This study centers upon the role academic advising has upon the development of students, as they matriculate through their college experience. Sociocultural theory as first developed by Vygoksky (1978) will be utilized in order to better understand how this social activity is coupled to the growth of the individual. “The most fundamental concept of sociocultural theory is that the human mind is mediated” (Lantolf, 2000, p. 1) as opposed to other views of human cognitive development through passive stimuli of the physical world (Vygotsky, 1986). The goal is to explain how an individual can become empowered towards higher psychological functioning and Tappan (1997) further elaborates upon this idea through a discussion of act of making the necessary internalized connections between the individual and external activities. This act of making internal the external physical world requires that we look at the social context of this transformation.
Without taking into account the social environment of the individual, the act of learning cannot be completely understood. This paper seeks to address the act of meaning making the negotiation necessary for the development of a student within the college environment through the interactions of a more capable other (Vygotsky, 1978). As this process unfolds, and the student begins to emerge as a result of these interactions with an advisor this study seeks to understand what is needed in order to facilitate this action.
A critical idea advanced by Vygotsky is the need for the learner to be receptive to the personal accumulation of knowledge, to be in a zone of proximal development (ZPD). Regarding ZPD, Vygotsky states
It is 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. (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86)
ZPD can be understood as the idea of taking what an individual already knows and using this more capable other, to scaffold upon this pre-existing knowledge base to expand the learner’s development. This idea can be applied to an educational setting provided the learner is ready to take on new knowledge and the necessary educational infrastructure is in place to facilitate growth. It can be seen through this idea the critical nature that social interactions play in this theory of development and the need to view cognitive growth through the lens of social constructs.
Lantolf (2006) approaches this question of development through the application of societal pressures that are conducive towards development through a discussion of “social artifacts” (p. 69). These social artifacts are meant to explain the tools available to the individual in his or her internal quest for cognitive growth. The cultural factors are: activities, artifacts (physical), and concepts and are all...