Lev Vygotsky and the Sociocultural Theory

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Lev Vygotsky and the Sociocultural Theory
Lev Vygotsky {1896-1934} was a Russian psychologist and a contemporary of Piaget. He believed that children are active and constructive beings, but unlike Piaget, he thought that children’s cognitive development was a socially facilitated process. He had a theory that children acquire the ways of thinking and behaving that make up a community’s culture through cooperative dialogues with more knowledgeable members {adults, teachers, peers}—in other words, he presumed that children’s mental, language, and social development is supported and enhanced through social collaboration with others. His theory is better known as the Sociocultural Theory and is useful in describing children’s mental, language, and social development and has been especially influential in the study of children’s cognition.

He was certain that learning motivates development and the experiences children have influenced this development. One of the major concepts of this was the Zone of Proximal Development {ZPD}. ZPD is the area of difference between what the child can accomplish independently and what they can achieve with another knowledgeable person. The zone is created in the course of social interaction or collaboration. While children can perform tasks or concepts below their ZPD on their own, they are not able to learn tasks or concepts above their ZPD—even with help. Communication and dialogue between teachers and children is the key in this concept, because it is through this collaboration that scaffolding occurs. Scaffolding is the assistance in ZPD that enables children to complete tasks they cannot complete independently. Vygotsky’s theory promotes learning contexts in which students play an active role in learning. Roles of the teacher and student are therefore shifted, as a teacher should collaborate with his or her students in order to help facilitate meaning construction in students. Learning therefore becomes a reciprocal...
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