Lev Vygotsky is considered by many educational researchers as one of the most influential figures in fields of human developmental and educational psychology. His theories follow the belief that true education is not just the learning of information, but also the development of children’s learning abilities. Abilities such as their capability to think clearly, plan, and communicate their understanding (Karimnia, 2010).Vygotsky was born in 1896 to Jewish parents in what is now present day Ukraine. In 1913 he was admitted to Moscow State University, where he continued to study until his graduation in 1917.
In 1924 he took a research position at the Psychological Institute in Moscow (Costley, 2012). In 1934 he died suddenly from Tuberculosis. Not long after Vygotsky’s death Stalin banned all his work. It was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union that Vygotsky’s works were translated and read by researchers outside Russia. (Blake & Pope, 2008) Vygotsky was inspired by the Marxist theory of “…historical changes in society and material life produce changes in human nature” (Huiitt, 2000), and the idea that, “What is learned must be taught” (Wilhelm, 2001). From these concepts his theories on social interaction and the zone of proximal development take form.
While Vygotsky acknowledged other factors in his work, such as inherited or biological traits, he primarily focused on the role of the environment in fostering cognitive growth (Ormrod, 2008). He believed that adult help, given to a child, can provide not only support to the process of assimilating, but also promote essential skills in developing children (Zaretskii, 2009). Vygotsky believed that social interaction played an important role in student learning, and that thr. . is because his work was designed around children who had neither physical nor learning disabilities, making it difficult to apply his theories to children who have special needs. Vygotsky did, however, discuss this topic in his theory of Zone of Proximal Development, stating that what’s important to disabled children is what they are able to do, rather than what they are supposed to be doing (Wang, 2009).
Lev Vygotsky’s work has been used as a foundational theory for the development of many other theories and ideas about childhood educational and psychological development over the years. It has been utilized by many in the education field as a way to teach and enhance the learning of children, and has been studied by psychologists of all backgrounds for decades despite its limitations. His work he was the break though that laid the groundwork for modern theorists.