Lev Vygotsky’s Socialcultural Theory
Lev Vygotsky’s Cultural-Historical Theory is the idea that a child’s social environment was a major contributor to how each child developed. In my own experiences in the classroom I see how each child is an individual and how their development is a product of their environment. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is the concept that having assistance and guidance from others, children can learn tasks that is too difficult for them to do on their own. Scaffolding is an important part of ZPD; it is the support and guidance while learning a new task.
Lev Vygotsky was born in Orsha, Belarus in 1986. In 1917 he graduated from the University of Moscow with a law degree. His real interests were in psychology of education and children with learning disabilities. He was a primary instigator of special education services in Russia. He died at the age of 38 after he contracted tuberculosis from his brother, whom he was taking care of. His work was not fully appreciated until the twentieth century when it became a great influence on developmental psychology, education, and child development.
Several theorists influenced Vygotsky: Karl Marx, Jean Piaget, William Stern, and Wilhem Hegel are just a few. His theories come closer to the theories of Karl Marx; both believed that; their environments influence humans. “Vygotsky believed that children’s mental, language, and social development is supported by and enhanced through social interaction. This view is the opposite of the Piagetian perspective, which sees children as much more solitary developers of their own intelligence and language.” (Morrison, 2009, p.121) William Stern was another theorist who influenced Vygotsky. Stern believed that the individual not the social construction was the essence of personality and intelligence. Vygotsky believed intelligence was a process activity. Hegel believed that historical concept and ideas made sense in context to the entire culture. Vygotsky’s Thought and Language is basically a mirror image of this. Although these theorists were influences for him, Vygotsky developed his own theories about how people develop the way they do.
The core of Vygotsky’s Cultural-Historical Theory “is the idea that child development is a result of the interactions between children and their social environment.” (Leong and Bodrova, 2001, Lev Vygotsky: Playing to learn, para. 3). For example the children have interactions with their parents, siblings, and extended family on a daily basis. These interactions teach them about their family’s beliefs and basic life skills. In the school setting they have interactions with teachers, classmates, friends, and community visitors. They gain access to many materials; books, computers, toys, playground, etc. Vygotsky believed that when children interact with people and the environment around them they gain knowledge and skills they need in life.
Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development is a great concept for early childhood professionals. The ZPD is “the range of tasks that are too difficult to master alone but that can be learned with guidance and assistance.” (Morrison, 2009, p121) It is important for teachers in early childhood classrooms to provide activities and guidance to enhance each child’s development. Some examples would be to provide children with the materials to create an imaginary grocery store. They can act out the jobs of cashiers, stockers, baggers, shoppers, and so on. Help the children learn what each role does and why it is important. Younger children may not understand these concepts but through play with their peers they will accomplish the teachers goal of understanding this concept. The ZPD builds on a child’s skills by giving them just enough guidance to accomplish their tasks.
“Assistance in the ZPD is called scaffolding and is a major component of...