General background information on lev vygotsky

No matter who serves as the more knowledgeable other, the key is that they provide the needed social instruction with the zone of proximal development when the learner is so sensitive to guidance. Children can observe and imitate or even receive guided instruction to acquire new knowledge and skills. Lev Vygotsky also suggested that human development results from a dynamic interaction between individuals and society.

Through this interaction, children learn gradually and continuously from parents and teachers. This learning, however, can vary from one culture to the next. It's important to note that Vygotsky's theory emphasizes the dynamic nature of this interaction. Society doesn't just impact people; people also affect their society.

Vygotsky's life was cut tragically short on June 11, , when he died of tuberculosis at the age of He is considered a formative thinker in psychology, and much of his work is still being discovered and explored today. While he was a contemporary of Skinner , Pavlov , Freud , and Piaget , his work never attained their level of eminence during his lifetime. Part of this was because the Communist Party often criticized his work in Russia, and so his writings were largely inaccessible to the Western world.

His premature death at age 37 also contributed to his obscurity. Despite this, his work has continued to grow in influence since his death, particularly in the fields of developmental and educational psychology. It wasn't until the s that Vygotsky's theories became known in the West as new concepts and ideas were introduced in the fields of educational and developmental psychology. Since then, Vygotsky's works have been translated and have become very influential, particularly in the area of education. In a ranking of eminent psychologists, Vygotsky was identified as the 83rd most frequently cited psychologist during the 20th century.


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While their ideas shared some similarities, there were some significant differences, including:. Vygotsky LS. Thought and Language. Kozulin A, trans. Original work published in If you're interested in reading some of Vygotsky's works, many of his writings are available in full-text format at the Vygotsky Internet Archive. Ever wonder what your personality type means? Sign up to find out more in our Healthy Mind newsletter. More in Psychology.

Early Life. Career and Theories. Development takes on a stormy, impetuous, and sometimes catastrophic character that resembles a revolutionary course of events in both rate of the changes that are occurring and in the sense of the alterations that are made. The first feature of such periods consists, on the one hand, in the fact that the boundaries that separate the beginning and end of the crisis from adjacent age levels are not at all definite.

The crisis arises imperceptibly — it is difficult to determine its onset and termination. On the other hand, an abrupt aggravation of the crisis, which usually occurs in the middle of this age period, is characteristic. The presence of a culmination point in which the crisis reaches apogee characterizes all critical ages and differentiates them clearly from the stable periods of child development. The second feature of critical age levels served as a departure point for empirical study. The fact is that a significant proportion of children who experience critical periods of development are difficult children.

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These children seem to drop out of the system of pedagogical influence that until very recently provided a normal course for their training. In children of school age during critical periods, there is a drop in rate of success, a slacking of interest in school work, and a general decline in capacity for work.


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  5. True, it is far from always that all of this occurs. In different children, critical periods occur differently. During the passage of a crisis even in children most alike in type of development and in social situation, there is much greater variation than during the stable periods. Many children do not exhibit at all clearly any of the traits of difficult children or any decline in school success. The range of variation in the passage of these age levels in different children and in the influence of external and internal conditions on the course of the crisis itself is so great and significant that this caused many authors to question whether crises of child development in general are not a product of exclusively external unfavorable conditions and whether they should therefore be considered the exception rather than the rule in the history of child development A.

    Busemann et al. It is understood that external conditions determine the concrete character of manifestation and passage of critical periods. Dissimilar in different children, they bring about a very mixed and diverse picture of variants of the critical age. But neither the presence nor the absence of some specific external conditions, but internal logic of the process of development itself is responsible for the critical, disruptive periods in the life of the child.

    A study of comparative factors convinces us of this. Thus, if we move from an absolute evaluation of the difficult aspects of difficult children to a relative evaluation based on a comparison of degrees of case or difficulty of teaching the child during the stable period that either preceded or followed the crisis, we cannot help but see that every child at this stage becomes relatively difficult in comparison with himself at a proximate age. In precisely the same way, if we move from absolute evaluation of school success to a relative evaluation based on a comparison of the rate of movement of the child in the course of teaching at different age periods, we will see that every child slows this rate during the crisis period in comparison with the rate characteristic of the stable periods.

    The third feature, perhaps most important but least clear from the theoretical aspect and for this reason, one that impedes a correct understanding of the nature of child development during these periods, is the negative character of development.

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    L. S. Vygotsky

    Everyone who wrote about these unique periods noted in the first place that development here is different from that in the stable ages and does destructive rather than constructive work. Processes of dying off and closure, the disintegration and breakdown of what had been formed at preceding stages and distinguished the child of a given age move to the forefront. During the critical periods, the child does not so much acquire as he loses some of what he had acquired earlier.

    The onset of these age levels is not marked by the appearance of new interests of the child, of new aspirations, new types of activity, new forms of internal life. The child entering a period of crisis is more apt to be characterized by the opposite traits: he loses interests that only yesterday guided all his activity and took the greater part of his time and attention but now seemingly die off, forms of external relations and internal life developed earlier are neglected.

    Tolstoy graphically and precisely called one such critical period of child development the desert of adolescence. This is what people have in mind primarily when they speak of the negative character of the critical age levels. By this, they mean to express the idea that development seems to change its positive, creative significance, causing the observer to characterize such periods predominantly from unfavorable, negative aspects. Many authors are even convinced that the negative content exhausts the whole idea of development during the critical periods.

    This conviction is fixed in the names for the critical years some call this age the negative phase, some, the phase of obstinacy, etc. The concepts of separate critical ages were introduced into science by the empirical path and in a random order. The crisis of age seven was discovered and described before the others the seventh year in the life of the child is transitional between the preschool and the adolescent periods.

    The seven- to eight-year-old child is no longer a preschooler, but, not an adolescent. The seven-year-old differs from both the preschool child and from the school child and for this reason presents difficulties with respect to his teaching. The negative content of this age is apparent primarily in the disruption of mental equilibrium and in the instability of the will, mood, etc. The crisis of the three-year-old, discovered and described later, was called by many authors the phase of obstinacy or stubbornness. During this period, limited to a short interval of time, the personality of the child undergoes abrupt and unexpected changes.

    The child becomes a difficult child. He exhibits obstinacy, stubbornness, negativism, capriciousness, and self-will. Internal and external conflicts frequently accompany the whole period. The thirteen-year crisis was studied even later and described as the negative phase of the age of sexual maturation. As the very name indicates, the negative content of the period is most prominent and with superficial observation seems to be the whole idea of development in this period.

    Comparatively recently the idea has been recognized theoretically that the transition from infancy to early childhood, occurring at approximately age one, also presents an essentially critical period with its own differentiating traits known to us from the general description of this unique form of development; this transition has been thoroughly studied from the factual aspect. To obtain a definitive chain of critical ages, we proposed including in it as an initial link, perhaps the most unique of all periods of child development, the new-born stage.

    Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934)

    This well-studied period stands alone in the system of other ages and is, by its nature, perhaps the clearest and least questionable crisis in the development of the child. The spasmodic change in conditions of development in the act of birth, when the newborn rapidly falls into a completely new environment, changes the whole tenor of his life and characterizes the initial period of extra-uterine development. The crisis of the newborn separates the embryonal period of development from infancy. The one-year crisis separates infancy from early childhood.

    The crisis at age three is a transition from early childhood to preschool age.

    Vygotsky Scaffolding: What It Is and How to Use It

    The crisis at age seven is a link that joins preschool and school ages. Finally, the crisis at age thirteen coincides with the turning point in development at the transition from school age to puberty.

    Vygotsky's Theory of Cognitive Development - ZPD, Scaffolding, MKO - (Psychology Theories)

    Thus, an ordered picture opens before us. Critical periods alternate with stable periods and are turning points in development, once again confirming that the development of the child is a dialectical process in which a transition from one stage to another is accomplished not along an evolutionary, but along a revolutionary path. If the critical ages had not been discovered through purely empirical means, the conception of them would have to be introduced into the pattern of development on the basis of theoretical analysis.

    Now it remains for theory only to become cognizant of and comprehend what has already been established by empirical studies. At turning points of development, the child becomes relatively difficult due to the fact that the change in the pedagogical system applied to the child does not keep up with the rapid changes in his personality. Pedagogy during the critical ages is least developed in practical and theoretical respects. As all life is at the same time also a dying E Engels , so also child development — one of the complex forms of life — of necessity includes in itself processes of closure and dying off.

    The appearance of the new in development necessarily signifies the dying off of the old. The transition to a new age is always marked by the demise of the previous age. The processes of reverse development, the dying off of the old, are concentrated mainly during the critical ages. But it would be a great mistake to assume that this is the whole significance of the critical ages. Development never ends its creative work, and during critical periods too, we observe constructive processes of development.

    Moreover, processes of involution [regression] so clearly expressed during these periods, themselves are subordinate to Processes of positive structuring of the personality, depend on them directly, and with them make up an indivisible whole. The disruptive work is done in these periods to the extent that is required by the need to develop properties and traits of the personality. Practical study shows that the negative content of development at turning points is only the reverse or shadow side of positive changes of the personality that make up the principal and basic sense of any critical age.

    With respect to the crisis at age seven, all investigators noted that together with negative symptoms, during this period, there are a number of major achievements: the child becomes more independent and his relation to other children changes.

    What Is Instructional Scaffolding?

    In the crisis at age thirteen, the decrease in productivity of mental work of the student is caused by a change from attention to what is obvious to understanding and deduction. The transition to a higher form of intellectual activity is accompanied by a temporary decrease in capacity for work.

    This is also confirmed for the rest of the negative symptoms of the crisis: behind every negative symptom is hidden a positive content consisting usually in the transition to a new and higher form. Finally, there is no doubt that there is positive content in the crisis at age one.