What role do both the people in one’s life and one’s overall environment play in human learning and development?
Theories & Theorists Lev Vygotsky • Sociocultural Theory & Social Constructivism • Zone of Proximinal Development & Scaffolding
Vygotsky Vygotsky supports our framework in answering the question that human beings are influenced by their parents, their peers, their sociocultural environment, their physical environment, and their classroom environment. These factors play a crucial role in shaping human learning and development. Vygotsky thought: …human activities must be understood in their cultural settings. He believed that our specific mental structures and processes can be traced to our interactions with others; that the tools of the culture, especially the tool of language, are key factors in development; and that the zone of proximinal development is the area where learning and development are possible. (Pearson, 2010)
Vgotsky Furthermore, he stressed the important role adults and capable peers play in a child’s cognitive development: This adult assistance provides early support while students build the understanding necessary to solve problems on their own later. (Pearson, 2010).
Piaget JeanPiaget is also essential to consider as his theory examines how “people try and make sense of the world and actively create knowledge through direct experiences with objects, people and ideas” (Pearson, 2010). The factors that his theory attributes as being essential to the way that thinking processes and knowledge develops are as follows: maturation, activity, social transmission, and the need for equilibrium. According to Piaget, our cognitive development is influenced by social transmission, or learning from others. Without social transmission, we would need to reinvent all the knowledge already offered by our culture (Pearson, 2010).
Piaget In addition to social transmission, a human being’s cognitive abilities can be affected by biology and basic needs. Dr. Larry Holt and Dr. Kysilka Marcella, authors of the book Instructional Patterns: Strategies for Maximizing Student Learning, note that “During the first years of life, the brain becomes wired as we learn… infants makes connections for movement, sight, and sounds.” (18) These connections strengthen neuron pathways, which contribute to learning. Essentially, the brain begins learning at birth and its chemical makeup can be affected by the amount of exposure it has to movement, sight and sound. This corresponds with Piaget’s belief that within the first stage of development, the sensorimotor stage, children learn through their senses. It is possible that a child who is highly encouraged to uses his or her senses might have stronger neuron pathways than the child who is less encouraged.
Maslow Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory is important as it examines the basic needs of humans and how if one or any of these needs are not met, it can affect one’s ability to learn. Whether or not a student had breakfast, stayed up too late, or is experiencing some kind of stress in his home environment all factor into the student’s ability to learn, develop, and function as a contributing member of his class. These needs can only be met by the people in the student’s environment. The following quotes serve to further illustrate the significance of Maslow’s theory: Some children grow up in very favorable conditions, having dependable access to good nutrition and health care, loving and protective home environments, cognitively rich social interactions and high-quality teachers and schools. (Pearson, 2010).
Maslow The first four needs in the hierarchy – physiological, safety, love and belonging, and esteem – relate to things a learner may lack; hence, Maslow called them deficiency needs. Deficiency needs can only be met by external sources – by people and events in one’s environment (Pearson, 2010).
Our Answer to the Question… We believe that in examining the theories of Vygotsky, Piaget and Maslow the following factors impactlearning and development in a variety of critical ways: Peers, parents, biology and classroom environment. All of these must be considered to be intrinsic in the study of human learning and development.