Educational Psychology (1997)

By Turner, Val D. | Journal of Research in Character Education, January 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Educational Psychology (1997)


Turner, Val D., Journal of Research in Character Education


Educational Psychology (1997), by L. S. Vygotsky, R. Silver man (Trans.). Boca Raton, FL: St. Lucie Press. (Original work published in 1926)

Val D. Turner

University of Missouri, St. Louis

Ask any educator to play word association and give them the name Vygotsky. The most common response would probably be "scaffolding," or "Zone of Proximal Development" (ZPD), with a "socio-cultural" theory of child development being occasionally mentioned. Most of the participating educators would be unaware that Lev Vygotsky articulated the concept of ZPD fairly late in his 36-year life and that scaffolding was a phrase that never appeared in Vygotsky's writing. Ask the same educators, even postsecondary educators, to discuss Vygotsky's orientation to moral development and the response would most likely be a series of blank stares. The bravest of educators might state that Vygotsky dealt with cognitive development theoiy and not moral development as a way of responding to what they perceived as a trick question. Vygotsky did, in fact, address moral development and character education but in a book completed early in his career that is very rarely quoted or even cited. Although his Educational Psychology was first published in 1926, it is a book well capable of enlightening and directing the character education movement of today.

The fact that most educators are unaware of Vygotsky's thoughts on moral development can be largely attributed to two factors. The first factor is that Vygotsky's Educational Psychology, though first published in 1926, was not published in English until 1997. It is a compilation of lectures delivered by Vygotsky with most experts believing it was intended as an introductory psychology text. Within this text, Vygotsky devotes an entire chapter to moral development and character education.

The second factor tending to obscure Vygotsky's work in moral development is his view of where character development fell within his theory of cognitive development. Vygotsky articulates "moral behavior is a form of behavior which is amenable to education through the social environment in exactly the same way as is everything else" (p. 221). This statement implies that moral behavior is not a distinct class of behavior, but behavior learned in the same manner as an individual would learn to tie their shoes or become adept at the multiplication tables. Adding further depth to this concept is Vygotsky's statement that "moral imperfection always derives from experience and always denotes not a defect in innate reactions and instincts, ... but a defect in education" (p. 230). Thus, if moral behavior is a subset of all learned behavior, Vygotsky may have felt little need to elaborate on the subject, believing that his theoretical base of cognitive development applied equally to, and contained, moral development.

Within the pages of Educational Psychology are thoughts widely, and profitably, applicable to today's character education movement. …

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