Lesson 2 – Teaching & Learning Theory
Teaching and Learning theory
Two of the most recognized cognitive psychologists, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, developed theories that addressed cognitive development and learning among children and adolescents. While there are similarities between the two theories, differences exist, and those differences are critical to the understanding and application of the theories in educational settings. This lesson will highlight those major differences.
Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development described and explained the changes in logical thinking of children and adolescents. Piaget proposed that children proceed through four stages based on maturation and experience.
Piaget’s theory is guided by assumptions of how learners interact with their environment and how they integrate new knowledge and information into existing knowledge. Briefly, he proposed that:
- children are active learners who construct knowledge from their environments
- they learn through assimilation and accommodation, and complex cognitive development occurs through equilibration
- the interaction with physical and social environments is key for cognitive development
- development occurs in stages
Lev Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development, referred to as his cultural-historical theory, focused on the role of culture and social interactions. Vygotsky maintained that speech is a major psychological tool in the child’s development of thinking. As children age and develop, their basic speech becomes more complex.
Vygotksy’s theory is guided by six major assumptions:
- children develop through informal and formal conversations with adults
- the first few years of life are critical for development, as this is where thought and language become increasingly independent
- complex mental activities begin as basic social activities
- children can perform more difficult tasks with the help of a more advanced individual
- tasks that are challenging promote cognitive development growth
- play is important and allows children to stretch themselves cognitively