Vygotsky's Concepts of Cognitive Development
Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky proposed that children learn through interactions with their surrounding culture. This theory is known as the socio-cultural perspective. It also states that the cognitive development of children and adolescents is enhanced when they interact with others who have more advanced skills. Vygotsky viewed interaction with peers as an effective way of developing skills and strategies. Vygotsky presented three important contributions to the cognitive development of children: the zone of proximal development, scaffolding, and private speech. These concepts have helped parents and instructors understand ways to educate children more efficiently.
The first notion Vygotsky introduced was the zone of proximal development. This is an important concept that relates to the difference between what a child can achieve independently and what a child can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner. An example is when a child is given his first jigsaw. Alone, he performs poorly in attempting to solve the puzzle. The mother then sits with him and describes or demonstrates some basic strategies, such as finding all the corner pieces, providing a couple of pieces for the child to put together himself, and offers encouragement when he does so. According to Vygotsky, this type of social interaction involving guided participation is more effective in teaching children new things.
Vygotsky saw the zone of proximal development as the area where the most sensitive instruction or guidance should be given. It should allow the child to develop skills they will then use on their own - developing higher mental functions. Vygotsky also viewed interaction with peers as an effective way of developing skills and strategies. He suggested that teachers should use cooperative learning exercises where less competent children develop with help from more skillful peers - within the zone