Applied Linguistics

Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory scaffolding/Proximal zone

Lev Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory

Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory emphasizes the proactive participation of minors with the environment that surrounds them, with cognitive development being the result of a collaborative process. Lev Vigotsky (Russia, 1896-1934) argued that children develop their learning through social interaction: they acquire new and better cognitive skills as a logical process of their immersion in a way of life. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory scaffolding

Those activities that are carried out in a shared way allow children to internalize the thought and behavioral structures of the society that surrounds them, appropriating them.

Learning and “Proximal Development Zone”

According to Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory, the role of adults or of the most advanced peers is to support, direct and organize the child’s learning, in the step prior to his being able to master these facets, having internalized the structures behavioral and cognitive skills that the activity requires. This orientation is more effective in offering help to the little ones to cross the proximal development zone (ZPD) , which we could understand as the gap between what they are already capable of doing and what they still cannot achieve on their own.

Children who are in the ZPD for a specific task are close to being able to perform it autonomously, but they still need to integrate some key of thought. However, with the proper support and guidance, they are able to do the job successfully. To the extent that collaboration, supervision, and responsibility for learning are covered, the child makes adequate progress in the formation and consolidation of his new knowledge and learning.

The metaphor of scaffolding

Several followers of Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory (for example Wood, 1980; Bruner and Ross, 1976) have brought up the metaphor of ‘ scaffolding ‘ to refer to this mode of learning. The scaffolding consists of the temporary support of adults (teachers, parents, tutors …) that they provide to the child in order to carry out a task until the child is able to carry it out without external help. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory scaffolding

One of the researchers who starts from the theories developed by Lev Vigotsky, Gail Ross, practically studied the scaffolding process in childhood learning. Instructing children between the ages of three and five, Ross used multiple resources. She used to control and be the center of attention in the sessions, and used slow and dramatized presentations to the students in order to show that the achievement of the task was possible. Dr. Ross thus became the one in charge of anticipating everything that was going to happen. He controlled all the parts of the task in which the children worked in a degree of complexity and magnitude commensurate with the previous abilities of each one.

The way in which he presented the tools or objects that were the object of learning allowed the children to discover how to solve and carry out the task on their own, in a more efficient way than if they had only been explained how to solve it. It is in this sense that Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory points out the “zone” between what people can understand when they are shown something in front of them, and what they can generate autonomously. This zone is the zone of proximal development or ZPD that we had mentioned before (Bruner, 1888).

Sociocultural Theory: in context Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory scaffolding

The Sociocultural Theory of the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky has far-reaching implications for education and the assessment of cognitive development. Tests based on the ZPD, which highlight the potential of the child, represent an invaluable alternative to standardized intelligence tests, which often emphasize the knowledge and learning already achieved by the child. Thus, many children benefit from the open, socio-cultural orientation that Vygotsky developed.

Another of the fundamental contributions of the contextual perspective has been the emphasis on the social aspect of development. This theory defends that the normal development of children in a culture or in a group belonging to culture may not be an adequate norm (and therefore cannot be extrapolated) to children from other cultures or societies. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory scaffolding

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