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Interpreting Early Cognitive Development using Developmental Theories

Interpreting Early Cognitive Development using Developmental Theories

Interpreting Early Cognitive Development using Developmental Theories

Vygotsky believes that children’s learning occurs within the zone of proximal development (a range of tasks that are too difficult for the child to perform alone but possible with someone’s help) (Berk, 2020). With the help of his mother, Nicole, David is able to improve his skills in playing with the blocks. This takes place through an effective social interaction. Vygotsky proposes that for cognitive development to be promoted, social interaction needs to have inter-subjectivity and scaffolding (Berk, 2020). The former involves 2 participants beginning a task with varying understandings and then arriving at a shared understanding. This generates a common ground for communication because every partner adjusts to the perspective of the other. By translating her insights into manners that are within David’s grasp, Nicole promotes David’s cognitive development and helps him address the problem at hand more maturely. Scaffolding means adjusting the support that is offered in the course of learning to fit the child’s present performance level (Berk, 2020). With little knowledge of how to go about a task, the adult makes use of direct instruction and breaks the task into units that are manageable, making suggestions on strategies and offering logic for using them. In this case, Nicole sensitively and gradually withdraws her support and turns over the responsibility to David, who will, in turn, use the dialogue or interaction between him and his mother, turn it into a private speech, and make use of it to organize his independent efforts.

Nicole could also use a fun video or a puppet to demonstrate how to play with the blocks and then arrange the blocks together with David while articulating step by step how the activity is done.

Vygotsky argues that children often speak to themselves when a task is considered appropriately challenging, and this private speech is said to enhance their attention and performance (Berk, 2020). In this case, appropriately challenging means that the task is neither too hard nor too easy for the child but is within their range of mastery or zone of proximal development, as Vygotsky puts it (Berk, 2020). Private speech might be ineffective in helping the child perform the task if it is too difficult (Fernyhough & Fradley, 2018). The appropriately challenging nature of the game could explain why David is talking to himself. David might also be in need of scaffolding or help with his plays and, therefore, articulates loudly to facilitate help from his mother. Research also shows that children who have some behavior and learning problems tend to talk to themselves for prolonged periods of time, and this private speech is said to help compensate for the cognitive and attention-processing impairments that make various tasks more challenging for them (Berk, 2020). It can be argued that David might be suffering from some behavioral or learning problem and hence indulges in private speech.

Private speech, according to Vygotsky, is important for children as it helps them think about their own behavior and mental activities and hence choose a proper course of action to take (Berk, 2020). Vygotsky considers this private speech as the basis for every higher cognitive process like deliberate recall and memorization, controlled attention, self-reflection, problem-solving, and planning. As children grow old, such speech is internalized as a silent inner speech, which is helpful in everyday performances. Therefore, Nicole should encourage David to continue talking to himself as this will be very helpful to him, particularly as he indulges in more self-reflection and reflection on the task at hand.


Berk, L. E. (2020). Infants, Children, and Adolescents (9th Edition). Pearson Education (US).

Fernyhough, C., & Fradley, E. (2018). Private speech on an executive task: Relations with task difficulty and task performance. Cognitive development, 20(1), 103-120.


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Unit 5 Discussion
Topic: Interpreting Early Cognitive Development Using Developmental Theories

In this unit, you will learn about cognitive development in infancy/toddlerhood and early childhood. The focus of this Discussion is on using developmental theories to interpret cognitive development in these stages, and the role parents play in promoting cognitive development.

Interpreting Early Cognitive Development using Developmental Theories

Interpreting Early Cognitive Development Using Developmental Theories

Please respond to the following:

At 20 months, David loves playing with his blocks and has even attempted to build a 6-block tower, but his tower keeps falling down. His mother, Nicole, joins him when he plays with his blocks, making suggestions, such as placing the second block right in line with the first block and even demonstrating how the blocks work best with her own smaller version of a 3-block tower. As she sees his skills improve with this toy, Nicole steps back and lets him try on his own.

Using Vygotsky’s theory, explain how Nicole is supporting David’s cognitive development.
What are some other strategies Nicole could use to encourage David’s mastery over this toy?
At age 5, David is talking aloud to himself as he plays. His mother, Nicole, wonders whether she should discourage this behavior. Piaget’s theory and Vygotsky’s theory have different interpretations of this behavior.

Referring to either Piaget’s theory or Vygotsky’s theory, how would you explain why David is talking to himself?
How would you advise Nicole about encouraging or discouraging David’s talking out-loud behavior?

TEXTBOOK: Berk, L. E. (2020). Infants, Children, and Adolescents (9th Edition). Pearson Education (US).

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