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Vygotsky and the Promise of Public Education

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Jennifer A. Vadeboncoeur

Vygotsky and the Promise of Public Education recontextualizes the scholarship of educator and psychologist Lev Vygotsky, highlighting its relevance to contemporary issues in public education. Emphasizing the historical, social, and cultural formation of conscious awareness, Jennifer A. Vadeboncoeur advances Vygotsky’s project with current research in psychology, enabling the redefinition of central concepts such as learning, teaching, and developing. This attention to how we conceptualize learning and teaching is vital to the project of crafting schools to fulfill the promise of public education. Written for teacher candidates, educators, researchers, and policy-makers, this book both recognizes the complications of teaching and learning in public schools and contributes to the scholarship on the critical possibilities of schools as social institutions. The significance of public education for each and every child and teacher, and the future that is created in each student-teacher relationship, is re-centered as, perhaps, the most worthwhile project of our time.

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Chapter 3: What Is Thinking?

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WHAT IS THINKING?

Children learn and develop in social interactions with their caregivers and siblings, teachers and peers, and more distant significant others. Social practices include these interactions and the speech patterns that accompany them. Almost everything we do and think and feel is mediated through words that play an increasing role over the course of development. Consider some of the everyday social practices that typically fill the day: talking with family, friends, and colleagues; reading news and weather reports, books, and blogs; and writing lists, letters, notes, and homework. We also calculate budgets and plan for purchases; listen to and play music; and communicate with individuals and participate in communities using computers, tablets, and cell phones. Cultural tools—both technical and psychological tools—mediate experience; they are the means of mediation and they shape the way we do things. The process of mediation is central to all social practices; language, and more specifically, speech is the primary psychological tool. Psychological tools, systems of signs and symbols used for making meaning, play a central role in thinking.

The first section of this chapter defines learning and development as mediated through cultural tools. The second section describes the primary psychological tool, speech, and three different functions of speech—social, private, ← 65 | 66 → and inner speech—along with the unity of speech and thinking in development. The third section describes the development of concepts, as well as the relationship between everyday concepts...

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