All three psychologists, Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner have influenced the educational sector in many ways. They had similar thoughts in some aspects and differed from each other in some. However, all three theories have been proved to help understand cognitive development theory. We will look into the similarities and differences of the theories proposed by the three psychologists.

Piaget’s Theory

Jean Piaget is referred to as the father of cognitive development. He was a Swiss psychologist who observed the intellectual development of children during childhood. According to him,

“Cognitive development is a progressive reorganization of mental processes as a result of biological maturation and environmental experience.”

He studied the intellectual development of his three children.

The application and educational implications of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development theory in the classroom should be done as follows:

  1. Based on the developmental level of children, the curriculum should provide the required educational experience.
  2. Classroom activities that encourage and assist self learning must be incorporated.
  3. Practical learning situations must be included in the class.
  4. Co-curricular activities that enhance children’s cognitive development must be given equal importance as curricular activities.
  5. The teaching method must be simple to complex and the inclusion of the project teaching method is recommended.
  6. Children learn and think differently from adults therefore, they should be taught accordingly.
  7. The discovery approach to learning must be emphasized.

Vygotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development

According to Vygotsky’s cognitive development theory, cognitive abilities are gained through social guidance and construction. The development and formation of abilities like memory, learning, problem-solving, and attention take place through the role of culture as a mediator. His approach to child development can be considered as a social constructivism form. He believes that social interactions produce cognitive functions.

Vygotsky’s cognitive development focuses on child-centered learning in the classroom. This theory believes that cognitive functions are facilitated by social interactions due to which learners need to engage in the same. Vygotsky’s cognitive development theory enables learners to gain skills such as

  • Problem solving
  • Inquiry
  • Self determination
  • Critical thinking
  • Learning by discovery and exploration.

Bruner’s Theory

Jerome Bruner is regarded as one of the most influential and renowned educational psychologists of the twentieth century. In 1966, he researched the cognitive development of children and identified three stages of representation namely, the enactive stage, the iconic stage, and the symbolic representation stage. He believed that the intellectual development of an individual should be the primary goal of education instead of rote memorization.

Bruner’s Theory on Intellectual Development Moves from Enactive to Iconic and Symbolic Stages– Jerome Bruner’s Three Modes of Representation

Enactive Stage

The enactive stage is Bruner’s first stage of representation. It is characterized by encoding and storing information. Objects are directly manipulated disregarding the objects’ internal representation. For instance, when a child shakes a rattle, he or she will expect the rattle to make a noise or sound based on his or her past experience.

Iconic Stage

The iconic stage is the second stage of representation. It begins from one to six years old. In this stage, external objects have internal representation through visual forms of mental icons and images. For instance, a child drawing a car is characteristic of this stage.

Symbolic Stage

The symbolic stage is the third stage of representation and starts from seven years and above. During this stage, information storage takes place through symbols or codes such as language. Each symbol is representative of something it relates to. For instance, mangoes are a symbolic representation of one kind of fruit.

Compare and Contrast Piaget Vygotsky Bruner Cognitive Development Theory

All three psychologists, Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner have influenced the educational sector in many ways. They had similar thoughts in some aspects and differed from each other in some. However, all three theories have been proved to help understand cognitive development theory. We will look into the similarities and differences of the theories proposed by the three psychologists.

Comparison of Piaget Vygotsky Bruner Cognitive Development Theory

Similarities between Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner’s theory:

  1. Firstly, all three theories are based on cognitive development.
  2. The three psychologists believed that children are active participants in the learning process.
  3. All three theories believe prior knowledge is important for acquiring new knowledge.
  4. Both Piaget and Bruner believe cognitive development takes place in stages.
  5. All theories believe that learning is a continuous process that begins from birth and lasts till death.
  6. The three psychologists considered knowledge to be essential for the learners. 
  7. Both Piaget and Vygotsky agreed that the most important activity in cognitive development is the acquisition of speech.
  8. Bruner and Vygotsky both felt that the mental and social aspects of growth had no separation.

The contrast of Piaget Vygotsky Bruner Cognitive Development Theory

There are differing views between the three theories, which are:

  1. Piaget and Bruner suggested four stages and three stages for cognitive development. Vygotsky, on the other hand, felt it was difficult to define in stages the development process from birth to death.
  2. For Piaget, an individual acquires knowledge by interacting with the world, i.e., by the things done daily. For Vygotsky, knowledge is acquired by interaction with society, i.e., interacting with other people. Bruner felt people should relate their prior knowledge and current knowledge, and develop their knowledge.
  3. According to Piaget’s theory, knowledge is what an individual constructs. For Vygotsky, learning is considered a social process. Bruner’s research focused on environmental and experiential factors.

Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner have all proposed theories which do influence how children are raised even today. Even with contrasting views, each of their theories has proved to be significant in the cognitive development of children.