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Jean Piaget & Lev Vygotsky

Perhaps the two most prominent constructivist theorists, who have had the greatest and longest impact on developmental psychology are Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Their theories have influenced many later theorists and their understanding of how development occurs. Vygotsky’s social learning theory is particularly interesting because he was one of the first to point out that the social environment influences learning. He proposed that individuals create new knowledge through social interactions (Riddle & Dabbagh, 1999). Interaction with peers, caregivers and other adults helps facilitate learning through the process of scaffolding.

Vygotsky also theorized that learning takes place when experiences are in the learner’s Zone of Proximal Development. His theory forms the foundation for strategies such as cooperative learning, cooperative projects, scaffolding and discovery learning (Slavin, 2000), which are so important in the modern day classroom. This emphasis on cooperative learning is what I like most about Vygotsky as I agree that social interactions are important in helping to develop knowledge. Piaget proposes that children are born with a naturally inquisitive nature and thus from an early stage use their reflexes to learn from their environment (Slavin, 2000, p.33).

Children develop schemes which are used to explore their environment. Adaptation, assimilation and accommodation take place when existing schemes are adjusted, or new schemes are developed from new experiences. Equilibration maintains the balance to between existing and new experiences (Slavin, 2000). Piaget believed that individuals pass through four different stages of development. These stages are the sensorimotor (from 0 to 2 years), preoperational (from 2 to 7 years), concrete operational (from seven to eleven) and formal operational (from eleven to adulthood) periods.

I agree with Piaget that there are stages of development but I do not support that they are defined by age but by experience. I think that as a person develops new experiences he advances to a higher level of cognition. This process does not happen automatically as the person ages.


Slavin, R. E. (2000). Educational Psychology: Theory and Practice. (6th ed. ). Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Riddle, E. M. , & Dabbagh, N. (1999). Lev Vygotsky’s social development theory. Retrieved March 3, 2008, from http://chd. gmu. edu/immersion/knowledgebase/theorists/constructivism/vygotsky. htm

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