The psychology theorists of the past have shaped the classrooms of the present. There are many theorists that have affected the teaching styles of today and a theorist that has had a major impact is Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky’s work interests me much because his concepts and ideas encompass many of the ways in which teachers teach in today’s classrooms. The ideas he presented have contoured the strategies of teachers. It is interesting to look into the reasons why teachers have adopted some of the strategies they use and many of those reasons are formed from the original ideas of Vygotsky.
Vygotsky was born in Russia in 1896 into a middle class family (Gallagher 1999). Vygotsky studied law at Moscow University and he did not have any formal educational training in psychology. In 1925, he began his first big research project in psychology, the Psychology of Art (Gallagher 1999). The government doubted his validity of his research, but it was kept alive by his students and followers. Vygotsky died in 1934 from tuberculosis, but his ideas and theories stayed alive. Vygotsky’s main theory is the sociocultural theory. According to Sternberg and Williams (2010), this theory concludes that cognitive development occurs from interaction with others and then the information is internalized and furthers their personal development (p. 51). Vygotsky focused on the influence of social and environmental factors in the process of cognitive development. Many of Vygotsky’s theories are seen in today’s classroom including his theories of zone of proximal development, inner voice, and internalization.
According to Gallaway (2001), “Vygotsky defined the zone of proximal development (ZPD) as the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers.” The zone of proximal development also integrates Vygotsky’s concept of the More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). According to Gallaway (2001), an MKO “refers to someone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept.”
Vygotsky’s concepts of zone of proximal development and the more knowledgeable other person has led to the idea of scaffolding. Scaffolding, which encompasses both ZPD and MKO, is seen in almost all classrooms in today’s society. Scaffolding is a temporary support mechanism that aids students when they need it and then relinquishes control when the assistance is no longer needed. According to Lipscomb, Swanson and West (2004), scaffolding is used in classrooms by the “development of instructional plans to lead the students from what they already know to a deep understanding of new material,” and “execution of the plans, wherein the instructor provides support to the students at every step of the learning process.” Scaffolding encompasses...