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It is known that the emergence of Genetic Theory dates back to the third decade of the
present century, with pioneering works done by Jean Piaget about the logic and verbal
thinking of children.

The main issue that inspired the Genevan author to develop this theory was essentially
epistemic (how to move from a certain level of knowledge to one of greater value?).

A series of systematic researches continued in Genetic Psychology conducted by its

founder and his collaborators during the next fifty years –besides other ones of pure
epistemic order-, originated by a clearly instrumental or methodological interest. That is,
its principal concern was to respond scientifically to the said problematic. To express it
in other words, Piaget’s work is, specially, a theory that aims to describe and explain the
nature of knowledge and how it is constituted.

Piaget dedicated many works to dissimilar disciplines such as Biology, Philosophy,

Psychology, Sociology, etc., and to lesser extent –in comparison with the former ones- to
educative issues; by commitment (he we the first director of the International Bureau of
Education in 1999) and by petitions, rather than by strictly personal interests.

In his writings about education, as several authors have pointed out (Marro, 1983 y
Munari, 1985) it reflects, in addition of a remarkable originality, certain influences of the
functionalist (Claparede) and pragmatist (Dewey) approaches in Psychology, as well as
those new school strands (A. Ferriere).

Contrary to what has been mentioned in other places, the work in the Jean Jacques
Rousseau Institute (where Piaget took part in the 30s as researcher and director) and the
one realized subsequently in his psychogenetics researches, originated in the Genevan
school during that time, a certain amount of attraction towards finding utility and the
application of the theory in the educational field, even though in the last decades
(especially since the constitution of the Genetic Epistemology Center), this interest
declined considerably.

On the other hand, in North America since the sixties decade the Piagetian works started
being rediscovered, due to basically the cognitive revolt and the existing boom for the
search of educative and curricular innovations. Within this context, it was considered
that Genetic Theory was, without any doubt, especially attractive because of the
possibilities that it opened up in the educational field, while it describes widely how
subjects know and learn, which are the intervening mechanisms in this process and
simultaneously provides a detail explication about intellectual develop mechanisms.
(Coll, 1983; Coll y Martí, 1990).

From this decade and the subsequent years, the applications and implications in the
educational field began to proliferate in a remarkable way (especially in elemental
education and only later in middle and upper secondary education), from those naïve and
reductionist interpretations or versions (those from C. Lavatelli, and the first works of the
Highscope group headed by D. Weikart) to reflexive and critic postures with a more
objective interpretation related to the utility of the theory in the educational field.

Several authors (Coll, 1983; DeVries and Kohlberg, 1987; Kamii y DeVries, 1977;
Marro, 1982) have tried out classifications and analysis of this applications. Briefly, we
will describe the two main conclusions reached:

1) There is no univocity in the interpretations or readings of the theory for further

application in the educational field, given that multiple uses according on the
different aspects that are taken from it can be made (v. gr. Functional or structural
aspects) or of the different conceptions of which is based on how psychological
theories in the educational field should be used (v. gr. crass extrapolations or critic
readings that propose the necessity of an adequate recontextualization).

2) Despite the enormous efforts made to this day about theory implications, there
is still a lot of research work to be made (especially in the psychogenesis field
regarding the learning of school content), so it has not yet resulted in the big
expected impact of the theory in educational field.

Genetic theory is known as constructivist in the sense that for Piaget, knowledge is not
just acquired by the internalization of the social environment (as Freud and Vygostky
propose) but predominates the construction made from within the subject’s interior. Thus,
the crucial point of Piagetian theory from educative vision are not stages as such but as
they reflect the mechanism of the constructive process (Kamii, 1987).
Education goals

From the psychogenetic approach, education must be understood as an appropriate

element that helps potentiate the develop of the student and to promote his moral and
intellectual autonomy (DeVries y Kohlberg, 1987).

Piaget himself wrote the next regarding the issues of education goals:

“Education’s main goal is to create men who are able to do new things, not simply to
repeat what other generations have done; men who are creative, inventive and
discoverers. The second goal of education is to form minds who can critique, able to
verify and to not accept everything that’s offered” (Piaget, 1964, cited by Kamii, 1982,
p. 29)

In this sense, the ultimate goal of education is to ensure that learners achieve rational
thinking and moral and intellectual autonomy. Autonomy means being governed by
oneself, meanwhile heteronomy means being ruled by others. The relevance of cultivate
this aspect lies, according to Kamil (1987) in that “we live in a heteronomous world full
of blind obedience and conformism and we have not been educated to be autonomous”.

Based on the works made by Piaget about moral development in a child, Kamii (1982)
postulates that autonomy develops when the child considers and coordinates the several
points of view from other (children and adults). In opposition, heteronomy implies an
acritic obedience towards the ideas or attitudes of older persons or bigger authority.

According to Kamii, posing objectives for teaching about moral and intellectual
autonomy (both indissolubly related), has a scientific ground in Piagetians works
themselves. According to these works, intellectual and moral autonomy is built with
development, but it may be favored, obstructed or have a partial development according
to school, family and cultural circumstances in which the child develops. In this sense, it
is necessary to consider that school education should create a context of respect and
reciprocity (especially in teacher-student relations) to promote students moral and
intellectual autonomy.

In summary, the profound implication of Piagetian theory in education is that we must

stop transmitting knowledge to students in pre-established ways and instead of that to
foment their own constructive process.
Conceptualization of learning

Piaget explains the learning process in terms of knowledge acquisition. That's why he
establishes a marked difference between maturation and learning; that is between the
inherited and the acquired by experience.

According to psychogenetic posture, there are two types of learning: learning in wide
sense (development) and learning in strict sense (learning of data and punctual
information, proper learning). The first one predetermines what can be learned (the
reading of experience comes largely determined by the schemes and structures that the
subject possess) and the second can contribute to achieve advances in the first one, but
only as a necessary but not sufficient element (in opposition to the associative and
accumulative learning of certain empirist or conductual approximations).

As it can be supposed, Piaget explains learning in terms of assimilation processes that

require accommodation by the subject. Balance is needed in order to accomplish inhibit
disturbing reactions originated by previous schemes; the main function of the balancing
process is to propitiate reorganization and the needed adjustments to apprehend the
object; this is the mechanism that propitiates the creation of new knowledge schemes.

According to Piaget, it is possible to achieve certain learning of logical-mathematics

notions (operative learning) and even the advance in development normal rhythm,
considering certain conditions that are measured as appropriate self-autotructuring
experiences developed by the individual and that it exists in the subjects to certain
dispositional cognitive level (that people are in levels of operative transition between

In this context, the role of cognitive and/or sociocognitive conflicts (perturbations and
imbalances) turns out also of great importance, how the investigations of Inhelder’s team
plus collaborators and the works of Pierret-Clermont, Doise y Mugny have shown (Coll
y Martí, 1990; Kamii, 1985).

Nevertheless, it is to consider that wide learning won’t appear if learning in strict sense
does not happens before, and the interrelation between both types it’s given through
mediated experience.

Regarding scholar learnings, it has also been proved that in various domains, as in the
case of lectowriting (Ferreiro, Teberosky and others) and in the learning of arithmetic
notions (Kamii, Vergnaud, Brousseau, Papert, among others), a constructive process is
equally followed (even initiated before formal scholarity or in other situations despite
traditional pedagogic practices) in its acquisition. Once identified the genesis and
construction of those scholar contents learnings, it is possible to postulate appropriate
pedagogic sequences and teaching practices.

Of the previously said, it is concluded that learning is not a spontaneous manifestation of

isolated forms; but an indivisible activity conformed by the assimilation and
accommodation processes, the resultant balance allows the individual to adapt actively to
reality, which is ultimately the principal benefit from learning.

The role of teachers

The teacher’s function from Piagetian perspective is to help the student built his or her
own knowledge guiding him or her so that experience is fruitful; it is not to transmit
already elaborated knowledge in order to pour them over the student.

According to psychogenetic approximation, the teacher is a promoter of the develop and

the student’s autonomy. He must deeply know problems, processes, and characteristics
of students’ learning (scholar and operative) and the definitory traits of the stages of
general cognitive development.

Their main job consists on promoting an atmosphere of reciprocity, respect, and

autoconfidance for the child, allowing the opportunity for the self-structuring learning of
students, mainly through indirect learning and the set-up of problems and cognitive

The teacher must reduce its level of authority as far as possible, for the student not to feel
contingent on what he says, when he tries to learn or known some school content and the
moral and intellectual heteronomy and dependency, are yet not fomented.

He must respect the own errors and strategies of the students’' learning and not demand
the simple emission of the correct answer. He has to avoid also the use of reward and
punishment, expiatory sanctions, and to promote that students built their own moral
values. They are only apply in those circumstances when it is necessary to use what Piaget
called sanctions by reciprocity (those who are directly related with the act we are
interested in punishing), always in a mutual respect context.
Regarding the docent formation it is important to be congruent with constructivist
position; that is, allowing the teacher to assume this new roles and to consider changes in
his educative practices (in learning, in the interaction with students, etc.), by self-
constructed conviction (not just by simple information about the advantages of this new
teaching method, even if down deep they do not believe in them), after the realization of
concrete experiences or even giving the opportunity for his docent practice and the study
plans to be enriched by his own creativity and particular experiences.

Conceptualization of the student

If we wish to form active individuals it is not possible to do it through procedures that

foment their passiveness. What does these means? that if we want creator and inventive
students, we must allow them to exercise in invention and discovery. That is, to let them
formulate their own explanations and hypothesis about natural and social phenomena.
Even if we know they are wrong, we must not provide them the right answer but to pose
teaching for them to realize by themselves and correct their thinking; if we do not do it as
so, we would submit them to authority and heteronomous criteria, and we would stop
them from thinking by themselves.

That is why Piagetians emphasize that the student must act (physical and mentally) in all
times in the school classroom. In a particular way, it is consider that the kind of activities
to promote in the students are those of the autoiniciated type (that emerge freely from the
student), which are supposed that in most occasions can result of self-structuring nature
(producers of structuring consequences in their schemes or structures in short or long

In the same way, the student is considered as an active constructor of his own knowledge.
For which he must be encouraged to know the events that surround him and are
considered valuable to be learned. Nevertheless (according to Kamii, 1982; Kamii y
DeVries, 1983), we must identify and distinguish clearly three types of knowledge: logic-
mathematical, physical and social conventional and nor-conventional; the importance of
identifying them lies on that it allows us to accomplish coherent pedagogic practices using
different strategies for each one of them and in this way to obtain positive results.
Likewise, the student must be helped to acquire confidence in its own ideas, to take its
own decisions and to accept errors as constructive (while they are previous or
intermediate elements, of the same kind as answers) (Duckworth, 1989).

In this sense it is vital to acknowledge the right of the student to err, because mistakes are
necessary for intellectual construction; without them he wouldn’t be able to recognize
what he must not do. The student has to learn to overcome his mistakes and wrong routes;
if we prevent the errors we prevent him from learning. Equally, the fact that the student
realizes that there are several answers may resolve an issue –although not all economic-
expedites the thinking and evades mental frigidity that entails to suppose knowledge as
unique and immutable.

The benefits of knowledge’s construction are multiple:

1) A truly significant learning is achieved, since it is built directly by the students;

2) there is a high possibility that the successful learning can be transferred or

generalized to other novel situations (which does not occur with knowledge that
has been just incorporated, in the literal meaning of the term); and

3) it makes the students feel able to produce valuable knowledge, which redounds
in a substantial improvement of their self-esteem an auto-concept (Kamii, 1982;
Kamii y DeVries, 1983; Moreno, 1982).

In summary, genetic postures conceives reasoning as a process of mental construction not

exempt from equivocations and confusions; nevertheless is the road to arrive at a
profound comprehension of the facts and phenomena.

The interaction between the students or certain particular forms of relation between
teacher and student (confrontation of several points of view) are considered in the
Piagetian scheme, contrary to what is believed, very relevant, because the foment both
the cognitive development (v. gr. To transit from egocentrism to sociocentrism, to access
to superior levels of operative thinking that imply the connection of intra and
interindividual ideas) and the socio-affective (to be more cooperatives and to establish
relations of respect and reciprocity for the construction of a moral autonomy).

For what has been said, it is desirable that inside the classroom activities of interaction in
the learning of school content between students are proposed, given that the exchanging
and confrontation of points of view (especially when there exist relations of equality
between classmates and differences in the hypothesis and explications between them
about the content to be learned) founded in the relations of reciprocity and respect, are
able to serve as excellent context to promote sociocognitive conflicts between students,
provoking in short and medium term re-arrangements and re-structurations in the
students’ schemes and structures (Col y Colomina, 1990; Mugny y Doise, 1983).


Learning will only make sense when the knowledge and information to obtain, answer to
the student's interest and curiosity. If teaching satisfies this necessity the students'
motivation will be high, that is why it is crucial for the teacher to present material not too
easy because students will get bored or, otherwise, not too difficult so it causes frustration.
That is to say, it is necessary for educational experience to contain certain mystery or
challenge to promote the learning desire.

For Piagetians, motivations is fundamentally intrinsic since it is product of the imbalances

(cognitive conflicts) of the students, provoked by the contradiction (conscientious
tematization), (Pozo, 1989) and with that the possibility to move on to a superior
comprehension level. It's in this sense that imbalances are the fundamental motor of
development (Piaget, 1978).

When a student is motivated towards this direction (promoting him conflicts and
contradictions, or giving place for him to be himself the one that makes the answers and
questions), it is enough for him to involve his general cognitive competence and that he
feels the necessity of finding a solution that promotes him to a superior level of the school
contents knowledge through a genuine self-structuring activity (Delval, 1983).

Thus, the teacher must identify when and how to promote cognitive conflicts in his
students in order to induce estates of imbalance that motivate them to learn or to be
actively interested in determinate curricular contents.
Teaching methodology

The method that privileges itself from a constructivist didactic, is the one called of indirect
teaching. We must not forget Piaget’s famous phrase: “everything that we teach directly
to a child, we are preventing him from discovering it and therefore, understanding it

According to indirect teaching, emphasis should be made on the activity, the initiative,
and the curiosity of the learner against knowledge’s different objectives (logic-
mathematic, physical and social conventional and non-conventional) supposing this as a
necessary condition to the auto-structuration and self-discovery of school contents.

Returning to the three kinds of knowledge, it is worth making a few comments to keep in
mind for teaching.

Mathematic-logic knowledge is built by reflexive abstraction and can’t be taught, that is

why the teacher must create favorable conditions for the student to achieve said
construction process (v. gr. The number, inclusion of classes, seriation, geometric
relations, etcetera).

Physical knowledge is discovered by empirical abstraction since it is a characteristic of

physical objects (v. gr. rugosity, sound, temperature, etc.), that’s the reason why the
teacher must design situations for the student to acquire said knowledge through
experiences of discovery and of direct contact with those objects.

Social knowledge can be divided in two types: the one that exists in others (conventional)
and the one that refers to social processes and to relationships with others (non-
conventional); the first one must be taught (v. gr. no school on Sundays, proper names
are written with capital letter, etc.) and the second must be encouraged to be appropriated
or rebuilt (v. gr. notion of gain, notion of poverty and richness, etc.).

The teacher must value during instructional situation the cognitive levels of the students
in particular, from their actions and present them cognitive conflicts or proper optimal
desadjustments through key experiences; which are strategic questions, or the
presentation of novel situations that provoke dissonances in the children’s schemes
(Wadsworth, 1991).

The use of the critic-clinic method in this ambit, may favor a lot the knowledge that the
teacher has of the student’s cognitive level, or the grade of advance or hypothesis that
possess on an operative notion or a school content, to later find out how to provoke or
induce imbalances in it.

In this sense, the teacher of a class (about some content or procedure) is recommended
that before imparting it, watches carefully a group of children while learning (individually
if it’ possible) and/or to also watch himself, how he acquires the knowledge he wants to
impart. This redounds in the accomplishment of a more profound comprehension of the
method as an indispensable instrument for the exploration and the understanding of
students’ conceptualization level.

Duckworth (1988) has pointed out that it is very difficult for teachers to know the
appropriate time to elaborate a right question or to suggest a relevant activity which
provokes cognitive conflict to all the students of a class. Nevertheless, a proper learning
environment (where children’s ideas are valued and the kids are not punished for having
them or trying to develop them), can often be sufficient for them to be the ones who pose
by themselves interesting questions and to be motivated to initiate activities that lead them
to resolve said questions (Delval, 1983).

Other concrete suggestions for the teacher would be:

1) Teachers must know the characteristics of cognitive studies and equate school
contents to them as close as possible. This considerations must be taken with
certain amount of laxity.

2) In the first school levels is convenient to begin teaching using concrete objects
and from them continuing on building the concepts up to the most abstract ones
(Labinowicz, 1986).

3) Many authors (v. gr. Block y Papacostas, Brosseau, Díaz-Barriga y Renner)

have propose for the instructional situation to be guided by cycles that initiate with
discovery activities for the students, where they interact freely with the objectives
according to their spontaneous conceptions, to move successively to formalization
or confrontation phases with a more institutionalized knowledge.

4) The cognitive level is an accumulative process. Its hierarchical nature requires

the formation of basic schemes before being able to move towards the complex
5) Intellectual construction is not made in the void, but rather it is given in the
surrounding world; for that reason, teaching must be closely linked to the student’s
immediate reality that is, based on its own interests. The teacher must establish an
order to help him discover the interrelations between physic, affective and social


For a certain time, in order to evaluate the level of cognitive development

produced by imparted instruction, it had resorted to the use of Piagetian
assignments as a means of evaluation; nevertheless, his employment was severely
criticized as uneconomical and uninformative (Coll, 1983). Most recently, to
determine cognitive level, two aspects have been chosen:

1) The usage of the processes and stages determined by the study of school
learnings’ psychogenesis (v. gr. Ferreiro's works about the acquisition of
lectowriting, Kamil and de Vergnaud's works about the strategies that
students use when learning concepts and arithmetic operations, etcetera.);

2) the focused approach in diversity valuation and the depth of application

of ideas and concepts learned by students in school situation.

In any case, in both the emphasis of evaluation is centered in the study of cognitive and
school processes (genesis and development) and on the use of the critic-clinic method.

As regards the situation of the evaluation of the learning of school contents in particular,
Piaget is against exams because they generally evaluate acquisition of information instead
of thinking abilities. He questions the permanence of knowledge demonstrated in tests,
because privileging the repetition of information encourages nonsense memorization.

Thus teaching loses its raison d'être, since by concentrating on the achievement of
ephemeral results, it leaves aside the most valuable thing, such as the formation of
intelligence and good working methods in students. Finally, it notes the undesirable
emotional effects that exams have on students.

-Coll, C. (1983): Psicología genética y aprendizajes escolares. México. Siglo XXI.

-Coll, C. y Martí, E. (1990): “Aprendizaje y desarrollo: la concepción genético-cognitiva

del aprendizaje”. En C. Coli; J. Palacios y A. Marchesi (Comps.) En Desarrollo
Psicológico y Educación II. Psicología de la educación. Madrid, España. Alianza.

-Coll, C. y Colomina, R. (1990): “Interacción entre alumnos y aprendizaje escolar”. En

C, Coll; J. Palacios y A. Marchesi (Comps.) En Desarrollo Psicológico y Educación II.
Psicología de la educación. Madrid, España. Alianza.

-Deival, J. (1983): Crecer y pensar. Barcelona, España. Paidós.

-DeVries, R. y Kohlberg, L. (1987): Programs of early education: The constructivist

view. New York, U.S.A. Longman.

-Díaz-Barriga, F. (1987): “El pensamiento del adolescente y el diseño curricular en

educación media superior”. En Perfiles educativos, 37, pp. 16-26.

-Duckworth, E. (1988): Cómo tener ideas maravillosas y otros ensayos sobre cómo
enseñar y aprender. Madrid, España. Visor.

- Kamii, C. (1982): La autonomía como objetivo de la educación: implicaciones de la

teoría de Piaget. Infancia y Aprendizaje, 18, pp. 3-32.

-Kamii, C. y De Vries, R. (1985): El conocimiento físico en la educación preescolar.

Madrid, España. Visor.

-Kamii, C. (1985): Young children reinvent of arithmetic. N. York, U.S.A. Teacher

College Press.

-Labinowicz, E. (1986): Introducción a Piaget. México. Fondo Educativo


-Marro, F. (1983): Aplicabilidad y repercusiones de la teoría de Piaget en la práctica

educativa. Infancia y aprendizaje, p. 12.

-Moreno, M. (1985): “La aplicación de la psicología genética en la escuela”. En Moreno

y G. Sastre (Comps.): La pedagogía operatoria. Barcelona, España. Laia.
-Mogny, G. y Doise, W. (1983): La construcción social de la inteligencia. México.

-Munari, A. (1985): “Mise en scéne”. En V. Shulman, L.C. Restino Baumann y L. Butler.

(Eds.): The future of piagetian theory. New York, U.S.A. Plenum Press.

-Piaget, J. (1976): Psicología y Pedagogía. Barcelona, España. Ariel.

-_______. (1978): La equilibración de las estructuras cognoscitivas: problema

fundamental del desarrollo. Madrid, España. Siglo XXI.

-Pozo, J. I. (1989): Teorías cognitivas del aprendizaje. Madrid, España. Morata.

-Wadsworth, B. J. (1991): Teoría de Piaget del desarrollo cognoscitivo y afectivo.

México. Diana.


Revised theories so far make reference to an isolated and individual person, a Robinson
Crusoe type; Vygotsky is the only one that conceives men as a result entity from social
and cultural processes.

L.S. Vygotsky is the founder of sociocultural theory in Psychology. With a wide

formation in many fields such as literature, linguistic, philosophy and other humanistic
disciplines, he is known as Psychology’s Mozart both for his great works and his
premature death.

His work within this discipline was developed between 1925 and 1934, date in which he
died at age 38 from an infectious disease. This scarce ten years were enough for him to
develop one of the most pressing theoretical schemes that attempted with success,
articulate the psychological and social processes.

The main influence that offers a certain unity tohis work, are the writings of dialectic and
historical materialism of Marx and Engels, of which he was a profound connoisseur. As
a fact, Vygotsky, as the soviet psychologists of his time, set himself the task to build a
scientific psychology in according to Marxist approaches, which, according to him,
couldn’t be immediately derived from those, but that demanded the realization of a
theoretical-methodological reflection work that mediates with psychological knowledge
acquired so far. (Carretero, 1986; Leontiev, 1991; Riviere, 1985; Vygotsky, 1991). In this
sense, Vygotsky set himself the task to accomplish such a colossal undertake.

In a specific manner, educations is coordinated with the child's development through what
Vygotsky called the “zone of proximal development” (ZPD, the existent distance between
the real level of child’s development expressed in a spontaneous and/or autonomous form
and the level of potential development manifested thanks to another person’s support).
This is a crucial concept to explain in which way cognitive level and culture mix (this is,
at the same time that knowledge and ways to teach them are made, sociocultural
knowledge is also built).

Conceptualization of learning

According to Vygotsky (1979) learning and development processes influence each other;
this is, there exists a unity but not identity between them both (in dialectic sense) and the
relations in which they interact are complex (Brown and Reeve, 1987). Both are
interwoven in al complex spiral patron.

As Palacios points out (1987), what can be learned is tightly linked with the child’s
development level; in this way, learning also influences in the processes of development
and especially in those circumstances where a certain degree of potential development
has been reached. There is no learning without a former development level, just as there
is not development without learning (Carretero, 1986; Pozo, 1989).

Vygotsky emphasized the important role that learning plays in evolutive processes.
According to Pozo (1989), if we rely on the double formation law enunciated by
Vygotsky, learning temporarily precedes development. In this sense, we must mention
the phrase written by Vygotsky himself which refers that good learning is the one that
precedes development and contributes determinately to potentiate it.

The above means, translated to pedagogic field, that the adequate experiences of learning
must focus not on the finished products of development (real development level) but
especially in the processes under development that yet not finished on consolidate
themselves (potential development level) but are on the way to do so. In summary, school
instruction should concern less on conducts and fossilized or automatized knowledge and
more on those involved in a change process.
In this sense, adequately organized instruction or teaching must rely on the negotiation of
zones of proximal development; that is to say, must serve as a magnet to make the actual
level of the pupil’s development integrates with the potential. This modifications, in turn,
may promote progress in specific knowledge domain and possibly in general cognitive
development. As some have pointed out, the ZPD is a dialog between the child and his
future, between what he is capable of doing today and what he will be able to do
tomorrow, and not between the child and his past. (Del Río y Álvarez, 1991).

The teacher’s role

From the revised theories, some of them assign the teacher a directive role of the process
of teaching-learning and other conceive him as a guide or inductor inside an essentially
non-directive scheme. For Vygotsky the teacher must perform both roles but in different
timing; this posture differentiates him from other schools.

According to Vygotskian writings, the teacher is an expert that guides and mediates
sociocultural knowledge that he must learn and internalize the student. He teaches a
situation or interactivity context, negotiating meanings he possesses as an educative
agent, to attempt to share them with the students, who do not possess them but who point
to rebuild them. In a synthetic way, the teacher must dock sociocultural knowledge with
internalization processes underlying the student acquisition of that knowledge (Coll,
1991; Edwards and Mercer, 1988).

In his educative chores, to achieve that negotiation of knowledge, the teacher most
promote constantly zones of proximal development. In this way, his participation in the
educative process for the transmission of some content (knowledge, skills, processes) in
a beginning should be mainly directive, creating a background system that J. Bruner has
called scaffolding where students transit (and without which they could not aspire to
higher levels of performance and execution). Subsequently, with the student’s advances
in the acquisition or internalization of content, he reduces his participation to a simple
just viewer level.

To create and negotiate zones of proximal development, the teacher must be an expert in
the domain of a task or the knowledge to be imparted and he must be sensible to
progressive advances the student is making.
In the sociocultural conception we can made the teacher notion extensive to any other
guide or expert that mediates or provides a tutelage, even in situations of non-formal or
extracurricular education that promote a guided learning.

In this sense, it is to note that several studies have been conducted, which have proved
how other teaching figures use the scaffolding notion proposed by Bruner and based in
the zones of proximal development notion. For example, it is worth mentioning works
that have researched trough a micro genetic analysis the diadic relations mother-son, that
suppose a certain instruction, the ones made by Wertsch, McLane and others (Wertsch,
1988), as well as those others elaborated about cooperative learning in small kids groups,
under the reciprocate teaching paradigm (Brown), or the investigations conducted in
natural scenes of ethnographic cut (Rogoff and Lave) about the so called proleptic

Conception of the student

The student must be seen as an social entity, protagonist and product of the multiple social
interactions in which he is immersed throughout his school and extracurricular life. The
superior psychological functions are a product of this social interactions, with which they
also maintain organizational properties in common.

The child-student, thanks to educational processes supported in social processes of

interactivity, gets acculturated and socialized and at the same time self-individualized and

In this sense, (of interactivity), the student is a person who internalizes (rebuilds)
knowledge, first in the interindividual level and subsequently, in the intraindividual level,
process which is called law of double formation development. The process of
internalization, as several authors point out, must be understood as of reconstruction, it
shouldn’t be seen as a purely individual act but as an authentic coauthory, this is, also
shared by the teachers and companions (Wertsch, 1988; Coll, 1991).

Therefore, the role of social interaction with others (specially between those who know
the most: expert, teacher, parents, older kids or of the same age, etc.) is considered of
fundamental importance for the cognitive and sociocultural development.
Brown and Reeve (1987) suggest that children also can be creators of their own
competition areas, although to explain them it would be necessary to analyze the roles of
one or both of the following arguments:

1) That children have probably internalized in some way or another the audience (the
role of the others), after seeing themselves implicated in interactive situations that
involve the generation of zones of proximal development; and
2) That it does not depend exclusively on external influence, but that it is product of
the construction of knowledge and/or inner organization of knowledge itself
(children are just not able to resolve problems but even to raise them).

Teaching methodology

The basic methodology of teaching that Vygotskians highlight as truly significant, is

founded in the creation of zones of proximal development (ZPD), with students, to
determinate knowledge domains.

The teacher must be an expert in that knowledge domain in particular and handle optimal
instructional procedures to facilitate the zones negotiation.

It is to consider that the creation of ZPD is always given within a context of interactivity
between teacher-student (expert-novice, in general) and the teacher’s interest consists in
translate the pupil from the lower levels to superiors of the zone, lending a certain degree
of consequence and cognitive competence, guiding with a very fine sensitivity, from the
performances reached gradually by the students. Equally, in parallel with that transfer the
cession of a responsibility and the control in a task performance or the content to be
learned is reached. This is, what the student at first was not able to execute or understand
on his own and instead he could do it with the help of the teacher (it was regulated by
another: exorregulated activity), later he is able to develop it or understand it by himself
without any external help (regulate it by himself: autoregulation).

According to Tharp and Gallimore (1988, cit. by Durán, 1988), the instructional task
conducted to achieve the transfer and cession of control from teacher to student, would
be made by the combination of the following strategies: 1) modeling, 2) provision of
feedback, 3) verbal instructions, 4) molding, 5) questioning; and 6) teacher’s context and
explanations (cognitive structuring).
How it has previously been highlighted, in the early stages of teaching; the teacher
assumes a more directive role and provides a wide support context (scaffolding); as the
competition of the student increases, his participation reduces sensibly. The pupil during
the whole process, must be active and manifest a high level of involvement en the task.

Several works have emphasized differences, but above all great similarities in this points,
by studying how experts teach novices to make activities of adult work (v. gr. knitting,
tailoring, carpentry, etc.) in natural contexts of learning and acculturation.

This type of learning situation has been denominated proleptic or apprentice teaching. In
it, the experts (adults generally) have as a main task the realization of activities of their
occupations and only as a second task to initiate the novice and/or supervise his or her
progress (reverse situation with respect to formal instruction).

Of start, it is the adult who assumes total responsibility of the activity, meanwhile the
learners are simple observants or spectators and even able to carry out other activities
somewhat distant. Little by little, the novice or apprentice becomes responsible of a small
part of the work (by own initiative and/or the expert’s).

When the novice becomes more skillful, the expert lends responsibility, modeling the
appropriate behavior and occasionally leads the kid to increment his participation level.
This situations continues gradually until the novice reaches superior levels of
performance and mastery.

P. Greenfield, by studying proleptic teaching, has identified five common elements in the
explicit instruction situation (non-formal:

1) The degree of help or scaffolding is adapted to the actual level of the apprentice.

2) The quantity of support or scaffolding decreases when the ability of the

apprentices augments.

3) For an apprentices of any skill level, it’s offered a great amount of support if
the task difficulty increases and the scaffolding is reduce if the difficulty

4) The scaffolding is integrated together with the modeling.

5) The help or scaffolding, once internalized, allows and independent skillful

The evaluation

The evaluation must be guided not only towards the products of children’s actual
development level, which reflect evolutionary cycles already completed (as common
psychometric tests and school performance tests do), but above all must serve to
determine the level of potential development (emerging competences that are revealed by
interactions with other that provide context). If possible, it is stablished what some authors
have called “the breadth of cognitive competence” in specific domains of knowledge
(Vygotsky, 1979; Reeve, 1987).

In this sense, we must speak of a dynamic evaluation (Feuerstein, Ludoff, Brown and
Minick), a concept radically different to the traditional static scheme of psychometric and
school evaluation. The dynamic evaluation differs in two aspects with respect to the static

1) The products are evaluated but specially the processes in development and
2) It is posed a different relation between examiner-examined in comparison with
the one that static evaluation demands (of strong empiric connotations, which
demands a separation or estrangement between both, to achieve the objectivity in

This kind of evaluation so original, constitutes one of Vygotsky’s most interesting

proposals and it is realized through the continuous interaction between examiner-
examined, where the first one lends a series of helps (previously analyzed and of different
levels, because they contribute a differential support for the correct answer) according to
the performance shown by the child spontaneously in front of a test or specific task,

In this sense, those children who require more help, will undoubtedly have a more reduced
learning potential in comparison with those who have not required so much. Thus, the
level of spontaneous executions is compared with the level of execution achieved with
the examiner’s support, considering the quantity and quality of the aid ( so the higher the
amount or quality of the help the child receives a lower score an vice versa).

Therefore, the basic purpose of dynamic evaluation is to diagnose the learning potential
or the breadth of students’ zones (Brown y Reeve, 1987). Similarly, dynamic evaluation
not not serves to determinate the level of potential learning, but also identifies the lines
of action through which educative practices should be routed to line up learning and
cognitive development.


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psicológico y educación. Madrid, España. Alianza.

-Biblioteca de Psicología Soviética (1989): El proceso de formación de la psicología

marxista. L.S. Vygotsky, A. Leontiev y A. Luria. México. Ed. Progreso.

-Brown, A. y Reeve, R. (1987): Bandwidths of competence: “The Role of Supportive

Contexts in learning and development” En L. Liben (Ed): Development and learning:
conflict or congruence. Hillsdale, New York, U.S.A. Erlbaum.

-Carretero, M. (1986): La concepción del desarrollo. Cuadernos de Pedagogía, 141, pp.


-Cole, M. (1985): “The zone of proximal development: where culture and cognition create
each other”. En J. Wertsch (Ed.) Culture, communication and cognition: vygotskian
perspectives. Cambridge, Inglaterra. Cambridge University Press.

- Coll, C. (1987): Psicología y Curriculum. Barcelona, España. Laía.

-Coll, C. (1991): “Constructivismo e intervención educativa: ¿Cómo enseñar lo que se ha

de construir? “Ponencia presentada en el Congreso Internacional de Psicología y
Educación. En M. Hickmann (Ed.): Social and functional approaches to language and
thought. New York, U.S.A. Academic Press.

-Leontiev, A. N. (1991): Artículo de Introducción sobre la labor creadora de L. S.

Vygotsky. En L. S. Vygotsky Obras Escogidas. V. I. Madrid, España. Visor.

-Linaza, J. L. (Comp.) Jerome Bruner. Acción, pensamiento y lenguaje. Madrid, España.


-Miras, M. (1991): Educación y desarrollo. Infancia y Aprendizaje. 54 pp. 3-17.

-Siguán, M. (Comp.) (1987): Actualidad de L. S. Vygotsky. Madrid, España. Anthropos.