Sunday, October 5, 2008

A comparison among Erikson, Piaget, & Vygotsky

A comparison among Erikson, Piaget, & Vygotsky

By Melissa Hofmann
EDI 600 Psychological Foundation of Education
School of Education
Long Island University, C. W. Post
September 22, 2008


The focus of today’s class was the psychological and cognitive theories of Erickson and Piaget. I really found the learning cycle, according to Piaget, an interesting notion. I like the use of the words equilibrium and disequilibrium as they relate to the process of learning. I find this cycle characteristic of my motivation for learning. I need balance, structure and explanations in my life. I would describe myself as anal retentive, to the point of mild OCD. Therefore, I particularly detest unbalanced situations in which I have no control or when I can’t make sense of my surroundings or figure out a task at hand. In these scenarios, I struggle to regain balance and order in order to decrease my levels of stress and anxiety that inevitably result from an unfamiliar experience.

On a personal note, I completely agree with Piaget’s theory of learning as motivation to achieve equilibrium and prevent states of disequilibrium. If I am faced with a new problem, I immediately feel the need to assimilate the new information to an existing scheme, or accommodate new information into a new scheme. These adaptive instincts are helpful means of restoring order and organizing. This helps my OCD! Adapting and reorganizing is sort of comparable to creating a never-ending flow chart or outline in one’s brain, and I perform better and am much more relaxed after organization occurs.

I also agree more with Erikson. I think it is vital as future teachers to be supportive, caring and understanding. I feel there are a variety of ways to motivate children but, in my opinion, embarrassment or punishment are not the appropriate actions for teachers to take. This will not, under Erickson’s theory, facilitate industry or enhance a child’s self-worth or self-concept.

There can be some questions raised regarding certain points of both theories, however, both Piaget’s and Erikson’s theories offer valuable insight into the psychological and cognitive development of human beings. I think there is much to be gained from both perspectives and a combination of the two, plus portions of Vygotsky’s theory, might create an even more ideal theory.

I look forward to discussing Vygotsky’s viewpoints next week, as I too believe that a person’s cognitive process is shaped by cultural and social factors as well. I also believe in Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development and the idea of mediation- when those more intellectually advanced help the less intellectually advanced learn better. All three of these theorists have much to offer in terms of psychological development and all three points of view are worth serious contemplation for those of us in the field of education.

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