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 Can you please take one more look at this before I hand it in? I changed a few things and want to make sure it is ok.



Vygotsky’s Approach to Child Development

Rebecca Miller

Early Childhood Education EEC-6611

Dr. Amber Oliveira


Table of Contents
Zone of Proximal Development and Scaffolding 5
Language Development 5
Testing and observation 8
Active participation in the acquisition of knowledge 8
Societal influences 8
Lack of cultural relevance 9
Guided Learning 9
References 12


Over the few years, there has been an increased interest in Vygotsky’s theory of social and cultural development, an aspect that has seen its hiked application in various types of theories and research. By linking to social development, Vygotsky’s theory has been executed to improve student’s learning outcomes in a classroom setting. This research paper will summarize the significant aspects of Vygotsky’s theories; compare the theory to other educational theories and some of the criticisms of Vygotsky’s theory. Furthermore, the paper will present suggestions on ways facilitators could structure their classrooms to be more inclusive of Vygotsky’s principle.

Lev Vygotsky made significant contributions to the theories of child development, more so in the areas of cognitive development. Vygotsky was a Russian Psychologist born on the 17th of November 1896 in Orsha (Bodrova & Leong, 2007). His theory places a lot of emphasis on the vital contributions made by social interaction in enhancing the development of cognition. Vygotsky’s theory is based on the knowledge that society has a significant role in issuing meaning to young kids (Albert, 2012). Through his theory, Vygotsky holds that learning is an essential component of the development process that aids in providing support to various human psychological functions. For that reason, Vygotsky’s approach to cognitive development builds on the understanding that social learning takes place before development. He further argues that cognition and consciousness are the final products of social behavior and socialization (Roth & Lee, 2007).

Vygotsky held that child development included qualitative and quantitative changes. When qualitative change occurs, the whole system of mental functions undergoes major restructuring, which results in the emergence of new cognitive and social-emotional forms of developmental achievements (Bodrova & Leong, 2007). Likewise, there is a period in which no new formation takes place, but children are still developing their existing abilities. During this period, growth occurs as a quantitative change in the number of things a child can remember and process. The core of Vygotsky’s theory emphasizes the interaction between internal and external aspects of learning and its emphasis on the social environment of learning (Bodrova & Leong, 2007). The theory emphasizes that imaginative play and social interaction are considerable contributors to a child’s cognitive development. Vygotsky believed that the various social interactions that a child engaged in helped them discover and create meaning from different things they discovered. 

Specifically, Vygotsky believed that some of the most crucial learning a kid could experience was in the various social interactions with a skilled instructor who is often an adult, as a teacher or parent. The kid will observe the tutors’ behaviors and heed the tutor’s verbal instructions. The learner would then emulate what they observe in their instructor. They try to comprehend what they observe and the various instructions given to them but internalizing and copying, while at the same time trying to apply them in their own lives (Roth & Lee, 2007). The psychologist Lev Vygotsky referred to this as cooperative or collaborative dialogue. He referred to the tutor or teacher in this role as the “more knowledgeable other.” Vygotsky argues that while this role typically involves grown-ups, as mentioned above, like coaches, parents, or teachers, it may also involve social interactions with other kids (Bodrova & Leong, 2007). The significant part of the role is that it’s fulfilled by anyone the child may learn from, a more knowledgeable other.

Zone of Proximal Development and Scaffolding

Vygotsky proposed something known as the zone of proximal development and the idea of scaffolding in a child’s development. The concept of Zone of Proximal Development and Scaffolding recognizes some tasks that children cannot perform independently (Berk & Winsler, 1995). For instance, a kid may gradually develop the ability to make distinct sounds but can’t yet talk. With help or scaffolding from a grown-up who starts showing them different pictures and repeating the names of the photos, the little kid will soon begin to develop words and start communicating independently without aid. Scaffolding aided them in developing the necessary skills to communicate independently.

Language Development

The psychologist was explicitly interested in the various roles of language in a child’s cognitive development. Vygotsky believed it was among the most critical tools human beings could use (Bodrova & Leong, 2007) because language is crucial to human interactions. Language, specifically in collaborative dialogue, is how tutors deliver essential information to children. He believed that there’re three forms of languages as highlighted below:

· Silent inner speech – the psychologist believed this occurred when private speech diminishes in its audibility until it becomes a self-regulating function. He argued that this was typical in kids from age seven.

· Private speech – is what the psychologist termed as the internal communication an individual directs to him or herself. It served an intellectual purpose and was typical in kids from age three.

· Social speech – Lev Vygotsky referred to as external communication that individuals utilize in talking to other individuals. He argued that this form of language was typical in kids from age two.

Vygotsky’s focused on language as part of cognitive development is founded on the idea that thought and language began as separate systems within the child’s brain (Bodrova & Leong, 2007). He believed that the two systems would join in the kid at about three years of age, and the two would become independent. As the systems become independent, the child’s communication would be internalized to become private speech to the self. This internalization of language was an essential component of a child’s cognitive development.

Generally, Vygotsky was the first to examine how children’s social-cultural interactions influenced their cognitive growth. Vygotsky was fully convinced that learning took place via interactions with other people in or surrounding: teachers, adults, peers, and other mentors. The psychologist sought to understand how individuals leaned in social environments, and therefore he developed a unique theory on social learning. Vygotsky determined that tutors could control numerous factors in educational settings, including responses, behaviors, and tasks (Bodrova & Leong, 2007). Resultantly, he encouraged more interactive activities among kids to promote cognitive growth like collaboration with others, constructive feedback, and productive discussions. The psychologist also argued that culture was a key determinant of knowledge acquisition. He claimed that kids learn from the attitudes and beliefs modeled by the various cultures.


Cognitive development is a model utilized to illustrate a child’s developmental stages right through to adulthood. It’s constructed to reveal memory, decision-making, and problem-solving. Vygotsky and Piaget’s theories of cognitive development are the same because the approaches both focus on the societal effects on human development (Tryphon & Vonèche, 2013). Piaget believed that kids go through four stages of mental development. His theory delves into how kids understand the environment around them, the world, how they gain understanding, and the progression of their intelligence via the stages (Cherry, 2018). Jean understood that kids took initiatives in widening their knowledge. On the other hand, Vygotsky’s works gained recognition in the early 20th century after developing Lev Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory of Cognitive Development. His theory was much more multifaceted and illustrated that kids gained understanding from interactions with more knowledgeable people and that the development was continual (Tryphon & Vonèche, 2013).

In Piaget’s analysis, he mentions that kids continuously learn, and their various environments shape their thinking. He also argued that as kids get older, they would go via phases of development and that their understanding increases in those phases. Vygotsky believed that symbolism made it possible for kids to develop. When it came to gaining input from the environment, Piaget believed that kids didn’t garner information from the environment, but Vygotsky saw its importance (Cherry, 2018). There are huge similarities and differences to Vygotsky and Piaget’s cognitive development theories. Still, Piaget strongly believed that learning occurred after development, whereas Vygotsky argued that learning occurred before development (Tryphon & Vonèche, 2013). Vygotsky believed in more independence in a kid, while Piaget thought oppositely. He believed that language had an insignificant role in developing a child, unlike Vygotsky, who considered it crucial.


Like any other theory in the psychological field, Vygotsky’s theories have not been exempted from criticism. Some of the common criticisms include:

Testing and observation

Vygotsky’s theories have been criticized for his lack of experimental tests. It is said that Vygotsky relied broadly on the observation of his participants to prove his findings. His vague definition of social interaction, which he fails to state suitable methods to engage with others, allowed critiques to continue until his demise (Liu & Matthews, 2005).

Active participation in the acquisition of knowledge

While some psychologists assume that learning takes place fluidly and naturally, Vygotsky believed that children actively acquire knowledge (Liu & Matthews, 2005). The criticism here is that his theory doesn’t account for a slower rate of cognitive development in some kids. Both passive and genetic experiences are thought to have significant roles as well.

Societal influences

The vagueness of Vygotsky’s theories was limited to the acquisition of knowledge and his theory of language that holds that learning comes from cultural influences. The psychologist minimized the genetics role and instead pin-pointed socialization as the primary language learning (Liu & Matthews, 2005). Though it’s possible that Lev never elaborated on his theory, some observations are pretty detrimental to his work. However, some kids, even with consistent social support, can never develop cognitively until a certain age (Van der Veer & Van Ijzendoorn, 1985).

Lack of cultural relevance

Opponents of his theories argue that they revolve around the fact that social interaction is key to learning, which means that the assumption must be made that all societies are similar, which is very incorrect. 

Guided Learning

One of the theory’s essential aspects, the zone of proximal development, has also been criticized. It has been perceived as an attempt to make the theories of Piaget trendy by rewording his thoughts and presenting them in a different way (Van der Veer & Van Ijzendoorn, 1985). 


Following assessments of classroom activities, various approaches and practices may be adopted in applying Vygotsky’s theories in a classroom setting. One such manner is where the teacher organizes various activities that reflect the learner’s capabilities. According to Albert (2012), applying Vygotsky’s theory within the classroom requires the teacher to include specific activities that reflect what the students can and cannot do independently and what they may accomplish in collaboration with other students. Therefore, as the teacher, I will provide reading activities that the students will have to complete individually and later with their peers. The learning activities will then be classified under every child’s learning zone, thus significantly affecting their development.

To successfully apply Vygotsky’s theories in a classroom setting, I would emphasize group work in solving specific learning problems presented to the students. The primary aim of such actions would be that collaboration in learning by the learners would be improved through group discussions. Group discussion activities would align with the principle of Vygotsky’s theories that states that tutors should aim at enabling student development by creating a learning environment that maximizes the ability of the student to interact with their peers through collaboration and discussions. The participation of each learner in the group activities would be a requirement, as this action would enable discussion among the learners.

As an educator, I would act as a facilitator during this education process, allowing each learner to engage in their learning actively. I would serve as a guide by enabling the learners to learn independently via numerous training activities. Active learning will be achieved via role-playing, whereby the learners will be placed in real-life situations and need to apply their skills in problem-solving. I will direct the learners on what they will be looking for in their respective roles. The approach will reflect a shift from passive learning whereby I, as the teacher, will act as the disseminator of knowledge, providing information for the learners to memorize. This approach will make the educational system serve as a learning experience for the learner and me. Additionally, the strategy will help in enhancing collaboration between the learners and me, thereby assisting in promoting the adherence to the theories of Vygotsky.

Educators should also take additional actions in promoting the alignment of the learning process with the theories of Vygotsky. One such step is engaging the learners in curriculum development. In many classrooms, learners aren’t involved in developing the various fields covered under the curriculum. Many teachers claim that student participation in curriculum development is minimal as the administrators already outline the distinct materials to be covered. It is argued that the students wouldn’t be aware of the materials to be covered at their level due to age. However, on my part, I would engage the learners better in the development of the curriculum by outlining various objectives that aim to accomplish following the course completion. Via brainstorming, I would request the learners to suggest various activities they think can best help achieve the learning outcomes.

Finally, according to Berk & Winsler (1995), the most significant application a teacher can put into place from the theory of Vygotsky is his concepts of the zone of proximal development and scaffolding. This permits educators to realize what a child may do if they only had assistance. They can, after that, provide the learners with the needed scaffolding to help the student develop the skill on their own. In conclusion, Vygotsky’s theories assist in achieving better learning outcomes for learners whereas enhancing the teaching experience. The adoption of the various principles of the theory plays a crucial role in promoting active learning by involving the students in the learning process.


Albert, L. R. (2012). Rhetorical ways of thinking: Vygotskian theory and mathematical learning. Springer Science & Business Media.

Berk, L. E., & Winsler, A. (1995). Scaffolding Children’s Learning: Vygotsky and Early Childhood Education. NAEYC Research into Practice Series. Volume 7. National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1509 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036-1426 (NAEYC catalog# 146).

Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. (2007). Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian approach to early childhood education. New York: Pearson.

Cherry, K. (2018). The 4 stages of cognitive development: Background and key concepts of Piaget’s theory. Developmental Psychology.

Liu, C. H., & Matthews, R. (2005). Vygotsky’s Philosophy: Constructivism and Its Criticisms Examined. International education journal, 6(3), 386-399.

Roth, W. M., & Lee, Y. J. (2007). “Vygotsky’s neglected legacy”: Cultural-historical activity theory. Review of educational research, 77(2), 186-232.

Tryphon, A., & Vonèche, J. (Eds.). (2013). Piaget Vygotsky: The social genesis of thought. Psychology Press.

Van der Veer, R., & Van Ijzendoorn, M. H. (1985). Vygotsky’s theory of the higher psychological processes: Some criticisms. Human development, 28(1), 1-9.

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