1.1 How pre-school influences children cognitive process
1.1.5 The fundamental role of social interaction: Lev Vygotsky
J. Piaget was not the only one talking about cognitive development. In fact, another psychologist, Lev Vygotsky, had different idea on the topic. While J. Piaget talked about cognitive development in terms of interaction with the physical environment and so self-initiated discovery, L. Vygotsky emphasized the fundamental role of social interaction. Furthermore, while J. Piaget saw development like kind of stepping staged, L. Vygotsky perceived it as continuous process supported by the interactions with more skilful peers or teachers. In fact, he talked about Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD):
The distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers. (L. Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86).
Skilful peers or teachers activate a sort of scaffolding that helps children climb to higher levels of thinking and learning (Table 3). In few words, children tend to learn more when they have to deal with things that are little bit above their abilities.
Figure 3. Zone of Proximal Development
Both J. Piaget’s and L. Vygotsky’s theory has been criticised. The former one because considered too rigid in how it classifies certain abilities by ages; the latter because sociocultural perspectives cannot provide specific hypotheses. However, they can be considered among the most influential developmentalists. Especially J. Piaget’s work gave space to a new era, helping parents and children to understand that children think very differently from adults, and that as their minds and brains grow, also their cognitive skills do.