Piaget and Vygotsky are the most recognized cognitive psychologists. They both developed theories that addressed cognitive development and learning among children. They share some opinions but there are differences as well.
Piaget claimed that development goes through four stages based on maturation and experience. He believed that biological maturation establishes the condition for cognitive development and that interaction with the physical and social environment is key for cognitive development.
On the other hand, Vygotsky focused more on the role of cultural and social interactions. To Piaget internal factors preponderate over external ones and that there is a natural line of development which is universal, while Vygotysky followed a cultural line of development which is highly variable depending on the child’s cultural experiences to the environment.
Piaget said that thought drives language while Vygotsky believed that language drives thought, you mature because you learn, not the other way around. Vygotsk placed a lot of emphasis on the social side, believing that every child is born to a social environment and develops from there while Piaget thought that a child develops from the individual to the social.
Vygotsky came up with the concept of Zone of Proximal Development which is an imaginary place where a learner can succeed with a little help from a more knowledgeable peer. It gives some insights on how teacher should go about teaching, the contents should be presented in way that they aren’t too easy neither too difficult. Too easy a task might drive the student into boredom while too hard a task might lead students to frustration and therefore, avoidance. According to Piaget, cognitive stages go through equilibrium and disequilibrium. When something unknown is presented to a learner, disequilibrium kicks is and there is a need to get back to equilibrium. When one reaches what Piaget called equilibrium, assimilation and accommodation have occurred to create a new stage of development (Woolfolk, A., 2004).
Besides some divergences between Vygostsky and Piaget, they come together in some aspects. They both agree that development occurs because the child is an active learner. The child actively organizes cognitive schemas to maintain equilibrium and the child is active in providing feedback to the parent/instructor. They also believe that development declines with age and that there is a steady increase of development in childhood, then cognitive development declines. People may have their preferences whether it is for Piaget or Vygotsky’s theory, however; both of them provided some relevant concepts in cognitive development and should be taken into account. Teachers should use whatever he/she considers to be important and regardless of who is right or wrong, what really matters is if learning is being fostered.