EDUC 201 Danielle Hernandez Chapter 2: Vygotsky Vygotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development  Vygotsky was a Russian developmentalist who

believed that the adult in any society foster children’s cognitive development in an intentional and somewhat systematic manner.  Sociocultural theory – theoretical perspective emphasizing the importance of society and culture in promoting cognitive development  Vygotsky often examined the kinds of tasks children could complete only with adult assistance  Vygotsky’s Basic Assumptions o Through both informal conversations and formal schooling, adults convey to children the ways in which their culture interprets the world o Every culture passes along physical and cognitive tools that make daily living more productive and efficient  Acquiring cognitive tools greatly enhances children’s thinking abilities  Cognitive tool – concept, symbol, strategy, procedure, or other culturally constructed mechanism that helps people think about and respond to situations more effectively o Thought and language become increasingly interdependent in the first few years of life  When thought and language first merge, children self-talk  Self-talk – process of talking to oneself as a way of guiding oneself through a task  Self-talk evolves into inner speech  Inner speech – process of talking to and guiding oneself mentally, rather than aloud o Complex mental processes begin as social activities and gradually evolve into internal mental activities that children can use independently  Internalization – process through which a learner gradually incorporates socially based activities into his or her internal cognitive processes o Children can perform more challenging tasks when assisted by more advanced and competent individuals  Actual developmental level – upper limit of tasks that a learner can successfully perform independently  Level of potential development – upper limit of tasks that a learner can successfully perform with the assistance of a more competent individual o Challenging tasks promote maximum cognitive growth  Zone of proximal development (ZPD) – range of tasks that a learner can perform with the help and guidance of others but cannot yet perform independently  Every student’s ZPD will change over time o Play allows children to stretch themselves cognitively  “In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.” –Vygotsky  Critiquing Vygotsky’s Theory o Vygotsky’s descriptions of developmental processes were, like Piaget’s often imprecise and lacking in detail o Contemporary theorists and educators have found Vygotsky’s ideas insightful and helpful o Some modern research supports his views of self-talkand inner speech.  Considering Diversity from the Perspective of Vygotsky’s Theory

Children in any single age-group are likely to have different zones of proximal development  Tasks that are easy for some children may be challenging for others o To the extent that specific cultural groups pass along unique concepts, ideas, and beliefs, children from different cultural backgrounds will acquire somewhat different knowledge, skills, and ways of thinking Contemporary Extension and Applications of Vygotsky’s Theory o Social construction of meaning  Mediated learning experience – discussion between an adult and a child in which the adult helps the child make sense of an event they mutually experienced  Also, children and adolescents often talk amongst themselves to make sense of situations. School provides an appropriate setting for this. o Scaffolding  Scaffolding – support mechanism that helps a learner successfully perform a task within his or her zone of proximal development  Scaffolding can take forms in many ways, such as:  Help students develop a plan for dealing with a new task  Demonstrate the proper performance of a task in a way that students can easily imitate  Divide a complex task into several, smaller, simpler tasks  Keep students motivated to complete a task  Give students feedback on how they are progressing o Guided participation in adult activities  Guided participation – a child’s performance, with guidance and support, of an activity in the adult world o Apprenticeships  Apprenticeship – mentorship in which a novice works intensively with an expert to learn how to perform complex new skills  Cognitive apprenticeship – mentorship in which a teacher and a student work together on a challenging task and the teacher provides guidance in how to think about the task  Apprenticeship usually contains some or all of these features:  Modeling, coaching, scaffolding, articulation, reflection, increasing complexity and diversity of tasks, and exploration o Dynamic assessment  Dynamic assessment – systematic examination of how readily and in what ways a student can acquire new knowledge or skills, usually with adult assistance or some other form of scaffolding


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