The following paper compares and contrasts the approaches of two famous educators: Vygotsky and Piaget. This analysis is carried out using a research article by Lourenco (2012), where the author meticulously analyzes the two theories, that of Vygotsky and Piaget. To begin with, Vygotsky and Piaget (2012) can be considered as the “two main geniuses” in the field of developmental psychology (p. 281). According to Piaget, individual knowledge is shaped solitarily (or individually).

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As for Vygotsky, he believed that personal development takes place in the process of social interactions. Lourenco (2012) calls this the “solitary knower” vs. the “social subject or knower” (p. 282). While there is a key difference in the two theories, there are also similarities which should be noted. First of all, both educators shared a genetic perspective, a dialectical approach, and a non-reductionist perspective. Most importantly, both scholars viewed the developmental approach as an essential part of their theories.

As mentioned earlier, the authors shared a dialectical approach. Based on this perspective, psychological development takes place as “a continuous interaction among distinct, but interdependent, functions or processes, such as assimilation/accommodation” (Lourenco, 2012, p. 283). The researchers also shared a non-reductionist viewpoint. This means that human consciousness cannot be reduced to a set of reflexes. In fact, a certain external expression may have different underlying impulses in each given case. Both Piaget and Vygotsky emphasized that action is crucial in the evolution of intelligence and the development of human consciousness. As Piaget wrote: “To know an object is to act on it. To know is to modify, to transform the object, and to understand the process of this transformation” (Lourenco, 2012, p. 283). According to Vygotsky, language does not come first, action does. “The word” comes afterwards, “crowning the deed” (Lourenco, 2012, p. 283). Hence, it is apparent that despite some divergences in the authors’ initial concepts (individual knower vs. social subject), there are numerous similarities in their approaches to psychological development.

Another crucial difference in the researchers’ theories should be noted. The article by Lourenco (2012) explains that while Piaget saw the child as an autonomous actor, Vygotsky perceived her behavior as something which fits neatly into the net of social meanings. According to Piaget, one is the constructor of her own reality, while Vygotsky viewed individual action through the prism of external influences. Now, Piaget believed that external influences can be conducive to the child’s inner development. Nonetheless, in Piaget’s theory, the child always remains the primary actor and facilitator — someone who shapes her own reality. The child’s understanding of the surrounding reality is constructed as she acts upon different objects and learns to coordinate her actions. It should also be noted that Piaget tried to figure out how exactly new modes of thinking emerge in one’s psyche; he aimed to understand how new thinking patterns become necessary for one’s functioning and development. As for Vygotsky, he believed that every single action is dictated on the social level first and acted out later on the individual level. His ideas are deeply rooted in the concept of sociogenesis.

Summing up, each of the authors had his own ideas of how a child’s consciousness and intelligence are shaped. While the two have similar views for certain points, the principal ideas in which the theories are rooted are different. For Piaget, the child is the autonomous actor, whose actions are driven by internal factors. As for Vygotsky, his theory stresses that individual action is driven by social/external factors. Given that Piaget is French and Vygotsky came from the Soviet Union, their viewpoints can be explained from the perspective of their authors’ origins. It is no surprise that someone who was born in the Soviet Union may perceive individual development through the prism of social influence. As for Piaget, his European roots are expressed in his ideas of individualism and personal autonomy. Taking this into account, each of the theories is an important part of a greater tapestry of historical and sociocultural contexts.