Lev Vygotsky

Essay by squirlygirlUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, February 2004

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Lev Vygotsky, born in the U.S.S.R. in 1896, is responsible for the social development theory of learning. He proposed that social interaction profoundly influences cognitive development. Vygotsky believed that our life long process of development was dependent on social interaction and that social learning actually leads to cognitive development. Traditionally, schools had not promoted environments in which the students play an active role in their own education as well as their peers'. Vygotsky's theory, however, requires the teacher and students to play untraditional roles as they collaborate with each other. Instead of a teacher dictating her meaning to students for future recitation, a teacher should collaborate with her students in order to create meaning in ways that students can make their own. Another work of Vygotsky's is called the Zone of Proximal Development. Vygotsky describes it 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" (Vygotsky, 1978).

In other words, a student can perform a task under adult guidance or with peer collaboration that could not be achieved alone. The Zone of Proximal Development bridges that gap between what is known and what can be known. Vygotsky claimed that learning occurred in this zone.

Even today, almost 70 years after his death at the age of 37, Vygotsky's ideas play an important role in many areas of developmental, educational, general, abnormal, and social psychology, as well as in some areas of psychotherapy. Vygotsky emphasized that cognition is shaped by practices and relations that people are involved in. There are many aspects of Vygotsky's work that ring true in today's society. I have seen children attempt to manipulate their environment to better suit...