Implications of Vygotsky's Theory for Peer Learning


~ The termspeerlearningandcooperative learninghavebeen usedto describequite different forms of interactions, with different goals, peer arrangements, and types of activities. In this chapter, we focus specificallyon peer learning that is related to collaborative problem solving, typically involving two children. The roots of research on this type of peer learning are not in the field of education, but in developmental psychology, with much of the research occurring in university laboratories or in school, rather than involving the study of group processes in the classroom. In what ways is Vygotsky's theory relevant to a discussion of collaborative peer learning? Vygotsky's theory views human development as a sociogenetic process by which children gain mastery over cultural tools and signs in the course of interacting with others in their environments. These others are often more competent and help children to understand and use in appropriate ways the tools and signs that are important in the cultural group into which they have been born. This process of interaction between the child and a more competent other is said to effect development if the interaction occurs within the child's zone of proximal development. Although this summary is true to Vygotsky's position, we must not conflate Vygotsky's theory with one small part of the theory; we need to go further if we are to make progress in our understanding of collaboration from a Vygotskian perspective. When scholars study collaboration using a Vygotskian framework, the most commonly cited concept is that of the zone of proximal development,


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