Vygotsky’s sociocultural learning theories main emphasis was, “it is impossible to understand development without considering the culture in which development occurs” (Pressley, & McCormick, 2007. p. 153). In other words a student’s development occurs or appears first on the social level and later on the individual level. The biggest area that is applicable towards classroom learning is through Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development (ZPD). ZPD is an area of development where a student cannot accomplish a task independently but can complete with assistance (p. 156). The main principle which stems from this is the teaching strategy of scaffolding. Scaffolding is an instructional technique commonly used throughout classrooms today where teachers would provide help to students on an as needed basis (p. 158). Scaffolding works with a student’s ZPD in order to allow the student to do as much independently, and when the student faces any challenges the teacher would provide adequate hints or support. It is very important to know that a teacher can easily over prompt, support, or give excessive hints to students. This may result in the students not learning as much because too much information was presented rather than the students learning for themselves.
A specific method that is applicable towards my future classroom is of reciprocal teaching during reading sessions. Reciprocal teaching is consistent with many of Vygotskian principles and is an effective method for helping students to think about their own thought process, learning to be actively involved in their comprehension, and it teaches students to ask question to make the text more comprehensible (Reading Rockets, n.d.). Students will primarily use comprehension strategies of predictions, questions, clarifications, and summarizing while in small groups (Pressley, & McCormick, 2007. p. 164; Reading Rockets, n.d). The ultimate goal is for each group to be student lead as the teacher is progressively less involved. This follows Vygotsky’s theory of social learning because students are first learning through the social level and additionally the teacher would provide support through scaffolding depending on their ZPD.
I personally remember in college during my undergraduate degree doing many group research projects. The knowledge that each member provided to the entirety of the group was instrumental to our success. I felt many times that I had learned much more through the teachings and interpretations from my classmates rather than the professor. It helped put things into clearer perspective when coming from a peer or someone at a similar cognitive level rather than a college professor who is an expert at the subject matter.
Finally, here is a great example of reciprocal strategy used in an elementary classroom:
Pressley, N., & McCormick, C.B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guildford Press.
Reading Rockets, Classroom strategies: reciprocal teaching. (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2012, from http://www.readingrockets.org/strategies/reciprocal_teaching/