Lev Vygostsky, a Russian born psychologist, formulated the Social Development Theory following a Marxist framework. The theory asserts three major themes that are integral in his understanding of learning. Firstly, it states that social interaction and language are fundamental components in cognitive development. Secondly, it talks about the More Knowledgeable Other (MKO), which refers to anyone who is more skilled or more knowledgeable who can help the child or learner achieve his task. Lastly, it discusses the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), which is the distance between a learner’s ability to do things independently and his ability to complete a task under the guidance of another individual. Although his work was overshadowed by Jean Piaget, Vgostky’s theory is slowly gaining popularity. Today, many pre-schools have adapted to his model of cognitive development, where teachers have started to observe and collaborate with their students in order to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience with their students.
Lev Vygotsky was born in Russia in 1896 to a middle class family. He graduated from Moscow University with a Degree in Law and a specialization in Literature in1917. Thereafter, Vgotsky taught Literature in a Secondary School, where became interested with psychology and educational theories, particularly the relationships of cognitive and language development to learning in children (Mooney, 2013). Through this, Vygotsky designed a sociocultural approach to cognitive development, which he called the Social Development Theory. This effort however, was cut short when he died of Tuberculosis at the age of 38.
Social Development Theory
Since Vgotsky never had training in psychology and development, he provided a fresh perspective in child development. His work tackles three major principles: Social Interaction and Language, the More Knowledgeable Other, and the Zone of Proximal Development.
Social Interaction and Language
Lev Vygotsky drew from a Marxist perspective in understanding cognitive development. Like Karl Marx who emphasized the importance of social-historical environment in understanding human beings, Vgotsky stressed on the fundamental role of social interaction and the community in the process of cognition growth. Through this, he identified two lines of development, namely, (a) natural line or development that comes from within and (b) social-historical line or development as influenced from the outside (Crain, 2005).
In addition, Vgotksy, as inspired by the theory of Friedrich Engels, also explored the significance of tools in cognitive development (Crain, 2005). He identified speech as the most important tool in facilitating a child’s thinking since it is the main method of sharing information to children.
According to Vygotsky, social and cognitive development work together through the help of communication. Much important learning by the child occurs through interactions with others since the other person may provide behaviors or instructions in which a child seeks to learn from (Crain, 2005).
More Knowledgeable Other
Through his research, he came up with the premise that, “in a group of children at the same developmental level, some children were able to learn with a little help while other children were not.” (Mooney, 2013. pg.99). The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) refers to someone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level or skill than the learner. These are individuals who a child can learn from, be it a teacher, a parent, or even a peer (Mc Leod, 2007). “Vygotsky also views interaction with peers as an effective way of developing skills and strategies. He suggests that teachers use cooperative learning exercises where less competent children develop with help from more skillful peers” (Maloney, 2013, pg. 99)
Zone of Proximal Development