How Teachers and Teaching Becomes Influential in Student’s Development and Growth

According to Vygotsky‘s concept, the zone of proximal development is the gap between what a learner has already mastered (the actual level of development) and what he or she can achieve when provided with educational support (potential development). This concept was explored by the author in a time in which school psychology was not implemented. The concept explores the contrast between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help. Thus, the social and cultural nature of human behavior as a particular and distinctive feature of our species is involved in our cognitive development. From the educator’s point of view, this is the most appropriate starting point for progress in solving the complex problem, between personal development and education.

It hardly seems questionable, in fact, that the most important personal development medium is the human environment, social environment, and not the physical medium or material. This does not mean that objects or physical stimuli are not important in behavior or human development; but the relationship between children with objects is mainly mediated by the intervention of adults (sometimes directly, and sometimes indirectly, as when adults decide which objects will leave to the reach of children and which are not). This intervention has, mostly, a component of social and cultural nature. So, for example, objects that adults consider adequate and leave for the reach of children vary from one culture to another and also different historical moments. In this sense, it is plausible that human development occurs in interaction with a social and cultural medium, which hardly can be described as “natural.”

From this perspective, the interaction between mankind and the environment in which children develop is influenced by culture from the moment of birth, parents, educators, adults and generally the people around the child act from the beginning as agents of this mediation. From the many opportunities that are presented to establish relationships with these mediators, humans may develop higher psychological processes. According to this point and Vygotsky‘s observations, these methods, and/or interactions that influence development appear first in the lives of people in the interpersonal sphere consequently suffer the consequences of cultural mediation. Personal growth is thus the process by which people align themselves with the culture of the social group they belong to. The development of different psychological capacities that allow them to interpret the physical and social environment act on it and develop a personal identity. This process would therefore strongly linked to the type of dominant cultural patterns in their environment, the type of social practices in which these patterns are translated and the type of specific knowledge acquired in the context of such practices.

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Teachers are one of the main mediums to influence child development.

In this context, the current thinking on the concept of culture and its implications for the development of children allow progress. From an educator, parent or role model point of view, it is easier to understand now the impact of the environment on the process. Cultures understood in the broad sense that anthropologists give the term {represent}, in a perspective that forms a specific organization of the environment according to the experience accumulated by different social groups.

Different cultures which are structured through cultural practices, i.e., sequences of recurring activities geared towards certain goals, involving the use of particular types of technology, certain knowledge systems, and specific activities. By organizing these cultural practices, different cultures decisively modulate the processes of development of its members, structuring, organizing and explicitly supporting the possible actions of subjects and specific lessons that can be made. For example, cultures promote the appearance or absence of certain specific problem-solving environments ( if it is feasible or not for children to participate in hunting activities or reading activities, for example). Organizing the frequency with which a particular class of events occurs (how often the child goes hunting or how much time a child should read, for example), can determine the simultaneous occurrence of certain events that regulate the level of difficulty of the task, preventing or restricting certain types of errors or failures. Thus leaving teachers as one of the main mediums to influence child development.

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