Applications of Cognitive Development Theories to Education

Piaget Education Application

  • Useful to know what stage of cognitive development a child is in so that tasks appropriate to learning are set and stage specific instructions are given.

>only the material that a child is ready to learn is taught.

  • Burns & Silbey- Children learn best when activities match their stage of development.
  • Stage specific instruction may be good for some children but not for others.
  • Piaget underestimated the readiness of children to learn. 4 year olds were able to complete tasks from the concrete operational stage.
  • Children must be able to self discover, be challenged and learn on their own. Role of the teacher is to encourage self learning and place the child in a state of disequilibrium.
    • Cultural bias– may not be universally appropriate. Asians usually do well with traditional instruction-> can be misleading as more time may be spent on that subject.
    • Effective in computer based environments.
    • Underestimates the added benefits of direct teaching.


  • Evidence that traditional teaching methods i.e. lecturing, are better than Piaget’s method.
  • The approach is best used on mathematical and logical subjects and not on subjects like history or languages.
  • The approach requires you to know what schemas a child possesses in order to determine which stage they are in and the type of learning the require but this is not really possible.
  • It has been used to alter the way things are taught in schools.

Vygotsky Education Application

  • More beneficial for children to work in groups so that they are encouraged to progress.
    • Children that worked individually on a task requiring critical thinking skills after a lecture performed worse that those working in groups.
    • Encourages and maintains motivation.
  • Type of language used could have a significant effect on development.

>Berk- Children originally spoke out loud when completing a puzzle but this reduced when confidence increased.

  • Talking in class may be beneficial to children as it may help them to focus and gather their thoughts, therefore by making children silent, it may affect performance.
  • Scaffolding means that the teacher does not have to wait for a child to be ready in order for them to be able to teach something, as the child can be supported.

>Corner et al- The more scaffolding a child has, the more likely they are to learn.

  • Scaffolding has six stages and the teacher must apply the right type of scaffolding depending on what stage the child is in.
  • Vygotsky said that play was important for learning as it took the child away from their everyday behaviour and made them reflect aspects of their culture i.e. pretending to be a doctor.


  • Do not have to wait to teach something to a child until they are ready as scaffolding can be applied.
  • Useful to know that a child is better off being able to speak through what they are doing than being silent.
  • The CASE programme was devised from Vygotsky and Piaget’s theories-> way of teaching a lesson.