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A major emphasis in vygostskys work was the

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Unformatted text preview: ed into constructivist views of classroom learning. Vygotsky’s Sociohistorical Theory Lev Semenovich Vygotsky was born in Russia in 1896 and died in 1934 from tuberculosis at age 38. Over his relatively short professional career, L. S. Vygotsky developed the theoretical basis for a view of development and education that is very influential today. A major emphasis in Vygostsky’s work was the importance of understanding cognitive development in terms of the social and cultural contexts in which it occurs (Luria, 1979; Moll, 1990; Vygotsky, 1962, 1978, 1981, 1987). The Role of Cultural Tools In Cognitive Development Vygotsky believed that as students engage in activities within their social environments they create their understandings of their worlds (Thomas, 2000). 25 Each environment provides cultural tools to support or mediate students’ activities (Miller, 2002). A tool is an extension of the person that allows them to go beyond their physical or mental limitations (Greening, 1998). Vygotsky (1981) identified two types of cultural tools that are specialized for different types of actions. Technical tools are cultural tools that are used to act on objects in the environment. For example, a hammer and a nail allow us to transform two separate pieces of wood into two connected pieces of wood. Psychological tools or signs are cultural tools that guide or mediate our thoughts and behaviors. Psychological tools extend our mental capabilities and they support our thinking and problem solving. For example, language is an important psychological tool that allows us to establish social contact, to influence others, and eventually to guide our thinking and problem solving. Memory systems such as mnemonics are another example of a psychological tool that is used to improve memory for ideas. Theoretical frameworks are tools that can mediate problem solving and decision-making in a professional domain (Hedegaard, 1990). (Please note that the development of theoretical knowledge as a tool for decision-making is a major goal of this text.) The nature and goals of social environments will determine the types of psychological tools that are available, and how those psychological tools are used. For example, studies of people’s math reasoning as they weigh food for the Weight Watchers diet have revealed that math problem-solving approaches in 26 these types of “real-world” contexts employ different psychological tools than is the case for math reasoning in the math classroom (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989). The Development of Higher Order Mental Functions Although he wrote about a variety of developmental issues, Vygotsky tended to focus on how people acquire their higher mental functions. For Vygotsky, a function is a mental process such as attention, perception, memory, and thinking. These mental functions first appear in their elementary form. Elementary functions develop naturally, are present both in animals and humans, tend not to be voluntary, can occur without conscious awareness, and are not assisted by ps...
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