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English 401-Advanced Composition

Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development
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Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Knowing and understanding Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is a key aspect in an educator’s ability to understand their students and to promote distinguished teaching and learning skills within the classroom.  Beth and Farrah are obviously in the preoperational stage of cognitive development.  Instead of using any means of reasoning, they are using collective monologue to talk enthusiastically about their own dog.  Neither girl is able to use semiotic functions, or an image of the dog seeing his own reflection, to understand why he dropped the meat. 

Chelsea and Dontae, on the other hand, have reached the concrete-operational stage because they were able to actively think and reason.  They both use logic to demonstrate their grasp in understanding that “elements can be changed or transformed and still conserve many of their original characteristics, and the understanding that these changes can be reversed.” (32)  They focused on the entire event, rather than on just the perceptually obvious, to realize that if the dog was not greedy, then he would still have his meat; therefore, demonstrating that they understand the difference between right and wrong. 

Adam and Escobar have reached the formal operations stage.  They have a grasp on the concept of “what is to what might be” (35) as it relates to the dog and his meat.  Both are using hypthetico-deductive reasoning by stating that the dog either: (a) shouldn’t have tried to cross the stream with the meat; or (b) the dog should have swam across the stream instead.  This demonstrates that both boys are forming hypotheses in their minds of alternative ways, or different possibilities for this situation, that the dog could have gotten across the stream without losing his meat.

            Vygotsky believed that, “human activities take place in cultural settings and cannot be understood apart from these settings.” (39)  He stressed that knowledge is co-constructed on both a group level and personal level, while social interactions, language and cultural tools are all necessary in learning.  Vygotsky was known for encouraging children’s private speech in order to increase their cognitive development.  Even though Beth and Farrah are only concerned with their own dog in reference to the story, Vygotsky would state that their speech will further their thought process, or cognitive self-instruction. 

            Chelsea and Dontae are demonstrating social interactions and what they have learned with guidance.  Their quotes are more than likely sayings that they have learned from their parents or teachers on how things should be viewed.  This is not necessarily saying that they believe or completely understand either concept, but instead, it is something they are using to guide their thought and idea process.

            Adam and Escobar have reached the knowing stage in that they have taken the scenario and used independent problem solving to determine what the dog should or should not have done.  According to Vygotsky, this is the level where, “instruction can succeed because real learning is possible.” (44)

            In considering both Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s theories in relation to this scenario, I believe that it would be a good idea to separate the two groups evenly.  Although Piaget believed that you need to match teaching to the different cognitive stages, children are smarter than most people give them credit for.  By taking one child from each of the three groups and making two separate groups, this will provide those students who are in Piaget’s preoperational and concrete stages with someone in the formal operational stage.  It will also place those who Vygotsky would consider in the speech and social interaction stage with someone in the knowing stage.  This form of grouping would provide a building block of learning and lead to a higher level of thinking for all involved. 

            In conclusion, I believe both Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s theories can be used in conjunction with each other and are highly accurate in regards to children’s cognitive developmental skills.  Thus, as a future, educator, I believe both theories will be extremely beneficial and should be implemented in classroom instruction and design.