In terms of the cognitive development perspective, Swiss Psychologist Jean Piaget, was extremely interested in how children acquire knowledge and come to understand their world and his theories form the basis of the cognitive approach (Joyce and Weil, 1996; Heo et al., 2011). Piaget asserts that “language is a product of intelligence, rather than intelligence being a product of language” (Piaget, 1929) and he explains children 's language acquisition by using four stages of cognitive development and his theories offer a crucial theoretical basis in terms of intellectual maturation (Heo et al., 2011). Piaget contends that children form schema, or cognitive structures, through which individuals explain occurrences in their lives; using these schemata individuals can organise and modify their environments (Smith et al., 2003). Schema are hypothetical constructs which have no physical manifestation and are not observable; children are born with few schemata and these develop gradually over time, to become more differentiated and ‘adult’ (Wadsworth, 1996). Piaget’s theory explains children’s language learning by using the aforementioned four stages of cognitive development; namely the sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational stages. It is claimed by Piaget that these stages are invariant, and all children will go through these stages in the same sequence (Berk, 2008).
Stages of Cognitive Development
Infancy, Birth-2 years old. Sensorimotor Stage
During this stage infants use their senses and motor skills to make sense of the world; at this point a child 's thoughts are acquired through sensation and movement; their behaviour is largely reflexive (Hu...
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...ne of Proximal Development’ (ZPD), the ZPD can be described as the gap between a learner 's independent performance and the level of potential performance achieved with assistance (Daniels, 2001). Here a more knowledgeable individual, such as a parent, teacher or more competent peer, is able to move development forward through social interaction (Blake and Pope, 2008). The concept of parent, teachers, or more able peers, nurturing and guiding a learner 's development to enable them to achieve, has come to be known as scaffolding (Daniels, 2001; Hammond, 2002); however this is not a term ever used by Vygotsky (Stone, 1998). Critics of Vygotskian theory have contended that the proposition of the ZPD is incomplete, and vague in parts, with too much focus on collective social interaction, and not enough focus on individual knowledge acquisition (Lui and Matthews, 2005).
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