Lev Vygotsky believed teachers could control many factors in an education environment. Vygotsky proposed with his unique theory on social learning that learning occurred through social interaction in a social environment.
What Is Vygotsky’s Theory?
Also known as the “Mozart of Psychology, ” Russian teacher and psychologist Lev Vygotsky contributed significantly to child development and cognitive psychology. Many of Vygotsky’s theories were incomplete when he died from tuberculosis at 38. He developed his Sociocultural Theory during the Marxism era, where individual success was attributed to success for the culture.
Lev Vygotsky believed social interaction greatly influenced cognitive development; Vygotsky suggested cognitive processes were relevant to society and not universal as Jean Piaget believed. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory rested on two main principles, More Knowledge Than Other (MKO) and Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).
Human Development-Child Development
Known in the West as sociocultural theory, Lev Vygotsky preferred the term cultural-historical theory. With communism, Vygotsky’s work only became available to the West in 1962 through the translation of Thought and Language. The latter emphasized the history of development and the special cultural tools that shape human development-child development.
Social interaction between kids and their social environment influences child development. Interaction with parents, teachers, mentors, playmates, classmates, and siblings teaches children how to use the cultural tools with others and then later independently.
Social Interactions And Cognitive Development
According to Vygotsky’s theory, cognitive development leads to complex cognitive abilities that become self-regulated, intentional, and mediated by languages and sign systems. Although capable of developing verbal thinking, conscious memory, problem-solving, focused attention, and other higher mental functions, Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory emphasized the influence of particular social interactions.
However, Vygotsky’s ideas proposed that social interactions and cultural tools were more significant in cognitive development. Young children are curious, which motivates them to explore and understand their world; they actively participate in their own learning. Culture is the mediator in developing these skills and abilities; culture-specific tools influence how children perceive the world.
More Knowledgeable Other (MKO)
More Knowledge Other (MKO) referred to someone or something with a greater understanding or a higher level of skill than the learner. MKO can be an adult, parent, teacher, or a child’s playmates, classmates, peers, or siblings with more knowledgeable experience.
The MKO can also be a computer software program or another electronic support system with today’s technology. Whether a person or something, the MKO is more learned or knowledgeable about a topic than the learner.
Zone Of Proximal Development (ZPD)
The zone of proximal development is the difference between two developmental levels, namely the actual development determined and the level of potential development. The child achieves actual development (determined by independent problem-solving) personally. The level of potential development is the potential a child can achieve with adult guidance or help from more advanced peers (MKO). Vygotsky suggested that learning leads to the development of higher mental functions if it happens within the child’s ZPD.
In the ZPD, the child is on the verge of developing a new skill or acquiring knowledge but initially requires the assistance or encouragement of an adult or a more knowledgeable peer. With sufficient help, the child will master the next step that is in their zone. For example, a learner who understands how addition works is ready to master subtraction, but algebra is not yet in their zone of proximal development.
Vygotsky’s Theory and Language
Vygotsky emphasized the importance of language as the basis of learning. According to Vygotsky, language is an essential mental tool and plays a vital role in mental development; language helps develop writing, reading, and other mental tools like inspired reasoning, logic, and reflective thinking. Instructional strategies where teachers encourage collaborative learning, leadership in the classroom, and thoughtful discussions, developed from this groundbreaking theory.
According to Vygotsky, language is the most critical mental tool that develops according to a child’s age in stages, from external speech to private speech.
External Speech or Social Speech
Social speech or external speech occurs from birth to three years old. Social influence on behavior starts from a young child’s age resulting in early cognitive development. Babies use language to communicate their needs, respond to caregivers’ talk, and express emotions. Although babies use language to control their appetites, people around them react to the baby’s behavior.
Private Speech Or Inner Speech
Kids learn to think in words which later becomes private speech or inner speech. Children begin to think aloud to solve problems or clarify their thoughts. Kids use private speech for self-regulation and to regulate emotions. For example, a child will mimic comforting speech their parents used.
Older children learn to think silently; these thoughts with internal speech are known as private speech, self-talk, or inner speech; private speech isn’t as elaborate as having a conversation with someone else. Later, talking to oneself, which adults and children do, happens only when the person tries to remember something or is learning something.
Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory In Education
Vygotsky argued against the theory of spontaneous child development that proposed children’s development occurred spontaneously without education assistance. According to Lev Vygotsky’s view, a teacher’s aid tapers off as the child masters the activity or skill within their zone of proximal development. Once mastered, the MKO’s support is no longer required. Within the classroom environment, teachers offer students opportunities to learn slightly beyond their current skills or ability.
Reciprocal teaching is an excellent example of how teachers apply the zone of proximal development to students. Teachers lead the students in the four steps, and slowly the students start to summarize, question, clarify and predict on their own.
Vygotsky recognized cooperative learning exercises as a means where skilled peers can assist less competent students in developing a particular skill or ability within their ZPD.
Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory In Flipped Classroom
Language plays a key role in the flipped classroom model. Teachers use videos to instruct students; students watch the video lesson content at home. Classroom time is used for in-depth individual tutoring, interactive activities, and group discussions. The model promotes self-learning, interaction with peers, and interactive communication and collaboration using videos and online platforms. Active learning happens inside the classroom and continues outside the classroom. The learning process through cultural beliefs and cultural tools isn’t limited to the social context inside the classroom walls.
Internal talks, social interaction, communication, and collaboration shows how language is used as a mental tool and promotes developing cognitive tools. The MKO is the teacher, videos, and peers who have mastered the concept. Students learn independently at their pace but not isolated, and within their ZPD, they take their knowledge acquisition to the next level in the classroom discussions.
Vygotsky’s Work In Socialization And Play
Vygotsky’s ideas about early childhood education revolved around observing that a child in play acted beyond his age and daily behavior; in play, a child could accomplish much more with their imagination.
When children develop new concepts and skills, their assistance within the ZPD varies according to their age. For example, the imaginative play offers the same kind of support to younger children and preschoolers as formal education in a classroom to older kids.