The work established by Lev Vygotsky is identified as one of the founding forces accredited to research and the theoretical developments witnessed in cognitive development. His contributions particularly stand out in what is currently referred to as the social development theory. The theory he developed puts immense stress on the fundamental role played by social interactions in the development of cognition (Clara, 2017). Vygotsky believed that the society has a central role in the process of helping individuals make meaning. Being that the theory is based on society, cognitive development and learning, Vygotsky develops three key concepts to explain the interaction including the zone of proximal development, the more knowledgeable other and social interaction.
Important learning during childhood is accredited much to social interactions and a skillful tutor according to Vygotsky. He believed that the tutor acts as a model for the child where the child can learn behavior or provide verbal instructions. He identified this form of interaction as collaborative or cooperative dialogue. The child will attempt to understand instructions brought forth by the tutor, internalizes it and eventually uses it as a guide for how he or she needs to perform. Social interaction assumes a key part during cognitive development (Clara, 2017). Vygotsky felt that social learning goes before any form of development. He also comes up with the other two principles, the more knowledgeable other and the zone of proximal development.
The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO)
Vygotsky identified the more knowledgeable other as one with a better understanding or a better level of ability especially for particular concepts, tasks or processes. In many instances, it is expected that this individual will be a parent, a teacher, or an adult, which may not often be the case. In some instances, the childs peer may possess the right amount of knowledge to act as the more knowledgeable other for the child (Clara, 2017). For example, peers will have a clear understanding of how a certain game is played more than the parents of the teachers are. In other instances, the more knowledgeable, other may not necessarily be a person. Children, Schools, or parents will use electronic devices to help the child learn various concepts. Educational settings apply the use of electronic tutors to help facilitate students and act as guiding tools through their learning process. The aim is that these electronic tutors are programmed with more knowledge about what the student needs to learn that what he or she knows. It is clear that Vygotsky identified the significance of a more knowledgeable other and that without the MKO learning would be difficult and sometimes impossible for the child. The MKO according to Vygotsky acts as the source for the share of knowledge lacking in the child thus helping him or her develop socially and cognitively. To further describe his theory of cognitive development, Vygotsky further introduces the zone of proximal development.
The Zone Of Proximal Development
The concept of the zone of proximal development is almost similar to the more knowledgeable other. As identified, Vygotsky views a childs interaction with peers as an efficient way of helping the child develop necessary strategies and skills (Clara, 2017). He, therefore, suggests that teachers will develop cooperative learning strategies where children who seem to be less competent can develop in the specific areas. The peers and the child learning the new task or acquiring new knowledge need to be within the zone of proximal development. He believed that students will be in the zone of proximal development for certain tasks and during this time provision of the appropriate assistance will provide the student the right boost to achieve the task (Clara, 2017). The child at this point has a certain amount of knowledge known while some knowledge remains unknown. The child has the ability to learn but the skills and knowledge may seem difficult for the child. Therefore, through guidance and encouragement from the individual identified as the more knowledgeable other can help the student learn more of what is unknown to him or her. Vygotsky identifies the more knowledgeable other and the zone of proximal development as aspects that go together due to the role each plays on the other. Therefore, it is necessary that a child in a zone of proximal development is helped through his or her learning process by the more knowledgeable other.
Vygotskys theory is very current especially in its application to educational settings. The contemporary application of the theory in current learning processes is therefore referred to as reciprocal teaching. It is where students and teachers collaborate in an effort to learn from various textual sources. The students and teachers will focus on four main skills including prediction, summarizing, clarifying, and questioning. The teacher will initially begin the learning process with the students acting as the more knowledgeable other because he or she has more knowledge concerning the task that the students. However, his or her role reduces over time as the students gain the ability to engage in the task or acquire the necessary knowledge without relying too much on the teacher. The theory also contributes to collaborative learning where educational settings are recommended to include members with varying levels of ability in a childrens group aimed at learning. In such instances, the members who seem to be more advanced in the task will help those who seem to have less ability because both types of students are in a similar zone of proximal development.
In many cases, educational institutions have often applied a more instructional learning mechanism where teachers give instructions which students are expected to follow. However, Vygotskys theory brings a whole new perspective into the form of learning students and teachers engage in. other than the giving and receiving of instructions, Vygotskys theory introduces a more collaborative way of learning. It means that students will not just be receiving instructions but play a more active role in their learning process. The roles of the teacher and student shift as a teacher need to be the more collaborative approach in helping the student construct meaning. It is clear that Vygotskys theory is significant in how psychologists explain cognitive development. The theory may have numerous critic but its contributions are clearly evident in how children learn. The theory also remains fundamental especially in the development of learning mechanisms that give the student more power in his or her learning experience with the teacher. It is evident that the theory is currently being incorporated into learning experiences. It can therefore be considered an essential part of the student learning experience in the current education system and one that can benefit both the teacher and student.
Clara, M. (2017). How Instruction Influences Conceptual Development: Vygotsky's Theory Revisited. Educational Psychologist, 52(1), 50-62.
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