Matthew Poehner (Pennsylvania State University, USA)
Russian psychologist L. S. Vygotsky (1987) argued that understanding and promoting learner development requires joint engagement and cooperation. This position emerges from Vygotsky’s dialectical perspective on human abilities and their development, according to which the intermental functioning of individuals as they collaborate and make use of cultural artifacts brings about the development of more independent, intramental capabilities. This social and cultural ontology has profound implications for: (1) conceptualizing the potential value of education vis-à-vis learner development; (2) designing and organizing instructional and assessment activities; and (3) formulating questions and selecting methods in educational research. In this paper I identify three interrelated proposals from Vygotskian theory – mediation, internalization, and the zone of proximal development – that may serve to frame work in each of these areas. Moreover, it will be argued that a Vygotskian perspective compels us to view these areas not as mutually exclusive but as constituting an integrated development-oriented enterprise.