Jean William Fritz Piaget -Jean Piaget declared in 1934 while of Director of the International Bureau of Education"only education is capable of saving our societies from possible collapse, whether violent, or gradual."[

Piaget believed that a child's environment and personal experiences with various situations in which they may find themselves is the precursor to learning.  He focused his research on the following three components of organization, adaptation and equilibration.  

 Organization refers to the initial exposure of the child to an existing or new behavior.  The child attempt to address the new experience in the same manner will be unsuccessful at first.  With continued exposure to this new experience, the child will make adjustments in what it knew to what it has now learned.  In this context, the child has built bridges from the old experience to the new experience and has begun the process of:

 Adaptation under these headings two things will take place in a child's mind. First, a child will take newly acquired information and try to fit it into their existing information regarding the experience. This is process is known as the assimilation process. Since the new information is an a the two pieces of information cannot be blended, the child cognitively begins searching for a way to house or blend both old and new information so that the experience can be looked at in a new dimension.  This generally require or blend it s a blending of the two pieces of information to with existing information so that they have a new understanding of the experience.  This blending is the assimilation process.    Another interesting thing is taking place during the assimilation process if the building of a new information structure and accommodation.  Between these two heading and is ones ability to take what is learned in one context along new information from another context blend them and into a new cognitive way of thinking. 

Finally, a child reaches the equilibrium stage when it demonstrates the blending of information into one cognitive way of thinking which either encompasses both ideas or has rejected one for the other.

 Vygotsky approaches the learning process of a child from a social-cultural standpoint.  He believes that a child learns cultural norms from the adults within the culture but especially from the adults in the homes they reside.  Vygotsky believes that the adults within the social-cultural environment must be the ones who teaches the child how to organize their learning or thinking in order for them to "master and internalize it." (Papalia, Diane E.; Olds, Sally Wendkos; FeldmanRuth Duskin; CHILD'S WORLD Infancy Through Adolescence); His greatest influence on how a child learns is based on "zone of proximal development" (ZPD) a level of development attained when children engage in social behavior.

Within this context, Vygotsky believes as a child grows they requires guidance in behaviors that they cannot fully master on their own.  As the child grows in maturity, confidence, and mastery of their skills the parent or mentor can pull back and allow they child to continue on it own.  This form of teaching, called scaffolding, it widely used in the halls of academia today.

 Follow the link below to see a photo of Jerome Bruner. Here you will find a reflection on effect of a speech Bruner gave while attending an event call the  Tapestry Partnership when he was 93 years young. .  

  Four-Stage Process of ZPD

Vygotsky (1978) believed that "what the child [or learner] is able to do in collaboration today, he will be able to do independently tomorrow." Tharp & Gallimore (1988) describe the ZPD as a four-stage process:

4 Stages of ZPD
Above: Modified version of Tharp & Gallimore's Four-Stage Model of ZPD (graphics added)

  • Stage 1: Assistance provided by MKO's
  • Stage 2: Assistance provided by self
  • Stage 3: Automatization through practice
  • Stage 4: De-automatization; recursiveness through previous three stages

The successful application of Vygotsky's theories require a learning environment dedicated to these principles. Those acting as MKO's must be highly involved, must work in collaboration with their students to facilitate learning, and must be famililar with the students' individual ZPD's. This is in contrast to some traditional teaching methods which require that students simply regurgitate recited material. As discussed in Constructivist learning theory, a more collaborative environment may encourage students to create their own meanings and apply them to learned material (Hausfather, 1996).

Related EET Articles

Piaget: Piaget's Developmental Stages
Automatization: Automaticity: Skill Building
Constructivism: Learning Theory Fundamentals

A.E. Berger, M.Ed
Graduate Student
SDSU Educational Technology

Any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development.(Jerome Bruner)

 On of the ways teachers teach students today to become participants in their learning is to use a graphic organizer call the K-W-L chart.   This chart is built on the constructivist theory of Jerome Bruner which states that, a student's learning begins when they take their old or current knowledge mix it with the new knowledge and build a NEW idea or concept.  In other words, they are taking separate pieces of information, old and new, and constructing new understanding of the experience.


For more information on the theories of Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky or Jerome Bruner use the following links:

Piaget -

Vygotsky -

Bruner -