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Vygotsky and Language as a Cultural Tool

Cultural tools shape cognitive development and can include both technical tools, which act on the environment, and psychological tools, which are tools for thinking. Discuss Vygotsky's belief that language is the most significant of the cultural tools. Do you agree or disagree? Examine the given images of other psychological tools. Discuss how time may influence cognitive development from the perspective of the sociocultural theories. What do you feel are the ramifications of your tool on student learning? Is your chosen tool an example of the "ratchet effect"? Defend your answer.

Thought and speech have different roots in humankind, thought being nonverbal and language being nonintellectual in an early stage. However, their development lines are not parallel - they cross again and again. At a certain moment around the age of two, the curves of development of thought and speech, until then separate, meet and join to initiate a new form of behavior. That is when thought becomes verbal and speech becomes rational. A child first seems to use language for superficial social interaction, but at some point this language goes underground to become the structure of the child's thinking (Schutz, 2004).

According to Vygotsky, once the child realizes that everything has a name, each new object presents the child with a problem situation, and he solves the problem by naming the object. When he lacks the word for the new object, he demands it from adults. The early word-meanings thus acquired will be the embryos of concept formation (Schutz, 2004).

I personally agree with Vygotsky in the sense that language acquisiton can not take place in a vacuum. The child requires modeling, practice and interaction in order to follow the language of his social group and then later concept development. Language is not merely an expression of the knowledge the child has acquired. There is a fundamental correspondence between thought and speech in terms of one providing resource to the other; language becoming essential in forming thought and determining personality features (Schutz, 2004).

Another psychological tool he refers to is the zone of proximal development. This means the zone of proximal development includes all the functions and activities that a child or a learner can perform only with the assistance of someone else. The person in this scaffolding process, providing non-intrusive intervention, could be an adult (parent, teacher, caretaker, language instructor) or another peer who has already mastered that particular function (Schutz, 2004). His zone of proximal development also relates to time. That is, The zone of proximal development, or ZPD, refers to the distance between what a child can do with assistance and what the child can accomplish without assistance (Lewis, N.D.).

During the the learning process, a child begins by basically copying an adult's example; the child is initially unable to achieve a given task without assistance. However the child is, at that time, capable of achieving more complex tasks with adult assistance. The difference between these two accomplishments is called the Zone of Proximal Development (Lewis, n.d.). A child's ZPD is constantly changing as he or she masters increasingly challenging tasks with time (Lewis, n.d.)

I looked at a simple explanation to understand the ratchet effect better. The example is: Two stair like plates move alongside each other ultimately downwards. However, while one of them slides down uniformly, the other one staggers up and down, with the cumulative motion still being downwards (cuttheknot.org, n.d.). One can look at the zone of proximal development in a similar way. Human growth, whether intellectual or physical can be looked upon in a similar way. Growth does not always occur at an even keel but in spurts as the child is ready for them. One child may speak at 9 months old, another at 18 months, and yet they both follow the sociocultural theory that Vygotsky was referring to.

References:

Lewis, B. (n.d.). Zone of Proximal Development. Retrieved from http://k6educators.about.com/od/educationglossary/g/gzpd.htm
Morrison, G.S. (2009) Early Childhood Education Today, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Publishing.
Ratchet Effect. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cut-the-knot.org/Curriculum/Probability/Ratchet.shtml
Schutz, R. (n.d.). Vygotsky and Language Acquisition. Retrieved from http://www.sk.com.br/sk-vygot.html

Solution Preview

Vygotsky's theory is called sociocultural. This means that children's mental, language and social development is enhanced by social interactions. His theory is in direct opposition to Piaget's, who saw children's development as much more solitary. Vygotsky believed that learning becomes alive for children when children interact in their environment and in collaboration (Morrison, 2009). He further believed that children seek out and interact with adults throughout their growing years. In order for these interactions to occur, students need to develop language which further enhances their cognitive development (Morrison, 2009).

Thought and speech have different roots in humankind, thought being nonverbal and language being nonintellectual in an early stage. However, their development lines are not parallel - they cross again and again. At a certain moment around the age of two, the curves of development of thought and speech, until then separate, meet and join to initiate a new form of behavior. That is when thought becomes verbal and speech becomes rational. A child first seems to use language for ...

Solution Summary

Vygotsky's theory is called sociocultural. This means that children's mental, language and social development is enhanced by social interactions. His theory is in direct opposition to Piaget's, who saw children's development as much more solitary. Vygotsky believed that learning becomes alive for children when children interact in their environment and in collaboration (Morrison, 2009). He further believed that children seek out and interact with adults throughout their growing years. In order for these interactions to occur, students need to develop language which further enhances their cognitive development (Morrison, 2009).

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