Piaget vs Vygotsky: The idea that humans learn has confirmed to be a secret of understanding for centuries. In the early years of education, a child’s brain grows in plenty of ways. There are many circumstances that offer cognitive development and many theories as to how these factors influence a learned understanding of the world.

Two of the most popular theories in this field are Piaget and Vygotsky. Between the efforts of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, a deeper knowledge of the mind, cognitive development, and learning philosophies have developed to help familiarize teaching methods and practices. In fact, it is hard to examine the world of early childhood learning and educational development without falling across these two names.

Although both evenly famous, Piaget and Vygotsky disagree on many points of their studies. Throughout this article, we will learn what tells both their theories, how they are alike, how they are different, and why they have both remained so famous throughout educational textbooks.

Piaget vs Vygotsky
Piaget vs Vygotsky

Piaget and Vygotsky vary in how they address discovery learning. Piaget supported for discovery learning with little teacher intervention, while Vygotsky advanced guided discovery in the classroom. Guided discovery includes the teacher offering interesting questions to students and having them discover the answers through testing conditions. The students are involved in the discovery process; however, they are still receiving compensation from a more knowledgeable source.

Piaget’s theory

Jean Piaget, a French theorist in the 1900s, formed a theory of childhood cognitive development which was based upon how a child creates a mental model of the world around them.

While some theories would say that learning and intelligence are a settled trait, Piaget discovered that it was something influenced by outside sources. For instance, the environment around a child would influence how they develop and understand what is going on around them.

Piaget was the first to form a full and methodical study in childhood psychology. Through observational studies of a range of children with practical tests, Piaget marked how well they could spell, count, and solve difficulties to determine an IQ level.

What he learned over the study was that over time, basic concepts of time, numbers, and space appeared. He achieved that children are born with a basic genetic or acquired mental structure. This is the foundational structure for everything else we learn through social, environmental, and physical encounters.

The more and changed the experiences, the greater the amount of new knowledge the child accumulates. This new information is dealt with within one of the two following ways: either through the process of assimilation or through the process of accommodation.

  • During assimilation, a beforehand generated schema is conformed to include new experiences (Children: a Chronological Approach).
  • Accommodation happens as an old schema is changed and a new one is designed to incorporate information that does not suit the former schema. This method allows children’s understanding of the world to continuously develop and improve as new meaning is formed. When the time spent in accommodation and assimilation is not fairly evenly balanced, children find themselves in a state of disequilibrium. When this occurs, children must rearrange their schemas to be able to go back to a state of equilibrium. Piaget termed this procedure equilibration.

Experience and Schemas

Presume a child forms a basic understanding of birds. She receives that birds have wings and that they fly and builds a primary schema.


The kid is outside and notices a brown bird in a tree chirping before it expands its wings and flies away. She did not understand that birds made noise or sat in trees. She encounters disequilibrium and must prepare this new knowledge through assimilation or accommodation to attain equilibrium.


The child assimilates the new knowledge into her present schema and consequently better knows birds. She returns to a state of equilibrium. When she sees a red bird outside chirping, she uses her understanding of birds to the situation. She understands that the creature she sees is a bird notwithstanding its red feathers.


One day, the kid is outside and notices something in the sky that has wings and is flying. She believes that it is a bird but is revealed that it is really an airplane. She is doubtful, as she held that everything with wings that was in the sky was a bird and this new information does not suit her current schema.


The girl makes a new schema regarding airplanes and thus new meaning has been built for things that have wings and fly. The child has developed her understanding of the world around her and has again attained equilibrium.

Stages Of Piaget’s Theory

Stage I

The first stage in Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is sensorimotor and happens during the time between birth and 2 years of age. The child learns about the world through frequently complex motor schemas, pushing through 6 substages as the child’s schemas improve from those based on basic reflex action to an orderly progression of symbolic processing when the child’s movements become goal-oriented.

It is during the latter part of this stage of development that children master object stability and come to understand that an object does not stop to exist when it is no longer in view. Children in the sensorimotor stage receive physical experimentation with the objects around them. This can be seen when a child puts an object in her mouth or later, as the performance becomes more goal-oriented, presses buttons on a toy to hear it make noise.

Stage 2

The secondary stage of cognitive development is preoperational and takes spot between the ages of 2 and 7. During this stage, the child begins to use symbols such as words, gestures, and models to describe objects and experiences.

Children in the preoperational stage:

  1. Are egocentric and hold that others experience the world in the same way they do.
  2. Often think that lifeless objects have souls and feelings, a phenomenon named animism.
  3. Experience centration, which in simple words means that they can only concentrate on one part of a situation or object at a time. They have not enough developed the logic skills to consider all viewpoints equally.
  4. Have difficulty recognizing appearance from reality, especially when they have not developed far in the preoperational stage.

Vygotsky’s theory

Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky had a theory that made the basis of constructivism. He concluded that social interaction came before development and that awareness was the end product of all social functions. This work came into western thought after its initial publication in 1962.

In his studies and observances, Vygotsky concentrated on the way that social interactions and attachments to inform his understandings. He found that humans from an early age use communication abilities, such as speaking and writing, to develop high thinking abilities.

There are other factors central to Vygotsky’s theory. One such portion is the More Knowledgeable Other (MKO), which can be an adult, teacher, or instructor who supports to shape the thinking abilities with their input. The MKO sits at the higher end of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The place between the learner and the MKO fills in this region and this is where learning takes place.

This theory has a lot of popularity today in child-directed learning. It is a theory that inspires and elevates contextual learning, led by the child as an active learner. A lot of play-based learning ideas arise from this theory.

Key Concepts in Social Development Theory

One of the key elements in Vygotsky’s social development theory is the zone of proximal development. This is the distinction between a child’s abilities when working individually and that same child’s strengths when working with a person who is more qualified.

Scaffolding is an extra concept that is directly linked to Vygotsky’s theory. Scaffolding is a type of teaching in which the teacher provides support on an as-needed basis and then only as much as the student needs to complete the task as independently as possible.


Vygotsky believed in words as signals and thought that adults communicating with children use words as symbols of objects and ideas; he called this a second signal system. He supposed that when children talk to themselves as they play, a practice he named private speech, they are going toward self-regulation of cognitive skills.

Private speech forms the base of a child’s thinking method and thus “the development of thought is to a great measure determined by the linguistic capacity of the child.” Children’s grasp of the language is circumscribed by their socio-cultural experiences, and richer experiences aid in the development of spoken language (Doyla & Palmer, 2004). Vygotsky concluded that language serves 2 functions in cognitive development.

It is a means of communication, through which people pass information and it assists in regulation or control over a person’s own cognitive processes. The goal of the latter is to become self-regulated.

Private and inner speech

  1. Children are first told how to behave by other people but constantly displace the verbal instruction from others with verbal instruction of their own.
  2. Studies reveal that children show the use of private speech more when encountering difficulty.
  3. Private speech eventually emerges into inner speech or thought.
  4. Inner speech is one example of the child’s information processing leading from the social to the internal plane.

Similarities in Piaget and Vygotsky Theories

  1. Both theories centered on cognitive development.
  2. Both concluded that cognitive conflict can initiate and further development.
  3. Both concluded that egocentric speech is vital to the process of cognitive development.
    Piaget vs Vygotsky Venn Diagram
    Piaget vs Vygotsky Venn Diagram
  4. Both considered the child is an active participant in his or her own learning.
  5. Both considered that the course of development declines with age.
  6. Both considered the role of biology plays a part in cognitive development.
  7. Both considered the function of language plays a part in cognitive development.

Piaget Vs Vygotsky

  1. Piaget concluded that development happened in distinct stages and that each must be reached in order while Vygotsky did not accept that development happened in distinct stages.
  2. Piaget concluded that development leads to learning while Vygotsky held that social learning precedes development.
  3. Piaget concluded that development starts in the individual and continues to the social world while Vygotsky held that development starts in the social world and regularly becomes internalized in the individual.
  4. Piaget concluded that egocentric speech helps to prove that children are self-centered and not able to see from any point of view but their own while Vygotsky held that egocentric speech occurs as children improve from language as a tool used to interact socially to language as private speech and then inner speech (thought).
  5. Piaget concentrated little on language as a tool of cognitive development while Vygotsky’s strong center on language as a tool of cognitive development.
  6. Piaget concluded that language is directed by thought while Vygotsky held that thought is driven by language.
  7. Piaget held that the pace of cognitive development is managed by the child’s level of maturation while Vygotsky held that children are born with innate elementary functions.
  8. Piaget held that children learn independently while Vygotsky held that children depend on social interaction to learn (zone of proximal development).
  9. Piaget held that the child takes on the role of a scientist while Vygotsky held that the child takes on the role of an assistant.
  10. Piaget held that development is the same in every child while Vygotsky held that development varies depending on cultural differences.


When one compares and contrasts Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s theories of learning, it is easy to see why they are both so crucial in the modern understanding of cognitive development. They have both been used to inform pedagogical methods that are regularly used in early childhood learning.

The ultimate difference that underlines the theories is that Piaget believes self-discovery and active learning are necessary while Vygotsky felt that learning should be guided by a teacher, mentor, or space to manage the learning. These methods can be seen in different pedagogical fields, either making children learn through inquiry or directing them with specific tools of learning.

When both theories are used in combination with one another, there is unlimited scope to help children develop critical thinking skills and cognitive awareness for a well-rounded way to learn. Neither theory is actively correct, but both are highly relevant to be aware of when education early learners.


Why Is Piaget's Theory Better Than Vygotsky?
Vygotsky Argued That Social Learning Preceded Cognitive Development. In Other Words, Culture Influences Cognitive Development. Whereas Piaget Alleged That All Children Pass-through A Number Of Universal Stages Of Cognitive Development, Vygotsky Believed That Cognitive Development Varied Across Cultures.
What Distinguishes Montessori From Piaget Or Vygotsky?
Two Of These (Montessori And Piaget) Said That Children Learn And Develop In Sequence. Vygotsky Said That Children Learn Using Their Social Environment. Piaget Said That The Cognitive Development Of A Child Involves Changes In Their Cognitive Process And Abilities As They Age.
What Do Piaget And Vygotsky Say About Play?
Piagetian Theory Holds That Play, In And Of Itself, Does Not Necessarily Result In The Formation Of New Cognitive Structures. In Contrast, The Vygotskian Theory States That Play Actually Facilitates Cognitive Development. Children Not Only Practice What They Already Know-they Also Learn New Things.
What Is Scaffolding By Vygotsky?
Vygotsky Defined Scaffolding Instruction As The “Role Of Teachers And Others In Supporting The Learners Development And Providing Support Structures To Get To That Next Stage Or Level” (Raymond, 2000).
What Did Piaget Say About Play?
Piaget Viewed Play As Integral To The Development Of Intelligence In Children. His Theory Of Play Argues That As The Child Matures, Their Environment And Play Should Encourage Further Cognitive And Language Development.