Vygotsky vs Piaget on learning

One of the points in which this theory differs from that of Piaget is that Vygotsky considers that the learning processes trigger the processes of development. Development cannot exist without a learning situation to provoke it, so learning stimulates development.

Vygotsky brought important contributions in regard to the problem of literacy, as he highlighted the need to focus on reading and writing activities. This is related to the difference between the children’s need to learn the spoken language and that of learning the written one. Although either of them represents a means of communication, children start speaking because they are urged by the necessity to make demands, ask questions, give replies, etc. “This is why it is necessary to generate situations and activities that provoke in the child the necessity to write and use external motivation to make him read, so that writing becomes something that the child needs to do in order to attain different goals.”

Vygotsky proves that playing and drawing are the precursors of writing, because they all use the same process of symbol transition. Drawing and playing teach the child the basics of symbolism and writing (where symbolism means “the interpretation of graphic signs and symbols”). In his study, Vygotsky sees symbolism as a mental representation of writing, and mentions the existence of a sequence of steps in the process of transformation of symbols. This sequence can be an equivalent of the three steps presented in the Diseño Curricular para la Educación Inicial (Curricular Designs for Primary School, published in 1989): the first level of symbolism, the second level (indirect symbolism) and the third level (direct symbolism).

In the first-level symbolism, writing is related to the meaning of things and actions like, for example, the names that represent different people.

Indirect symbolism (second level) does not refer directly to objects – which is why it is called indirect – but represents the spoken language which, in turn, represents objects. The spoken language acts as the connection between objects and symbols. This is the most difficult stage for children, because they have to understand that what they say needs to have the same meaning as what they write.

Finally, in the third level, the spoken language is no longer an intermediary, and writing becomes a direct symbol; this is why this level is called direct symbolism or third-level symbolism.

After conquering these three levels, the child can read and write, but learning does not end here.

From this point of view, school has an important role in the children’s development. Its objective is to turn them into literate persons, by providing the instruments they need for actively interacting with the reading and writing system.


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