Section 2, Article 2 - While Piaget focused on the individual’s nature in cognitive development, his peer Lev Vygotsky emphasized the social aspect of cognitive development. Vygotsky postulated that it is a child’s social context that shapes their developing mind (). Preschool age children are inquisitive and perceptive, asking many questions about the world around them. There to answer these questions are the child’s caretakers, Vygotsky called these individuals “mentors.” In addition to caretakers such as parents or babysitters, teachers and older siblings can also be considered mentors in a child’s life. Having more knowledge of the world, mentors use guided participation to help children learn. Just as Christ, the ultimate shepherd mentor guides believers in the development of their faith, mentors support the acquisition of knowledge by presenting children with challenges, provide motivation and the information necessary for children to master tasks.
Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky
Vygotsky used the term Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) to describe the mental level at which children can almost perform a task, but still require help. It is in the ZPD that learning takes place. Here the mentor will aid the child in their individual ZPD with scaffolding, which is the temporary support for mastering tasks that fosters independence and growth. Important to the success of scaffolding is the sensitivity to understand the child’s individual needs and abilities.
At this stage of development children often engage in overimitation of their mentor by repeating the irrelevant actions of the behavior being modeled. Overimitation is exhibited by children across cultures in the imitation of meaningless customs and habits that are and unnecessary for to perform a given task. Private speech, speech that is directed to themselves when engaging in the world that surrounds them, is also used by preschool age children. Vygotsky believed that private speech develops the mind and is especially important in early childhood (). With his emphasis on social learning, ZPD, and scaffolding, Vygotsky’s theories of cognitive development have many applications to education.