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Lev Vygotsky was a developmental psychologist born in Russia in 1896 in Byelorussia and passed away in 1934 due to Tuberculosis. Throughout his lifetime Vygotsky went from Medical school to law school, from law school to literature, and from literature to psychology. Although he was in the five percent of Jews allowed to attend a university he wasn't allowed to study to be the teacher that he desired to be. After finding an interest in psychology he began to explore child development and child psychology. He graduated from the University of Moscow with a degree in literature. According to Vygotsky "the overall goal of education is to generate and lead development which is the result social learning through internalization of culture and social relationships". (The Educational Theory of Lev Vygotsky: an analysis)
Lev Vygotsky was intrigued by the relationship between learning and human development. In addition to his theories he wrote over a hundred books and articles that were all stored in a secret library and were not published until after his death. His two major recognized pieces are "The Psychology of Art" and "The crisis in Psychology". Two of his main concepts were inner speech and the zone of proximal development. Vygotsky believed that inner speech is what guides a child's planning and other thought processes. He also believed that learning leads development and the immaturity of students' conscious awareness and mastery of their thinking at a school age and sets the stage for his concept of the zone of proximal development (Education Encyclopedia: Lev Vygotsky). Vygotsky's theory is called sociocultural because it focuses on how values, beliefs, skills, and traditions are transmitted to the next generation. He considered the child as a whole, and believed in a connection between culture and development. He believed that children's skills and interactions varied by culture and that a child learns through family not through stages. Vygotsky thought that a large amount of learning was through play because language and development are built upon each other. When a mentor thinks that a student is ready for a new challenge and can conquer the challenge almost independently, a zone of proximal development is drawn. It is a range of learning that would be what a child can learn on its own but better with the help of someone else. Scaffolding involves encouragement and assistance in the form of advice and suggestions to aid a child in mastering a new concept (Davison). Through what Vygotsky called dialogues, we socially interact and communicate with others to learn the cultural values of our society. The sociocultural theory suggests that learning is active and constructive. "Vygotsky claimed that interaction and direct teaching were critical aspects of a child's cognitive development and that a child's level of thinking could be advanced by such interaction". Language is socially based and children's speech during age three to seven is tied to what children think. The development of language is considered to be a major principle of Vygotsky's sociocultural theory. The language of a certain group of people indicates their cultural beliefs and value system. He thinks that children gradually grow intellectually and begin to function on their own because of assistance. He also says that a child's cognitive abilities increase through exposure to information that is new, interesting, and easy to understand. When children play and cooperate with others they learn what is important in their society and advance cognitively in their understanding of the world. The sociocultural theory suggests that development is a reciprocal transaction between the people in a child's environment and the child. According to Vygotsky, people and settings influence a child and in return influences the people and settings. He also suggested that children with and without disabilities be taught together, he thought isolation would hinder social Development. As a constructivist, Vygotsky believed that learning is affected by the context in which an idea is taught as well as by students' beliefs and attitudes. Vygotsky felt that learning happens before development can occur and that children learn because of history and symbolism.
Lev Vygotsky is considered a seminal thinker in psychology, and much of his work is still being discovered and explored today. While he was like Skinner, Pavlov, Freud and Piaget, his work never attained their level of acknowledgement during his lifetime. Part of this was because his work was often criticized by the Communist Party in Russia, and so his writings were largely inaccessible to the Western world, his early death at age 38 also contributed. Vygotsky was one of the first people to recognize and acknowledge the importance of culture and as today becomes more multicultural the sociocultural theory is helping us understand the influences on development. In conclusion, cognitive development plays a key role in learning and thinking methods of children. Vygotsky offers some incredible insight into the possible ways children learn and by using these theories it is possible to create a more conducive learning environment for each child. I believe that principles such as scaffolding, co-constructed knowledge, dialogue, and cultural tools are all important components of a student's knowledge acquisition. By helping students within their zone of proximal development, we offer them useful learning strategies which they internalize and utilize later.
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- Davison, Brandi. "Piaget Vs. Vygotsky." Ac Associated Content 08 December 2006.
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- Gredler, Margaret E. Education Encyclopedia: Lev Vygotsky. 10 23 2009. <http://www.answers.com/topic/lev-vygotsky>.
- K. Geonnotti, D. Passalacqua. The Educational Theory of Lev Vygotsky: an analysis. 2007. <http://www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Vygotsky.html>.