Vygotsky's Educational Theory in Cultural Context

Vygotsky's Educational Theory in Cultural Context

Vygotsky's Educational Theory in Cultural Context

Vygotsky's Educational Theory in Cultural Context

Synopsis

Innovative ideas in educational psychology, learning, and instruction, originally formulated by Russian psychologist and educator Lev Vygotsky, are currently enjoying unprecedented popularity in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, and Russia. An international team of scholarly contributors provides comprehensive coverage of all the main concepts of Vygotsky's sociocultural theory. They emphasize its importance for the understanding of child development, and propose specific classroom applications.

Excerpt

What are the differences among American, German, and Japanese classrooms? If we take as a cue the anecdote told by Stiegler and Hiebert (1999) in their book The Teaching Gap, in a Japanese classroom there are students and there is knowledge and the teacher serves as a mediator between them. In a German classroom there are also knowledge and students, but teachers perceive this knowledge as their property and dispense it to students as they think best. In the American classroom there are teachers and there are students, but the status of knowledge is uncertain.

In this book we are offering a perspective that is different from those mentioned, yet poses the same fundamental question of the relationships among students, teachers, and knowledge. Our perspective is grounded in the theory of Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934), whose ideas turned out to be instrumental in shaping the learning processes in a growing number of classrooms in Russia, Europe, and the United States. At the heart of Vygotsky's theory lies the understanding of human cognition and learning as social and cultural rather than individual phenomena. During his tragically short lifetime Vygotsky developed this central thesis in a variety of areas including the theory of child development and educational psychology. He explored relationships between language and thought, instruction and development, everyday and academic concept formation, and a host of others. For a number of decades his theory inspired only a relatively small group of followers in Russia and Eastern Europe. And yet with the passage of time instead of disappearing from the scientific and educational horizon, Vygotsky's theory began attracting more and more attention in different countries.

What is the secret of the vitality of Vygotskian ideas? What causes contemporary Vygotskians to continue arguing about concepts and hypotheses first advanced in the 1920s? Returning to the opening anecdote we may suggest that instead of offering a definitive model, Vygotsky prompts us to inquire into the nature of knowledge used in the classroom, for example, 1 . . .

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