Piaget, Vygotsky and Beyond: Future Issues for Developmental Psychology and Education

Piaget, Vygotsky and Beyond: Future Issues for Developmental Psychology and Education

Piaget, Vygotsky and Beyond: Future Issues for Developmental Psychology and Education

Piaget, Vygotsky and Beyond: Future Issues for Developmental Psychology and Education

Synopsis

Celebrating the 1996 centenary of the births of the two most seminal figures in education and developmental psychology, this collection looks at the implications of the research in their footsteps and asks which body of findings is most important.

Excerpt

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Jean Piaget was born in Neuchâtel on 9 August 1896 and died in Geneva on 16 September 1980. Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky was born in Orsha near Minsk on 5 November 1896 and died in Moscow on 11 June 1934. Their impact on developmental psychology and education has been prodigious throughout the century and looks set to continue well into the next. Two problems face anyone who plans to address, elaborate and evaluate the work of Piaget and Vygotsky. One is that their output was vast in scale and extent (for bibliographies, see Jean Piaget Archives, 1989; Van der Veer and Valsiner, 1991). The other is that their influence is as seminal as it is variegated. Each has set out standard positions which provide constitutive elements in contemporary accounts based on core constructs which merit worthwhile use, development and revision. Thus subtle decisions are required so that reasonable judgements can be made as to what should be retained and what should be revised in the works of Piaget and Vygotsky with regard to perspectives in psychology and education. This has proved to be no easy matter (Chapman, 1988; Daniels, 1993, 1996; Davydov, 1995; Kitchener, 1986; Lloyd and Fernyhough, in press; Lourenco and Machado, 1996; Smith, 1992, 1996a; Vidai, 1994; Wertsch and Tulviste, 1992).

There is sometimes a tendency to interpret the work of Piaget and Vygotsky in a polarised way, as if the work of one had next to nothing in common with that of the other. On this interpretation, there is an exclusive choice to be made between Piaget, or Vygotsky, but not both. Any such interpretation would have the consequence that developmental psychology and education could have nothing in common, when viewed from a Piagetian as opposed to a Vygotskian perspective. In contrast to this exclusive interpretation of ‘Piaget or Vygotsky’, there is a more inclusive interpretation in that some ideas are unique to Piaget’s work, some ideas are unique to Vygotsky’s, whilst other ideas are in their common possession. It will be worthwhile to elaborate this interpretation before previewing the chapters in this volume.

The argument for an inclusive interpretation of ‘Piaget or Vygotsky’ has two steps, one analogical and the other epistemological. The analogy is based on mountain scrambles. One way to climb a mountain is to walk up

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