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Running Head: VYGOTSKY’S THEORY 1

Vygotsky’s Cognitive Development Theory

National University

Chelsea Johnston

ITL 606 Learners and Learning II

1.3 Week One Assignment – Developmental Theory

Jason Siegel

7 February 2019
VYGOTSKY’S THEORY 2

Abstract

Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and Lawrence Kohlberg are some of the famous cognitive/moral

development theorists that we still learn about today. These psychologists have created theories

of cognitive/moral development that aid in educators understanding the best way to educate

students. By taking the time to learn the various theories of the brain development, we can gain a

better insight on how to alter our instruction to benefit our learners and to better understand any

obstacles that arise. These theories provide a great starting point in the inner workings of being a

great educator. Taking the time to reflect on personal experiences in education, we can begin to

see these theories applied in real life. These theories all make an appearance throughout the

process of education, but none of them are applied regularly all the time. These theories are

backed with great data, but we are still learning how the mind truly works.
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Vygotsky’s Cognitive Development Theory

Introduction

Cognitive development is the process in which the brain develops thought processes,

“including remembering, problem solving, and decision making” (Encyclopedia of Children's

Health, 2019). Historically, numerous psychologists have made their theories in explaining the

cognitive and moral development in humans. Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and Lawrence

Kohlberg are some of the famous cognitive/moral development theorists that we still study

today. While all theories can be demonstrated through experimentation and in the classroom,

Vygotsky’s theory appeals to me most because it seems to align most with my philosophy of

teaching.

Piaget, Vygotsky, and Kohlberg Development Theories

While Piaget, Vygotsky, and Kohlberg have different theories on the cognitive/moral

development, their theories have some similarities along with their variations. Some of the

similarities include the gradual development process in relation to maturity, the recognition of

nature and nurture, and that children develop abilities in stages. All three psychologists believe

that children can learn increasingly complex lessons and skills as they mature. This is based on a

building block concept and that once certain lessons are learned, other can be added to it. The

recognition of nature and nurture seem to also be apparent in all three theories. The concept of

the maturing mind and body is an aspect of nature while the impact from peers, culture, or

environment are aspects of nurture. Finally, all theories consist of a belief in developmental

abilities based in stages. The concept of development is not a quick process and certain concepts

must be in order before building onto it.


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The differences among the three theories are in the ways that they believe learning is

done and the reasons why it happens. Piaget believes that self-discovery and ability to adapt to

new experiences is crucial in learning. Vygotsky states that learning is done through

social/cultural signs and instruction. While Kohlberg believes that morals are learned and

obtained through concentration on justice. The motive to learn and develop vary among these

three theories, yet all three theories can be seen throughout the development of humans.

Vygotsky’s Cognitive Development Theory

Lev Vygotsky’s cognitive development theory emphasizes the fundamental role of social

interaction and cultural influence on cognitive formation. Vygotsky firmly believed that the

community played a large part in the process of children learning and the understanding of new

information. Vygotsky proposed that intellectual development can only be “understood in terms

of the historical and cultural contexts children experience” and the development of the child

depends on the “symbols that cultures create to help people think, communicate, and solve

problems” (Slavin, 2018). In other words, Vygotsky believed that cognitive development heavily

relied on the contribution of peers and adults.

Based on Vygotsky’s theory, development occurs as children internalize signs given in

means of information and deliberate teaching and then are able to problem solve without

assistance. This ability is known as self-regulation. Vygotsky believed that learning most

effectively occurs when children work within their zone of proximal development. Tasks that fall

into this zone are ones that children can only complete with assistance from peers or adults.

Through repetition and guided instruction, children can begin to solve these problems with no

assistance. Once this is achieved, the lesson is believed to be fully understood.


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Overall, Vygotsky believed that higher levels of understanding occurs through social and

cultural involvement. Without input and feedback from peers and adults, true understanding can

never be achieved. Thus, social involvement is key in the cognitive development of children and

educators should focus on their quality of instruction and signs given. Higher mental functioning

must “exist in conversation and collaboration among individuals before it exists within the

individual” (Slavin, 2018).

The theories of Piaget, Vygotsky, and Kohlberg can all be demonstrated in the classroom;

however, Vygotsky’s theory appeals to me most because it aligns with my philosophy of

teaching. I believe that educators should alter their instruction to meet the needs of every student.

This alters the social approach to be specific to each student and allows them to grow more while

they are in the zone of proximal development.

Personal Experience

Reflecting on Vygotsky’s cognitive theory, I can recall a time where I witnessed a

student demonstrating this theory just a couple months ago. I was observing a fifth-grade class

and noticed the way the teacher taught the students in rotations. She gave an overall instruction

to the class and then turned them to complete an independent worksheet. Once the teacher felt

she gave ample time to complete the worksheet, she went over the answers with the entire class

and took tally on the scoring. Based on the number of correct answers, she split the class into

groups of five. Then she made her way to each group and worked with them for fifteen minutes

each. Once completing her rounds, she gave the class a small assessment and had them compare

the results of the two tests. Nearly all students had shown growth in their scores.

Personal Application with Vygotsky’s Theory


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The personal experience demonstrates an example of Vygotsky’s theory because it shows

how most of the students were in the zone of proximal development but made their way to self-

regulation and independent thinking through further instruction. The overall instruction of the

class provided the students with a basic understanding of the information. It is the step that put

them into the zone of proximal development. They used the social interaction to aid in their

cognitive development. Once the students were turned to complete independent work, their skills

and weaknesses were highlighted, and the educator was able to pinpoint the areas that needed

further instruction. This step allowed for the teacher to guide them and help them achieve

independent performance skills on this matter.

Conclusion

Historically, numerous psychologists have made their theories in explaining the cognitive

and moral development in humans. Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and Lawrence Kohlberg are

some of the famous cognitive/moral development theorists that we still study today. While all

theories can be demonstrated in the classroom, Vygotsky’s theory appeals to me most because it

seems to align most with my philosophy of education. Through my personal experiences, I have

been exposed to Vygotsky’s theory being successfully applied in the classroom. Also taking

Piaget and Kohlberg theory into consideration, I believe that I can appeal to the majority of my

students and help ensure healthy cognitive and moral development.


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References

Encyclopedia of Children's Health. (2019, February 7). Cognitve Development. Retrieved from

Encyclopedia of Children's Health: http://www.healthofchildren.com/C/Cognitive-

Development.html

Slavin, R. E. (2018). Educational Psychology Theory and Practice 12th Edition . New York:

Pearson.