Saturday, October 27, 2007

Vygotsky Method

Anyone got any information on the Vygotsky Method (think: ZPD, or zone of proximal development) and its application to language teaching? Specifically: how does the method help in classes where learners are of wildly different ability levels? I've already mined the ever-reliable Wikipedia. Suggestions and recommendations welcome.



Charles Nelson said...

There is no Vygotsky Method, but rather an understanding of how learning takes places, that it does so socially. With respect to the ZPD, Vygotsky was thinking primarily of teachers helping students reaching levels of performance that they could not have done on their own. But the main notion is that of someone who knows more helping someone who knows less accomplish more than they could have alone.

With respect to language learning, two points might be kept in mind. One is to scaffold student learning so that one task is the precursor of another task, which is the precursor of still another task.

The second is to have those students who are more proficient in the language help those who are less proficient. Because students may not be able to do that well, the teacher needs to provide structures that help them do it (another example of ZPD).

For a class with widely varying levels, the best students would scaffold those in the middle, while those in the middle could scaffold the weakest students.

Kevin Kim said...

Mr. Nelson,

Thanks for the comment. A friend of mine who owns a language school in New Zealand uses something he terms "the Vygotsky method" for his classes (it's a small school; he teaches along with doing his admin duties). It could be that he simply made up the term as shorthand for "using Vygotskian principles in the language classroom."

My point is that he's using a specific method, and I'm curious to know more about it. He hasn't been too forthcoming with me, partly because he's often too busy to correspond, and partly because the method he's using might not be something he wants to share. God knows I've asked him about it. So I'm trying to find out what I can regarding Vygotsky and whatever language teaching methods are associated with his psychological principles.

I appreciate your input and think the "scaffolding" concept is sound. What I'm looking for, however, is something more specific than that, because I think we all scaffold to some extent.