Vygotsky & Socio-Cultural Theory
Vygotsky's socio-cultural theory is widely cited by educators even today, as they formulate plans on how to get the most from students, challenging them to reach their highest potential. Vygoysky's belief that social interaction leads not only to increased levels of knowledge, but that it actually changes a child's thoughts and behaviours. Since it is the goal of parents and educators alike to help children become high achievers, taking a look at the work of Vygotsky and examining his conclusions seems wise.
Cultural InfluencesThe belief that social exposure to various cultures expands a child's pool of knowledge seems reasonable. The more experiences that a child has, the richer their world becomes. Developmental advancements, dependent upon the people and the cultural tools provided to the child, will help him to form his perceptions of the world. Vygotsky's theory suggests that there are three ways in which learning is passed along to an individual. Imitative learning is the first, where the child simply copies another person. Second is instructed learning, where a child recalls direction given by a teacher and then puts it into play, and the third is collaborative learning. Collaborative learning happens when a peer group cooperates to learn or achieve a specific goal while working to understand one another.
Elements of The Socio-Cultural TheoryChildren, especially toddlers and preschoolers, often speak aloud to themselves as they are trying to understand something. This self-talk helps them to work things out in their own minds. Vygotsky believed that this "private speech" lessens with age until it becomes all but non-existent. It's not that older children (and adults) don't have the need to think things through, but in Vygotsky's observation, he felt that they do this on an internal level -- thinking, but not necessarily voicing their thought processes.
Vygotsky believed that learning begins at birth and continues throughout all of life. One of the most important ways that advancements in development are achieved is through what Vygotsky called "the zone of proximal development." Vygotsky described ZPD as "...the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers." Teachers and other educators who wish to utilise the benefits of ZPD often employ one of two strategies:
- Scaffolding: Scaffolding requires that an instructor shows by example how to solve a problem, while controlling the learning environment so that students can take things step by step, expanding their base of knowledge without excessive frustration.
- Reciprocal Teaching: A highly successful teaching method, reciprocal teaching provides an environment of open dialogue between student and teacher which goes beyond a simple question and answer session. By alternating turns leading discussions, students soon find themselves capable of assuming a leadership and instructional role.