Instructional Development Timeline
Lev Vygotsky



  • Born in Russia.
  • Graduated from Moscow University, 1917
  • Mid 1920’s - Conducted extensive research in developmental child psychology and developed pioneering work in the area of cognitive development.
  • Ygotsky’s work was largely unkown to the West until it was published in 1962.

Major Contributions to Instructional Development

  • Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory
  • Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
  • More Knowledgeable Other (MKO)

Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory is the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), who lived during the Russian Revolution. Vygotsky’s work was largely unkown to the West until it was published in 1962.


Vygotsky’s theories stress the fundamental role of social interaction in the development of cognition (Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, 1985), as he believed strongly that community plays a central role in the process of "making meaning."


How Lev Vygotsky Impacts Learning:

  • Curriculum–Since children learn much through interaction, curricula should be designed to emphasize interaction between learners and learning tasks.
  • Instruction–With appropriate adult help, children can often perform tasks that they are incapable of completing on their own. With this in mind, scaffolding–where the adult continually adjusts the level of his or her help in response to the child’s level of performance–is an effective form of teaching. Scaffolding not only produces immediate results, but also instills the skills necessary for independent problem solving in the future.
  • Assessment–Assessment methods must take into account the zone of proximal development. What children can do on their own is their level of actual development and what they can do with help is their level of potential development. Two children might have the same level of actual development, but given the appropriate help from an adult, one might be able to solve many more problems than the other. Assessment methods must target both the level of actual development and the level of potential development. [Source]


Vygotsky’s theory is one of the foundations of constructivism. It asserts three major themes:

Major themes:

  1. Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development. In contrast to Jean Piaget’s understanding of child development (in which development necessarily precedes learning), Vygotsky felt social learning precedes development. He states: “Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological).” (Vygotsky, 1978).
  2. The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). The MKO refers to anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. The MKO is normally thought of as being a teacher, coach, or older adult, but the MKO could also be peers, a younger person, or even computers.
  3. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD is the distance between a student’s ability to perform a task under adult guidance and/or with peer collaboration and the student’s ability solving the problem independently. According to Vygotsky, learning occurred in this zone.

Zone of Proximal DevelopmentSources


Simply Psychology: Vygotsky

Lev Vygotsky and Social Cognition

Wikepedia, Lev Vygotstky




Vygotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development vygotsky PowerPoint

Vygotsky 1978 Book Chapter vygotsky PDF

Vygotsky and Piagetvygotsky PDF