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Evaluate Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development ( 8 marks)

Vygotsky believed that language develops from social interactions, for communication purposes.
Vygotsky viewed language as man’s greatest tool, a means for communication with the outside
world. Vygotsky’s theories stress the fundamental role of social interaction in the development of
cognition, as he believed strongly that communication plays a central role in the process of “making
meaning.” Unlike Piaget’s notion that children’s’ development must necessarily precede their
learning, Vygotsky argued that social learning tends to precede development. The first key point of
Vygotsky’s theory is interaction with other people. More knowledgeable other (MKO) refers to
someone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a
particular task, process of concept. The key of MKO is that they must have (or programmed with)
more knowledge about the topic being learned than the learner does. For child as an apprentice,
Vygotsky believed that culture is transmitted by experts using semiotics (signs & symbols developed
within a particular culture) . Conversations between the expert and learner enable adults to transmit
the non-body knowledge that exists in culture. Vygotsky was the first psychologist to document the
importance of private speech. He considered private speech as the transition point between social
and inner speech, the moment in development where language and thought were constitute verbal
thinking. Vygotsky’s claims about the effects of culture have been supported in cross-cultural
research. Gredler pointed to the primitive counting system in Papua New Guinea as an example of
how culture can limit cognitive development. The Zone of proximal development is the area
between the child’s current level of development and the potential level of development that can be
achieved with the help of another. E.g. child will perform new activities with the help of MKO and
then they’ll be able to complete them independently. The evidence for the ZPD was produced in a
study by McNaughton and Leyland. They observed young children working with their mothers on
jigsaw puzzles of increasing difficulty and then a week later observed the children working on their
own. The children reached a higher level of difficulty with their mothers than when working on their
own, defining their ZPD. In scaffolding, MKO first of all identifies the need of the child in the social
setting and then helps them with the parts of the framework which supports them with their
learning. The support is matched to the child’s needs. MKO uses tool of their culture where learning
Is linked to culture. The strength of Vygotsky’s theory is that his approach provides a bridge between
social and cognitive domains. It is a more positive approach than piaget’s because it offers ways that
others can be actively involved in potentially have more educational applications than piaget’s
theory. This contradicts piaget’s view of universal stages and content development as Vygotsky
doesn’t refer to stages in that way that piaget does. Hence, Vygotsky assumes that cognitive
development varies across cultures, whereas piaget states that cognitive development is mostly
universal across cultures. However, despite the number of studies discussed, there has been
relatively little research related to Vygotsky’s theory compared with the abundance of research on
piaget’s theory. This is partly because Vygotsky’s theory doesn’t lend itself readily to
experimentation, as the concepts are more difficult to operationalize. A further limitation relates to
the social emphasis in Vygostky’s theory. Whilst Piaget underplayed social influences, Vygotsky may
have overplayed the importance of social environment. If social influence was all that was needed to
advance cognitive development, then learning would have been a lot faster than it is. Vygotsky’s
emphasis on social factors also led him to largely ignore biological factors. Overall, Vygotsky’s theory
has been criticized for lacking detail. However, this is due to the fact that he died at such a young
age and didn’t have time to fully develop his theory. Nonetheless In Comparison to Piaget’s theory,
Vygotsky’s theory has less of a rigid approach to how learning takes place.