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This idea of guidance is important; children need the framework and support to expand their ZPD. Since the ZPD defines the skills and abilities that children are in the process of developing, there is also a range of development that we might call a "stretch goal"(Mooney).
For Vygotsky, supplying the child with a combination of theoretical and empirical learning methods is a more robust way to ensure cognition. This leads to something he called "leading activity," which, especially in middle childhood (e.g. elementary school), becomes an important formative step in the development of self-consciousness and a way to define the student's role within the world. Sell- reflection is one major accomplishment during this period, the transition from using social and cultural norms as values for evaluating the external world (peers, etc.) and then also mastering these concepts for inward, or self-reflection. As this process evolves, the child in the middle range begins to use leading activity to interact with peers. This is the time they attempt to master and internalize adult values and then transfer that experience into what they now expect of others, and the cognition that those expectations are not always met. Thus, part of this formational process is learning to deal with disappointment and to understand that human emotions are fluid -- sometimes people are disingenuous, sometimes quite honest. It is a difficult task, though, to come to this realization that so many things are in the category of "it depends" (Karpov, 2006). Failure to attain appropriate leading activities may result in a number of dysfunctions that hinder the child's ability to appropriately move on to the next stage of emotional learning. Failure in leading activities often separates children from their peers -- they do not feel they belong, nor are they enveloped by others. This begins to impart a low self-image and an inability to thrive with one's per group. Instead, this type of individual is often accused of being an outsider, unable to unwilling to participate in group activities and certainly unable to understand the subtle differences in adult behavior, and the manner in which adults sometimes treat each other (modeling behavior). It is also interesting to note that children who miss or are deficient in leading at this stage score much lower on standardized tests and most especially are not able to discuss relevant points after reading or listening to a story (Eun, 2008).
Conclusion- Learning is a complex. It brings together cognitive, emotional, and environmental influences and experiences that are necessary for enhancing one's knowledge (acquisition and enhancing), and to establish and grow one's world view and ability to perform not only tasks, but better understand the universe. It is a process, with a theoretical conception. These theories provide a paradigm of understanding and a vocabulary of understanding, as well as a conceptual framework that helps us continue to search and enhance our knowledge. The process of continually questioning learning and cognition, then, helps us improve and enhance current methods, and, as the complexity of contemporary technological society increases, the ability to more avidly actualize (Johnson-Garza-Balmer, 2009).
Appendix a -- the Ecological Theory of Bronfenbrenner
For Uri Bronfenbrenner, Russian/American psychologist and educational theorist, development was a far more complex than previous theorists His model was not only robust, it was fluid in the sense of time and place, and far more interdependent upon societal and cultural modeling than his predecessors. One can think of Bronfenbrenner as a sociological Stephen Hawking -- explaining the very minute and how it works with the very large. Hawking, of course, deals with the way small quantum data interact with the environment and how the larger cosmos interacts with the atom, etc. So, too, does Bronfenbrenner see the world, from the very tiny microsystem (the atom), through a series of "universes" to then form what we might term culture or society. Within each of these structures, actions and interactions flow both ways, and much of what harkens towards human development is the result of situational and environmental issues (See Figure 1). For example, young children in the ghettos of Rio de Janerio often sell candy to locals and tourists as their only means of support. These children are able, because of their environment, to make rather sophisticated mathematical calculations in their heads, understand weights and measures, profit and loss, and numerical relationships far beyond their years. Yaqui children in northern Mexico, however, have no use for this type of knowledge, but they do understand very complex weaving patterns that require unprecedented dexterity and ability to visualize multidimensionally. Thus, for Bronfenbrenner, it is the relationship between the external and internal environments that shapes not only what is important (skill set) for human development, but the manner in which what is important becomes "ecologically" part of the dominant culture (Bronfenbrenner, 1979).
Figure 1 -- Bronfenbrenner's Theory of Development
Home, School, Neighborhood (the near environment, everyday actions and places)
Relationships between many microsystems
Government, media, workplace, school, society
Overall culture, macro-society
When the experiences occur, not just individually, but in historical preference, too.
Parts of the theory are individual but coherent. The microsystem is the smallest layer in the sense that it is closest to the child and contains all the structures of which the child has regular contact. It includes the relationships and structures that the child uses to define their surroundings (family, school, and neighborhood). The interactions in this layer are primary modifiers, but are continually impacted by other layers. The mesosystem is the rather amorphous way that Microsystems morph and interact with another -- connections between events and organizations. The exosystem is the larger social system in which the child does not directly interact but has a profound effect on the Microsystems (positive and negative effects, etc.). The macrosystem, or the outermost layer in the child's environment consists of laws, customs, values, and norms -- all of which the child is expected to assimilate prior to becoming part of that specific culture. Finally, the chronosystem or time development, is relative to the child's experiences within the structure of the "when" -- and the manner in which time affects culture and society -- both historically and practically (events and structures) (Ryan, 2001).
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