Cognitive Development, Sociocultural Perspective- Theories on Education and Development

In Chapter two of Educational Psychology (Woolfolk, Winne, Perry, 2016) we are introduced to two theories on cognitive development- Piaget’s Cognitive Development Model and Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Perspective. In both models we are seeking ways to understand the development of the brain and of the ability for our students to understand the world around them.

For Piaget the development of the brain is linked to four stages of cognitive development. These stages are the Sensiomotor, Preoporational, Concrete Operational and Formal Operational stage (Woolfolk, Winne, Perry 2016, 39). Many of these stages are linked with an approximate age and physical development. There are of course limitations that are linked with the belief that this cognitive development happens at stages within a persons life time but “some developmental psychologists have formulated neo-Piagetian theories” (Woolfolk, Winne, Perry, 2016, 46).  These neo-Piagetian theories integrate updated theories about  attention, memory and strategy.

One other major criticism of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is the idea that it “overlooks the important effects of the child’s cultural and social group” (Woolfolk, Winne, Perry 2016, 49). This issue is addressed by the theories of Lev Vygotsky. Vygostsky formed the Sociocultural theory. A theory that “emphasizes the role of development  of cooperative dialogues between children and more knowledgeable members of society; children learn the culture of their community (ways of thinking and behaving) through these interactions. For Vygotsky Knowledge is “co-constructed”.

According to Woolfolk, Winne and Perry (2016) the key to reaching every student is finding the “magic middle” (58). The magic middle is “the place where students are neither bored nor frustrated” (Woolfolk, Winne, Perry, 2016, 58). This is a place where the student is not simply challenged to understand but is supported by other students and teachers.  The magic middle is a combination of Cognitive Development and Sociocultural Perspective that uses cooperative dialogues between children and more knowledgeable members of society (in some cases other children) and work that meets them at their stage of Cognitive Development.

From this reading I have made connections in regards to the value of assessing and understanding the levels of cognitive development and how they can play a role in the creation lessons and educational strategies such as scaffolding. Thinking about how we learn differently at different stages of our lives allows me to assess whether the things I am asking a student to accomplish are possible for them at this stage of cognitive development. Am I teaching in the “magic middle”?  I also really connected to Vygotsky’s theories surrounding assisted learning. The idea that we are working from a communal base of knowledge and that no student should be “expected to reinvent or rediscover knowledge already available in their culture” (Woolfolk, Winne, Perry, 2016, 58). For me this type of social learning really resonates to the different ways of learning we need to address in our classroom. This particularly reminds me of Indigenous ways of passing knowledge down from Elders.

The one thing I am left thinking about this week is how we find ways to incorporate Vygotsky’s Sociocultural theories within modern curriculum while teaching within a classroom of learners who are diverse not only in their  socio-economic backgrounds but also in their cognitive development.

2 thoughts on “Cognitive Development, Sociocultural Perspective- Theories on Education and Development

  1. First of all, WOW nice blog! I need to do some work lol. Now on to the real stuff. Thanks for your great response to the reading from this week, your questions at the end got me thinking more about the different ways in which we expect our learners to grasp concepts and use the information we give them. There are so many new ways of instruction that teachers are incorporating into their lessons in hopes to reach every student and like you said coming together from a communal base of knowledge. I think as future educators we have a big responsibility and duty ahead of us to try our best to find the “magic middle” a good balance that challenges yet resonates with our learners. As our world and the information in it changes and evolves so must our teachings. I do believe that children in this decade learn much differently than how I learned in elementary school, we didn’t have the technology they have now. And although I do think there are plenty of benefits to having such enormous amounts of information at our fingertips I do think we need to stay rooted in the fundamentals and core principles of education, no matter how the avenues of learning it may change.


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