Aims | The Child | Task of teaching | First steps to integration
- Child   development   and learning
- Piaget
- Vigotsky
- Erikson
- Self-  regulated   learning
- In closing
- References

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The child: psychological and pedagogical considerations


The Vygotskian perspective


While Piaget (1952) portrayed learners as constructing meaning primarily through their own action on the environment, Vygotsky (1978) emphasized the importance of the child’s culture and social contexts as sources of guidance and support for learning.


Vygotsky (1962, 1991) assumed that the child brings a desire to act effectively and independently and a capacity to develop higher-level mental functioning to her encounters with the culture (as experienced in interactions with others), but those goals and the means to reach them are culturally determined and learned. The child is active in the learning process but does not act alone. She learns to think by constructing or “co-constructing,” and by internalizing progressively more adequate versions of the intellectual “tools” of the culture, which are modeled or actively taught by more advanced others.


Interactions that promote development may involve active “scaffolding”, “guided participation” or “building bridges” on the part of an adult or a more experienced peer. The more experienced person assists the child by providing prompts, clues, modelling, questions, strategies, and other supports that allow the child to accomplish tasks she cannot yet accomplish independently. To be effective in promoting the development of the child’s own independent, self-regulated action, this assistance must be provided in her “zone of proximal development”, a hypothetical psychological area that represents the difference between what the child can already do independently and what she can do with help. This probably differs with gender according to the individual school and its characteristics (Silva, L. et all, 1995).


Researchers are currently investigating the relationship between the zone of proximal development, scaffolding, and the instructional design and development of online learning environments. Dunlap and Grabinger (1996:242) synthesise the overall concept of scaffolding: “Scaffolding involves providing the support and guidance appropriate for the learners’ ages and experience levels. Authentic environments balance realism with learner ability, experience, maturity, age, and knowledge. Scaffolding involves guidance in the forms of hints, questions, and materials that lead learners through a process of solving problems. However leading does not mean telling. Teachers must set up the environment to help students identify what they need to do, rather than tell them which steps to perform in an algorithmic manner. Students must learn ways of solving problems and overcoming obstacles, in addition to learning to solve problems. Most important, they must learn to be comfortable with a trial-and-error approach”.


Vygotsky (1991) also emphasized the importance of language for cognitive development, demonstrating that when children are provided with words and labels, they form concepts more readily. He believed that thought and language converge into meaningful concepts, and assist the thinking process. He saw language as the primary means through which culture is transmitted and the primary vehicle for thought and voluntary self-regulation.

Vygotsky’s theory is demonstrated in classrooms in which social interaction is encouraged, where teachers converse with children and use language to mediate their learning, where children are encouraged to express themselves both orally and in writing, and where conversation among members of the group is encouraged and valued.