Vygotsky: Revolutionary Scientist and Educator Key Ideas Human behavior and cultural development take place in and through activity with other people. To understand development, we must look at the history of what is developing. Action is mediated by the use of tools, both material and symbolic. Language is the "tool of tools". It enables: coordination of joint activity; consideration of past events and plans for the future; representations of understanding. Activity always takes place within a social/cultural context that has a history on different time scales: phylogenetic, cultural, ontogenetic, and microgenetic.
Knowledge is constructed through solving problems that arise in joint activity in the present; knowledge is only meaningful and useful when it is used as a tool for further activity. The development of individual intelligence and personal identity occurs through appropriation of the culture's resources in the course of participation in joint activity. Since activities vary, so do the competences that children and adults develop. Artifacts function like “cultural genes;” by mastering the cultural skills involved in their use, the individual becomes a fully human member of a particular culture. Learning is an active and constructive process; it involves a triple transformation: of the learner's repertoire for action; of the tools used; and of the object of the activity. Learning is greatly facilitated by guidance and assistance that is pitched in the learner’s “zone of proximal development” (zpd). The zpd applies not only to experts working with novices, but also to collaboration among peers, and to the influence of absent others by means of the artifacts they created.
The Zone of Proximal Development The zone of proximal development is the difference between what a child can do alone and what s/he can do with help from a more expert other: “What a child can do today with help, tomorrow s/he will be able to do alone.” Learning in the zpd is what drives development. “Learning awakens a variety of internal developmental processes that are able to operate only when the child is interacting with people in his/her environment and in cooperation with his/her peers.” “Learning (& Teaching) is only good when it proceeds ahead of development … [it then] awakens and rouses to life those functions which are in a stage of maturing.” ( All quotes are from Chap. 6 of Thinking and Speech (Vygotsky 1934/1987) Who we become depends on the company we keep and what we do and say together.
Learning Through Apprenticeship There is a lot of apprenticeship education going on in Southwestern Native communities, whether in farming,pottery or jewelry There are still multigenerational families known for their excellence in some of these crafts. The transmission of skills in these domains requires observational as well as verbal teaching/learning. The underdevelopment of observational skills in most Westernized schools by their frequent exclusive focus on verbal teaching is a questionable practice. It narrows the curriculum, the role of parents as contributors to education and learners' preparation for laboratory sciences.Including observational learning in our theories and curriculum is hard to achieve in these times of narrow, test-driven education, but these limitations are part of the challenges that fuel the energy of xmca participants. Vera
Implications of Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) for Education The Classroom is Constructed as a Collaborative Community: Joint activity, by definition, requires us to think of the participants, not simply as a collection of individuals, but also as a community that works towards shared goals, the achievement of which depends upon collaboration. Purposeful Activities Involve Whole Persons: Transformation of the participants occurs as a function of participation in activities that have real meaning and purpose; learning is not simply the acquisition of isolated skills or items of information, but involves the whole person and contributes to the formation of individual identity. Activities are Situated and Unique: Any activity is situated in place and time; although there may be common features across activities and settings, each activity is unique, since it involves the coming together of particular individuals in a particular setting with particular artifacts, all of which have their own histories which, in turn, affect the way in which the activity is actually played out.
Curriculum is a Means not an End: If the aim is to engage with particular students in productive activities that are personally as well as socially significant, 'covering' the curriculum should not be thought of as the ultimate goal of education. Instead, the specified knowledge and skills that make up the prescribed curriculum should be seen as items in the cultural tool-kit which are to be used as means of 'knowing in action' when carrying out activities of personal and social significance. Outcomes are Both Aimed For and Emergent: Outcomes of activity cannot be completely known or prescribed in advance; while there may be prior agreement about the goal to be aimed for, the route that is taken depends upon emergent properties of the situation - the problems encountered and the human and material resources available for the making of solutions. Activities Must Incorporate Diversity and Encourage Originality: Development involves "rising above oneself", both for individuals and communities. Solving new problems requires diversity and originality of possible solutions. Without novelty, there would be no development; both individuals and societies would be trapped in an endless recycling of current activities, with all their limitations.
Your Questions Why was Jeannie so “undeveloped”? What is the best way to gauge a person’s ZPD? Is “mentoring” always successful? How can teaching be equitable for all students? Does learning/knowing several languages help development? How practical is Vygotsky’s theory in middle and high schools?
Dear Parents, We spent much of November and December learning about how rocks are put together. We've spent the first half of January learning about how rocks fall apart. Chemical weathering is fun to watch in the classroom -- we have been mercilessly wearing down perfectly fine limestone and marble with little drips of acid. The kids can do this at home with vinegar or lemon juice of course, but teachers can demonstrate this type of chemical weathering with hydrochloric acid, which is lots more fun. Acid causes immediate fizzing and bubbling when dropped onto rocks which contain calcite, the mineral form of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Limestone and marble are rich in calcite, because they are made of the crushed remnants of marine shells, the source of the calcium carbonate. Large limestone deposits in the Earth's crust often develop extensive cave systems as slightly acidic groundwater seeps through the rocks and dissolves them bit by bit. Much of the Santa Cruz mountain system is rich in limestone, and not surprisingly, one can find some great caves back in the hills on this part of the coast. The kids learned two interesting chemical equations that are involved with chemical weathering. H2O + CO2 --> H2CO3 Carbonic acid is a mild acid which is always present in groundwater. CaCO3 + 2HCl --> CaCl2 + H2O + CO2 ﾊ This is one way to cause chemical weathering in limestone and marble. Another type of weathering is caused by physical forces such as water, wind, gravity, and ice. ﾊ In this case, rocks are worn down into smaller versions of the same rocks. Boulders, pebbles, sand, and mud are some of the results of physical weathering. Water is a powerful erosional agent, and not only does it efficiently break down rock, but it transports the resulting sediment for huge distances.
The sixth graders and I have been discussing in great detail the mechanics of erosion and sediment transport over the last two weeks. We began by creating three-dimensional paper models of rivers, showing the various morphological features of rivers with regard to gradient and channel geometry. Fast rivers flowing from snowmelt high in the mountains can carve out deep V-shaped valleys due to the water's high energy. Rivers create deltas and floodplains as their gradients flatten out towards the ocean: flow rate slows down, and channels become shallow and sediment-filled. The accompanying photos show one of our stream days in the classroom. We had eight stream tables going during each class, and the kids were able to watch river valleys form as they manipulated variables such as gradient and the rate of water flow. We also collected samples of sediment along the river channels in order to observe whether our little streams showed "graded bedding," where sediment spreads out in order of size. As you can imagine, a day playing with sand and water was a big hit. Everyone seemed to feel that we need many more days like that in Room 37! Now we have shifted our attention to beaches: how they are made, and what lives on and near them. Do you know any surfers who might like to come talk to a class or two about waves and what makes a good break? Let me know, and we'll clear a spot in our schedule for a guest speaker. Thanks! For further ideas, see How People Learn, chapters 6 & 7.