This informal CPD article is Part 2 of “Social Learning” provided by Vasilis Palilis director of WIDE Training Academy of the WIDE Services company.
The article has 4 parts.
1. In the first part, "Social cognitive theory - Albert Bandura", we discuss how people learn by observing the actions of others and the consequences of these actions in their early life.
2. In the second part, "Social constructivism- Lev Vygotsky”, we focus on learning constructed through learner's interactions (rather than mere observation) with their environment and precedes - triggers to cognitive development.
3. In the third part, "[Social] constructionism", the central concept is that people learn through making things and creative experimentation.
4. In the fourth part, “Apprenticeship-Situated learning", we discuss how people learn how to become professionals at something.
Let’s focus on the 2nd part.
Social constructivism- Lev Vygotsky
So far we have emphasized Behavioristic theory, where learning and cognitive development occur simultaneously, Jean Piaget's Cognitive constructivism approach, where cognitive development is biologically determined and precedes learning, and Social cognitive theory, where according to Albert Badura cognitive development occurs through the observation of social model behaviors.
Social constructivism, pioneered by Lev Vygotsky, gives the first role to learning, constructed through the learner's interactions (rather than mere observation) with his environment and precedes - triggers to cognitive development.
Vygotsky's learning approach
He believed that infants are born with some mental abilities which are later developed into higher mental functions (independent thinking and independent learning) through social interaction like:
- perception and
More Knowledgeable Other
Vygotsky considered that learning occurs when it is facilitated by a "More Knowledgeable Other", a person who either possesses more information or has more knowledge or is more experienced or skilled than the learner. The process of learning or completing a task is more easily accomplished in the presence of such an "Other". This "Other" with whom the learner loves learning could be an adult or a close peer. But either way, the learner is with someone who is more knowledgeable and supports them in their quest to gain more knowledge.
Vygotsky's developmental zones
The first one is the "Zone of Actual Development", which is when the learner “CAN DO” something on his own independently, without the support of others.
Zone of Actual Development
The learner is able to explore and experiment with what he "CAN'T DO" with his own already acquired knowledge and experience and the tools he has. Vygotsky believed that a student could not reach high levels by working alone. So, he proposed the Zone of Proximal Development.
Zone of Proximal Development
Vygotsky defines the "Zone of Proximal Development" as the difference between the "Zone of Actual Development" and the potential level of cognitive development. He argues that a learner is able to achieve his learning goal with the assistance of a "More Knowledgeable Other".
To help learners achieve independence, Vygotsky described "scaffolding" as a developmental tool. Learners complete small, manageable steps in order to reach the goal. Working with a "More Knowledgeable Other" helps students make connections between concepts. As students grow in the "Zone of Proximal Development" and become more confident, they practice new tasks with the social support that surrounds them. Vygotsky argues that learning occurs through intentional, meaningful interactions with others.
Perhaps Vygotsky’s most important contribution concerns the relationship between the development of language and thought. This relationship establishes the explicit and profound connection between speech, implicit inner language and thought.
- He believed that language up to the age of two is merely a means of external communication.
- Then from the age of three it becomes part of private speech where children talk to themselves and try to describe objects and actions to themselves.
- This gradually becomes implicit inner speech which then becomes the inner thoughts of the person.
Many of the questions Vygotsky was working on are still relevant to current research. This is a testament on the significant influence his work has had on the exploration of how we build our knowledge.
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