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Dynamics Systems Theory Vs Piaget and Vygotsky's Theories on Development

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Within education, the long standing classical theories of Piaget and Vygotsky have been important and heavily drawn on guidelines for child development. Both Piaget's Cognitive Theory; one that identifies linear stages and phases through progressive development, and Vygotsky's Socio-cultural Theory; one that emphasises that development cannot be separated from its social and cultural context, focus on an orderly, linear and progressive process of development and have been deemed 'developmentally appropriate practice' to be applied in the classroom (Kim & Sankey 2010). Yet these classical theories fail to recognise and emphasis on the complexly dynamic and non linear nature of development. The Dynamic Systems Approach (DSA) accommodates these previous classical theories while building on into a more comprehensive framework, one which addresses all factors affecting development, from the neurobiological through the psychological to the social and cultural levels. Central to the DSA is to view human development as a process of holistic non-linear, emergent self organisation as opposed to the classical theories determining development to be a linear progression of stages or genetic blueprints. The DSA is also a metatheory for development, it seeks to address each child as an individual, a self-organising organism from as early as the neurobiological level, with their own 'distinctive developmental trajectory' (Kim & Sankey 2010).

Traditional developmental theory emphasises on the systematic linear continual form of development for each individual, being systematic not only implies that development is orderly and patterned but also excludes 'temporary mood swings and other transitory changes in appearances, thoughts and behaviours' (Shaffer & Kipp, 2007, 2 as seen in Kim & Sankey 2010). But it is these aspects of moods, appearances, thoughts and behaviours that differentiate each person from the other, which makes us who we are. But it was to provide statistically reliable research results on group differences that support classical theories, such as Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development, that the exclusion of variability was necessary. On the other hand the view of the DSA on development 'considers the origins and functions of variability as absolutely central for understanding change' (Thelen & Smith, 1994, 67 as seen in Kim & Sankey 2010) as development, although sometimes linearly progressive is often non linear and needs to be emphasised in developmental education theories in order to apply to each individual in the classroom environment. On top of that, the DSA also addresses concern that using the terms 'develop' or 'development' to describe a child's trajectory in growth gives a false impression of only progress and not regress. Such assumptions as well as results from group average studies can often lead to misleading expectations in the classroom. Teachers follow such group average guidelines and have such a mentality and can dangerously overlook each child as an independently maturing individual. Both Piaget and Vygostsky's theories fit into the larger scale of group average studies and implement broad stages of development to classify the progress of children, this may be important in setting a structure but it leaves out the finer aspects of each individual's development, here the DSA provides a more focused viewpoint, by 'frequently sampling individual variability over a longitudinal time-span' (Kim & Sankey 2010), and allows more focus on the relationship between individual parts in that of a whole group.

One fundamental factor that separates DST from the classical theories is the way it conceptualises nature and nurture holistically, its approach to perception, cognition and action, and the emphasis it places on the brain. Both Piaget and Vygotsky's theories, likewise with all traditional theories, draw on the intricate relationship between nature and nurture. In Piaget's Cognitive Theory, it is compulsory for nature and nurture to interact in order to produce cognitive development, yet Piaget seems to emphasis on the nature, the biological component, the maturationally predetermined progression through a fixed developmental sequence. Unlike Piaget, Vygotsky emphasises more on the nurture end of the nature and nurture debate, his Socio-cultural Theory seemed to rely mostly on three things that all revolved around external factors that influence how a child is raised: culture, language, and the zone of proximal Development. The DSA, however, views the human being as a complex dynamic system where genes, and such nature, to be part of a whole organism. Stressing a holistic concept of development whereby interaction of cells or genes may be non linear and unpredictable yet still within the totality of the organism. This approach then in turn enables teachers to be freed from the controlling idea of genetic determinism, 'the idea that we are somehow pre-programmed in our behaviour and in our abilities and intelligence and that these determine the outcome of our education'. This allows children to break free from the binding of genetic limits and expectations, giving them the room they may need for their own growth and development.

Although Vygotsky and Piaget weighs more importance on cognition as opposed to perception, with Piaget's Cognitive Theory focusing on the stages of a child's cognitive development and Vygotsky viewing cognitive developments as a result of a dialectical process as well as that potential for cognitive development is limited to the zone of proximal development. The DSA doesn't give preference of any one aspect over another, claiming that 'perception, action and cognition are rooted in the same dynamic processes that are laid down in the neuronal mapping of the brain as a result of perceiving and acting in the world' (Kim & Sankey 2010). By rooting development back to the basics of biology and neurobiology, the DSA strives to be consistent with biological and neurobiological and accepts that the mind or brain is not the overarching function in development and believe that philosophy, psychology and neurobiology are all equally important. Kim & Sankey point out that cognitive theories tend to downplay the importance of perception in learning and development. Although Piaget in his Cognitive theory recognises the role perception plays, but he still puts construction before perception, resulting in structures and stages and steps to account for how children develop in learning. Yet the DSA will argue that within the whole organism of an individual, unlabeled perception leads to internal category formation and thereby sets a beginning for development in the mind.

Gerald Edelman and Walter Freeman's

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