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What are the contextual (External) factors that assist piaget and Vygotsky in their theories??

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What are the contextual (External) factors that assist piaget and Vygotsky in their theories??


Human Problem Solving-abilities can be improved by contextual factors’. Critically Evaluate this statement





The ability to solve problems and make decisions are seen as fundamental in everyday life.


Main Body


Human development is believed to have many underlying factors in which ‘Grand theories’ attempt to explain. Grand Theories are centered on epistemology beliefs with particular focus on comprehension and change. Jean Piaget’s (1986-1980) constructivist and Vygotsky (1896-1934) Social-constructivist perspectives have quite prominent grand theories, which have been since modified and developed further, yet still remains relevant to this day (Sheehy, 2016.

Both Piaget (1986-1980) and Vygotsky (1896-1934) have been highly influential in the field of developmental psychology. Both have offered valuable explanations as to the developmental stages, in children’s learning styles and problem solving abilities. According to Piaget, social interaction or social transmission is fundamental in children’s cognitive development. Piaget believed that it is important for children to actively construct knowledge through interacting with their social environment. Vygotsky also saw social interaction as intrinsic to learning and development, which he believed shaped language and cognition. A dialectical approach was taken by both Piaget and Vygotsky as both their theories (Loreneco, 2012). concentrated on interrelationship and modification. However, their similarities are small, in comparison to their differences in regards to

the contextual factors that assist in development.


Piaget was concerned with how human knowledge initiates and labelled this ‘genetic epistemology’ (the origin of knowledge). Piaget argued that children (aswell as adults) cognitive abilities are formed through infant reflexes that develop through their interaction with their cultural environment (Sheehy, 2016).


Vygotsky looked at more external explanations in regards to problem solving abilities. Vygotsky (1896-1934) who also came to the same assumption as Piaget in regards to the constructive nature of development. However, counter to Piaget Vygotsky proposed that language is used for inner speech (mental reasoning) and external speech is used for (Communication) and occur separately. Vygotsky believed that a childs’ internal cognition up the age of 2years old is without language and that thought and language merge at 2years of age. At this stage upwards, every function within the childs cultural development appears twice, first on the social level and then on the individual level. This where children are found speaking to themselves in what Vygotsky called ‘egocentric’ speech. Vygotsky recognized the importance of self-talk as it allowed the child to internalize external social speech, which guides the childs’ future actions. Supporting evidence can be seen in more difficult tasks, which results in increasing self-talk. Vygotsky suggested that equality in skills and understanding, is crucial to learning and people with different abilities initiate a ‘Zone of proximal development’(ZPD). This enables the less able person to take on new tasks and become more fluent and more competent. This can be seen in Schools where a teacher guides a pupil, it can also be seen where an adult learns how to drive with a driving instructor. A mixture of social interaction and the situation helps create a scaffolding, which is slowly withdrawn as the learner become more competent and needs less support. Through Vygotsky theory is he able to highlight that language mediates thoughts and actions…..

This is also supported by Margaret Donaldson (1993) who also saw through her sense human research that contextual factors have a considerable amount of influence on children’s development.


However, Piaget argued that children develop complicated and advanced mental representations of their external environment through schemas. These are based upon the knowledge about they hold about the world through action and experience.

The concept of a schema being a representation of a sequence of actions, based on interaction with the environment is what Piaget believed to be key to development. Piaget suggested that these schemas begin in infancy and develop along with motor sequence such as grasping an object.  These actions eventually become internalized as a mental representation and occurs at various rates for different children but follows a common pattern. These adaptions or assimilations use existing schemas’ to make sense of the external world also known as ‘equilibrium’.

Schema’s can also be altered to fit in particular characteristics of objects or circumstances in a process called ‘accomodation’, where old schemas are altered to better fit the environment also known as ‘disequlibrium’. As Assimilation and accommodation intermingle and change the way children think as they develop (Sheehy, 2016). Piaget believed that this could be explained by his stage of cognitive development in which he describes four stages: 02-yrs sensorimotor, 2-7 years pre-operational, 7-11yrs concrete-operations, 11-15yrs formal-operations. By the time the child has reached the formal operation stage they are able to think logically and develop hypothetically thinking skills that allows them to take on problem solving tasks competently (Sheehy, 2016). Piaget suggested that pre operational children have no concept of ‘conservation’ as their schema has to make adjustments to fit the new experience (Sheehy, 2016). In addition, their comprehension of the world does not allow them to focus on transformations, only on states. This can be seen in the experimental investigations Piaget carried out experiments on children using conservation tasks where the children were asked to answer whether one play-do was larger than the other. Both pieces of play-doh’s were the same quantity, but the shape was altered Children between the ages of 2-6yr olds (Pre-operational stage) showed that egocentrism played dominance in their thinking and they were unable to provide an accurate answer. As the children reached 7-11yr old (Concrete-operational stage) the children had adapted more logical reasoning application and the conservation tasks were understood a little easier (Sheehy, 2016).  Piaget believed that by the time children reached 11-15 yrs of age identifiable factors to a problem are able to be solved easier (Woolfolk, A., 2004).


Vygotky also believed that there were stage in developemt

Vygotsky’s theories have also promoted separate educational practices for different groups of children for Vygotskys’  ideas have help overcome certain barriers faced within education where there are learning difficulties such as (Children in remorte parts of the work – Online video). Professor mercer









Professor Mercer’s discussion of his research suggests that he holds a social-constructivist view of learning. This can be seen in his comments about the importance of collaboration and the impact he sees the social context of language use as having on children’s cognitive development. However, he also stresses the importance of children working together to solve problems, which seems much closer to Piaget’s later research concerning the importance of ‘equal’ peers working together.



What are the contextual (External) factors that assist piaget and Vygotsky in their theories??



  • As well as demonstrable conservation, reversilbilty , classification and  seriation. (Talk about the various studies carried out within these fields later) (Woolfolk, A., 2004)




Both Piaget and Vygotsky go to great lengths in proposing……However, when looking at




  • Piaget also suggested that development was constructed in the same order for all children. (Sheehy, 2016)


  • Vygotsky does not consider the inside or outside forces from the child perspective. An example can be seen –(Article review- An exploration of the impact on contextual school factors on students)


  • Both Vygotsky and Piaget agree that there are development stages in cognitive development


  • Piaget suggest cognitive development is influenced by social transmission??? i.e From cultural environment- Find a source to reference


  • Vygotsjy believed learning is influnecd by social interaction through engaging in social activity which helps develop language and cognition – REF???


  • Piaget highlighted the role of the teacher although he did  not observe in detail how childrens learning works


  • Vygotsky did not observe the processs of mental development but instead mentions generally how childrens acquire skills or concepts- REF ???


  • Piaget believed that there is an end point that cognitive development reachers which is adolescence.


  • Vygotsky believed that learning continued throughout an individuals life.


These experiments provides support for Piagets theory of stage theory of cognitive development.


This is  because the play-doh adaption did not fit in to their exsisting schema’s.

they are centered on themselves and will place dominance of their own perception, known as ‘egocentrism’ (REF??).

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