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Educational Learning Theories: Chapter 4 Introduction

Chapter 4 Introduction

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Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky (1896-1934) was born in Russia in 1896. He graduated with a law degree from Moscow University. Vygotsky's first big research project was in 1925 with a focus on psychology of art. A few years later, he pursued a career as a psychologist working with Alexander Luria and Alexei Leontiev. Together, they began the Vygotskian approach to psychology. Despite receiving no formal training in psychology, Vygotsky was fascinated by it. After his death of tuberculosis in 1934, his ideas were repudiated by the government. However, his ideas were kept alive by his students. When the Cold War ended in 1960s, Vygotsky's works were introduced to the English-speaking world. Vygotsky has written several articles and books on his theories and psychology, including Thought and Language, a widely recognized classic foundational work of cognitive science, published in 1934, the same year after his death.

Vygotsky is best known for being an educational psychologist with a sociocultural theory. This theory suggests that social interaction leads to continuous step-by-step changes in children's thought and behavior that can vary greatly from culture to culture (Woolfolk, 1998). Basically, Vygotsky's theory suggests that development depends on interaction with people and the tools that the culture provides to help form their own view of the world. There are three ways a cultural tool can be passed from one individual to another. The first one is imitative learning, where one person tries to imitate or copy another. The second way is by instructed learning which involves remembering the instructions of the teacher and then using these instructions to self-regulate. The final way that cultural tools are passed on to others is through collaborative learning, which involves a group of peers who strive to understand each other and work together to learn a specific skill (Tomasello, Kruger, & Ratner, 1993).