Πέμπτη, 29 Ιανουαρίου 2015

Chris Cooper: Some notes on Vygotsky






Some notes on Vygotsky

"In fundamental, everyday situations a child's behaviour is the opposite of his behaviour in play. In play, action is subordinated to meaning, but in real life, of course, action dominates meaning." (Vygotsky – Mind in Society 1978)

Here we can instantly recognise the connection between imaginative play and drama (see note below). In both the child creates an imaginary situation to explore a real one and from the point of view of development, creating imaginary situations can be understood as a means of developing abstract thought. Vygotsky emphasises the importance of objects in play, which become pivots for the child’s imagination, so, for example a broom becomes a horse because the broom has the qualities of horse-ness; similarly a box can become a ship. Vygotsky understood that imaginary play belongs to the category of higher mental functions in development. He also observed that in play, because meaning dominates of action, a child stands a "head taller than himself." By this he means that in imaginary play he is ahead of his actual development. In drama action is subordinated to meaning too, which is why drama is a great tool for learning.

Sociocultural theory (Vygotsky)

Cultural mediation:

The Vygotskian model of developmental psychology views the child as an active seeker of knowledge; the child and environment interact together enabling cognitive development in a culturally adaptive way; the mind is socially constructed; development occurs as a direct result of contact with the environment.
                                         
Furthermore cultural experience is the most powerful tool for human beings to apprehend reality. Culture provides the scaffolding for understanding and it links concepts. To be truly inclusive, education needs to relate to this wider cultural context. Yet much of the school curriculum is divorced from experience, the most important means by which young people can test their understanding. DiE and TiE on the other hand is framed by its cultural context, it is culturally mediated, it resonates with our lives and makes use of new experiences to de-code them through social values and shared habits of thought and transforms our perception and understanding by challenging them.

Central to this conception of the child’s culture and in their overall development is their interactions with significant others – especially in relation to cognitive development. In particular, a child’s interactions with adults and more able peers.  A child will internalise dialogues with others and use this information to guide actions and acquisition of new skills later on. From Vygotsky’s perspective learning is dependent on support from adults.

Key to Vygotsky’s theory are the notions of private speech, scaffolding and the zone of proximal development. Key ideas

  • the child is viewed as an active seeker of knowledge;
  • the child and environment interact together enabling cognitive development in a culturally adaptive way;
  • the mind is perceived to be socially constructed;
  • the child is born with basic attentional, perceptual and memory capacities;
  • development occurs as a direct result of contact with the environment;
  • child as self communicator – leads to higher order thinking;
  • language and thought develop independently, but eventually merge and interact.

Private speech

Vygotsky believed that in order to learn children must speak to themselves in a self guiding and directing way- initially aloud and later internally.  As children develop and become more competent in a particular area, they begin to internalise this speech and gradually decrease its use.  Vygotsky identifies private speech as the foundation for all higher order thinking processes.

Just as we see children talking themselves through learning tasks on a daily basis, we too use forms of private speech in our daily lives.  How many times have you spoken these words aloud “Now where did I put the car keys”…., “Now I must remember to…..” Vygotsky observed that children's use of such talk in daily learning tasks was particularly significant in working with difficult concepts and in teaching children with disabilities.

Zone of proximal development

Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory conceives of cognitive development as dependent on interaction with adults.  Key to this social interaction is the notion of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).  The ZPD refers to the tasks a child is unable to complete alone, but is able to complete with the assistance of an adult.  That is the teacher pitches a learning experience for a specific child at a level just beyond his/her current level of performance. In doing this, the child and the teacher engage in cooperative dialogues to enhance learning that the child is able to recall privately when completing a similar task/activity independently. Therefore the child takes in the discussion of the task/activity and uses it as private speech on later occasions. 

"The Zone of Proximal development defines those functions that have not yet matured but are in the process of maturation, functions that will mature tomorrow but are currently in an embryonic state. These functions could be termed the 'buds' or 'flowers' of development rather than the 'fruits' of development. The actual development level characterises mental development retrospectively, while the zone of proximal development characterises mental development prospectively." (Vygotksy 1978)

The implications of this approach as educators concerned with learning to learn are enormous and should have a direct impact on shaping DR2’s approach to learning. Working in the imagination through drama the child stands a head taller than himself because s/he is capable of thought and action that is ahead of their actual development through the mediation of the artist/educator and their more capable peers, what a child can do with assistance today she will be able to do on her own tomorrow.

Scaffolding

Vygotsky’s notion of scaffolding directly relates to his notions of Private Speech and the Zone of Proximal Development.  In order for a child to learn new concepts or skills the teacher must provide scaffolds for the learning experience.  These scaffolds refer to the changes in social support over the teaching of a concept.  Scaffolding is directly linked to the personal needs of the individual.  Like scaffolding on a building, supports are withdrawn as individual competence develops.  Scaffolding may include physical presence and prompts along with more specific metacognitive strategies.

Educational implications

-          Child as an active participant in the learning process.
-          Importance of individual difference.
-          Assist children in discovery.
-          Teachers should guide learning through explanation, demonstration and verbal prompts.
-          Tailor lessons to each child's zone of proximal development.
-          Early childhood – promote teacher/child and child/child interactions.
-          Promote imaginative play.
-          Within the learning environment focus on literacy activities – this why we focus on story for DR.
-          Use prompts, reminders, increase independence, give information, use cooperative learning and reciprocal teaching strategies.

While we might not have the capacity or ability to implement every aspect of the above, it should be possible for us to account of it in developing the new school.



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