Lev Vygotsky was one of the pioneers of development psychology, cognitive development and modern education. Born in Russia in 1887, his works spanned the gamut from cognitive development, child psychology, philosophies and of course, education. For Lev Vygotsky theory alone does not equal progress, and is a thorough researcher and a very prolific writer, and his major works have been collected in 6 volumes over a span of 10 years. Astonishingly, it was not until the 1950s that his work would be uncovered in earnest and appreciated in the Western World.
One of his most famous achievements is his theory of the Zone of Proximal Development. Many people have dubbed it as the Lev Vygotsky theory, and with good reason: it encapsulates a good portion of his beliefs and research into that theory.
The Zone of Proximal Development or ZPD is a term for the range of tasks that a learner is able to accomplish by himself and with a more-skilled person. Essentially, ZPD is about developing a child’s growing cognitive skills that are still developing and which could be advanced with the help of a more-skilled person, whether that person is a teacher or a parent.
Scaffolding is an analogous term that oftentimes used in the same context as the ZPD. In metaphorical terms, scaffolding is a support structure provided to a building that is removed, one by one, as soon as sections of the building are finished and can stand on their own.
The analogy further explains the theory as the advancement of the level of support that a student receives. The support that a student gets in accomplishing a lesson or task is given at the onset of a task but is removed, one by one, as the student progresses all by himself.
The Zone of Proximal Development (or Lev Vygotsky theory, if you will) is an important thing to consider when utilizing scaffolding as a teaching method: scaffolding affects the learner in both on the cognitive and emotional levels; it has an impact not just on the acquired skills and knowledge by the learner, but also on her motivation and confidence in approaching a problem, or task.
On the cognitive level, it encourages the use of proper encouragement, support, learning tools, demonstrations, self-help aids, exemplary examples, and clearly defined but achievable expectations on the learning process.
On the emotional side, scaffolding will keep the learner from bogged down by frustration and feelings of failure. Which is why, as far as learning is concerned; it would be optimal that the learning (and scaffolding) takes place within the learner’s Zone of Proximal Development. By doing so, it helps develop the learner’s cognitive skills such as her problem solving ability, which in turn will develop into self reliance and self confidence.
The Lev Vygotsky theory does not end with how helpful it is to scaffolding, but it is perhaps one of the best starting points in understanding the man behind the philosophy and how his works have influenced modern education, which perhaps may have had an impact in your own education growing up.