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The work of Lev Vygotsky Essay

The work of Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) has become the foundation of much research and theory in cognitive development over the past several decades, particularly of what has become known as Social Development Theory. Vygotsky’s theories stress the fundamental role of social interaction in the development of cognition Vygotsky, 1978), as he believed strongly that community plays a central role in the process of “making meaning.”

Unlike Piaget’s notion that children’s’ development must necessarily precede their learning, Vygotsky argued, “learning is a necessary and universal aspect of the process of developing culturally organized, specifically human psychological function” (1978, p. 90). In other words, social learning tends to proceed (i.e. come before) development.

Vygotsky has developed a socio-cultural approach to cognitive development. He developed his theories at around the same time as Jean Piaget was starting to develop his theories (1920’s and 30’s), but he died at the age of 38 and so his theories are incomplete – although some of his writings are still being translated from Russian.

No single principle (such as Piaget’s equilibration) can account for development. Individual development cannot be understood without reference to the social and cultural context within which it is embedded. Higher mental processes in the individual have their origin in social processes. http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html

Vygotsky’s Career:
Lev Vygotsky was a prolific writer, publishing six books on psychology topics over a ten year period. His interests were quite diverse, but often centred on topics of child development and education. He also explored such topics as the psychology of art and language development.

Some of the major theories developed by Lev Vygotsky include: Zone of Proximal Development: According to Vygotsky, the zone of proximal development is “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.”

Parents and teachers can foster learning by providing educational opportunities that lie within a child’s zone of proximal development. Sociocultural Theory: Lev Vygotsky also suggested that human development results from a dynamic interaction between individuals and society. Through this interaction, children learn gradually and continuously from parent and teachers. This learning, however, can vary from one culture to the next.

It is important to note that Vygotsky’s theory emphasizes the dynamic nature of this interaction. Society doesn’t just impact people; people also impact their society. Vygotsky’s life was cut tragically short in 1934, when he died of tuberculosis at the age of 38. Contributions to Psychology:

Lev Vygotsky is considered a seminal thinker in psychology, and much of his work is still being discovered and explored today. While he was a contemporary of Skinner, Pavlov, Freud and Piaget, his work never attained their level of eminence 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 premature death at age 38 also contributed to his obscurity.

Despite this, his work has continued to grow in influence since his death, particularly in the fields of developmental and educational psychology. http://psychology.about.com/od/profilesmz/p/vygotsky.htm

The major theme of Vygotsky’s theoretical framework is that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition. Vygotsky (1978) states: “Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals.” (p57). A second aspect of Vygotsky’s theory is the idea that the potential for cognitive development depends upon the “zone of proximal development” (ZPD): a level of development attained when children engage in social behaviour.

Full development of the ZPD depends upon full social interaction. The range of skill that can be developed with adult guidance or peer collaboration exceeds what can be attained alone. Vygotsky’s theory was an attempt to explain consciousness as the end product of socialization. For examples, in the learning of language, our first utterances with peers or adults are for the purpose of communication but once mastered they become internalized and allow “inner speech”.

Vygotsky’s theory is complementary to Bandura’s work on social learning and a key component of situated learning theory as well. Because Vygotsky’s focus was on cognitive development, it is interesting to compare his views with those a constructivist (Bruner) and a genetic epistemologist (Piaget). http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/social-development.html

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