Monday, October 3, 2011

Vygotsky - What Does He Know About Kids Anyway?

When we talk about child development, a common name heard is Piaget. But another theorist had an awful lot of good insights about child development. Vygotsky. Vygotsky agreed with a lot of what Piaget had to say about children's cognitive development. But there are several unique points that Vygotsky brings to the table.

The Zone of Proximal Development

What? Okay, that sounds very fancy. But it is really very simple. The zone begins where a child can go no further ON THEIR OWN. But the zone is about support. You see, Vygotsky was all about understanding the impact of support, guidance, and cultural impact on cognitive growth. So, the zone is about what a parent, a mentor, a teacher, a grandparent can do to take a child to the next level of learning. When you look at the picture above, you can see the "teacher" gives the child the tool he needs to reach further than he could on his own.

Unlike Piaget, Vygotsky felt that the impact of leaders in a child's life was paramount to their learning. The zone is about the opportunity to take a child to the next level of learning, taking them to a level of growth they cannot get to on their own. Simple.

And how do we adults do that?

For one, KNOW where the child you are working with is at. What are they capable of on their own?

Now comes Vygotsky's SCAFFOLDING. Scaffolding is the "how" of taking a child up that zone of proximal development. How do we adults do it? Vygotsky was big on language, using our words to educate and encourage. But scaffolding is simply the assistance, the guidance, the rules, the skills that we can teach our kids.

Here is an example. A child can play with blocks, but a parent or educator can open whole new worlds by demonstrating or explaining ordering, creating patterns, sequencing, etc.

What's the point? When we recognize the importance of the zone and the power we adults have to help enhance learning, the opportunities are endless for how we can help our kids grow and learn in ways they could never do on their own.

Consider in the days to come all the amazing ways you can take your child through the zone of proximal development and to amazing heights.