VYGOTSKY'S THEORY: INTRODUCTION (Evaluation (Strength: Vygotsky's…
VYGOTSKY'S THEORY: INTRODUCTION
Lev Vygotsky believed that Piaget ignored the role of culture on cognitive development.
He proposed that children learn how to think through their interactions with others; where Piaget saw the child as a scientist, Vygotsky saw the child as an apprentice.
In short, Vygotsky's theory is that cognitive development involves the active internalisation of problem-solving processes as a result of mutual interaction between children and others.
Vygotsky theorised that a child's cognitive development depends mainly on social factors, and a child learns from adults and older children who possess the knowledge and skills they need. This is the opposite of Piaget's theory, where children are expected to acquire knowledge by discovering things for themselves.
Vygotsky said that social factors, known as culture, enable elementary mental functions (innate capabilities such as sensation and attention) to become higher mental functions (problem solving and thinking). Through elementary mental functions would develop naturally, it's only culture that allows them to have higher mental functions. 'Culture' refers to knowledge that is held by books and experts and is passed on though language.
Wertsch et al (1980)
supported Vygotsky's view that learning originally emerges in a social context, as they gave mothers and 2 to 4 years olds the task of building a truck that matched a model they were also given. 90% of the young children whose mothers used the model for reference also looked at the model, whereas the older children were less influenced by their mother's actions, just as Vygotsky said that social factors had more effect on younger children
In different countries, children are subject to different amounts of information, and therefore develop more quickly/slowly.
found that children in Papau New Guinea were taught a complicated counting system on their fingers and arms, up to the number 29, and subsequently the culture as a whole found it harder to do maths.
Zone of Proximal Development
Vygotsky proposes that in social settings, through language, children learn from others who are more knowledgable and who support their learning (experts). The
Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
in short, is the gap between what a child can do on their own and what they can do with support.
The ZPD is the distance between the actual developmental 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.
The child will not be able to take the next step in their development unless they're supported in the ZPD. Providing a supportive framework within which the child can learn is known as scaffolding, and is seen as the main role of adults/teachers. There will then be a gradual withdrawal of support as the child's confidence and knowledge increases.
Scaffolding involves matching the level of assistance to the child's capabilities. Five factors contribute towards towards effective scaffolding
Ensuring the task is easy
Gaining and maintaining a child's interest
Demonstrating the task
Keeping the child's frustration under control
Stressing elements that will help create a solution to the task
Wood and Middleton (1975)
Mothers were shown how to construct a pyramid from wooden blocks. During the session, children had to complete the task without help. The following types of behaviour were identified: general verbal instruction; specific verbal instruction; drawing attention to materials; preparation and model. This study shows scaffolding is a support structure that gradually taken away by the more knowledgable person as the child progresses during a task. It was concluded that the mothers who changed their help on the basis of the child's response were more likely to have a child who later succeeded in the task.
Conner, Knight and Cross (1997)
studied the effects of scaffolding on 2 year olds who were asked to complete literary and problem-solving tasks. Previous studies had studied on scaffolding from mothers, but this one look at fathers' too, and found the two to be equally effective. Also, the quantity of scaffolding provided a good prediction for how well the child would perform the tasks. The researchers conducted a follow-up session to find out if the effects of scaffolding continued to be beneficial in the children's education, and found that children who had received good scaffolding continued to perform better than those who had received poor scaffolding.
Vygotsky's theory improves upon Piaget's theory as showing how important the role of social context is in a child's development. Although
shows some evidence of there being differences, which Vygotsky's theory covers.
Children's cognitive development is also affected by their levels of motivation, so Vygotsky's theory has been criticised for overestimating the importance of the social environment.
It's not made clear what types of social interaction are most beneficial for children's learning, and so the theory has again been criticised for not being precise enough.
Social interactions between parents and children don't always have beneficial effects, and can result in the child becoming stubborn rather than learning well.
Vygotsky's explanation that the instruction provided in a social situation was the reason that children developed clear thinking has been disputed by
Light et al (1994)
. Their experiment consisted of pairs of children working on a task on a computer, and even when one child remained silent, the other performed the task more successfully. This is because of social facilitation, which is the motivational effect others have upon us when they're observing us.
Vygotsky suggested that all children should learn relatively easily when they are young provided that they have social support from parents and teachers, but some children with excellent support can take a long time to master complex skills, which means that other factors must be involved.