Comparing variation theory with Piaget's theory of cognitive development: More similarities than differences?

Barbara HANFSTINGL, Gertraud BENKE, Yuefeng Ellen ZHANG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Lo's variation theory is a learning and teaching theory based on Marton's phenomenographic approach and is one of the most important backbones of learning studies. The proponents of variation theory demarcate their approach from constructivist learning approaches, stressing constructivism as philosophical framework, but not as learning theory. At the same time, the phenomenographic approach emphasizes the importance of Piaget's work about the cognitive development, which should be considered when talking about learning and teaching. We argue that – from a theoretical point of view – Piaget's theory of how cognitive schemata are developed and how variation theory proposes that learning can be fostered entails many similarities which are not apparent at first glance. We demonstrate the similarities and differences using a teaching example from an English as second language classroom and show the implications for practical instructional work. Finally, we discuss concrete suggestions how variation theory could benefit even more from Piaget's theory. Copyright © 2019 Educational Action Research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEducational Action Research
Early online dateJan 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jan 2019

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cognitive development
learning
Teaching
constructivism
learning theory
classroom
language

Bibliographical note

Hanfstingl, B., Benke, G., & Zhang, Y. (2019). Comparing variation theory with Piaget's theory of cognitive development: More similarities than differences? Educational Action Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/09650792.2018.1564687

Keywords

  • Variation theory
  • Phenomenography
  • Piaget
  • Cognitive development
  • Learning study
  • Learning theory
  • Teaching theory