Feb 12, 2013
The Implication of Vigotsky’s Work to Mathematics Education
Proper organisation of the learning is the key factor in the pedagogic processes described by Vygotsky in which the teacher holds for the responsibility of the child's learning. This implies careful diagnostic assessment of the child's existing category system and appropriate sequencing of learning experiences to move the child from that point towards the next defined curricular goal (Galloway and Edwards, 1991).
The process of generalization indicates the abstraction of rules and the beginnings of the development of internal consciousness and higher cognitive functioning (Evans, 1986); through this process the curriculum is changed and developed to meet the needs of the pupils more fully. By concentrating on the analysis of the overall process of education, Vygotsky sees teachers occupying a didactic role.
He defined intelligence as the capacity to learn from instruction (Sutherland, 1992); it implies that the teacher should guide her pupils in paying attention, concentration and learning effectively; the teacher should scaffold a pupil to competence in any skill. Vygotsky places the teacher firmly alongside the child in a process of jointly constructing meaning and so emphasises the importance of language and communication in the construction of an understanding of the world (Galloway and Edwards, 1991).
The teacher's role then is to make the classroom as rich an interactive learning community as she or he can and through language to lead children into new zones of proximal development (Gipps, 1994); and he suggested that instruction is most effective when it is addressed to the child's zone of proximal development (Blenkin & Kelly, 1984). Internalization of the learning is demonstrated through the ability to transfer the learning to new situation (Evans, 1986).
Vygotsky proposed that every specific state of a pupil's development is characterized by an actual development level and a level of potential development (Hoyles, 1987); the pupil is not able to exploit the possibilities at the latter level on her own, but can do so with educational support; thus, teaching should provide 'scaffolding' for voyaging into the next level of intended learning. Hoyles (1987) concluded that the ideas of providing 'scaffolding' leads on to think about this model of teaching which does not necessarily lead to conflict between the learner's autonomy and pedagogic guidance.
It is important to note here that Vygotsky at one time acknowledge the operation of societal or social institutional forces; Vygotsky and Mead studied social processes in small group interaction in terms of interpersonal dynamics and communication. As emphasized by Vygotsky (1978), the social context affects development at both the institutional and material level, as well as the interpersonal level. In development, children adapt their cognitive and social skills to the particular demands of their culture through practice in particular activities; children learn to use physical and conceptual tools provided by the culture to handle the problems of importance in routine activities (ibid, p. 328).
Study after study has documented the absence in classrooms of the fundamental tool for the teaching of children: assistance provided by more capable others that is responsive to goal-directed activities (Tharp and Gallimore, 1988). To provide assistance in the ZPD, the teacher must be in close touch, sensitive and accurate in assisting. There should be opportunities for assisted performance, for using of small groups and for the maintenance of a positive classroom atmosphere that will increase independent task involvement of students, new material and technology with which students can interact independent of the learner (ibid, p. 58).
The explicit implication from above propositions for the teaching of primary mathematics is that the children need to actively engage with mathematics, posing as well as solving problems, discussing the mathematics embedded in their own lives and environment as well as broader social context (Ernest, 1991). The appropriate of teaching, as he suggested, may include a number of components : genuine discussion, both student-student and student-teacher, since learning is the social construction of meaning; cooperative groupwork, project-work and problem solving for confidence, engagement and mastery; autonomous projects, exploration, problem posing and investigative work, for creativity, student self-direction and engagement through personal relevance; learner questioning of course contents, pedagogy and the modes of assessment used, for critical thinking; and, socially relevant materials, projects and topics, including race, gender and mathematics, for social engagements and empowerment.
Related to the resources of teaching, Ernest (1991) suggested that due to the learning should be active, varied, socially engaged and self-regulating, the theory of resources has three main components : (1) the provision of a wide variety of practical resources to facilitate the varied and active teaching approaches; (2) the provision of authentic material, such as newspaper, official statistics, and so on for socially relevant and socially engaged study and investigation; and (3) the facilitation of student self-regulated control and access to learning resources.
When cognitive change is considered as much a social as an individual process, new question arise about when and how to track or measure change (Newman, et al., 1989). This is about the role of assessment in the process of instructional interaction. In the 'dynamic assessment', derives from a particular interpretation of Vygotsky's zone of proximal development (ZPD), the ZPD provides a very interesting alternative to the traditional standardized test (Newman, et al., 1989). For Vygotsky, assessment which focuses only on a child's actual level of attainment or development is incomplete and gives only a partial picture.
Instead of giving the children a task and measuring how well they do or how badly they fail, one can give the children the task and observe how much and what kind of help they need in order to complete the task successfully; in this approach the child is not assessed alone; rather, the social system of the teacher and child is dynamically assessed to determined how far along it had progressed. Assessment tasks and outcomes should be open to pupil discussion, scrutiny and negation where appropriate, and student choice for topic for investigation and project-work (Ernest, 1991). Further, he suggested that the content of assessment tasks, such as projects and examination questions, should include socially embedded mathematical issues, requiring critical thinking about the social role of mathematics.
Within the ZPD, and suggest that clarification and communication of purpose, aims, and expectations are central to strategy for self-assessment; the variation in assistance to the child that Tharp and Gallimore describe permeate this account of development activities as assessment itself is treated as a performance. He found that, by interviewing the children in the six classes aged between 5 and 9, pupils self-assessment provide the basis for development activities with the clarification of purposes, aims, and expectation through the use of long-term aims and short-term target.
Tharp and Gallimore's model provides a framework for developing the ways in which children can be encouraged to assess their own progress; the clarification and evaluation of targets become a zone in which each child's performance is assisted by their teacher (ibid, p.236); as they become involved in their own assessment they gradually take over the task and complement the wide range of skills and talents with each child begins school. So the purpose of mathematics education should be enable students to realize, understand, judge, utilize and sometimes also perform the application of mathematics in society, in particular to situations which are of significance to their private, social and professional lives (Niss, 1983, in Ernest, 1991).
Accordingly, the curriculum should be based on project to help the pupil's self-development and self-reliance; the life situation of the learner is the starting point of educational planning; knowledge acquisition is part of the projects; and social change is the ultimate aim of the curriculum (Ernest, 1991).
Adler, I., 1968, Mathematics and Mental Growth, London : Dennis Dobson.
Becker, W., et al., 1975, Teaching 2: Cognitive Learning and Instruction, Chicago : Science Research Associates.
Vygotsky, L.S, 1966, 'Genesis of the higher mental functions' in Light, P. et al. , 1991, Learning to Think : Child Development in Social Context 2, London : Routledge.
Tharp, R. and Gallimore, R., 1988, 'A theory of teaching as assisted performance' in Light, P. et al. , 1991, Learning to Think : Child Development in Social Context 2, London : Routledge.