Monday, March 4, 2013

Vygotsky and the "zone of proximal development"

A major theme for Vygotsky's approach is that social interaction plays a significant role in the development of cognition. Vygotsky states: "Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals."

A second important aspect of Vygotsky's theory is the idea that the potential for cognitive development depends on the "zone of proximal development." ZPD is how much development occurs when children engage in social behavior. Full development of the ZPD depends on full and constant social interaction. The range of skill that can be developed with the help of adults or peer collaboration exceeds what can occur when being done alone. This simply means that interaction with peers is an essential part of the learning process. Children will learn more when interacting with others rather than alone.

The article also says, "It is important to realize that the zone of proximal development is a moving target. As a learner gains new skills and abilities, this zone moves progressively forward." I think this means that as a child learns more and gains more skill in specific areas, their zone expands and they're able to interact with a broader amount of people, and/or with the same or different skills. They have the ability to teach others what they know and visa versa.


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