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Vygotsky and the Promise of Public Education


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 4: Reconsidering the Role of Play and Imagination


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From a Vygotskian perspective, the significance of imaginative play has long been established in early childhood and preschool education (e.g., Bodrova & Leong, 2007; Connery, John-Steiner, & Marjanovic-Shane, 2010; Fleer, 2010; Paley, 2004). Though the purpose, appearance, and opportunity to play may change as a function of each child’s social situation of development and culture, its significance remains as a social practice (e.g., Gaskins, 2013; Göncü, 1993). Still it may surprise some readers that a discussion of play follows a discussion of thinking and the development of concepts, especially when development is transformed by the integration of school-based academic concepts with everyday concepts. However, Vygotsky (1933/1967) argued that imaginative play is not simply about having fun and experiencing pleasure. Rather, play “creates the zone of proximal development of the child. In play, a child is always above his average age, above his daily behavior; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself” (p. 16). Play satisfies a number of important needs and interests directly related to learning in ways that foster social, cognitive, and emotional development. Over time and in relation to culture and context, imaginary situations created and accessed through play lay a foundation for imagination and creativity. ← 97 | 98 →

In this chapter, imaginative play is defined with attention to its role in learning and development, as well as how play is shaped by the social...

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