Cognitive Development - Vygotsky

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PSYB3 AQA

What are six of Vygotsky's key ideas?

1) Zone of Proximal Development

2) More Knowledgeable Other (MKO)/co-construction

3) Scaffolding

4) Gradualism

5) Learning drives development

6) Language drives thought - we use language to think with.

Give an overview of what Vygotsky's theory is about, how it contrasts with Piaget's, and how it is related to culture.

Vygotsky proposed a sociocultural theory of cognitive development, according to which culture plays a critical part in the development of cognition - this contrasts with Piaget's notion of the child as an active constructor of their own knowledge. The cognitive skills a child requires are ones which are necessary for the child's culture - because these skills are largely culture-specific, their development is more likely to be influenced by social factors than biological processes.

What is internalisation? Give an example.

Internalisation is a key aspect of Vygotsky's theory. Children learn through social experiences. An example of this is the ability to point. A baby will reach for an object by extending their arm and fingers towards it. When the parent notices this, they will point at the object and ask if they want it. By observing their parent's behaviour and understanding the meaning behind it, they will acquire the behaviour themselves and using it as a deliberate communicative tool in similar contexts.

What is Vygotsky's view on developmental change - do he and Piaget agree?

Piaget and Vygotsky agree that development is qualitative. This means that the capacity for understanding various things changes (the quantitative view is known as behaviourism, wherein there is no distinction between learning and development).

What experiences do Vygotsky and Piaget believe lead to development?

Piaget believed that physical objects contribute to the construction of knowledge. Vygotsky believed that co-construction (other people) is always involved, along with a more knowledgeable other (MKO).

What is constructivism? Is Vygotsky a constructivist or a co-constructivist?

Like Piaget, Vygotsky believed that maturational prerequisites are necessary to develop further knowledge. For example, you cannot master logic without having mastered language. Constructivism is the view that we do not absorb or mirror information - we make our own sense out of it. Piaget was a constructivist; Vygotsky a co-constructivist.

What do Piaget and Vygotsky believe about the relationship between learning and development?

Piaget believed that children must have readiness (you must develop before you can learn). Form a path, and then learn - stage theory. Piaget did not believe assistance leads to a better development.

Vygotsky believed that you can learn certain things, which forge a path for further development - gradual, not in stages. Vygotsky believed assistance leads to a better development.

What is the zone of proximal development; the level of unassisted performance; the level of assisted performance?

• The level of unassisted performance is how well you can do on your own.

• The level of assisted performance is how well you can do with an MKO helping you. You can perform better this way than on your own.

• The zone of proximal development (ZPD) is between these two levels - the distance between what a child can achieve alone, and what the same child can achieve with guidance from another person. The ZPD shifts as the child acquires more knowledge. It takes into account a child's potential ability - not just their present ability.

Describe Ruffman et al (1998)'s study on the ZPD, Japanese, and UK children.

Ruffman tested children from Japan and the UK on false belief tasks (understanding that another's mental representation of the situation is different from their own, and the ability to predict behaviour based on that understanding). He found that the ability to solve false belief tasks was related to age and also to the size of a child's family. Children with more siblings were better at solving false belief tasks.

Evaluate Ruffman et al (1998)'s study on the ZPD, Japanese, and UK children.

1) This study supports the notion of MKOs in two ways:

- The older a child, the better their ability to solve the task, because the MKOs have had more time to impart their knowledge and experience onto the child.

- The larger the child's family, the better their ability to solve the task, because there are more MKOs to impart their knowledge and experience onto the child. Co-constructionism is greater with larger families.

What is scaffolding?

Scaffolding is a form of instruction in which the child is given a level of help and support which is gradually reduced until they can complete the task unaided.

Describe Wood & Middleton (1975)'s study on children, their parents, and the wooden block puzzle.

Interaction between children (aged 4) and their parents was observed. Each child was allowed to play individually with a set of wooden blocks with their parent looking on. The task, which involved assembling the blocks by fitting them together, was intentionally too difficult for the child to complete alone.

Initially, parents showed their child how to assemble the blocks, and as the child became more capable of managing on their own, the parent would stop helping directly but still give verbal suggestions and encouragement. The level of assistance declined as the activity progressed, with the greatest help (demonstrating how to do the task) given at the start and less and less help given later as the child's own skill develops.

Evaluate Wood & Middleton (1975)'s study on children, their parents, and the wooden block puzzle.

1) This study successfully shows co-construction with an MKO being demonstrated.

2) As the child becomes more skilled, they are given less specific support, supporting the notion of scaffolding.

3) This study involves the development of a single specific skill rather than general cognitive development. This study was, therefore, not a valid measure of cognitive development. Theories of cognitive development explain how children acquire conceptual rather than routine task-specific knowledge.

Describe Bruner (1966)'s take on the Piagetian conservation of liquid quantity task.

Bruner used a Piagetian conservation of liquid quantity task. First, he used the method Piaget employed (almost all 4-5 year olds answered wrongly). Secondly, he repeated the test, but the beakers were screened so that the children could not see the levels of water in the beakers (almost all of the 5 year olds answered correctly; 50% of the 4 year olds answered correctly). Finally, he repeated the original test (the 5 year olds stuck with their correct answer; the 4 year olds didn't).

Evaluate Bruner (1966)'s take on the Piagetian conservation of liquid quantity task.

1) Supports the theory of scaffolding, because the screen removed the distraction of the level of water in the beakers.

2) Partially supports Piaget's theory of 'readiness', as 50% of the 4 year olds got the answer wrong in the 2nd stage, showing they weren't developmentally ready yet to understand the concept of conservation even with the distraction removed.

What did Vygotsky believe about language?

Vygotsky believed that cognitive development was heavily dependent on language since language affects and shapes culture. It is through language that the ideas of a culture are expressed, inevitably affecting the way a child thinks.

What did Vygotsky believe about how cognitive development arises (regarding language)?

Vygotsky suggested that cognitive development arises from the child's conversations with parents and others, and that language provides a framework for thinking.

What did Vygotsky believe above how language developed?

<b>1) Pre-intellectual stage </b>(social speech - words are not symbols for the objects they denote, but are properties of the objects, 0-3 years old)

<b>2) Egocentric speech <b>(language controls behaviour - serves as the function of self-guidance, 3-7 years old)

<b>3) Inner speech </b>(language used as communicative tool but also shapes thoughts, 7+)

How would a Vygotskian go about teaching children?

Firstly, other people would be needed to push the child into their ZPD by getting them to attempt problems they would not otherwise be able to tackle unassisted.

Secondly, teachers would supply strategies for the child to adopt to allow them to do more complex things.

Thirdly, they can equip the child with language that it can use to structure its thinking - the way a teacher talks through a task with a child can become part of the child's self-talk, allowing them to structure their problem-solving activity when the teacher is not there.

What should the level of assistance given depend upon?

The level of assistance given should always depend on how the learner is doing - more support when the child is struggling, less when they are doing well (i.e. scaffolding).

Does the teacher have to be an adult?

The teacher does not have to be an adult; peer tutoring (another child) can be as effective, if not more, than an adult.

Do Vygotskians emphasise process rather than product when educating children? Do Piagetians do the same?

Vygotskians, like Piagetians, emphasise process rather than product.

Do Vygotskians believe in readiness like Piagetians? If not, how would a Vygotskian teach the curriculum?

Unlike Piagetians, Vygotskians do not believe in the idea of readiness. All sorts of concepts can be mastered at a young age, provided they are taught in an appropriate way. Basic concepts can be repeatedly visited as a child gets older and can be expanded upon through the adopted of a spiral curriculum.

Do Vygotskians believe there must be developmental prerequisites present before mastering more complex areas? Give an example.

Although Vygotskians reject the idea of readiness, they do believe that there must be developmental prerequisites present before more complex areas can be mastered. For example, children must learn the names of numbers before they can start to develop a concept of number.

Give three ways in which Vygotskian methods have been applied to education.

<b>1) Peer tutoring </b>- where the child learns through interaction with another, slightly more able, child.

<b>2) Collective argumentation</b> - a structured approach to group discussion where individual viewpoints are presented and justified, different views are compared, a join view is constructed and presented, and finally, the joint view is tested in the wider community.

<b>3) Community of inquiry (Elbers & Streefland, 2000)</b> - pupils play an active role, with lessons structured as a common enterprise in which teachers and learners both take the role of researcher and strive to carry out tasks and find solutions to problems.

Evaluate Vygotsky's theory to cognitive development. Give four points.

1) Vygotsky's theory has been applied extensively in education, helping further and advance children's cognitive development by allowing them to grasp more complex concepts at earlier ages.

2) However, if Piaget is correct about 'readiness', then artificial acceleration would be pointless and, essentially, a waste of time in schools when used on children who are not yet developmentally ready to progress.

3) While some level of instruction may be beneficial, over-instruction might result in the child being less likely to learn independently and less inclined to show initiative in problem solving.

4) Vygotsky's theory presupposes that adults will always have an enhancing effect on cognitive development. In fact, adults sometimes make it more difficult for children to understand the world by answering obscurely when asked about difficult topics such as death or sex.

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