Vygotsky’s ideas on constructivism are nothing short of brilliant that promotes a largely beneficial school of thought for education. One of its most salient points was about the importance of a competent mentor that facilitates learning. Vygotsky readily suggests parents as the first and original, to provide the initial social interaction for a child, but as biological maturity proceeds in a typical society, so does the need for a child to enter formal education.
Inevitably, this means that a huge chunk of a child’s life of the next 12 years or so will be spend in the care of school administrators; to be put under the heavy influence of curriculum life as its virtual bible and the youth at the mercy of class room teachers from age 4 to 5 to their formative years, puberty and then adolescence and adult life. This shows how great of an impact, and of responsibility the education system has on a person’s life, and you may ask who becomes their closest mentors next to their parents? None other than the teachers. An unbelievably huge privilege and a responsibility at that.
But, as teachers and future ones reading Vygotsky and his preaching on the need for good teachers to become proper role models, I cannot help but reflect on non-performing students. They are the ones who we could consider underdeveloped— lacking in critical thinking, displays poor reasoning abilities, lacking knowledge on correct learning techniques and strategies. The list can go on but what I am pointing out here is an observation I have made… are weak students necessarily mentored by incompetent teachers- models?
The following passage is quoted from Saul McLeod’s article on the famous thinker Vygotsky’s thoughts on social influences on cognitive development:
According to Vygotsky (1978), much important learning by the child occurs through social interaction with a skillful tutor. The tutor may model behaviors and/or provide verbal instructions for the child. Vygotsky refers to this as cooperative or collaborative dialogue. The child seeks to understand the actions or instructions provided by the tutor (often the parent or teacher) then internalizes the information, using it to guide or regulate their own performance. (2014)
Following this claim, it might well mean that the reverse could also be true? Think of the Ivy League and a local community college: does it mean that students who attend the top schools who boast of the best education in the United States (maybe even the world) are the way they are primarily because they are being mentored by elite minds of the American academe, during and pre- tertiary? And does that also follow that the converse is true, that if you find yourself poorly performing and lacking in the fundamental pillars skills, then it is partly because that you’ve been mentored by passive teachers, by teachers who didn’t really care, by teachers who lacked passion and the drive to be able to become the best model for their students, or worse, by teachers who are also equally clueless and misinformed?
I do not wish to discount the fact that the self accounts for something in cognitive development, as Piaget and the others who had developed theories on intelligence and the like, but as far as social cognition is concerned, do you think Vygotsky will blame incompetence of the tutor in his model?
I believe that this module has shown us the heavy importance of Piaget’s lessons to current and future educators in educating us about readiness (the stages of cognitive development), and Vygotsky on material and teaching appropriateness (the ZPD) and the significance of skillful models (McLeod, 2014). In the end, perhaps both the self and social factors determine our rate of cognitive development and one cannot be given more significance over the other, and neither one can be blamed more than the other.
McLeod, S. (2014) Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html#social
Dweck, C. Mindset. Free Books Online, p 39. Retrieved from http://www.freebooksol.net/Mindset/39.html
Cherry, K. Piaget’s Stage of Cognitive Development. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/piagetstheory/a/keyconcepts.htm