As a student in any higher education study involving becoming a teacher, we have all heard of the great Russian Psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934). He was one of the first people I heard about along with the Swiss Developmental Psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) when I began taking education classes. The thing that I did not understand, or maybe did not pay attention to at the time was the fact that Vygotsky was only 38 when he died, and yet we still study his Zone of Proximal Development and use it in our teaching today. His research and discovery is timeless.
My philosophy of teaching and learning utilizes Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. I believe that in order to teach students so that they become independent learners, we must discover where they are and build upon their background of experiences, technical skills and metacognitive ability. As we build upon this background, we begin to solidify what they know so they may better utilize these skills and understandings in any endeavor they choose to undertake as a healthy, productive citizen. But before that, building this solid foundation of skills and broadening of their metacognitive ability continues to help them achieve in school at higher levels. As our children grow, we must facilitate their learning through strong connections with their skills and with their understanding of their ability to achieve. Further, this will assist in their positive outlook of self.
Specifically in reading, if my kiddos miss important parts of learning to read, they will struggle for a lifetime across the curriculum and many undertakings they attempt. For this reason, I believe wholeheartedly in the scaffolding approach as a major strategy in teaching literacy. Although Vygotsky never used the term “scaffolding”, it is precisely a method which falls within his theory of how students learn within their Zone of Proximal Development, the space between which students learn independently and where they can learn with help. Scaffolding is unique in that we can incorporate other teaching methods, strategies and lesson plans within its realm. For example, reciprocal teaching is a perfect example of scaffolding as we teach students how to teach themselves and learn from each other.
How can we know where we are going if we do not know where we are? Could I draw you a map of how to get to a certain place such as my home in Kansas City if I did not have a clue where you are coming from? All students enter preschool at a different level. Their background of experiences is already extensive and varied. By working within students’ abilities to learn with help, we can use a wide array of teaching strategies that can be accomplished within scaffolding. You will find within my portfolio, most recently within my Classroom Action Research Plan a semester curriculum based on this theory and using the scaffolding teaching strategy. Also, throughout the remainder of my portfolio are several examples of scaffolded instruction techniques. It is interesting to note that even in my very first class, Teaching Language Arts, I incorporated the learning logs strategy, scaffolding how to use them throughout the semester with my students as they learned how to journal what they learned in class.
We can only take our kids so far. After that, they are on their own. If we teach them how to take what they know and use it and to think about how they can go even further on their own, we have successfully done our job as teachers.
From Reading Graduate Portfolio Evaluation Rubric:
A statement of teaching and learning philosophy based on theory, justifying how evidence included in the portfolio reflects this teaching and learning philosophy. The statement should be no less than one typed page and no more than three typed pages using 12-point font and one inch margins. (Double points for this artifact.) OR an artifact of candidate’s choice detailing a plan for student learning and showing evidence of students’ success.”