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English for Psychology.

Course Unit 4
Thinking and Language
4.1. Vygotsky & Piaget

Reading exercise

What follows is an example of a written text that


students can use for research (see below – Vygotsky and
Piaget).

 What academic or scientific texts have you read recently?

....

Remember that it is a good idea to approach an


academic/scientific text using suitable techniques:

1. Before reading the text, think of the research


questions you need to address.

For example:

a. What stages do babies and children go through


as they develop?

b. Do children of all cultures learn the same things


at the same stage of development?

c. Which comes first: language or thought?

 Can you think of other research questions about Vygotsky’s and


Piaget’s studies?

....

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English for Psychology. Course Unit 4
Thinking and Language
4.1. Vygotsky & Piaget

2. While you are reading the text, look for sentences


where the author’s main ideas about the topic are
expressed.

3. After reading the text, try to answer your research


questions with information taken from the text.

Some texts show different directions in the development


of a topic. When you examine the discussion of an
important subject, such as cognitive and linguistic
development, you must be able to identify and analyse
differences of opinion.

 Can you think of topics or subjects in the field of psychology where


differences of opinion are usually found?

....

Lev Vygotsky and Jean Piaget had different views on


the development of thought and language. You probably
know a few things about them:

- Vygotsky (1896-1934) was born in Russia. He was a


psychologist who investigated the relationship
between language and thought.

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English for Psychology. Course Unit 4
Thinking and Language
4.1. Vygotsky & Piaget

- Piaget (1896-1980) was born in Switzerland. He was


trained as a biologist, and he is famous for his
research into cognitive development.

 What other things do you know about Vygotsky and Piaget?

....

As a reader of academic texts in English, you must be


aware of this:

- Sentences can be long and seemingly difficult,


often because the subjects and objects/complements
many consist of clauses or complex noun phrases
(while the verb is usually quite simple).

- In order to become an efficient reader of academic


texts in English, you must understand the grammar
of sentences (syntax). You must be able to locate
the elements of the basic sentence structure: subject
+ verb + object or complement.

 Make three sentences about Vygostky and Piaget using the basic
structure.

- ..

- ..

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English for Psychology. Course Unit 4
Thinking and Language
4.1. Vygotsky & Piaget

- ..

Students must be skilled at paraphrasing (using few


words from the original text and different sentence
structures, and keeping the meaning). And they must
avoid patch-writing, which is considered to be
plagiarism: it is not sufficient to change a word here and
there and leave most of the words and the basic
sentence structure unchanged. (See more about this
below.)

Source: English for Psychology in Higher Education Studies (Garnet Education)

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English for Psychology. Course Unit 4
Thinking and Language
4.1. Vygotsky & Piaget

Vygotsky and Piaget: Thought and Language

Both Vygotsky and Piaget made significant contributions to research into


the development of thought and language. Although their models
differed in several ways, their effect on teaching methods has been, in
some respects, similar. This article will outline their approaches to
cognitive development, highlight the main differences between their
theories, and illustrate their influence on modern classroom practice.

Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development is based on the social


constructivist approach, which proposes that both cognitive and
linguistic skills are developed through social interaction. Language is an
interface between people, allowing them to construct and negotiate
meaning. Importantly, Vygotsky describes language as a cultural tool, a
means of passing on the accumulated knowledge of a society from
generation to generation.

According to Vygotsky, cognitive development is culturally


determined, which means that children in some cultures will develop
certain cognitive skills to a higher level than in others, depending on the
importance of that particular skill to the culture. For example, children
who are brought up in a society that values technology will learn to
interpret icons on electronic equipment at a comparatively young age.
In contrast, children in societies or domains such as the indigenous
people of Australia, that value the ability to navigate a landscape by its
geographical features, will develop the cognitive skills crucial to this
particular ability. In other words, learning is domain dependent.

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English for Psychology. Course Unit 4
Thinking and Language
4.1. Vygotsky & Piaget

Vygotsky also suggested that cognitive development was dependent


on the social interaction of the child with an experienced ‘mentor’, who
would lead it from its actual stage of development to the next. Vygotsky
used the term ‘zone of proximal development’ to describe a situation in
which a child receives support and guidance, known as ‘scaffolding’, to
master a new skill. Vygotsky considered language to be an essential
element in this process.

In contrast to this approach, Piaget’s model is based on an idealized


child living in a social vacuum. He proposed that all children acquire
cognitive skills at predetermined stages and in a specific order,
regardless of the context in which they are learning. Piaget’s model of
cognitive development, like Vygotsky’s, assumes that children will
develop mental structures, or schemata, by interacting experimentally
with their physical environment. To put it simply, Piaget saw the child
as a ‘scientist’, continually testing theories and learning from the
results. According to Piaget, when actual knowledge, a current schema,
is contradicted by new information, a state of ‘disequilibrium’ is
created, and the enquiring mind tries to restore the balance by
adapting the schema to accommodate the new information. Unlike
Vygotsky, however, Piaget’s paradigm largely ignores the importance of
social interaction on the cognitive development of the child and,
consequently, the role of language in this process.

It is important to recognise that both Piaget and Vygotsky have made


major contributions to modern teaching methods. For instance, Piaget’s
focus on the stages of cognitive development, and Vygotsky’s concept of

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English for Psychology. Course Unit 4
Thinking and Language
4.1. Vygotsky & Piaget

scaffolding in the zone of proximal development have resulted in


carefully constructed curricula for pre-school and primary education,
ensuring that children are given realistic learning goals and adequate
support. Just as significantly, Vygotsky’s emphasis on the importance of
social interaction in language acquisition has had a profound effect on
language teaching methods for both children and adults. A final example
of the influence of both scientists on teaching approaches is the
relatively recent development of peer teaching and collaborative
learning methods. Piaget’s theory suggests that listening to the opinions
of other learners increases instances of disequilibrium and,
consequently, learning. Vygotsky’s model, on the other hand,
encourages more advanced learners to teach less experienced learners
through social interaction and language.

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English for Psychology. Course Unit 4
Thinking and Language
4.1. Vygotsky & Piaget

Paraphrasing: reporting what you have found in a text


Since you cannot use another writer’s words (unless quoting), you must
paraphrase, i.e., restate the original text sentence(s) using the following
methods:

Use a synonym of a word or model paradigm


phrase. have resulted in have led to
Change negative to positive
Their models differ. Their models are not similar.
and vice versa.
Cognitive development
The child’s culture affects
Use a replacement subject. depends on the child’s
its cognitive development.
culture.
Vigotsky believed that
Change from active to Learning was believed to be
learning was domain
passive or vice versa. domain dependent.
dependent.
Change the order of Language acts as an interface People use language to
information. between individuals. communicate.

You should use the preceding methods when you report findings from one source. Look at
this example:
Original text
Vigotsky’s model, on the other hand, encourages more advanced learners to
teach less experienced learners through social interaction and language.
Report
However, according to Vygotsky’s paradigm, novices can be taught through
discussion by more skilled students.

You must remember that paraphrasing involves changing most of the words from the
original text (90%). If you only change a few vocabulary items, your report can be
dismissed as plagiarism. Look at this example of what you must not do.
Original text
A final example of the influence of both scientists on teaching approaches is the
relatively recent development of peer teaching and collaborative learning
methods.
Report
A final example of the effect of both scientists on teaching methods is the
relatively new development of peer teaching and collaborative learning.

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English for Psychology. Course Unit 4
Thinking and Language
4.1. Vygotsky & Piaget

And remember that paraphrasing does not remove the obligation to acknowledge the
source.