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University of Wyoming

Lev Vygotsky

1896 - 1934

Learning | History | Tenets | Roles

Assumptions about Learning:

Definition: Learning is a holistic, emergent act based on the idea that human learning is mediated through practical activity. Without activity, there is no learning.

Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition. He believed that every function in the child's cultural development apprears twice: first on the social level, and later on the individual level. First between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). He also believed that the potential development for cognitive development is limited to a certain time span.

Brief History (Context):

Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky was born in Russia, but his theories were unpopular with the Soviet government and were suppressed until the deStalinization era of the 1950's. In 1962 his major work Thought and Language was translated.

It has been said of Vygotsky that he possessed a Mozartian genius, yet he lived in a time and place that was not receptive to Mozarts. As a young man he was interested in literature. He entered the Moscow medical school, but switched to law. Simultaneously he entered a private university to study literature. At 28 years, he became interested in psychology. He taught in provincial school and at a teacher's college. His Ph.D. project was The Psychology of Art, but he never had formal psychology training.

Alexander Luria and Alexei Leontiev collaborated with him to produce what is now called the Vygotskian approach, a major theoretical underpinning to cognitivism and major instructional approaches. Vygotsky died in 1934 of tuberculosis. He had achieved in ten years what most psychologists do not achieve in a lifetime.

Major Tenets:

Analysis of "inner speech" signaled departure from Piaget Speech begins with the individual and ends with the social ZPD - Zone of Proximal Development. Language is an instrument for thinking. Cognitive Apprenticeship Scaffolding are two major concepts.

Role of Learner.

Imitate, model adult behaviors, Engage in experiences, Interact socially, Become apprentice

Role of Teacher

Act as coach, encourager, Design effective learning environment, Design content which focuses on processes.

Other work: Mind in Society