Vygotskian Theory of Development
- Yuriy KarpovYuriy KarpovTouro College
Russian followers of Vygotsky have elaborated his theoretical ideas into an innovative theory of development. In this theory, children’s development is viewed as the outcome of adult mediation: adults engage children in the age-specific joint activity (the so-called leading activity) and, in the context of this activity, promote the development in children of a new motive, and teach them new tools of thinking, problem-solving, and self-regulation. As a result, children outgrow their current leading activity and transition to the new leading activity, which is specific to the next age period. Vygotskians have described the leading activities of children in industrialized societies thus:
• first year of life: emotional interactions with caregivers.
• ages one to three: object-centered joint explorations with caregivers.
• ages three to six: sociodramatic play.
• middle childhood: learning at school.
• adolescence: interactions with peers.
Vygotskian developmental theory has received strong empirical support from the studies of contemporary researchers. Its major strength lies in the fact that it integrates in a meaningful way motivational, cognitive, and social factors as resulting in children’s engagement in the age-specific leading activity. This theory also provides an explanation of the mechanism of children’s transition from one developmental stage to the next, which many alternative theories of development fail to do. Some of the Vygotskians’ notions, however, weaken their analysis and can be disputed (for example, their disregard of the role of physiological maturation in children’s development).