Child development social cognitive theory : Social Development

Child development social cognitive theory

Born in Orsha, a part of the Russian Empire (now known as Belarus) on 17th November 1896, Vygotsky was a pioneer of psychology; he contributed much important research to the field. He graduated from the Moscow State University in 1917, and went on to work in many research facilities and and educational establishments in Moscow, Leningrad and Kharkov. His extensive research into cognitive development has lead his theory to be one of the most important of it’s kind. He believed that children’s thinking is affected by their social knowledge, which are communicated by either psychological (language, number, art) or technical (books, calculator) means. He was – and sometimes still is – often criticised for being an idealist and his overemphasis of the role of language in thinking (more on the criticisms later). He was also a very popular author, with 6 volumes of his work being classed as major.

Vygotsky rarely conducted research; he was more focused on constructing the best possible theory on the transfer of knowledge. Unfortunately, Vygotsky died at the very young age of 37 in 1934 from Tuberculosis, but once his main work was translated to English in 1962, it had a major impact on other psychological research in similar fields.

ZPD DiagramVygotsky’s theory of cognitive development.

As stated above, Vygotsky believed children’s thinking is affected by their knowledge of the social community (which is learnt from either technical or psychological cultural tools). He also suggested that language is the most important tool for gaining this social knowledge; the child can be taught this from other people via language. He defined intelligence as “the capacity to learn from instruction”, which emphasises the fact there is a requirement for a more knowledgable other person or ‘teacher’. He referred to them as just that: the More Knowledgable Other (MKO). MKO’s can be parents, adults, teachers, coaches, experts/professionals – but also things you might not first expect, such as children, friends and computers.

He described something known as the zone of proximal development (ZPD), which is a key feature of his theory. There are two levels of attainment for the ZPD:

  • Level 1 – the ‘present level of development’. This describes what the child is capable of doing without any help from others.
  • Level 2 – the ‘potential level of development’. This means what the child could potentially be capable of with help from other people or ‘teachers’.

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My child's preschool conference report

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Child's favorite areas: art, dramatic play, playdough, circle time, music, swings and bicycles.
Social and emotional development: Comes right in and chooses an activity, is busy throughout the day, independently going from one area to another. Plays with many of the classmates, enjoying the conversation and interaction. Is very comfortable at school and accepts help and attention from teachers.
Self Help Skills: Independently takes care of personal needs (in the bathroom, at snack time). Is able to take turns and cooperatively sit next to another child during circle time and snack

Oxford University Press Apprenticeship in Thinking: Cognitive Development in Social Context
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Vygotsky's Developmental Theory: An Introduction
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Cambridge University Press Vygotsky's Educational Theory in Cultural Context (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives)
Book (Cambridge University Press)
Oxford University Press Kodály Today: A Cognitive Approach to Elementary Music Education
Book (Oxford University Press)
Springer New York Handbook of Executive Functioning
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