vol. 5, pp. 207–241). New York, NY: Plenum Press 
  8. Vygotsky, L. S. (1998).  Infancy. In R. W. Reiber (Ed.), The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky (Vol. 5, pp. 207–241). New York, NY: Plenum Press
  9. Vygotsky, L.S. (1962).  Thought and language. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
  10. Watson, J. B. (2012). Behaviorism. London: Forgotten Books. 
  11. Watson, J. B., & Rayner, R. (1920).  Conditioned emotional reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3(1), 1-14. doi:10.1037/h0069608 
  12. White, T. G. (n.d.).  Vygotsky in education – tourotgaglianesewhite. 
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