Vygotsky: The Time Traveler

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I have been asked to state my personal theory for online learning and teaching. I am solid with Lev Vygotsky (1980). My personal learning theory, whether online, face-to-face, blended, or hybrid, will always be the Social Development Theory.

Jeremy Sawyer (2014) wrote an article about the life and works of Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) for the International Socialist Review. While working at a school for disabled children, Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist, sought to understand and explain the deeper meanings of human nature and psychology. He later theorized that learning and development are social, that individuals need collaboration with others to develop, and social, cultural, and historical experiences are the foundations of knowledge. Vygotsky’s central premise was that human consciousness springs from material, social activity and that by transforming the world we also transform ourselves psychologically (Sawyer, 2014, para. 13).

In his work, Mind, and Society, Vygotsky theorized there are three levels of human development: evolutionary, sociohistorical, and individual. Vygotsky argued that, to understand psychology, one must first understand human society.  While examining Vygotsky’s works, learning-theories.com (2016) identified three of his three fundamental philosophies:

  • Social Interactions (SI). Vygotsky considered social interactions as the dominant process in cognitive development. In other words, he felt a child’s education began long before he came to school.  Through the child’s interactions with society and people (interpsychological), the child takes the first steps toward cognitive thinking, logic, and problem-solving. The child later builds on this foundational knowledge after he starts school and begins his formal education (intrapsychological).
  • More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). Vygotsky theorized that children would learn from teachers, coaches, or any other social contact the child feels is more knowledgeable and skilled at performing a task, process or concept than they are.
  • Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Vygotsky argued there is a distance between what a child already knows and what they need to know to perform a task or master a learning principle. He coined this as the ZPD.  Vygotsky argues an MKO is required to guide and support the learner progressively using worked-out examples and coaching while the child is within the ZPD. But, Vygotsky stipulates the guidance and coaching should progressively decrease as the learner builds skills until the child can complete the task independently (“Social Development Theory (Vygotsky),” 2016).

Vygotsky wrote many works on the psychology of Marxism at the onset of the Russian Revolution. His publications regarding oppression and exploitation of the masses, the society collaborative, and social struggle got his works banned and burned after Vygotsky died at the age of 39 years and Joseph Stalin rose to power. Vygotsky remained relatively unknown in the West until his first work was published in 1962.  Modern translations and critical analysis of his works have now propelled Vygotsky to the forefront of contemporary psychology, and he is considered the Father of Social Constructivism.  In fact, Vygotsky’s work has come to be so respected, entire schools of thought are grounded by his theories – with Vygotsky at center stage.

To me, Vygotsky’s theories are just as relevant today as they were 84 years ago.  As I read his works and grow into an understanding of his theories,  I am convinced he was a time traveler who found final rest within the era he was needed most: today.

I plan to conduct a meta-analysis of pertinent qualitative and quantitative literature and data from several selected studies to develop my assumptions regarding the effectiveness of integrating Vygotsky’s learning theories into synchronous and asynchronous distance learning platforms.  I identified examples of the literature I will examine in the list of References that follow this blog. The citation tools I will use to organize my literature review are RefWorks and Citefast.

Research on learning theories has become very exciting to me these days. I’m having a blast too.


Morgan, H. (2013). Maximizing Student Success with Differentiated Learning. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues, and Ideas, 87(1), 34-38. doi:10.1080/00098655.2013.832130

Palincsar, A. S., Fitzgerald, M. S., Marcum, M. B., & Sherwood, C. (2017). Examining the work of “scaffolding” in theory and practice: A case study of 6 th graders and their teacher interacting with one another, an ambitious science curriculum, and mobile devices. International Journal of Educational Research. doi:10.1016/j.ijer.2017.11.006

Rodgers, E., D’Agostino, J. V., Harmey, S. J., Kelly, R. H., & Brownfield, K. (2016). Examining the Nature of Scaffolding in an Early Literacy Intervention. Reading Research Quarterly, 51(3), 345-360. doi:10.1002/rrq.142

Sawyer, J. (2014). Vygotsky’s revolutionary theory of psychological development | International Socialist Review. Retrieved from https://isreview.org/issue/93/vygotskys-revolutionary-theory-psychological-development

Social Development Theory (Vygotsky). (2016, September 8). Retrieved from https://www.learning-theories.com/vygotskys-social-learning-theory.html#contributors

Warren, S. J., & Wakefield, J. S. (n.d.). Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions. Handbook of Mobile Learning. doi:10.4324/9780203118764.ch7

Warren, S. J., Wakefield, J. S., Knight, K. A., & Alsobrook, M. (n.d.). Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions. Cases on Educational Technology Implementation for Facilitating Learning, 193-213. doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-3676-7.ch012

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

2 thoughts on “Vygotsky: The Time Traveler

  1. If you’re enjoying Vygotsky, you might want to also look at Bandera’s social learning theory: Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

    This seems in-line with you understanding about interaction and how learning is a socialized process. I think you will enjoy the reading for this week as we get into “messy” and complexity with how learning is interconnected and evolving as we process knowledge with others (Ross & Collier, 2016 Chapter).


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