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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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Foreword (Artin Göncü)


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Artin Göncü

During the last four decades, scholars have advanced Vygotskian approaches to the study of human development and education, addressing how children’s social, cultural, and activity contexts contribute to their development, and examining how Vygotskian theory can be translated into educational practice. Until the emergence of Vadeboncoeur’s book, however, advances in Vygotsky’s theory across different strands of educational practice have remained separate from one another. After a period of pause, this volume has emerged as a comprehensive resource that integrates the existing work in child development and education while expanding the theory to address significant questions regarding what to teach students and how to do so, how to address diversity in human development and educational practice, and how to assess the development of children, teachers, and institutions. As such, this volume serves as a landmark for developmental and cultural psychologists, educators, policy-makers, and students engaging readers with the major tenets of Vygotsky’s theory in conjunction with extensions of it with courageous clarity.

One significant contribution of this book is its presentation of Vygotsky’s conceptualization of human development as a “unity of opposites.” Much unlike the other dominant theories that rendered human development as a conflict/crisis ridden process, Vygotsky’s emphasis on the importance of the ← xiii | xiv → relationship between opposing features in a system—as generative, transformative, and mutually constitutive—provides an alternative to views of development that locate it as an individual, natural process that unfolds on its...

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