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Vygotsky´s theory of cognitive development

Have you ever tried to learn to do something new, and you gave up after trying for a while because it was just too hard? If you had someone to help you who knew how to do it, would that have made a difference? If not, what you were trying to learn was probably outside of your zone of proximal development. The Vygotsky theory of cognitive development explains how this works. 

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Vygotsky´s theory of cognitive development

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Have you ever tried to learn to do something new, and you gave up after trying for a while because it was just too hard? If you had someone to help you who knew how to do it, would that have made a difference? If not, what you were trying to learn was probably outside of your zone of proximal development. The Vygotsky theory of cognitive development explains how this works.

  • We will start by answering the question of what Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development is.
  • Then we will discuss the principles of Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development, such as the zone of proximal development, inner speech and scaffolding.
  • After, we will look at examples of Lev Vygotsky's theory.
  • Finally, we will delve into the advantages and disadvantages of Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development and its implications of Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development.

What is Vygotsky's Theory of Cognitive Development?

Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development proposes that cognitive abilities such as learning and problem-solving are developed through social interaction during childhood.

According to Vygotsky, culture and environment play a significant role in cognitive development. He believed social interactions with others were essential for cognitive development. For example, by a more knowledgeable giving the child instructions regarding how to do something, the child will learn new skills and develop.

Principles of Vygotsky's Theory of Cognitive Development

Vygotsky's theory consists of several components which explain cognitive development. The components are as follows:

  • The zone of proximal development.
  • Inner speech.
  • Scaffolding.

Vygotsky Theory of Cognitive Development: Zone of Proximal Development

According to Vygotsky, children should always be taught in the zone of proximal development.

The zone of proximal development is when a child can solve some problems by themselves but might need extra guidance from a responsible person who can solve the problem (these are known as more knowledgeable others).

Vygotsky theory of cognitive development graph of how the zone of proximal development works VaiaFig. 1. Vygotsky's zone of proximal development explains how children learn from others.

The person helping the child to learn initially takes responsibility for helping them but gradually shifts this responsibility to the child.

Once a child masters a task, the responsible adult can figure out the next zone of proximal development to continue to help the child learn.

If a child can't master a task even with assistance from an adult, then the task is not yet within the child's zone of proximal development, and the level of learning difficulty should be reduced.

Not helping a child to learn or helping too much can interfere with cognitive development.

Vygotsky Theory of Cognitive Development: Inner Speech

Inner speech develops as beliefs and concepts are processed internally. According to the theory, children acquire knowledge from their environment, which teaches them how to think.

Children are thought to develop inner speech and use this to help them to solve problems.

Vygotsky also referred to this as internalisation. It is an important force in cognitive development. For those who have developed their inner speech, this is used on a regular daily basis to help solve problems, reason, and more.

Once children have learned to count, when asked to add something such as four plus two, they may count in their heads to figure out the answer.

Inner speech is also known as internalisation.

Vygotsky Theory of Cognitive Development: Scaffolding

Scaffolding was not a term originally proposed by Vygotsky but by other theorists who expanded on his work.

Scaffolding is the activities the adult or teacher provides to help a child master a task in the zone of proximal development.

As a person builds knowledge, internalises it, and confidence increases, external support is gradually reduced.

Example of Lev Vygotsky Theory

Let's look at the examples of each principle of Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development.

An example of how the zone of proximal development works is as follows.

A child is shown how to ride a bike without stabilisers with guidance from a responsible adult.

The child may already have the developmental abilities to be able to ride a bike without stabilisers. However, to learn this skill, they require social interaction and guidance.

The zone of proximal development allows children to gain information from more knowledgeable others. When a child cannot understand something themself, they need to get information elsewhere to develop the skills needed for proper development.

Moving on, an example of inner speech is as follows.

A young child may speak their thoughts aloud, but once they have grown, they may develop the skill to internalise their thoughts.

The development of inner speech allows easy access and upkeep of social standards required for a proper image in society. There are stereotypes that people who talk aloud are crazy.

And the final example is the scaffolding theory.

When driving independently after passing your driving test, you gradually no longer need the presence of a driving instructor or another person to support you whilst driving.

Scaffolding allows people to develop and use their skills independently without throwing the child in the deep end.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Vygotsky's Theory of Cognitive Development

Vygotsky died at the age of 38, so his theory remains incomplete. Let's study some of the weaknesses and strengths of Vygotsky's theory, keeping in mind that he couldn't complete it.

Vygotsky Theory of Cognitive Development: Advantages

The theory has demonstrated the importance of social interaction in learning. This has had many practical implications on teaching. For example, schools focus on environmental factors such as peer Relationships, group work, teacher attitudes, and classroom atmosphere.

Many psychologists in developmental psychology support Vygotsky's theory and have applied it to their work.

For example, A. Brown's Community of learner's model (2018) demonstrates the importance of children and adults working together, involving adults facilitating learning through the scaffolding technique and children learning from each other.

Implications of Vygotsky's Theory of Cognitive Development

The theory encourages parents, education systems, and children to reach their full potential. The theory can lead to increased levels of knowledge and developing Cognition, thoughts, and behaviours.

Applying the theory to a child's development may allow the child to develop stronger friendships in childhood, building confidence, positive mental health, self-esteem, and teamwork, and can lead to positive Relationships in adult life.

Vygotsky Theory of Cognitive Development: Disadvantages

The theory doesn't consider specific children's developmental characteristics at different ages but focuses more on the overall development process during childhood. By contrast, Piaget strongly emphasises the various stages of development.

The theory also does not expand upon the cognitive processes that occur during development. Children learn and explore a lot on their own without assistance from others. Vygotsky may have overemphasised the social factors in his theory.

Due to this, the research can be criticised as too simplistic or reductionist as it attempts to reduce complex phenomena to a simple explanation.

There may be limits to the practicality of putting the theory into practice, particularly for teachers who cannot facilitate friendships and group work in school due to behavioural issues from disruptive children. There may also be limits on school capacity, such as time, staff, and funding.

In addition, concepts such as inner speech are difficult to measure. So, the research can be criticised for lacking scientificity and empiricism.

These are essential concepts widely considered requirements for good-quality research by many psychologists.

Vygotsky Theory of Cognitive Development - Key takeaways

  • Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development proposes that learning and cognitive abilities are developed through social interaction during childhood.

  • The theory comprises three key components: zone of proximal development, inner speech, and scaffolding.

  • The theory has several advantages and implications in society, as it could influence education, schools, and parenting.

  • The disadvantages of the theory are that it doesn't describe specific stages of development as Piaget did.

  • It may be challenging to put it into practice in some situations, and it isn't easy to measure concepts such as inner speech.

Frequently Asked Questions about Vygotsky´s theory of cognitive development

Vygotsky’s theory proposed that cognitive development progresses and is influenced by social and cultural factors.

Piaget believed that cognitive development was self-taught, while Vygotsky believed others, like teachers, helped in development. Piaget’s theory had stages, while Vygotsky’s had no stages but key factors.

Children learn and explore a lot on their own without assistance from others. Vygotsky may have overemphasised the social factors in his theory, suggesting it may be too simplistic.

There are practical implications of Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development. Mainly, Vygotsky's theory had numerous practical implications on teaching, such as schools focusing on environmental factors such as peer relationships, group work, teacher attitude, and classroom atmosphere. 

Vygotsky did not propose stages. Instead, he explained that the zone of proximal development, inner speech and scaffolding is essential for cognitive development. 

Final Vygotsky´s theory of cognitive development Quiz

Vygotsky´s theory of cognitive development Quiz - Teste dein Wissen

Question

Which statement best describes the Zone of Proximal development?

Show answer

Answer

Needing extra guidance or support with a task from a person who can solve the problem.

Show question

Question

A child being shown how to ride a bike without stabilisers with guidance from a responsible adult is an example of the Zone of Proximal development.

Show answer

Answer

True. 

Show question

Question

As beliefs and concepts are processed internally, inner speech develops.

Show answer

Answer

True. 

Show question

Question

Which statement best defines the concept of scaffolding?




Show answer

Answer

Proactively learning new information relating to information which is already known. New information adds to the information already known. 

Show question

Question

What is the difference between Piaget’s and Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development?




Show answer

Answer

Piaget's theory believes in the importance of self-discovery with learning. Vygotsky, on the other hand, believes in the importance of learning through a teacher. 

Show question

Question

Vygotsky’s theory has been valuable for education systems. 

Show answer

Answer

True. 

Show question

Question

Applying the theory to a child's development may allow for the child to:


Show answer

Answer

Both.

 

Show question

Question

The zone of proximal development has been criticised for explaining with too much detail and assumptions about how development occurs. Is this true or false?


Show answer

Answer

 False. 

Show question

Question

The theory doesn't consider specific children's developmental characteristics at different ages but focuses more on the overall development process during childhood. Is this true or false? 


Show answer

Answer

True. 

Show question

Question

Inner speech can also be referred to as:


Show answer

Answer

Internalisation.

Show question

Question

Which limitation of Vygotsky’s theory is correct?


Show answer

Answer

All of the above.

Show question

Question

Not helping a child to learn or helping too much during a task that a child understands can interfere with cognitive development. Is this true or false?


Show answer

Answer

True. 

Show question

Question

Brown's Community of learner's model (2018) demonstrates the importance of children and adults working together. This contrasts and does not support Vygotsky’s theory. 


Show answer

Answer

False. 

Show question

Question

The theory outlines four stages of development across different age ranges. Is this true or false?


Show answer

Answer

False. 

Show question

Question

What is the zone of proximal development?

Show answer

Answer

It is when a child is able to solve some problems by themselves but might need extra guidance from a responsible person who can solve the problem. 

Show question

Question

According to Vygotsky, culture and environment play a large role in cognitive development. Is this true or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

Not helping a child to learn or helping too much does not interfere with cognitive development. Is this true or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

What is another name for inner speech, according to Vygotsky?

Show answer

Answer

Internalisation.

Show question

Question

Give an example of inner speech.

Show answer

Answer

A young child may speak their thoughts out loud, but as they grow, they are able to internalise their thoughts. 

Show question

Question

What is scaffolding?

Show answer

Answer

Scaffolding is the activities the adult or teacher provides to help a child master a task in the zone of proximal development.

Show question

Question

Scaffolding was a term originally proposed by Vygotksy. Is this true or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

How is the level of external support reduced?

Show answer

Answer

As a person builds knowledge, internalises it, and confidence increases, external support is gradually reduced. 

Show question

Question

Vygotsky's theory is a complete theory. Is this true or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

Identify a practical implication of Vygotsky's theory.

Show answer

Answer

Schools put a focus on environmental factors such as peer relationships, group work, teacher attitudes, and classroom atmosphere. 

Show question

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

Which statement best describes the Zone of Proximal development?

A child being shown how to ride a bike without stabilisers with guidance from a responsible adult is an example of the Zone of Proximal development.

As beliefs and concepts are processed internally, inner speech develops.

Next

Flashcards in Vygotsky´s theory of cognitive development24

Start learning

Which statement best describes the Zone of Proximal development?

Needing extra guidance or support with a task from a person who can solve the problem.

A child being shown how to ride a bike without stabilisers with guidance from a responsible adult is an example of the Zone of Proximal development.

True. 

As beliefs and concepts are processed internally, inner speech develops.

True. 

Which statement best defines the concept of scaffolding?




Proactively learning new information relating to information which is already known. New information adds to the information already known. 

What is the difference between Piaget’s and Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development?




Piaget's theory believes in the importance of self-discovery with learning. Vygotsky, on the other hand, believes in the importance of learning through a teacher. 

Vygotsky’s theory has been valuable for education systems. 

True. 

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