Saturday, February 10, 2018

Spasibo, Daddy Vygotsky!

I am sure that such terms as Scaffolding, and of course, the Zone of Proximal Development, will not be missed in discussions of contributions of Lev Vygotsky in educational psychology. But other than those widely popular concepts attributed to him, how much do we know his concepts further?

I was mystified - and am still mystified until today - with the enduring concepts of brilliant psychologists in history like Lev Vygotsky. I used to teach a topic of him a few years back, but my past knowledge about his ideas pale in shame this time as I digested these books for my course requirements:

Vygotsky and more, anyone?

For that shameful reason, allow my notes get into this online space as I share to you some, just some, of the extended concepts I learned. Take note of the capitalized words as I am either introducing them or discussing them with some twist as Lev Vygotsky was "weird" indeed in his ideas.

One of the most quoted statement of Vygotsky has been the GENERAL GENETIC LAW OF CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT which states that “any function in the child’s cultural development appears twice or on two planes… it appears first between people as an intermental category, and then within the child as an intramental category.” Though this statement appears to be simple, it actually opens a can of worms I need to tediously study. It elaborates the social and individual planes where cognitive development occurs. It touches the two major concepts of internalization process and appropriation process.

The most important and perhaps the most popular of his psychological discovery is the ZONE OF PROXIMAL DEVELOPMENT. Instead of discussing it, I focused mainly on what people do not usually know. While recognizing that a child can accomplish more with scaffold, it was claimed that the potential of the child – even with help – is limited. This makes sense though. I believe ZPD is one of the most misunderstood concept of Vygotsky. Many parents believe that children can do so much with ZPD to the point that they push children to learn what is beyond their range or level. I pity these children who had to suffer the pressure early. We must educate parents.

The analysis of Vygotsky about PLAY is also interesting than most common that we know about it. Though he wrote so little on the topic, it is more evocative than definitive. My interest in this portion was piqued around the paradoxes about play. I am taking liberty to quote him once from the books about these paradoxes: “In one sense a child at play is free to determine his own actions. But in another sense this is an illusory freedom, for his actions are in fact subordinated to meanings of things, and he acts accordingly.” Alright, freedom but no freedom! 

We can merrily express "spasibo" or thanks the Russian way to Lev Vygotsky for the concepts of Scaffolding and of course, the Zone of Proximal Development, and all the rest. It is good to explore farther than the horizon our eyes can view although a synthesis like this post would not be enough capture the entirety of his bright ideas. And other than that, synthesizing bright ideas is never an easy task. 

For now, going back to the reality of life, wish me the best of luck on my oral report on this topic. This is funny but I feel nervous just thinking about it.

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