Reflective Essay

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Reflective Essay:

This essay is a reflective essay on my learning development from a young age through to my current position as a University Student. I will be relating my learning development back to two theories of human development, Vygotstsky’s socio-cultural theory and Marcia’s version of Erikson’s theory of identity development. I will identify and discuss the challenge I have faced with my identity and how this has impacted on my development.

Vygotsky is a theorist who believed that the social and cultural environment of a child can help them develop and learn. Vygotsky was born into an intellectual Russian-Jewish family. His father was a bank manager and his mother was a teacher. Being a Jew his education was restricted. However, he was able to win a place into the University of Moscow in 1913, gaining a degree in law, with a specialisation in literature. After graduating he taught a range of subjects to adults and children, including language and literature, logic and psychology, and art history and theatre. In 1934, Vygotsky was invited to join the Institute of Psychology in Moscow. There he collaborated with two other Russian psychologists, Alexander Luria and Alexei Leontiev. They developed a ‘cultural-historical’ or ‘sociohistorical’ view of human development that emphasised cognitive activities such as thinking, memory and reasoning (Miller, 1993). Due to the Communist Party increasing control, Vygotsky’s work was not accessible until the 1960’s. (Cited in Educational psychology, Krause).

Vygotsky’s argued that how we learn is related to our interaction with others. “The true direction of the development of thinking is not from the individual to the social, but from the social to the individual.” (Vygotsky 1986, p.36) The thought that individuals internalise the ideas they observe during social interaction is a way of thinking. Their thinking and learning is forming with each interaction. From a young age I have always found it easier to learn when in a social group environment. In primary school through to High school I worked better in a small group, was able to study better in a group environment and also learn a lot more when social interaction was taking place. In these instances I was developing a process of thinking that helped me to learn in an easier fashion than I would have as an individual. “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 relations between human individuals. (Vygotsky 1978 p.57) I now find that still, at the age of twenty six, I learn and process ideas a lot more easily when engaging in discussions, or undertaking a task in tutorial groups.

As Vygotsky believed that cognitive development is an outcome of the social interaction between adults and children, his ideas that language and other cognitive skills psychological tools began to emerge. The mental tools passed from adults and peers to children during social interaction include language, and also include various systems for counting; mnemonic techniques; algebraic symbols systems; works of art; writing; schemes, diagrams, maps, and mechanical drawings all sorts of conventional signs , and so on. (Vygotsky, 1981, p.137, cited by Cole & Wretsch, 2000) For Vygotsky, language is the most important mental tool. Initially we use language as part of our social function while interacting with others. However as language skills increase, it begins to have a more intellectual function, and it then becomes a tool for problem solving and self-regulation. It’s the shifting from spoken language to internalised or private speech. He also believed that speech uttered out loud or self-talk is used by individuals to...
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