Piaget his youth. He was not especially close


Jean Piaget had a very difficult childhood. He had a cold, distant
father and a mentally ill mother. Her condition contributed towards a
troublesome marriage and family life. Piaget himself had two nervous breakdowns
in his youth. He was not especially close to his other siblings or have close
friends of his own age, and depended upon older mentors and self-study to grow
his learning. The Swiss culture that emphasized on individuality and freedom
perhaps led Piaget to focus on learning from an individual standpoint rather
than exploring the group influences on learning. (Pass, 2004) He combined his
interest in biology with his interest in philosophy and began exploring the
world from the age of 11 years old. (Sigelman & Rider, 2017)

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Over the next few
decades of his life, Piaget worked towards understanding cognitive development
in children. He viewed intelligence as a process that allows an individual to
adjust to his/her environment. This adjustment involves a process of active construction
of understanding of the world based on interactions with it. Children are not
born with an innate understanding of the way that the world works, but rather
learn through their contact with it. (Sigelman &
Rider, 2017)
The environment provides the stimuli, both physical and intellectual that
children need to construct their knowledge. Piaget used concepts such as
schema, accommodation, assimilation and equilibrium to explain the process of cognitive
development and the subsequent growth and learning that takes place. (Iqbal, 2015)

Schemas are mental
representations of concepts that are used to make sense of new information.
Children who are in the process of development interact with the world through
these schemes. When they encounter new information that do not fit into their
pre-existing schema, they experience a process of disequilibrium. This leads to
the process of assimilation or accommodation. Assimilation occurs in the
presence of information that only partially fits into schemas that are already
present. The schemas are adjusted to include the new information. Accommodation
occurs when the information presented is completely new. New schemas are
formed, and the process may involve restructuring basic beliefs. (Johnson, 2014) Once assimilation
and/or accommodation have occurred, equilibrium is restored, and meaningful
learning is achieved. (Iqbal, 2015) This is a continuously
repeating process, and moves the child along the stages of cognitive development.

Piaget proposed
four major stages of development. Additionally, he termed these stages ‘invariant
sequence’, implying that children progress through the levels in the suggested
order, without skipping or regressing to earlier stages. (Sigelman & Rider, 2017) This theory can best
be characterized as a stage theory. This implies that the development in
children occurs in stages, and that the advancement to a higher stage is based
on the completion of tasks of the previous stages. (Johnson, 2014) However, taking into
account factors like heredity, environment, and experiences for cognitive simulation,
different children may progress through these stages at different paces. The
four stages are: sensorimotor stage (0-2 years old), pre-operational stage (2-7
years old), concrete operational stage (7-11 years old), formal operations
stage (11-12 and older).
Sensorimotor stage: Infants use their senses and motor skills to explore the
world. They are born with just innate reflexes, but slowly develop ‘intelligent’
actions as their interactions with the world increase. Infants at the end of
this stage are characterized by the capability of symbolic thought using images
and words thus leading to solution-planning.
Pre-operational stage: This stage involves the development of language, pretend
play and problem-solving. Thinking is distinctly egocentric and illogical to a
large extent.
Concrete operations: Children in this stage acquire concrete logical operations
that enable them to mental classify, and act on concrete objects in their
heads. They have the ability to solve practical, real-world problems through
the process of trial and error, but they struggle with abstract or hypothetical
Formal operations: Hypothetical thinking and abstract conceptualizations is the
characteristic feature of this stage. Individuals in this stage can form
hypotheses and test them systematically using the scientific method. (Sigelman &
Rider, 2017)



Lev Vygotsky, like
Piaget, had a very difficult childhood. He grew up a Jew in Czarist Russia, and
faced overt prejudice and discrimination on an everyday basis. In his childhood
he witnessed two pogroms; the second one prompted his father to take up arms to
defend his family and neighbours. Subsequently, his father had to defend
himself in court. Vygotsky was exposed to a difficult socio-political
environment for the majority of his life; the first world war, the Russian
Revolution, and finally Stalin and his purges. Due to his slight build, he
became infected with tuberculosis in 1918, a disease which eventually killed
him in 1934, when he was just 38 years old.
The difficult conditions that Vygotsky had to live in for such a large portion
of his life led him towards researching the intellectual development in
children. (Pass, 2004)