Last Updated 15 Oct 2020

Classroom Observation: Education Theories by Lev Vygotsky and John Dewey

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Many instructional approaches exist that have been developed to reach more students. Teachers have to select the instructional approaches that work best for students. These approaches have been tested and researched from various theoretical perspectives. An education theory is the speculative thought of education and just like any other theory; it explains, guides, and describes the practices of education. The earliest speculation on educational processes began during the times of classical sophists and Greek philosophers.

Current education speculations use terms like andragogy, curriculum, learning pedagogy, education organization, leadership, and policy. Education thought is derived from various disciplines like, philosophy, sociology, critical theory, psychology, and history among others. This paper will discuss five topics based on the best education theory to be applied in the classroom setting with focus on two education theories postulated by Lev Vygotsky and John Dewey.

This paper will also address information processing by students, behaviors of teachers to promote thinking, implications of language development on learning and teaching, and on the relationship between the emotional and social development on student behavior and learning. Classroom Observation Analysis Education theory can either be descriptive like in the sciences or normative like in philosophy. Education theory postulates what education processes are supposed to consist of; it sets the standards, norms, and goals in carrying out an education process.

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The scientific education theory gives a set of hypotheses, which have to be experimented and verified. The two approaches have produced two broad categories of education theories, which are the functionalist’s theory of education arising from the sociological perspective of education and the behaviorist theory of education from the psychology of education. The term theory in education refers to three broad categories known as the explanatory or generalizing model, practice observance, and a body of knowledge. Various educational resources exist that a teacher should employ in a classroom setting to enhance learning among students.

Also, human resources affect the learning process of students, which is the behavior of both the students and teachers. Teachers play a major role in improving the thinking ability of students. Other factors exist that affect the learning process of students in the individual, social, emotional development, and language development. Educational theory application in a classroom setting • Educational theories employed Lev Vygotsky and John Dewey postulated educational theories that explain how the human thought affect the outcome in education.

On human thought, Dewey’s ideas were instrumentalism based in educational ideas. Vygotsky ideas on education, on the other hand, were based upon the Marxist social ideas. The instrumentalism ideas of Dewey deal with the focus of thoughts and ideas as action instruments; this caused the theorist to believe that the education system needs to incorporate vocational studies. Therefore, schools according to Dewey should incorporate both academic and vocational studies. Students have to involve themselves in activities that promote cooperation and creativity.

Dewey believed that teaching individual’s new knowledge through memorization and repetition was ineffective. Through his writings and research, he advocates for thought and does not support strict topics as ways of teaching individuals. Teaching students on one content only is a waste of time, according to the theorist. Dewey encouraged teachers to be practical and creative in their educational approaches to provide students with a wide range of opportunities and to promote individual thought. Marxists social ideas on education were first applied by Vygotsky.

He believed that by learning the social situation, a person is capable of learning more. The Zone of Proximal development is the theory postulated by Vygotsky, which explains that a difference exist between a student is taught by an advanced peer, a teacher, and when a student studies alone. With this theory Vygotsky believed that social processes should be incorporated into the education system. Such social processes include peer review, group work activities, and individual contact between student and teacher.

Unlike Dewey and his ideas, Vygotsky does not support teacher‘s elitism, he favors the teaching of thinking kills to students and not just teaching a lesson based on a particular topic (Indiana University, 2004). The most effective educational theory to enhance instruction and learning From the two educational theorists, individuals can examine that they had two different thoughts on what education should be, which are not in agreement to each other. However, both Vygotsky and Dewey ideas should be applied in the classroom setting in unison because both their ideas are focused on a classroom environment that emphasizes ways of thinking and student achievement to learn facts.

The use of both ideas in a classroom stetting enables a learning situation guided by a teacher who guides students through direction with positive reinforcement and is not a strict figure of authority. Both the ideas of Vygotsky and Dewey require teachers to be dedicated and committed to individual student needs and abilities and not to the ideals and expectations regarding “normal” or “advanced” student knowledge of society. Also, using the ideas and theories presented in the classroom setting is beneficial because they encourage students to interact socially and work in teams to promote effective learning in the classroom.

According to both theorists interaction is seen as a learning tool, which has been emphasized by Vygotsky, but still applicable in Dewey ideas. A classroom environment that is more conducive to learning has been perceived as a classroom that employs both Vygotsky and Dewey’s ideas. Their contributions were significant to learning, but a combination of their differing ideas has proven to successfully impact the education system. Incorporating social learning ideas and theories with creative lessons plans is vital to the current world of education.

Vygostsky ideas and application in the classroom setting Just like Jean Piaget, Vygotsky agrees that education takes place through constructivism, which is the belief of cognitive development (Davison, 2006, p. 1), but they differ on the ideas regarding how the cognitive development process occurs. Cognitive development is the process through the building up or addition of information to newly learned information on already learned information. Piaget is seen as a trivial constructivist who believed that human beings are social learners who learn through interaction with the environment.

Individuals can generate new knowledge and understanding about the environment they have been exposed to. Vygotsky, on the other hand, is considered a social constructivist that believes people learn through interaction with other people (Dougiamas, 1998, p. 4). Vygotsky’s ideas are applicable in a classroom setting because through group work and peer reviews students are exposed to what they are taught by others. He disagrees with Piaget’s theory and stated that learning comes before development and not the vise versa according to Piaget’s claim.

Vygotsky believes students learn from symbolism, socialization, and history (Davison, 2006, p. 1). The information and actions that children are exposed to by other individuals greatly affects their learning process, and through the interaction with people of adequate intelligence and education will enable students to comprehend and retain information taught more productively (Slavin, 2009, p. 43). The influence of other individuals is vital before a student reaches the point of self-regulation. Self-regulation occurs when an individual can solve problems and think critically without helps from others.

By applying this theory in the classroom, a teacher can identify ways to run a classroom with increased efficiency and production. Through the ideas of Vygotsky, the teacher will achieve integration through a diverse student base at different intellectual levels; this will enable students who have learning disabilities or slow learners to be encouraged and tutored by the more advanced students. The teacher will also encourage students to work in group projects so students can come up with answers after solving problems as a team.

Such approaches have been praised and beneficial when teaching English and Social Studies. Dewey’s ideas in the classroom setting According to Dewey, learning institutions should be democratic, meaning students can freely share their differing ideas. The classroom setting should focus on subjects that contain practical knowledge in relation to real-life of students. The incorporation of field activities into the classroom learning process enables students to expand their knowledge, boost their critical thinking, and understand their world.

Cooperative learning, according to Sharan and Sharan (1992), include Dewey’s learning process as equal aspects of intellectual, emotional, and social events. Dewey argues that a classroom setting should give learners the experience to deal with situations that will arise in their lives to create a democratic society. The cooperative learning will act as a motivator for students and provides them with a sense of personal responsibility toward their academics. Information processing to student learning Students learn in different ways based on their life experiences, stages of development, and culture.

These factors determine how students process information. Based on the different characteristics of students, teachers have a responsibility to develop lessons plans that fit the needs of each student. To provide a positive teaching and learning environment, teachers should know learning is affected by aspects such as culture, emotions, and individual thought. Some student’s process information based on their metal states or moods and teachers have a responsibility to create supportive and positive tactics to enhance the learning process of every individual student.

A teacher also has to develop a teaching plan to fit those children suffering from various Learning Disabilities who experience challenges in reading and information processing. Students with learning disabilities have been known to interpret information differently and decode social information in a different manner. Some learning disabilities negatively affect the ability of students to interpret social cues and have limited solutions to the social dilemmas they face. They also face the challenge of generating solutions to simple mathematical problems.

Theory of information processing, The human mind functions through the creation of mental representations and creating cognitive processes them. Cognition is the ability to have mental representation and memory of objects, people, and learned knowledge through life experiences and academics. In learning, information received through listening and hearing involves various processes that take place in the brain. The incoming information leads to the formation of a series of mental representations.

The important ideas are selected and stored in the brain for referencing in the future. According to Miller’s theory of information processing, reinforcement is a crucial activity in enhancing the remembrance of short-term memory. The repetition of a recently read idea will force the brain to process the information through encoding strategies and to later be stored as long-term memory. Reinforcement can be done in the classroom setting through elaboration of and repetition of previous and newly learned information.

A teacher can also tell students to do maintenance rehearsals through practices and drilling to help the reinforcement of new information. Such practical strategies can be through songs and repetition poems. Also, to encourage student’s rehearsal, a student can use a variety of interactive computer activities. By repeating the newly learned skills the students will be able to encode the information into long-term memory. The environment and learning Psychologists have studies how human beings are affected by the environments that they have been brought up in.

The environment consists of individuals within the family unit and external influences in society. The classroom environment also affects how adolescent students learn and process information. Classroom environments should have no distractions. Factors such as the attitudes of teachers, lack of administrative support, lack of parental support, and a classroom environment that does not support learning leads to poor academic performance among adolescents. The teachers and parents should therefore work hard to provide adolescents with a natural and positive environment for learning.

York-Barr, Schultz, Doyle, Kronberg, and Crossett (1996) suggest the use of inclusion strategies in a classroom to enhance a desirable environment for learning to students, especially those from diverse backgrounds. Educators according to inclusion practices should focus on quality education and are to be guided by unique dispositions. Educators are responsible for evaluating teaching practices and initiating positive changes. A teacher’s attitude should be positive and they should have the skills and ability to provide emotional, social, and academic support to students.

Students with disabilities should be provided with supporting facilities and proper equipment they need in the classroom to ensure proper education. Consultation is also one of the classroom strategies that educators can use to intervene to the process of students within the class, and it is applicable to solving problems facing the whole school. A proper classroom environment that would boost students’ attention and memory includes teaching materials, equipment, and technological tools for teaching.

Students can remember the things they have learned when various learning strategies are employed. Other strategies to help students memory and attention is enabling them to self-assess their performance, targeting particular solution, implementing technologies for education, and record keeping of student performance. Providing the right educational environment is therefore the best way of enhancing student’s memory and attention than the social setting. Teacher behaviors that promote students’ thinking abilities Teachers should practices skills that provide for the individual needs of students.

These needs range from emotional, social, and educational needs (Wehby, Symons, Canale, & Go 1998). A teacher practicing collaborative model such as the Educational Review Team will lead to positive outcome to students. To facilitate students comprehension and reasoning, the teachers use strategies that enable them to design good lesson plans, which first starts with the introduction of the topic, presentation of the content in a clear way, checking whether students have understood the information, periodic review, independent practices, and guided practices among others.

The teacher should also employ strategies that would improve the motivation of students to learn, the teacher should keep in mind the inertest of students and use a variety of teaching strategies to avoid students being bored. To enhance comprehension and reasoning the teacher has to communicate high expectations, give prompt and constructive feedback, and treat each student as an individual. To promote the thinking skills of student’s teachers should certain framework, which would enable students to think critically and to develop skills, which will make them regulate personal learning and acquire problem-solving skills.

Certain activities that a teacher can practice either intentionally or unintentionally can impede students from reasoning or comprehensions. Such aspects include teaching at a fast pace and not bothering to check whether the students have understood the concepts or not. Another aspect is using a teaching strategy that is not inclusive to all the needs of students. A teacher who does not consider strategies that deal with inhibition, planning, fluency, set shifting, working memory, and self-regulations leads to poor attention p among students.

In order to enable students attain academic goals, the educator has to consider the action and thoughts of students. Teachers should acknowledge that certain students could be faced by challenges of working on their own and cannot complete certain tasks. The teacher has to implement behavior modification plans (Harris et al, 2005) to help students with attention problems. Another strategy is to limit distraction in the classroom environment, which is a strategy that should be carried out before the beginning of each lesson.

Comprehension and reasoning can be enhanced by the teacher by telling students to scan through the headlines of the topic under discussion. Language development Language learning is a vital aspect in the learning process. Language learning enables students to read and write. Reading is as result of comprehension and decoding of information. For students to internalize various academies subjects, the elementary activity is to first teach on language comprehension. Delayed speech development affects the learning process of a student.

This delay occurs in two ways; it can either be receptive or expressive. The expressive form gives a child difficulty in the use of vocabulary, poor grammar, poor writing skills, and poor conversational skills. Expressive delay can be seen in students who are shy or hesitates to speak. Receptive delay, on the other hand, affects a student’s ability to comprehend what the student has read, following directions, and understanding speech. The student may also find it difficult to understand visual and sequencing relations.

The relationship of social and emotional development to student learning and behavior A student suffering from emotional and behavioral problems leads to interference of the learning process. Such changes lead to poor communication, poor social relationships, and difficulty expressing thoughts and feelings. This affects student’s social intelligence and competence development. Competence development is related to emotional intelligence, which hinders the person from making accurate and logical decisions and in the developments of problem-solving skills.

Classroom Analysis During my classroom observation I was able to view theories that were employed by both Vygotsky and Dewey as described above. The teacher was able to interact with student as a friend but also as a figure of authority. The teacher was able to instruct using repetition of previous instructed material while introducing new thought and feelings. I felt the instructor lacked behaviorism because there were no clear cut rules and regulations and the instructor mainly focused on the educational aspects of learning.

The teacher was creative when giving lesson plans, and it was obvious the teacher put a large amount of time preparing for lessons. I observed the teacher calling upon students to answer questions regarding the topic presented to ensure the student was paying attention and learning the material. I did notice several students not paying attention and the teacher did not seem to notice but this was understandable considering the high student to teacher ratio. The teacher was also able to use differing vocal tones to emphasize important material content that I assume would be on an upcoming exam.

Reference

http://dougiamas.com/writing/constructivism.html#faces

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Classroom Observation: Education Theories by Lev Vygotsky and John Dewey. (2017, Mar 25). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/classroom-observation-education-theories-by-lev-vygotsky-and-john-dewey/

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