Like Piaget, Vygotsky’s theory is constructivist, emphasizing that children actively construct knowledge and understanding rather then being passive receptacles. However, Vygotsky’s theory is a social constructivist approach which emphasizes the social contexts of learing and that knowledge is mutually built and constructed. This theory profers that knowledge is situated and collaborative. That is, knowledge is distributed among people and environments, which include objects, artifacts, tools, books and communities in which people live.
There are three claims central to this theory:
- The child’s cognitive skills can be understood only when they are developmentally analyzed and interpreted. To understand any aspect of the child’s cognitive functioning, one must examine its origins and transformation from earlier to later
- Cognitive skills are mediated by words, language and forms of discourse, which serve as psychological tools for facilitating and transforming mental activity. To him, language is the most important of these tools. He argued that in early childhood, language begins to be used as a tool that helps the child plan activities and solve
- Cognitive skills have their origins in social relations and are embedded in a socio-cultural backdrop. This portrays that the child’s development is inseparable from social and cultural activities. He believed that the development of memory, attention and reasoning involves learning to use the inventions of the society such as language, mathematical system and memory
Two of the Vygotsky’s unique ideas were his concepts of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and Scaffolding.
THE ZONE OF PROXIMAL DEVELOPMENT (ZPD)
The zone of Proximal Development is Vygotsky’s term for the range of tasks that are too difficult for children to master alone but that can be learned with guidance and assistance from adults or more-skilled children.
The lower limit of the ZPD is the level of problem solving by the child working independently alone. The upper limit is the level of additional responsibility the child can accept with the assistance of an able instructor. Thus, the ZPD involves the child’s cognitive skills that are in the
process of maturing and their performance level with the assistance of a more skilled person. He called these the “buds” or “flowers” of development to distinguish them from the “fruits” of development, which the child already can accomplish independently.
Scaffolding is a technique of changing the level of support. Over the course of a teaching session, a more skilled person (teacher or a more advanced peer of the child) adjusts the amount of guidance to fit the student’s current performance level. Instruction is given when introducing new knowledge but guidance is reduced as the child gains competence.
Vygotsky viewed children as having rich but unsystematic, disorganized and spontaneous concepts whereas the skilled helper has more systematic, logical and rational concepts. As a result of the meeting and dialogue between the child and the skilled helper, the child’s concepts become more systematic, logical and rational.
Vygotsky’s view of the importance of socio-cultural influences on children’s development fits with the current belief that it is important to evaluate the contextual factors in learning.
However, this theory has been criticized for over emphasizing the role of language in thinking.
COMPARING VYGOTSKY’S AND PIAGET’S THEORIES
|Constructivism||Social constructivism||Cognitive Constructivism|
|Stages||No general stages of development proposed||Strong emphasis on stages- sensorimotos, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational|
|Key Processes||Zone of Proximal development, language, dialogue, tools of the culture.||Schema, assimilation, accommo- dation, operations, conservation, classification, hypothetical- dedica-tive reasoning.|
|Role of Language||Major. Language plays a powerful role in shaping thought||Minimal. Cognition primarily directs language|
|View on Education||Education plays a central role, helping children learn the tools of the culture||Education merely refines the child’s cognitive skills that already have emerged.|
|Conceptual Shift||Focus on collaborating, social interaction and socio-cultural activity||Attention is on the individual child|
|Knowledge Construction||Children construct knowledge through social interaction with others||Knowledge is constructed by transforming, organizing, and re- organizing previous knowledge|
|Teaching Implications||The teacher is a facilitator and guide, not a director, establish many opportunities for students to learn with the teacher and more-skilled peers.||Also views the teacher as a facilitator and guide, not a director, provide support for children to explore their world and discover knowledge|
INCORPORATING VYGOTSKY’S THEORY IN THE CLASSROOM
- Use the student’s Zone of Proximal development in
- Use scaffolding to help students move to higher level of skill and
- Use more-skilled peers as
- Monitor and encourage children’s use of private
- Assess the student’s ZPD and not IQ to determine the level at which instruction should begin.
COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT THEORY OF JEROME BRUNER
Bruner, another psychologist, regards the human brain as having three modes of representations,
enactive mode, iconic mode, and the symbolic mode. Enactive Mode
This refers to event being represented in terms of action. Very young children can often understand things best in terms of action. Children, for example, can best understand the concept of balances by referring to their experience on a balance. For example, if the child on one end of the bar is heavier than the child at the other side, it will tilt. That is enactive thinking.
The iconic model of thinking is indicated in images of the world formed in concrete terms. Objects are conceivable without action. An object is known by means of a picture or image. Children now know and understand the concept by means of the schematic picture in the mind. The world is formed in concrete terms, but these are not related. One aspect of a situation tends to dominate the child’s judgment than the rest.