Vygotsky’s theory is one that I have used often in my assignments, especially when discussing early childhood and development. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory is based on the understanding that children are social, that meaningful learning occurs in social environments that are rich in interaction, and that learners use their prior experiences to build upon what they already know. In the past I’ve used Vygotsky’s theories in essays and reflections to explain my own observations and support statements I have made surrounding the social nature of learning.
In my experience with young children and learning, I’ve found that my observations can usually be explained using Vygotsky’s ideas, so I agree with most aspects of his sociocultural theory. I personally believe that the idea of the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’, a theory that explains the way learners build upon prior knowledge to make sense of new experiences and construct new understandings, is correct as I can explain my own learning experiences with this theory. Being able to explain my own observations with these theories has also contributed to me favourable view on Vygotsky’s theories.
While I have a positive view on Vygotsky’s theories, I’ve always believed that there is no ‘one’ theory on child development, and that each theory has strengths and limitations. Even so, I’ve never considered Vygotsky as ‘invalid’ or ‘wrong’, because I have always thought his theories are quite strong. Through engagement with EDC3100, I have read an interesting article by Donald Clark, titled ‘9 Reasons Why I Am Not Social‘, which has given me a totally new way of seeing Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. While I don’t agree with every point Clark makes, I can understand the point he makes about a child’s ‘fate’ as a result of their social circumstance. In a way, Vygotsky’s theory does create somewhat of a stereotype of advantage and disadvantage – children who are raised in an environment with limited social interaction could be viewed as being less prepared or equipped to deal with the educational context. I have seen this stereotype perpetuated – comments such as “oh, you can’t expect much, have you met his parents/siblings?”.
It’s a side of this theory that I hadn’t considered before. In reviewing my EDC3100 peers’ reflections on theories, I was particularly interested in Stacey Kruse’s post ‘Theories in Education – Vygotsky’s On My Mind‘ because it relates to how I am thinking about my own practices.
“I need to revisit the many theories and take the time to reflect on how each can play a part in my area of expertise. Each child, each context, each specific situation brings with it such diversity and I think I owe it to myself and to my students to bring a diversity of thought and perspective into my thinking, planning and teaching.” – Stacey Kruse
As an early childhood educator, a significant part of my job is interpreting observations and providing appropriate experiences for young children. To be able to do this effectively, I need to stay on top of new theories that are constantly developing to ‘refresh’ my understandings, and be able to see my observations through another lens. To bring diversity to the table, instead of thinking the thing I have always thought.