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.