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Unformatted text preview: tween social speech and the use of internal
speech to monitor and guide the problem-solving process. Consider this
classroom application of self-regulating speech by Sally Jenkins.
⇒ “Sometimes it gets noisy in my classroom. I encourage my children to
talk to themselves and each other as they solve story problems. For
example, my students will ask, ‘What is the problem here?’”
Zone of Proximal Development
The zone of proximal development is Vygotsky’s concept of how social
interactions can be most productive for helping learners internalize mental
functions (Mahn, 1999). Vygotsky (1978) defined the zone of proximal
development (ZPD) as the distance between what a learner can accomplish
independently in a domain, and what that same learner can accomplish while 29 working with a more skilled adult or peer. This distance or zone defines an area of
immediate potential for the learner, because what the learner can do with
assistance today is likely to be what the learner will soon be capable of doing
independently. Cognitive growth is maximized if social interactions occur within
the learner’s ZPD. The implication of the ZPD is that students benefit from
instruction that is moderately challenging.
Development Is A Historical Process Within Cultural Contexts
Vygotsky and his associates believed that a complete theory of human
development must take into account changes that occur at four historical levels
including the development of the species (phylogeny), the history of human
beings since becoming a distinct species, the history of individual children
(ontogeny), and the history of the development of psychological processes during
an experimental task (Cole, 1990). These historical analyses have practical implications for teachers in at least two ways.
First, Vygotsky believed it was important to understand ontogeny or the
personal developmental history of learners. Without this type of analysis,
Vygotsky suggested that we could describe people’s functioning, but we could not
explain the causes of that functioning (Wertsch, 1990). Of particular interest to
Vygotsky were children whose development had been disrupted. The Vygotskians
noted that two children could both be failing at school, but the causes of their
failure and their potential to learn could be quite different because of their 30 personal histories.(Luria, 1961). Joann Gregory, a special education teacher, has
had this experience.
⇒ “We collect a developmental history on all students who have been
referred for special education services. Just this last week, parents of a
2nd grader who had been referred told us that the child had missed
almost half of 1st grade sue to illness. This put the child’s problems in
second grade in a different light.”
Second, Vygotsky thought it was also important to understand individual
development in terms of the history of that individual’s cultural or social group
(Vygotsky, 1981). To the extent that cultures differ, we would expect that the
cultural tools that are developed would differ. If cultural tools differ from one
society to another, then people’s ways of thinki...
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- Spring '08