EDU 6655 Piaget or Vygotsky?

During the readings and videos this week, what really got my mind turning was information that Dr. Williams mentions during her screencast on Cognitive Development Piaget and Vygotsky. I was able to recall back to my undergrad at WSU when we spent a lot of time researching the famous Piaget and Vygotsky, and their beliefs on education and development. In college their opposite views made for great debates and conversation in our classes. However, now that I have my own classroom and a particular grade level that I teach to, I find myself really challenging the beliefs of Piaget and Vygotsky on cognitive development.

As Dr. Williams states in her screencast, “In the aspect of language, Piaget believed that it was an indicator of mental maturity, development precedes language.” Whereas Vygotsky believes, “language is an essential part of development of mental maturity. Language precedes development. (Williams 5:08)”. While researching during my undergrad I found myself siding with many of Vygotsky’s beliefs, but now my thoughts have changed. I am not sure I agree with either Piaget or Vygotsky.

A source compares Piaget and Vygotsky saying, “Challenge, readiness, and social interaction are central to the theories of both Piaget and Vygotsky. However, the two perspectives differ on the role of language in cognitive development, the relative value of free exploration versus more structured and guided activities, the relative importance of interactions with peers versus adults, and the influence of culture (Pearson Chapter 6)”. Pearson explains that although the two had challenging theories, they had a few agreements that they both felt were cruical to development.

Looking further, another article states, “Cognitive Development is learned through mental processes and sensory perceptions. Warm, supportive interactions with others, as well as the ability to use all five of the sensory modes—seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling—are required for maximum development of the mental or cognitive processes (Hearron 2010)”. This piggybacks on to my personal beliefs and thoughts about cognitive development.

After teaching kindergartener for the past 4 years, I have a really hard time taking a side to this argument. I don’t feel that development precedes language, or that language precedes development. I find that at this age, there is no true indicator of one leading into the other. I believe that development and language go hand in hand. I have many students who are bi and trilingual who have proven both ends where their language skills are strong but developmentally still needing progress and those who are developmentally mature, but their language skills lack. As an educator, I don’t find myself trying to dictate whether I agree with Piaget or Vygotsky in order to better my practice. Wolfe discusses in many readings the importance to “talk talk talk! (Wolfe 4)” speaking to your child even before birth as well as the opportunities we provide for children. In chapter 5 it states, “…research has often been cited as evidence for the importance of early childhood enrichment (Wolfe, 77)”. I feel you have cognitive development when you combine the two. When you surround your child’s young mind with enriched, hands-on, concrete experiences (to help them develop) and then have the meaningful conversations about those experiences.

After looking into additional research, I stand by my views on cognitive development and will continue teaching my students based on what best suits them.

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.71-92). Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Wolfe, P. (2013). Early Brain Development. A position paper for the 9th Bridge Early Childhood Program in Las Vegas.

Cognitive Development- Piaget and Vygotsky. Dir. Dr. Tracy Williams . Web. 9 Oct. 2013.

Hearron, P. F., & Hildebrand, V. (2010, July 20).Cognitive Development. Retrieved from

Pearson. (1995). Merrill Education’s Companion Websites: Chapter Overview and Summary: Piaget and Vygotsky. Pearson Prentice Hall. DOI: Hearron, P. F., & Hildebrand, V. (2010, July 20). Cognitive Development. Retrieved from

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