Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Vygotsky free essay sample

In his student days at the University of Moscow, he read widely in linguistics, sociology, psychology, philosophy and the arts. His systematic work in psychology did not begin until 1924. Ten years later he died of tuberculosis at the age of only 38. In that period, with the collaboration of Aleksandre Luria and A N Leontiev, he launched a series of investigations in developmental psychology, pedagogy and psychopathology. Vygotsky ran a medical practice in his native Byelorussia, actively participating in the development of the Revolution under atrocious conditions and almost total isolation from the West. His most famous work is  Ã¢â‚¬ËœThought and Language’, published shortly after his death, developed for the first time a theory of language development which both anticipated Piagets genetic psychology describing the development of language and logical thinking in young children in the course of their interactions with adults and the world around them. THEORY OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT BACKGROUND To understand Vygotsky? s theory, it is important to look at the political environment of that time. Vygotsky began to work in psychology shortly after the Russian revolution, where the Marxism replaced the rule of the zar. The new philosophy of the Marxist emphasized socialism and collectivism. Individuals were expected to sacrifice their personal goals and achievements for the improvement of the larger society. Sharing and co-operation was encouraged, and the success of any individual was seen as reflecting the success of the culture. Marxists also placed a heavy emphasis on history, believing that any culture could be understood only through examination of the ideas and events that had shaped it. Vygotsky incorporates these elements in his model of human development that has been termed as a socio-cultural approach. For him, the individual’s development is a result of his or her culture. Development, in Vygotsky? s theory, applies mainly to mental development, such as thought, language and reasoning process. These abilities were understood to develop through social interactions with others (especially parents) and therefore represented the shared knowledge of the culture. THE THEORY Vygotsky viewed cognitive developments as a result of a dialectical process, where the child learns through shared problem solving experiences with someone else, such as parents, teacher, siblings or a peer. Originally, the person interacting with the child undertakes most of the responsibility for guiding the problem solving, but gradually this responsibility transfers to the child. Although these interactions can take many forms, Vygotsky stresses language dialogue. It is primarily through their speech that adults are assumed to transmit to children the rich body of knowledge that exists in their culture. As learning processes, the child’s own language comes to help as his or her primary tool of intellectual transformation. Children can eventually use their own internal speech to direct their own behaviour in much the same way that their parents’ speech once directed it. This transition reflects the Vygotsky? s theme of development as a process of internalization. Bodies of knowledge and tools of thought at first exist outside the child, in the culture of the environment. Development consists of gradual internalization, primarily through language, to form cultural adaptation (Rogoff, 1990). LANGUAGE For Vygotsky, language has a particular role in learning and development  by acquiring a language, a child is provided the means to think in new ways and gains a new cognitive tool for making sense of the world. Language is used by children as an additional device in solving problems, to overcome impulsive action, to plan a solution before trying it out and to control their own behaviour (Jones, 1995). Nevertheless, the main purpose of language for children is social. They use the language to obtain the help of others and to solve problems. The child, in it process of development, begins to practice the same forms of behaviour that other formerly practice with respect to the child. The significance of such behaviour is only understood in a social context. The language is also crucial and interrelated with the action, providing an additional tool used both to reflect on and direct behaviour. Vygotsky’s work is therefore viewed as particularly relevant to those who are concerned with the use of language. When Piaget labelled the self directed behaviour as egocentric and believed it only minimum relevant to children’s cognitive growth, Vygotsky referred to it as a private speech. He argued that private speech grows out of the children’s interaction with parents and other adults and through such interactions; they begin to use their parent’s instructional comments to direct their own behaviour. Major themes: Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development. In contrast to Jean Piaget’s understanding of child development (in which development necessarily precedes learning), Vygotsky felt social learning precedes development. He states: â€Å"Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (inter-psychological) and then inside the child (intra-psychological). † (Vygotsky, 1978). The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO): The more knowledgeable other (MKO) is somewhat self-explanatory; it refers to someone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. Although he implication is that the MKO is a teacher or an older adult, this is not necessarily the case. Many times, a childs peers or an adults children may be the individuals with more knowledge or experience. For example, who is more likely to know more about the newest teen-age music groups, how to win at the most recent PlayStation game, or how to correctly perform the newest dance craze a child or their parents? In fact, the  MKO  need not be a person at all. Some companies, to support employees in their learning process, are now using electronic performance support systems. Electronic tutors have also been used in educational settings to facilitate and guide students through the learning process. The key to MKOs is that they must have (or be programmed with) more knowledge about the topic being learned than the learner does. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD): The second aspect of Vygotsky? s theory is the idea that the potential for cognitive development is limited to a certain time span which he calls the â€Å"zone of proximal development†. ZPD refers to the gap between what a given child can achieve alone, their ? otential development as determined by independent problem solving? , and what they can achieve ‘through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers’ (Wood, D. , Wood, H. , 1966). Vygotsky refers to what children can do on their own as the ‘level of actual development’. In his view, it is the level of actual development that a standard IQ test measure. Such a measure is undoubtedly important, but it is also incomplete. Two children might have the same level of actual development, in the sense of being able to solve the same number of problems on some standardized test. Given appropriate help from an adult, still, one child might be able to solve an additional dozen problems while the other child might be able to solve only two or three more. What the child can do with the help is referred to as the ‘level of potential development’ (Vasta, R. , Haith, M. M. , Miller, S. A. , 1995). The full development during the ZPD depends upon full social interaction and the more the child takes advantages of an adult’s assistance, the broader is its ‘Zone of Proximal Development’. The ZPD is the distance between a student’s ability to perform a task under adult guidance and/or with peer collaboration and the student’s ability solving the problem independently. According to Vygotsky, learning occurred in this zone. Vygotsky focused on the connections between people and the socio-cultural context in which they act and interact in shared experiences (Crawford, 1996). According to Vygotsky, humans use tools that develop from a culture, such as speech and writing, to mediate their social environments. Initially children develop these tools to serve solely as social functions, ways to communicate needs. Vygotsky believed that the internalization of these tools led to higher thinking skills. SCAFFOLDING Scaffolding  is a concept closely related to the idea of ZPD, although Vygotsky never actually used the term. Scaffolding is changing the level of support to suit the cognitive potential of the child. Over the course of a teaching session, a more skilled person adjusts the amount of guidance to fit the child’s potential level of performance. More support is offered when a child is having difficulty with a particular task and, over time, less support is provided as the child makes gains on the task. Ideally, scaffolding works to maintain the child’s potential level of development in the ZPD. An essential element to the ZPD and scaffolding is the acquisition of language. According to Vygotsky, language (and in particular, speech) is fundamental to children’s cognitive growth because language provides purpose and intention so that behaviours can be better understood. Empirical research suggests that the benefits of scaffolding are not only useful during a task, but can extend beyond the immediate situation in order to influence future cognitive development. For instance, a recent study recorded verbal scaffolding between mothers and their 3- and 4-year-old children as they played together. Then, when the children were six years old, they underwent several measures of  executive function, such as working memory and goal-directed play. The study found that the children’s working memory and language skills at six years of age were related to the amount of verbal scaffolding provided by mothers at age three. In particular, scaffolding was most effective when mothers provided explicit conceptual links during play. Therefore, the results of this study not only suggest that verbal scaffolding aids children’s cognitive development, but that the quality of the scaffolding is also important for learning and development. Applications of the Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory If adults wish to provide learning opportunities, they must evaluate the child’s present developmental level and estimate the ‘length’ of the ZDP. But, the child must be able to make use of the help of others; it needs the competence to benefit from the give-and-take activities and conversations with others (Bruner, 1983). Vygotsky acknowledged the maturational limits of the ZPD, but most psychological research has emphasized the role of the environment: parents and other adults who are ‘expert’ models and guides for a young learner. Many schools have traditionally held a transmissionist or instructionist model in which a teacher or lecturer ‘transmits’ information to students. In contrast, 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 experience for the students and teacher. More recently, linguists and educationalists influenced by Piagets  Genetic Psychology have been drawn towards Vygotskys work, seeing in it a superior understanding of the relationship between the educator and the educated, in which the educator must negotiate with the child or student who is credited with an active role in the learning process.

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