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Vygotsky’s Cognitive Development Theory

Topics: Developmental psychology, Lev Vygotsky / Pages: 6 (1375 words) / Published: Apr 11th, 2011
Vygotsky’s Cognitive Development Theory Lev Vygotsky theorized that an individual's psychological development is shaped by his/her historical and social environment. In contrast to Piaget’s developmental theory which emphasizes one’s genetic inner substance for cognitive development, Vygotsky’s model gave central focus to social interaction and the structuring power of content in the learning process. In accordance with locating the external aspects of the major element of human development, he highlighted the way in which children’s frameworks of understanding and achievement are learned from the adults or other partners. Vygotsky recognized the connection between social and cognitive development. He argued that they are closely correlated and the interaction should be considered. He focused on the connections between people and the socio-cultural context in which active interaction occur. Thus, recognizing the coexistence of intrinsic and cultural forces in cognitive development, Vygotsky believed that the interaction between the two created a new transition (Craig, 221). According to his theory, humans use tools that develop from their culture, such as speech and writing, to interact with their social environments and to understand the new concepts. Initially, children develop these tools to communicate within the given context and adapt the new concepts. Vygotsky stressed that the internalization of these tools led to higher and advanced intellectual capacity. Therefore, more complex society can expand children’s learning development to higher and wider aspects. Vygotsky’s major contribution to understanding child development can be categorized into three major parts. First, children adapt external knowledge and internalize it to structure intellectual development internally. In a socially nurturing setting, a child can learn more effectively. Culture creates two contributions to a child’s intellectual development. One is building their knowledge. Through culture children acquire much of the content of their thinking, and develop the thinking into their own knowledge. Another is that the surrounding culture provides children with the processes of their thinking. After the process, children create their own understanding. In short, according to Vygotsky’s social cognition learning, culture nurtures children both what to think and how to think. This happens primarily through language. Language is the primary mean of interaction and communication through which children receive transmission of the valuable content of knowledge that exists in the culture. As learning progresses, the child’s language comes to serve as his/her primary tool of intellectual adaptation. Eventually, children learn to use internal language to direct their own external behaviour. Second, Vygotsky stressed that children’s task performance increases under adult assistance or with peer collaboration. He proposed the importance of guidance around children in the developmental process. Noticing that most of a child’s learning outcome derives from the context around him or her and an adult’s help is crucial in the child’s problem solving ability, it is not appropriate to measure a child’s learning achievements in isolation. Interactions with the surrounding cultural and social context, especially teachers and more advanced peers, notably enhance a child’s development. Basically, when some supervision offered by anyone with a better understanding than the learner, in problem solving processes can promote children’s intellectual development. The assistance can be provided by a teacher, caregiver, or older adult, as well as peers. Third, Vygostky’s concept of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) contributed to the more accurate measurement of learning development in merely practical values. ZDP is the “distance between the most difficult task a child can do alone and the most difficult task a child can do with help” (Craig, 236). There is a gap in between what children can do on their own and what they can do with help. The higher achievement they accomplish with guidance is their level of potential development. Vygotsky also introduced the concept of scaffolding, where the adults or supporters provide models to help children learn new information and develop more complex intellectual abilities. The models need to reflect a learner’s developmental stages, and continually adjust the level of the supporter in response to the child’s level of performance, enriches developmental theory. Scaffolding provides continual assistance to learners at their different developmental stages to help them to reach his or her potential achievement.
Theological Values
Vygotsky believed that intellectual formation is dependent on the social and cultural context in which an individual lives. This illustrates the importance of community in Christian belief. Throughout Scripture, God assures that, “The way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). While spirituality is often perceived as an individual or personal quality, it also has a social dimension. While God’s guidance is crucial, the surrounding context of a person is also critical for one’s development. Spiritual development hardly happens on its own, it needs surrounding context and guidance. The reason for emphasizing belonging to God’s community can be supported by Vygotsky’s theory. Jesus calls him a “vine” and calls believers “branches” and the fruit borne completely depends upon one’s attachment to the vine (John 15:4-5). Jesus showed this application by forming a community consisted of 12 disciples and taught them in everyday life situations by giving practical examples. Vygotsky purports that teachers and peers provide the learning environment for enhanced development. Children’s natural ability and potential are fully explored when appropriate support and guidance is provided. This can be found in the parable of the sower; the seed grows under God’s guidance, but this growing process is not accomplished purely by the sower (1 Corinthians 3:6). Paul clearly states that God himself works behind the scenes doing the sovereign work. One of the most important things when growing a newly planted seed is nurturing it with water and a fertile soil and sufficient sunlight. The teachers and the peers around the learners can perform as a sewer and the environment in which learners can fully reach their potential.
Ministry Application
Vygotsky’s cognitive development theory provides a framework for Christian education, especially spiritual formation. Vygostky’s emphasis on the interactions with the surrounding culture and social agents, such as parents and more competent peers, can be easily integrated in churches. The church community can work as a whole unit amplifier, contributing significantly to children’s spiritual development. With the collaboration of God’s guidance and intervention, spiritual growth begins outside the individual. Spiritual growth is not simply an internal process, but is partially an acquisition from the community of faith in which the individual engages. Spiritual growth is the result of multiple factors, both individual and communal, which coalesce within the individual. Vygotsky’s use of zones of development provides an insightful approach to the understanding of spiritual development. According to Vygotsky, development does not occur on its own, and he emphasizes that teachers and deliberate instruction are essential for learners’ development. Children and adults need to be guided and nurtured in close relationship in various learning settings around churches. Spiritual growth requires relationships among the church community. The scaffolding concept can be applied to spiritual formation learning process. In addition to Christ being the perfect model of Christian growth, some leading members of a congregation can perform as visible scaffolding of spiritual growth to guide the new believers. The leaders carefully guide the young believers to help them learn new concepts of spiritual growth and develop their own spirituality. The learning experience will enhance both the learners and the helpers through the close interaction. Likewise, intentional and unintentional instruction by the church contributes to the Christian nurture of all its members. Spiritual growth is not a linear or single-sided process. Instead of interpreting spiritual formation as a linear process, spiritual growth and maturity need to be seen as the complete integration of one’s developmental zones. As a result, Vygotsky’s approach challenges the church to function as a family, wherein the more mature members take on the roles of helpers in the learning procedure with younger members of the community. With appropriate and more advanced members’ help, can enhance younger members’ spirituality can be enhanced that they achieve to the level of spiritual growth which they are incapable of reaching on their own.

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