Early Childhood Development: Teacher’s Responsibilities Essay


Teacher is responsible for creating an effective classroom for elementary students.

Teacher is the first person to give children basic knowledge on diversity issues and to train them on social inclusion. One of the primary responsibilities is to encourage and promote student’s thinking abilities. It can be achieved through activities requiring participation. For example, a teacher can tell students a short story and ask them to express their opinion. This activity helps to develop critical thinking abilities as well as to encourage active participation of all students. All children should have an opportunity to share their thoughts.

Moreover, the teacher should motivate students to be tolerant towards opinions of others.

Greater student success can be achieved through fair reward system. In particular, every time the teacher gives an assignment, every student who managed to accomplish it should be rewarded. Moreover, it is vital to encourage those students who failed to accomplish their assignments. Teacher is responsible for rewarding efforts as well. Thus, when students feel that their work brings results, they are more motivated to perform better. The following activity could be proposed: the teacher gives students an assignment to write a short story about their family. Children should not be limited by length of time. Next, every student should have an opportunity to read aloud his story. Finally, a teacher should reward all students verbally for the work they have done.

In addition, the teacher is responsible for social and emotional development of the students. The most effective activity to ensure social development is working in groups. The teacher should create an assignment and divide students into several groups (no more than 3-5 groups).

It is vital to explain what students are expected to achieve and to ensure that every student understands what he or she should do as a team member. Moreover, the teacher should motivate students to cooperate with each other. For example, the teacher should say that the all members of the best team will be rewarded equally. Group activities help students to achieve greater success as well as to develop social skills.

Emotional development of the students can be ensured through training sessions. In particular, the teacher should prepare weekly activities for educational purposes.

Moreover, the discussions during these activities should be encouraged to allow students to express their thoughts, to listen to others, and to react to ideas of others. Without active communication with other students, young students cannot develop emotionally and socially.

Diversity and equity among the students should be promoted by the teacher. In particular, the teacher should prepare interesting materials (short movies, colorful illustrations, and engaging stories) about different cultures and ethnic groups. The special emphasis should be made on recognition of differences and the need to understand them. Children should be taught about diversity issues and be aware of cultural differences.

The teacher might ask them to learn something new about the foreign culture and deliver short speech in classroom.

The most effective technique to promote equity among young students is to create a bias-free classroom setting and to ensure that all children receive equal attention from the teacher.

Finally, teacher is responsible to provide basic knowledge and ideas on such issues as cooperation, teamwork, social inclusion, discrimination, diversity, equity, rewards, success, and achievement to students.

From the early childhood, students should learn about the importance of personal success and value of collaboration.

Teachers should ensure that activities offered to students are interesting and engaging. If students are not interested to participate, they will not learn from activity.

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Centre for Early Childhood Logo

Towards a Strong Foundation: Social and Emotional Development in Young Children

role of teacher in child development essay

Nurturing relationships provide the context for human development and are an essential source of resilience for children and adults (e.g., Luthar, 2006; Rutter, 1987). Resilience refers to the capacity to weather and bounce back from both everyday challenges and significant adversity and trauma -- like that we’ve all experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is influenced by foundational social and emotional skills and competencies (e.g., Masten, 2009).

In this short essay we describe children’s early social and emotional skills, show how they are linked to early caregiving and are influenced by stress and vulnerability, and highlight some programs, practices, and strategies that foster them. 

Social and Emotional Development and Foundational Relationships

Social and emotional development refers to the processes whereby children learn to identify and express emotions, focus attention and manage impulses, successfully navigate relationships with peers and adults, develop a positive self-concept, make responsible decisions, and solve problems (e.g., Jones, McGarrah, & Kahn, 2019). 

Over many decades researchers from an array of disciplines, e.g. human development and psychology, neuroscience, education and economics, have described how these essential skills are deeply intertwined with other areas of development, such as cognitive and physical. These developments in the brain and in behavior all work together to influence school and life outcomes, including higher education, physical and mental health, economic well-being, and civic engagement (Jones & Kahn, 2018). 

During development, social and emotional skills grow and change like building blocks. Early skills lay the foundation for more complex skills that emerge later in life. For example, during early childhood, children learn and grow in the context of relationships with parents and other caregivers at home and in childcare and preschool settings. Through responsive, nurturing interactions these relationships shape the growth of basic executive functions, self-regulation and emotional competencies, which are the salient social and emotional skills of early childhood. 

These skills encompass young children’s emerging capacity to:

Understand their emotions, communicate about them, and read those of others around them. For example, use feeling words when frustrated, angry, or excited. 

Be aware of and begin to manage impulses and behavior. For example, wait for a snack or dinner when hungry or for the chance to share news in the classroom, or remember and follow the routines of bedtime. 

Focus and shift attention in explicit ways and imagine the perspectives of another person. For example, move from one activity to another in the classroom, or engage in basic social back and forth and play. 

Basic skills like these set the stage for more complex skills later in life such as planning and problem solving, critical thinking and decision making, forming and maintaining sophisticated friendships, and coping skills, among others (Bailey & Jones, 2019). 

The Role of Experience and Context Including Stress and Vulnerability

Importantly, these early skills are highly susceptible to stress and vulnerability. Research shows that the prefrontal cortex – which is responsible for executive function and self-regulation -- is closely linked to other brain regions that signal emotions like fear, anger, and anxiety. 

These brain regions are connected through the stress response system, which alerts the body to react in times of danger (e.g., Arnsten, 1998). But responding and adapting to stress can come at a cost. When stress is chronic or takes over, it can inhibit children’s early social and emotional skills, resulting in dysregulated, reactive, and sometimes withdrawn behavior, and this is true for young children and adults (e.g., Arnsten, Mazure & Sinha, 2012). 

Critical to this dynamic is that predictable, nurturing relationships are protective. They operate as a buffer between stress and strain on the one hand, and children’s healthy development on the other (Center on the Developing Child, 2014). 

Research on children’s wellbeing during the pandemic illustrates how these processes can play out. For example, Harvard education researcher Emily Hanno (2021) examined data about a sample of young children and families before and after COVID-19 shut down U.S. childcare centers and preschools in 2020. They found that as parents experienced more stress, households grew more chaotic, and parent-child conflict increased, children displayed more challenging behaviors and fewer adaptive ones. 

Another large-scale study, the Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development–Early Childhood (RAPID)https://rapidsurveyproject.com/), documented that high levels of material hardship that families experienced in the first year of the pandemic, coupled with ongoing week-to-week unpredictability, had detrimental effects on both caregivers’ and children’s well-being (Liu, et al 2022). Studies on how poverty, disasters, bereavement, armed conflict, and displacement affect children and adults have produced similar findings.

Supporting Family Well-Being and Social and Emotional Development

Supporting children’s social and emotional development demands coordinated child, family, and education-based efforts. Some examples of these are described here.

As noted above, social and emotional development, indeed successful early childhood development more generally, requires nurturing care. This has been defined as health, nutrition, security and safety, responsive caregiving, and opportunities for early learning (Black, et al, 2016). 

Globally, this concept has been advanced through The Nurturing Care Framework for Early Childhood Development ( https://nurturing-care.org/ ) .

Components of nurturing care

The Nurturing Care Framework was developed by WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank Group, in collaboration with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, the Early Childhood Development Action Network and many other partners, and launched alongside the 71st World Health Assembly in May, 2018. It takes a comprehensive approach by outlining important strategies to address the integrated needs of the developing child.

The wellbeing of caregivers is the enabling environment for responsive care. The promotion of social emotional development depends on policies and practices that take a whole family approach, assuring that those who care for young children have the support they need to be successful as caregivers, including adequate housing, income, childcare, education, health, and mental health supports.

A relevant and recently launched innovation focused on parents is the Global Initiative to Support Parents ( https://ecdan.org/global-initiative-to-support-parents/ ) . This unique partnership launched by the Early Childhood Development Action Network, WHO, UNICEF, End Violence Against Children, and Parenting for Lifelong Health includes the ultimate vision that all families worldwide have universal access to evidence-based parenting support.

Early childhood services designed for parents and children have for decades been understood to play an important role in offsetting the impact of vulnerability and adversity on healthy growth and development and to be an important setting for cultivating emerging social and emotional skills. A hallmark of these efforts is that they provide families with information, resources, and support that enables those nurturing, connected interactions, and helps all parents navigate the stress that inevitably comes with raising young children (Jones, Bailey & Partee, 2017). 

In the early classroom context, there are a large number of curricular and strategy-based approaches that educators can embed in their instructional and caregiving routines. The most effective of these programs typically combine direct teaching of social and emotional skills with structures and routines that provide young children with lots of opportunities to practice emerging skills, as well as support for adult caregivers to proactively manage young children’s behavior (e.g., Jones, Bailey & Jacob, 2014).

As noted above, children across the world have been impacted by the uncertainty, isolation and stress caused by the pandemic. In response, The LEGO Foundation teamed up with HundredED, to identify education innovations from across the world focused on improving social and emotional learning. In 2021, they published Spotlight Social and Emotional Learning which presented 13 innovations from 10 countries. These inspiring examples provide promising solutions that can help respond to the needs of children and offer ideas about how to foster caring and nurturing relationships. Some of these innovations can be found here: https://hundred.org/en/collections/social-emotional-learning-sel .

In summary, research and practice focused on children’s early social and emotional development tells us that these skills: 

Develop in the context of primary relationships and interactions. 

Are foundational to early learning, as well as important developmental milestones throughout life. 

Are optimized when children feel safe, secure, and supported.

Are influenced and shaped by experience, culture, and beliefs. 

Effective approaches to fostering and supporting these important skills are situated in families, leverage nurturing relationships and interactions at home and in early learning settings, and are rooted in community and family support.

Stephanie Jones

Gerald S. Lesser Professor in Child Development and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Co-Director, Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative

Joan Lombardi

Senior Fellow, Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues, Georgetown University

Senior Advisor, Graduate School of Education, Stanford Center on Early Childhood

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Book cover

The First Year at School: An International Perspective pp 83–101 Cite as

Teachers’ Roles in the Assessment of Young Children

  • Sarah J. Howie 17  
  • First Online: 27 June 2023

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Part of the book series: International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development ((CHILD,volume 39))

The iPIPS study depends in part, on data collected by teachers. Given that the study focuses on young children who themselves vary significantly (Merrell & Tymms, 2015), as well as across different contexts, there are different approaches required raising a range of issues. Therefore, in this chapter, the role of teachers in the assessment process is discussed. The chapter is split into two parts. The first addresses the general issue of teacher assessments and the second focuses on the roles of teachers in research projects and specifically in the iPIPS project. Teachers have important insight into learners’ development, behaviours and backgrounds and questions of validity and reliability are explored in relation to their assessments and the chapter probes whether it is possible to compare teachers’ ratings (e.g., for Behaviour & Personal and Social Development as used in iPIPS) across schools, countries and regions.

  • Teachers’ roles
  • Teacher assessments
  • Curriculum teachers conceptions
  • Accountability
  • Assessment literacy
  • Reliability
  • Teacher ratings

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Howie, S.J. (2023). Teachers’ Roles in the Assessment of Young Children. In: Tymms, P., et al. The First Year at School: An International Perspective. International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development, vol 39. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-28589-9_6

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6.1: The Teacher’s Role - Build and Maintain Positive Relationships with Children

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Teachers build meaningful relationships with children during day-to-day interactions with them. Since relationships are central to young children’s learning and development, effective preschool teachers engage in consistent efforts to develop positive and nurturing relationships with each child they serve. Preschool teachers understand the importance of consistency, continuity, and responsiveness in supporting children’s healthy social and emotional development (adapted from California Department of Education and First 5 California 2012, 121). In cases in which children display challenging behaviors, teachers can focus even more directly on cultivating a relationship with the children during less stressful times (when children behave appropriately) and rely on additional support through ongoing mentoring and coaching (e.g., reflective supervision, early childhood mental health consultation) to put in place effective strategies to establish and sustain positive relationships with young children. When teachers engage in positive, nurturing relationships with young children, children feel safe and confident to engage deeply in exploration and learning. For those children who come to the classroom displaying challenging behaviors, nurturing, stable, and positive relationships with teachers often help to provide them with the emotional support needed to develop future positive relationships with teachers and peers (Buyse et al. 2008). [1]

Development is often referred to as a journey, not a race. Children navigate their journey through individual rates of development. Along the journey, there are many milestones and developmental successes to celebrate, but alongside these celebrations there are behavioral considerations that challenge children and their caregivers. Teaching young children is not just about creating an environment and a curriculum, but also providing limits, clear expectations and applying developmentally appropriate strategies to guide young children in navigating their journey. Most importantly, teachers must also demonstrate a sensitivity to a variety of children’s needs, temperaments and learning styles. [2]

[1] California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 39-40)

[2] Content by Kristin Beeve is licensed under CC BY 4.0

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Language and Literacy Development: Research-Based, Teacher-Tested Strategies

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“Why does it tick and why does it tock?”

“Why don’t we call it a granddaughter clock?”

“Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose?”

“Why are there hairs up inside of your nose?”

She started with Why? and then What? How? and When? By bedtime she came back to Why? once again. She drifted to sleep as her dazed parents smiled at the curious thoughts of their curious child, who wanted to know what the world was about. They kissed her and whispered, “You’ll figure it out.”

—Andrea Beaty, Ada Twist, Scientist

I have dozens of favorite children’s books, but while working on this cluster about language and literacy development, Ada Twist, Scientist kept coming to mind. Ada is an African American girl who depicts the very essence of what it means to be a scientist. The book is a celebration of children’s curiosity, wonder, and desire to learn.

The more I thought about language and literacy, the more Ada became my model. All children should have books as good as Ada Twist, Scientist read to them. All children should be able to read books like Ada Twist, Scientist by the end of third grade. All children should be encouraged to ask questions about their world and be supported in developing the literacy tools (along with broad knowledge, inquiring minds, and other tools!) to answer those questions. All children should see themselves in books that rejoice in learning.

role of teacher in child development essay

Early childhood teachers play a key role as children develop literacy. While this cluster does not cover the basics of reading instruction, it offers classroom-tested ways to make common practices like read alouds and discussions even more effective.

role of teacher in child development essay

The cluster begins with “ Enhancing Toddlers’ Communication Skills: Partnerships with Speech-Language Pathologists ,” by Janet L. Gooch. In a mutually beneficial partnership, interns from a university communication disorders program supported Early Head Start teachers in learning several effective ways to boost toddlers’ language development, such as modeling the use of new vocabulary and expanding on what toddlers say. (One quirk of Ada Twist, Scientist is that Ada doesn’t speak until she is 3; in real life, that would be cause for significant concern. Having a submission about early speech interventions was pure serendipity.) Focusing on preschoolers, Kathleen M. Horst, Lisa H. Stewart, and Susan True offer a framework for enhancing social, emotional, and academic learning. In “ Joyful Learning with Stories: Making the Most of Read Alouds ,” they explain how to establish emotionally supportive routines that are attentive to each child’s strengths and needs while also increasing group discussions. During three to five read alouds of a book, teachers engage children in building knowledge, vocabulary, phonological awareness, and concepts of print.

Next up, readers go inside the lab school at Stepping Stones Museum for Children. In “ Equalizing Opportunities to Learn: A Collaborative Approach to Language and Literacy Development in Preschool ,” Laura B. Raynolds, Margie B. Gillis, Cristina Matos, and Kate Delli Carpini share the engaging, challenging activities they designed with and for preschoolers growing up in an under-resourced community. Devondre finds out how hard Michelangelo had to work to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and Sayo serves as a guide in the children’s classroom minimuseum— taking visitors to her artwork!

Moving into first grade, Laura Beth Kelly, Meridith K. Ogden, and Lindsey Moses explain how they helped children learn to lead and participate in meaningful discussions of literature. “ Collaborative Conversations: Speaking and Listening in the Primary Grades ” details the children’s progress (and the teacher’s methods) as they developed discussion-related social and academic skills. Although the first graders still required some teacher facilitation at the end of the school year, they made great strides in preparing for conversations, listening to their peers, extending others’ comments, asking questions, and reflecting on discussions.

Rounding out the cluster are two articles on different aspects of learning to read. In “ Sounding It Out Is Just the First Step: Supporting Young Readers ,” Sharon Ruth Gill briefly explains the complexity of the English language and suggests several ways teachers can support children as they learn to decode fluently. Her tips include giving children time to self-correct, helping them use semantic and syntactic cues, and analyzing children’s miscues to decide what to teach next.

In “ Climbing Fry’s Mountain: A Home–School Partnership for Learning Sight Words ,” Lynda M. Valerie and Kathleen A. Simoneau describe a fun program for families. With game-like activities that require only basic household items, children in kindergarten through second grade practice reading 300 sight words. Children feel successful as they begin reading, and teachers reserve instructional time for phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and other essentials of early reading.

At the end of Ada Twist, Scientist , there is a marvelous illustration of Ada’s whole family reading. “They remade their world—now they’re all in the act / of helping young Ada sort fiction from fact.” It reminds me of the power of reading and of the important language and literacy work that early childhood educators do every day.

—Lisa Hansel

We’d love to hear from you!

Send your thoughts on this issue, as well as topics you’d like to read about in future issues of Young Children , to [email protected] .

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role of teacher in child development essay

Teachers today are at the forefront of two contemporary arcs of thought: each child is an individual who will develop, with family support, along a unique path. At the same time, child development is the collective responsibility of society, with teachers playing one of the most important roles.

When teachers have a strong understanding of a child’s cognitive and emotional development, they can better support parents and play a vital role in helping children grow into their happiest and most successful selves. 

A child develops through forward leaps, plateaus, even steps backward. My new book,  The Educator’s Guide to Understanding Child Development: Supporting Healthy Academic and Emotional Growth , covers the many facets of a developing child, from motor skills to literacy growth, highlighting social milestones and mental health challenges that inform and shape the path. Understanding the science and expectations of child development will help inform your teaching practice as you gain greater knowledge of a child’s cognitive and emotional development. 

Key Insights Into How Teachers Can Support the Developing Child

A child’s mental, motor, and emotional skills mature along a relatively predictable timeline, but not all children follow the exact same developmental path at the exact same pace. Understanding early developmental stages can help you meet your students where they are and foster their continued growth and development.

Teachers can help with the physical, cognitive, and socioemotional development of children’s minds by establishing routines, interacting with their students, encouraging safe exploration and play, and helping children explore relationships.

There is some variety in which children develop their gross and fine motor skills. Crucial to motor development is the motivation that adults provide by responding happily and excitedly at each of the milestones leading to mastery of these skills.

Children need unstructured time to just play. Children who enjoy the mental and physical space and time to play imaginatively tend to learn more quickly, are often more socially skilled, and are more likely to remain creative and curious for the rest of their lives.

In preschool, children begin to use language for a much wider range of functions, such as reasoning, solving problems, making friends, narrating events, and playing imagination games. As preschoolers become sophisticated about how people use language, teachers can introduce new concepts in etiquette, such as using an outside voice on the playground and a quieter inside voice in the classroom.

By reading aloud to young children, teachers provide a means of learning about language by teaching pronunciation and how words combine to convey a scene, feeling, or experience. Teachers can also show how language can shift from the concrete to the metaphorical and help children learn the value of communicating through the written word.

With patience and consistency, teachers can help an anxious child feel comfortable transitioning to formal education. It is also important to involve families in the classroom so that you can maintain open communication, in case you or the child’s family has any concerns.

The increasing cognitive abilities of a school-age child allow them to interpret their own and others’ complex emotions. Managing negative as well as positive emotions is challenging for children, but it is an important skill for them to learn to help them develop healthy relationships throughout their lives.

Planned activities in an early education classroom allow for children to interact and play with other students in the class, while free play time allows them to choose the activities and friends. As young children develop their friendships, the relationships may have their challenges, and reinforcing classroom rules is often enough to resolve disagreements that may arise.

You can help children navigate difficult times by providing them with a steady and calming presence and teaching them strategies to deal with challenges. Understanding common mental health issues can help you identify children whose development has gone off track, and know when you should help parents get treatment for their child.

The more you understand about the developing child, the more support you can give to parents and children alike as you help them navigate the stages of development. As a teacher, each child you reach lives within your mind long after her or she leaves your classroom. Similarly, the impact that you make on that child will stay not only with the child but will ripple out into the community and into future generations.


Dr. Linda C. Mayes, M.D., is the Arnold Gesell Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology; Chair of the Yale Child Study Center; and a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Psychology at Sewanee, The University of the South. As director of The Yale Child Study Center, Dr. Mayes oversees the study of the life experiences of infants, children, and parents as well as the clinical treatment of thousands of children.

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Redefining the Role of the Teacher: It’s a Multifaceted Profession

A closer look at what being an educator really means.

Imagine a school where teaching is considered to be a profession rather than a trade. The role of teachers in a child's education -- and in American culture -- has fundamentally changed. Teaching differs from the old "show-and-tell" practices as much as modern medical techniques differ from practices such as applying leeches and bloodletting.

Instruction doesn't consist primarily of lecturing to students who sit in rows at desks, dutifully listening and recording what they hear, but, rather, offers every child a rich, rewarding, and unique learning experience. The educational environment isn't confined to the classroom but, instead, extends into the home and the community and around the world. Information isn't bound primarily in books; it's available everywhere in bits and bytes.

Students aren't consumers of facts. They are active creators of knowledge. Schools aren't just brick-and-mortar structures -- they're centers of lifelong learning. And, most important, teaching is recognized as one of the most challenging and respected career choices, absolutely vital to the social, cultural, and economic health of our nation.

Today, the seeds of such a dramatic transformation in education are being planted. Prompted by massive revolutions in knowledge, information technology, and public demand for better learning, schools nationwide are slowly but surely restructuring themselves.

Leading the way are thousands of teachers who are rethinking every part of their jobs -- their relationship with students, colleagues, and the community; the tools and techniques they employ; their rights and responsibilities; the form and content of curriculum; what standards to set and how to assess whether they are being met; their preparation as teachers and their ongoing professional development; and the very structure of the schools in which they work. In short, teachers are reinventing themselves and their occupation to better serve schools and students.

New Relationships and Practices

Traditionally, teaching was a combination of information-dispensing, custodial child care and sorting out academically inclined students from others. The underlying model for schools was an education factory in which adults, paid hourly or daily wages, kept like-aged youngsters sitting still for standardized lessons and tests.

Teachers were told what, when, and how to teach. They were required to educate every student in exactly the same way and were not held responsible when many failed to learn. They were expected to teach using the same methods as past generations, and any deviation from traditional practices was discouraged by supervisors or prohibited by myriad education laws and regulations. Thus, many teachers simply stood in front of the class and delivered the same lessons year after year, growing gray and weary of not being allowed to change what they were doing.

Many teachers today, however, are encouraged to adapt and adopt new practices that acknowledge both the art and science of learning. They understand that the essence of education is a close relationship between a knowledgeable, caring adult and a secure, motivated child. They grasp that their most important role is to get to know each student as an individual in order to comprehend his or her unique needs, learning style, social and cultural background, interests, and abilities.

This attention to personal qualities is all the more important as America continues to become the most pluralistic nation on Earth. Teachers have to be committed to relating to youngsters of many cultures, including those young people who, with traditional teaching, might have dropped out -- or have been forced out -- of the education system.

Their job is to counsel students as they grow and mature -- helping them integrate their social, emotional, and intellectual growth -- so the union of these sometimes separate dimensions yields the abilities to seek, understand, and use knowledge; to make better decisions in their personal lives; and to value contributing to society.

They must be prepared and permitted to intervene at any time and in any way to make sure learning occurs. Rather than see themselves solely as masters of subject matter such as history, math, or science, teachers increasingly understand that they must also inspire a love of learning.

In practice, this new relationship between teachers and students takes the form of a different concept of instruction. Tuning in to how students really learn prompts many teachers to reject teaching that is primarily lecture based in favor of instruction that challenges students to take an active role in learning.

They no longer see their primary role as being the king or queen of the classroom, a benevolent dictator deciding what's best for the powerless underlings in their care. They've found they accomplish more if they adopt the role of educational guides, facilitators, and co-learners.

The most respected teachers have discovered how to make students passionate participants in the instructional process by providing project-based, participatory, educational adventures. They know that in order to get students to truly take responsibility for their own education, the curriculum must relate to their lives, learning activities must engage their natural curiosity, and assessments must measure real accomplishments and be an integral part of learning.

Students work harder when teachers give them a role in determining the form and content of their schooling -- helping them create their own learning plans and deciding the ways in which they will demonstrate that they have, in fact, learned what they agreed to learn.

The day-to-day job of a teacher, rather than broadcasting content, is becoming one of designing and guiding students through engaging learning opportunities. An educator's most important responsibility is to search out and construct meaningful educational experiences that allow students to solve real-world problems and show they have learned the big ideas, powerful skills, and habits of mind and heart that meet agreed-on educational standards. The result is that the abstract, inert knowledge that students used to memorize from dusty textbooks comes alive as they participate in the creation and extension of new knowledge.

New Tools and Environments

One of the most powerful forces changing teachers' and students' roles in education is new technology. The old model of instruction was predicated on information scarcity. Teachers and their books were information oracles, spreading knowledge to a population with few other ways to get it.

But today's world is awash in information from a multitude of print and electronic sources. The fundamental job of teaching is no longer to distribute facts but to help children learn how to use them by developing their abilities to think critically, solve problems, make informed judgments, and create knowledge that benefits both the students and society. Freed from the responsibility of being primary information providers, teachers have more time to spend working one-on-one or with small groups of students.

Recasting the relationship between students and teachers demands that the structure of school changes as well. Though it is still the norm in many places to isolate teachers in cinderblock rooms with age-graded pupils who rotate through classes every hour throughout a semester -- or every year, in the case of elementary school -- this paradigm is being abandoned in more and more schools that want to give teachers the time, space, and support to do their jobs.

Extended instructional periods and school days, as well as reorganized yearly schedules, are all being tried as ways to avoid chopping learning into often arbitrary chunks based on limited time. Also, rather than inflexibly group students in grades by age, many schools feature mixed-aged classes in which students spend two or more years with the same teachers.

In addition, ability groups, from which those judged less talented can rarely break free, are being challenged by a recognition that current standardized tests do not measure many abilities or take into account the different ways people learn best.

One of the most important innovations in instructional organization is team teaching, in which two or more educators share responsibility for a group of students. This means that an individual teacher no longer has to be all things to all students. This approach allows teachers to apply their strengths, interests, skills, and abilities to the greatest effect, knowing that children won't suffer from their weaknesses, because there's someone with a different set of abilities to back them up.

To truly professionalize teaching, in fact, we need to further differentiate the roles a teacher might fill. Just as a good law firm has a mix of associates, junior partners, and senior partners, schools should have a greater mix of teachers who have appropriate levels of responsibility based on their abilities and experience levels. Also, just as much of a lawyer's work occurs outside the courtroom, so, too, should we recognize that much of a teacher's work is done outside the classroom.

New Professional Responsibilities

Aside from rethinking their primary responsibility as directors of student learning, teachers are also taking on other roles in schools and in their profession. They are working with colleagues, family members, politicians, academics, community members, employers, and others to set clear and obtainable standards for the knowledge, skills, and values we should expect America's children to acquire. They are participating in day-to-day decision making in schools, working side-by-side to set priorities, and dealing with organizational problems that affect their students' learning.

Many teachers also spend time researching various questions of educational effectiveness that expand the understanding of the dynamics of learning. And more teachers are spending time mentoring new members of their profession, making sure that education school graduates are truly ready for the complex challenges of today's classrooms.

Reinventing the role of teachers inside and outside the classroom can result in significantly better schools and better-educated students. But though the roots of such improvement are taking hold in today's schools, they need continued nurturing to grow and truly transform America's learning landscape. The rest of us -- politicians and parents, superintendents and school board members, employers and education school faculty -- must also be willing to rethink our roles in education to give teachers the support, freedom, and trust they need to do the essential job of educating our children.

Judith Taack Lanier is a distinguished professor of education at Michigan State University.

  • Vygotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

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Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

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Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

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Sociocultural Theory 

The work of Lev Vygotsky (1934, 1978) has become the foundation of much research and theory in cognitive development over the past several decades, particularly what has become known as sociocultural theory.

Vygotsky’s theory comprises concepts such as culture-specific tools, private speech, and the zone of proximal development.

Vygotsky believed cognitive development is influenced by cultural and social factors. He emphasized the role of social interaction in the development of mental abilities e.g., speech and reasoning in children.

Vygotsky strongly believed that community plays a central role in the process of “making meaning.”

Cognitive development is a socially mediated process in which children acquire cultural values, beliefs, and problem-solving strategies through collaborative dialogues with more knowledgeable members of society.

The more knowledgeable other (MKO) is someone who has a higher level of ability or greater understanding than the learner regarding a particular task, process, or concept.

The MKO can be a teacher, parent, coach, or even a peer who provides guidance and modeling to enable the child to learn skills within their zone of proximal development (the gap between what a child can do independently and what they can achieve with guidance).

The interactions with more knowledgeable others significantly increase not only the quantity of information and the number of skills a child develops, but also affects the development of higher-order mental functions such as formal reasoning. Vygotsky argued that higher mental abilities could only develop through interaction with more advanced others.

According to Vygotsky, adults in society foster children’s cognitive development by engaging them in challenging and meaningful activities. Adults convey to children how their culture interprets and responds to the world.

They show the meaning they attach to objects, events, and experiences. They provide the child with what to think (the knowledge) and how to think (the processes, the tools to think with).

Vygotsky’s theory encourages collaborative and cooperative learning between children and teachers or peers. Scaffolding and reciprocal teaching are effective educational strategies based on Vygotsky’s ideas.

Scaffolding involves the teacher providing support structures to help students master skills just beyond their current level. In reciprocal teaching, teachers and students take turns leading discussions using strategies like summarizing and clarifying. Both scaffolding and reciprocal teaching emphasize the shared construction of knowledge, in line with Vygotsky’s views.

Vygotsky highlighted the importance of language in cognitive development. Inner speech is used for mental reasoning, and external speech is used to converse with others.

These operations occur separately. Indeed, before age two, a child employs words socially; they possess no internal language.

Once thought and language merge, however, the social language is internalized and assists the child with their reasoning. Thus, the social environment is ingrained within the child’s learning.

Effects of Culture

Vygotsky emphasized the role of the social environment in the child’s cognitive development.

Vygotsky claimed that infants are born with the basic abilities for intellectual development called “elementary mental functions” (Piaget focuses on motor reflexes and sensory abilities). These develop throughout the first two years of life due to direct environmental contact.

Elementary mental functions include –

o Attention o Sensation o Perception o Memory

Eventually, through interaction within the sociocultural environment, these are developed into more sophisticated and effective mental processes, which Vygotsky refers to as “higher mental functions.”

Tools of intellectual adaptation

Each culture provides its children with tools of intellectual adaptation that allow them to use basic mental functions more effectively/adaptively.

Tools of intellectual adaptation is Vygotsky’s term for methods of thinking and problem-solving strategies that children internalize through social interactions with the more knowledgeable members of society.

For example, memory in young children is limited by biological factors. However, culture determines the type of memory strategy we develop.

For example, in Western culture, children learn note-taking to aid memory, but in pre-literate societies, other strategies must be developed, such as tying knots in a string to remember, carrying pebbles, or repeating the names of ancestors until large numbers can be repeated.

Vygotsky, therefore, sees cognitive functions, even those carried out alone, as affected by the beliefs, values, and tools of intellectual adaptation of the culture in which a person develops and, therefore, socio-culturally determined.

Therefore, intellectual adaptation tools vary from culture to culture – as in the memory example.

Social Influences on Cognitive Development

Like Piaget, Vygotsky believes that young children are curious and actively involved in their own learning and discovering and developing new understandings/schema .

However, Vygotsky emphasized social contributions to the development process, whereas Piaget emphasized self-initiated discovery.

According to Vygotsky (1978), much important learning by the child occurs through social interaction with a skillful tutor. The tutor may model behaviors and/or provide verbal instructions for the child.

Vygotsky refers to this as cooperative or collaborative dialogue. The child seeks to understand the actions or instructions provided by the tutor (often the parent or teacher) and then internalizes the information, using it to guide or regulate their performance.

Shaffer (1996) gives the example of a young girl given her first jigsaw. Alone, she performs poorly in attempting to solve the puzzle. The father then sits with her and describes or demonstrates some basic strategies, such as finding all the corner/edge pieces, and provides a couple of pieces for the child to put together herself, and offers encouragement when she does so.

As the child becomes more competent, the father allows the child to work more independently. According to Vygotsky, this social interaction involving cooperative or collaborative dialogue promotes cognitive development.

To understand Vygotsky’s theories on cognitive development, one must understand two of the main principles of Vygotsky’s work: the More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) and the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).

More Knowledgeable Other

The more knowledgeable other (MKO) is somewhat self-explanatory; it refers to someone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, concerning a particular task, process, or concept.

Although the implication is that the MKO is a teacher or an older adult, this is not necessarily the case. Often, a child’s peers or an adult’s children may be the individuals with more knowledge or experience.

For example, who is more likely to know more about the newest teenage music groups, how to win at the most recent PlayStation game, or how to correctly perform the newest dance craze – a child or their parents?

In fact, the MKO need not be a person at all. To support employees in their learning process, some companies are now using electronic performance support systems.

Electronic tutors have also been used in educational settings to facilitate and guide students through learning. The key to MKOs is that they must have (or be programmed with) more knowledge about the topic being learned than the learner does.

Zone of Proximal Development

The concept of the more knowledgeable other relates to the second important principle of Vygotsky’s work, the zone of proximal development .

This important concept relates to the difference between what a child can achieve independently and what a child can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner.

Vygotsky consequently focuses much more closely on social interaction as an aid to learning, arguing that, left alone, children will develop – but not to their full potential.

He refers to the gap between actual and potential learning as the zone of proximal development (ZPD) – and argues that it is only through collaboration with adults and other learners that this gap can be bridged.


The zone of proximal development is the gap between the level of actual development, what the child can do on his own, and the level of potential development, what a child can do with the assistance of more advanced and competent individuals.

Social interaction, therefore, supports the child’s cognitive development in the ZPD, leading to a higher level of reasoning. It is generally believed that social dialogues have two important features.

The first is intersubjectivity, where two individuals who might have different understandings of a task, arrive at a shared understanding by adjusting to the perspective of the other.

The second feature is referred to as scaffolding. Adults may begin with direct instruction, but as children’s mastery of a task increases, so the adult tends to withdraw their own contributions in recognition of the child’s increasing success.

For example, the child could not solve the jigsaw puzzle (in the example above) by itself and would have taken a long time to do so (if at all), but was able to solve it following interaction with the father, and has developed competence at this skill that will be applied to future jigsaws.

ZPD is the zone where instruction is the most beneficial, as it is when the task is just beyond the individual’s capabilities. To learn, we must be presented with tasks just out of our ability range. Challenging tasks promote maximum cognitive growth.

As a result of shared dialogues with more knowledgeable others, who provide hints, instructions, and encouragement, the child can internalize the ‘how to do it’ part of the task as part of their inner or private speech. The child can then use this on later occasions when they tackle a similar task on their own.

Vygotsky (1978) sees the Zone of Proximal Development as the area where the most sensitive instruction or guidance should be given – allowing the child to develop skills they will then use on their own – developing higher mental functions.

Vygotsky also views peer interaction as an effective way of developing skills and strategies.  He suggests that teachers use cooperative learning exercises where less competent children develop with help from more skillful peers – within the zone of proximal development.

Evidence for Vygotsky and the ZPD

Freund (1990) conducted a study in which children had to decide which items of furniture should be placed in particular areas of a doll’s house.

Some children were allowed to play with their mother in a similar situation before they attempted it alone (zone of proximal development) while others were allowed to work on this by themselves (Piaget’s discovery learning).

Freund found that those who had previously worked with their mother (ZPD) showed the greatest improvement compared with their first attempt at the task.

The conclusion is that guided learning within the ZPD led to greater understanding/performance than working alone (discovery learning).

Vygotsky and Language

Vygotsky believed that language develops from social interactions for communication purposes. Vygotsky viewed language as man’s greatest tool for communicating with the outside world.

According to Vygotsky (1962), language plays two critical roles in cognitive development:
  • It is the main means by which adults transmit information to children.
  • Language itself becomes a very powerful tool for intellectual adaptation.
Vygotsky (1987) differentiates between three forms of language:
  • Social speech, which is external communication used to talk to others (typical from the age of two);
  • Private speech (typical from the age of three) which is directed to the self and serves an intellectual function;
  • Private speech goes underground , diminishing in audibility as it takes on a self-regulating function and is transformed into silent inner speech (typical from the age of seven).

For Vygotsky, thought and language are initially separate systems from the beginning of life, merging at around three years of age.

At this point, speech and thought become interdependent: thought becomes verbal, and speech becomes representational.

As children develop mental representation, particularly the skill of language, they start to communicate with themselves in much the same way as they would communicate with others.

When this happens, children’s monologues are internalized to become inner speech. The internalization of language is important as it drives cognitive development.

“Inner speech is not the interiour aspect of external speech – it is a function in itself. It still remains speech, i.e., thought connected with words. But while in external speech thought is embodied in words, in inner speech words dies as they bring forth thought. Inner speech is to a large extent thinking in pure meanings.” (Vygotsky, 1962: p. 149)

Private Speech

Vygotsky (1987) was the first psychologist to document the importance of private speech.

He considered private speech as the transition point between social and inner speech, the moment in development where language and thought unite to constitute verbal thinking.

Thus, in Vygotsky’s view, private speech was the earliest manifestation of inner speech. Indeed, private speech is more similar (in form and function) to inner speech than social speech.

Private speech is “typically defined, in contrast to social speech, as speech addressed to the self (not to others) for the purpose of self-regulation (rather than communication).” (Diaz, 1992, p.62)

Private speech is overt, audible, and observable, often seen in children who talk to themselves while problem-solving.

Conversely, inner speech is covert or hidden because it happens internally. It is the silent, internal dialogue that adults often engage in while thinking or problem-solving.

In contrast to Piaget’s (1959) notion of private speech representing a developmental dead-end, Vygotsky (1934, 1987) viewed private speech as:

“A revolution in development which is triggered when preverbal thought and preintellectual language come together to create fundamentally new forms of mental functioning.” (Fernyhough & Fradley, 2005: p. 1)

In addition to disagreeing on the functional significance of private speech, Vygotsky and Piaget also offered opposing views on the developmental course of private speech and the environmental circumstances in which it occurs most often (Berk & Garvin, 1984).


Through private speech, children collaborate with themselves, in the same way a more knowledgeable other (e.g., adults) collaborate with them to achieve a given function.

Vygotsky sees “private speech” as a means for children to plan activities and strategies, aiding their development. Private speech is the use of language for self-regulation of behavior.

Therefore, language accelerates thinking/understanding ( Jerome Bruner also views language in this way). Vygotsky believed that children who engage in large amounts of private speech are more socially competent than children who do not use it extensively.

Vygotsky (1987) notes that private speech does not merely accompany a child’s activity but acts as a tool the developing child uses to facilitate cognitive processes, such as overcoming task obstacles, and enhancing imagination, thinking, and conscious awareness.

Children use private speech most often during intermediate difficulty tasks because they attempt to self-regulate by verbally planning and organizing their thoughts (Winsler et al., 2007).

The frequency and content of private speech correlate with behavior or performance. For example, private speech appears functionally related to cognitive performance: It appears at times of difficulty with a task.

For example, tasks related to executive function (Fernyhough & Fradley, 2005), problem-solving tasks (Behrend et al., 1992), and schoolwork in both language (Berk & Landau, 1993), and mathematics (Ostad & Sorensen, 2007).

Berk (1986) provided empirical support for the notion of private speech. She found that most private speech exhibited by children serves to describe or guide the child’s actions.

Berk also discovered that children engaged in private speech more often when working alone on challenging tasks and when their teacher was not immediately available to help them.

Furthermore, Berk also found that private speech develops similarly in all children regardless of cultural background.

There is also evidence (Behrend et al., 1992) that those children who displayed the characteristic whispering and lip movements associated with private speech when faced with a difficult task were generally more attentive and successful than their ‘quieter’ classmates.

Vygotsky (1987) proposed that private speech is a product of an individual’s social environment. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that there exist high positive correlations between rates of social interaction and private speech in children.

Children raised in cognitively and linguistically stimulating environments (situations more frequently observed in higher socioeconomic status families) start using and internalizing private speech faster than children from less privileged backgrounds.

Indeed, children raised in environments characterized by low verbal and social exchanges exhibit delays in private speech development.

Children’s use of private speech diminishes as they grow older and follows a curvilinear trend. This is due to changes in ontogenetic development whereby children can internalize language (through inner speech) to self-regulate their behavior (Vygotsky, 1987).

For example, research has shown that children’s private speech usually peaks at 3–4 years of age, decreases at 6–7, and gradually fades out to be mostly internalized by age 10 (Diaz, 1992).

Vygotsky proposed that private speech diminishes and disappears with age not because it becomes socialized, as Piaget suggested, but because it goes underground to constitute inner speech or verbal thought” (Frauenglass & Diaz, 1985).

Educational Implications

Vygotsky’s approach to child development is a form of social constructivism , based on the idea that cognitive functions are the products of social interactions.

Social constructivism posits that knowledge is constructed and learning occurs through social interactions within a cultural and historical context.

Vygotsky emphasized the collaborative nature of learning by constructing knowledge through social negotiation. He rejected the assumption made by Piaget that it was possible to separate learning from its social context.

Vygotsky believed everything is learned on two levels. First, through interaction with others, then integrated into the individual’s mental structure.

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). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals. (Vygotsky, 1978, p.57)

Teaching styles grounded in constructivism represent a deliberate shift from traditional, didactic, memory-oriented transmission models (Cannella & Reiff, 1994) to a more student-centered approach.

Traditionally, schools have failed to foster environments where students actively participate in their own and their peers’ education. Vygotsky’s theory, however, calls for both the teacher and students to assume non-traditional roles as they engage in collaborative learning.

Rather than having a teacher impose their understanding onto students for future recitation, the teacher should co-create meaning with students in a manner that allows learners to take ownership (Hausfather, 1996).

For instance, a student and teacher might start a task with varying levels of expertise and understanding. As they adapt to each other’s perspective, the teacher must articulate their insights in a way that the student can comprehend, leading the student to a fuller understanding of the task or concept.

The student can then internalize the task’s operational aspect (“how to do it”) into their inner speech or private dialogue. Vygotsky referred to this reciprocal understanding and adjustment process as intersubjectivity.”

Because Vygotsky asserts that cognitive change occurs within the zone of proximal development, instruction would be designed to reach a developmental level just above the student’s current developmental level.

Vygotsky proclaims, “learning which is oriented toward developmental levels that have already been reached is ineffective from the viewpoint of the child’s overall development. It does not aim for a new stage of the developmental process but rather lags behind this process” (Vygotsky, 1978).

Appropriation is necessary for cognitive development within the zone of proximal development. Individuals participating in peer collaboration or guided teacher instruction must share the same focus to access the zone of proximal development.

“Joint attention and shared problem solving is needed to create a process of cognitive, social, and emotional interchange” (Hausfather,1996).

Furthermore, it is essential that the partners be on different developmental levels and the higher-level partner be aware of the lower’s level. If this does not occur or one partner dominates, the interaction is less successful (Driscoll, 1994; Hausfather, 1996).

Vygotsky’s theories also feed into the current interest in collaborative learning, suggesting that group members should have different levels of ability so more advanced peers can help less advanced members operate within their ZPD.

Scaffolding and reciprocal teaching are effective strategies to access the zone of proximal development.

Reciprocal Teaching

A contemporary educational application of Vygotsky’s theory is “reciprocal teaching,” used to improve students” ability to learn from text.

In this method, teachers and students collaborate in learning and practicing four key skills: summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting. The teacher’s role in the process is reduced over time.

Reciprocal teaching allows for the creation of a dialogue between students and teachers. This two-way communication becomes an instructional strategy by encouraging students to go beyond answering questions and engage in the discourse (Driscoll, 1994; Hausfather, 1996).

A study conducted by Brown and Palincsar (1989) demonstrated the Vygotskian approach with reciprocal teaching methods in their successful program to teach reading strategies.

The teacher and students alternated turns leading small group discussions on a reading. After modeling four reading strategies, students began to assume the teaching role.

The results showed significant gains over other instructional strategies (Driscoll, 1994; Hausfather,1996).

Cognitively Guided Instruction is another strategy to implement Vygotsky’s theory. This strategy involves the teacher and students exploring math problems and then sharing their problem-solving strategies in an open dialogue (Hausfather,1996).

Based on Vygotsky’s theory, the physical classroom would provide clustered desks or tables and workspace for peer instruction, collaboration, and small-group instruction. Learning becomes a reciprocal experience for the students and teacher.

Like the environment, the instructional design of the material to be learned would be structured to promote and encourage student interaction and collaboration. Thus the classroom becomes a community of learning.


Also, Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development on learners is relevant to instructional concepts such as “scaffolding” and “apprenticeship,” in which a teacher or more advanced peer helps to structure or arrange a task so that a novice can work on it successfully.

A teacher’s role is to identify each individual’s current level of development and provide them with opportunities to cross their ZPD.

A crucial element in this process is the use of what later became known as scaffolding; the way in which the teacher provides students with frameworks and experiences which encourage them to extend their existing schemata and incorporate new skills, competencies, and understandings.

Scaffolding describes the conditions that support the child’s learning, to move from what they already know to new knowledge and abilities.

Scaffolding requires the teacher to allow students to extend their current skills and knowledge.

During scaffolding, the support offered by an adult (or more knowledgeable other) gradually decreases as the child becomes more skilled in the task.

As the adult withdraws their help, the child assumes more of the strategic planning and eventually gains competence to master similar problems without a teacher’s aid or a more knowledgeable peer.

It is important to note that this is more than simply instruction; learning experiences must be presented in such a way as to actively challenge existing mental structures and provide frameworks for learning.

Five ways in which an adult can “scaffold” a child’s learning:

  • Engaging the child’s interest
  • Maintaining the child’s interest in the task e.g., avoiding distraction and providing clear instructions on how to start the task.
  • Keeping the child’s frustration under control e.g., by supportive interactions, adapting instructions according to where the child is struggling.
  • Emphasizing the important features of the task
  • Demonstrating the task: showing the child how to do the task in simple, clear steps.

As the child progresses through the ZPD, the necessary scaffolding level declines from 5 to 1.

The teacher must engage students’ interests, simplify tasks to be manageable, and motivate students to pursue the instructional goal.

In addition, the teacher must look for discrepancies between students” efforts and the solution, control for frustration and risk, and model an idealized version of the act (Hausfather, 1996).

Challenges to Traditional Teaching Methods

Vygotsky’s social development theory challenges traditional teaching methods. Historically, schools have been organized around recitation teaching.

The teacher disseminates knowledge to be memorized by the students, who in turn recite the information to the teacher (Hausfather,1996).

However, the studies described above offer empirical evidence that learning based on the social development theory facilitates cognitive development over other instructional strategies.

The structure of our schools does not reflect the rapid changes our society is experiencing. The introduction and integration of computer technology in society has tremendously increased the opportunities for social interaction.

Therefore, the social context for learning is transforming as well. Whereas collaboration and peer instruction were once only possible in shared physical space, learning relationships can now be formed from distances through cyberspace.

Computer technology is a cultural tool that students can use to meditate and internalize their learning. Recent research suggests changing the learning contexts with technology is a powerful learning activity (Crawford, 1996).

If schools continue to resist structural change, students will be ill-prepared for the world they will live.

Critical Evaluation

Vygotsky’s work has not received the same level of intense scrutiny that Piaget’s has, partly due to the time-consuming process of translating Vygotsky’s work from Russian.

Also, Vygotsky’s sociocultural perspective does not provide as many specific hypotheses to test as Piaget’s theory, making refutation difficult, if not impossible.

Perhaps the main criticism of Vygotsky’s work concerns the assumption that it is relevant to all cultures. Rogoff (1990) dismisses the idea that Vygotsky’s ideas are culturally universal and instead states that scaffolding- heavily dependent on verbal instruction – may not be equally useful in all cultures for all types of learning.

Indeed, in some instances, observation and practice may be more effective ways of learning certain skills.

There is much emphasis on social interaction and culture, but many other aspects of development are neglected, such as the importance of emotional factors, e.g., the joys of success and the disappointments and frustration of failure act as motivation for learning.

Vygotsky overemphasized socio-cultural factors at the expense of biological influences on cognitive development. This theory cannot explain why cross-cultural studies show that the stages of development (except the formal operational stage ) occur in the same order in all cultures suggesting that cognitive development is a product of a biological process of maturation.

Vygotky’s theory has been applied successfully to education. Scaffolding has been shown to be an effective way of teaching (Freund, 1990), and based on this theory, teachers are trained to guide children from what they can do to the next step in their learning through careful scaffolding.

Collaborative work is also used in the classroom, mixing children of different levels of ability to make use of reciprocal / peer teaching.

Vygotsky vs. Piaget

Unlike Piaget’s notion that children’s cognitive development must necessarily precede their learning, Vygotsky argued, “learning is a necessary and universal aspect of the process of developing culturally organized, specifically human psychological function” (1978, p. 90).  In other words, social learning precedes (i.e., come before) development.

Differences betwee Vygotsky and Piaget In Psychology

Vygotsky’s theory differs from that of Piaget in several important ways:

Vygotsky places more emphasis on culture affecting cognitive development.

Unlike Piaget, who emphasized universal cognitive change (i.e., all children would go through the same sequence of cognitive development regardless of their cultural experiences), Vygotsky leads us to expect variable development depending on cultural diversity. 

This contradicts Piaget’s view of universal stages of development (Vygotsky does not refer to stages like Piaget does).

Hence, Vygotsky assumes cognitive development varies across cultures, whereas Piaget states cognitive development is mostly universal across cultures.

Vygotsky places considerably more emphasis on social factors contributing to cognitive development.

In contrast, Piaget maintains that cognitive development stems largely from independent explorations in which children construct knowledge.

The importance of scaffolding and language may differ for all cultures. Rogoff (1990) emphasizes the importance of observation and practice in pre-industrial societies (e.g., learning to use a canoe among Micronesian Islanders).

Vygotsky places more (and different) emphasis on the role of language in cognitive development.

According to Piaget , language depends on thought for its development (i.e., thought comes before language). For Vygotsky, thought and language are initially separate systems from the beginning of life, merging at around three years of age, producing verbal thought (inner speech).

In Piaget’s theory, egocentric (or private) speech gradually disappears as children develop truly social speech, in which they monitor and adapt what they say to others.

Vygotsky disagreed with this view, arguing that as language helps children to think about and control their behavior, it is an important foundation for complex cognitive skills.

As children age, this self-directed speech becomes silent (or private) speech, referring to the inner dialogues we have with ourselves as we plan and carry out activities.

For Vygotsky, cognitive development results from an internalization of language.

According to Vygotsky, adults are an important source of cognitive development.

Adults transmit their culture’s tools of intellectual adaptation that children internalize.

In contrast, Piaget emphasizes the importance of peers, as peer interaction promotes social perspective-taking.

Behrend, D.A., Rosengren, K.S., & Perlmutter, M. (1992). The relation between private speech and parental interactive style. In R.M. Diaz & L.E. Berk (Eds.), Private speech: From social interaction to self-regulation (pp. 85–100) . Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Berk, L. E. (1986). Relationship of elementary school children’s private speech to behavioral accompaniment to task, attention, and task performance. Developmental Psychology, 22(5) , 671.

Berk, L. & Garvin, R. (1984). Development of private speech among low-income Appalachian children. Developmental Psychology, 20(2) , 271-286.

Berk, L. E., & Landau, S. (1993). Private speech of learning-disabled and normally achieving children in classroom academic and laboratory contexts. Child Development, 64 , 556–571.

Cannella, G. S., & Reiff, J. C. (1994). Individual constructivist teacher education: Teachers as empowered learners . Teacher education quarterly , 27-38.

Crawford, K. (1996) Vygotskian approaches to human development in the information era. Educational Studies in Mathematics, (31) ,43-62.

Diaz, R. M., & Berk, L. E. (1992). Private speech: From social interaction to self-regulation. Lawrence Erlbaum.

Driscoll, M. P. (1994). Psychology of Learning for Instruction . Needham, Ma: Allyn && Bacon.

Frauenglass, M. & Diaz, R. (1985). Self-regulatory functions of children’s private speech: A critical analysis of recent challenges to Vygotsky’s theory. Developmental Psychology, 21(2) , 357-364.

Fernyhough, C., & Fradley, E. (2005). Private speech on an executive task: Relations with task difficulty and task performance . Cognitive Development, 20 , 103–120.

Freund, L. S. (1990). Maternal regulation of children’s problem-solving behavior and its impact on children’s performance . Child Development, 61 , 113-126.

Hausfather, S. J. (1996). Vygotsky and Schooling: Creating a Social Contest for learning. Action in Teacher Education, (18) ,1-10.

Ostad, S. A., & Sorensen, P. M. (2007). Private speech and strategy-use patterns: Bidirectional comparisons of children with and without mathematical difficulties in a developmental perspective. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 40 , 2–14.

Piaget, J. (1959). The language and thought of the child (Vol. 5) . Psychology Press.

Rogoff, B. (1990).  Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context . Oxford university press.

Saettler, P. (1990). The Evolution of American Educational Technology . Egnlewood, Co: Libraries Unlimited.

Schaffer, R. (1996) . Social development. Oxford: Blackwell.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). Thought and language. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). Thinking and speech. In R.W. Rieber & A.S. Carton (Eds.), The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky, Volume 1: Problems of general psychology (pp. 39–285) . New York: Plenum Press. (Original work published 1934.)

Winsler, A., Abar, B., Feder, M. A., Schunn, C. D., & Rubio, D. A. (2007). Private speech and executive functioning among high-functioning children with autistic spectrum disorders . Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37 , 1617-1635.

Wertsch, J. V., Sohmer, R. (1995). Vygotsky on learning and development. Human Development, (38), 332-37.

Further Reading

  • Journal Article on Private Speech

What is Vygotsky’s Theory

Vygotsky believed that cognitive development was founded on social interaction. According to Vygotsky, much of what children acquire in their understanding of the world is the product of collaboration.

How is Vygotsky’s theory applied in teaching and learning?

Vygotsky’s theory has profound implications for classroom learning. Teachers guide, support, and encourage children, yet also help them to develop problem-solving strategies that can be generalized to other situations.

Children learn best not when they are isolated, but when they interact with others, particularly more knowledgeable others who can provide the guidance and encouragement to master new skills.

What was Vygotsky’s best know concept?

Lev Vygotsky was a seminal Russian psychologist best known for his sociocultural theory. He constructed the idea of a zone of proximal development ,  which are those tasks which are too difficult for a child to solve alone but s/he can accomplish with the help of adults or more skilled peers.

Vygotsky has developed a sociocultural approach to cognitive development. He developed his theories at around the same time as  Jean Piaget  was starting to develop his ideas (1920’s and 30″s), but he died at the age of 38, and so his theories are incomplete – although some of his writings are still being translated from Russian.

Like Piaget, Vygotsky could be described as a  constructivist , in that he was interested in knowledge acquisition as a cumulative event – with new experiences and understandings incorporated into existing cognitive frameworks.

However, while Piaget’s theory is structural (arguing that physiological stages govern development), Vygotsky denies the existence of any guiding framework independent of culture and context.

No single principle (such as Piaget’s equilibration) can account for development. Individual development cannot be understood without reference to the social and cultural context within which it is embedded. Higher mental processes in the individual have their origin in social processes.

What is Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory?

Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory is often referred to as the Sociocultural Theory.

Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory posits that social interaction is fundamental to cognitive development. Vygotsky emphasized the influence of cultural and social contexts on learning, claiming that knowledge is constructed through social collaboration.

His most known concept, the Zone of Proximal Development, refers to the difference between what a learner can do independently and what they can achieve with guidance.

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Role of Parents and Teachers in Child Development.

Table of Contents

Child Development: Role of Parents and Teachers IN Inculcating values

(relevant for ethics, integrity and aptitude).

Shaping Future Generations: The Integral Role of Parents and Teachers in Child Development, Best Sociology Optional Coaching, Sociology Optional Syllabus

Role of Parents

Mere knowledge and intelligence alone are insufficient for a child’s development without self-confidence. The concept of child development lacks clarity and is not concise or precise. The fundamental questions regarding what a child is, what development entails, and why it is important remain unanswered. A child should not be viewed merely as a means to fulfill the parents’ dreams or as a burden; instead, childhood should be cherished and enjoyed.

Development involves learning, adapting, and changing, but the pace and pattern of development vary among children. Some children develop rapidly, like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, while others face struggles and challenges. Development encompasses various aspects such as health, education, social interaction, intellect, morality, ethics, and spirituality. Social interaction plays a crucial role in a child’s learning as a secluded and isolated child learns very little.

Parents, teachers, siblings, elders, and friends all play vital roles in a child’s development, with the family and teachers having particularly significant influences. Ideally, a conventional family structure consisting of a married husband and wife living together is considered the best environment for child development. However, the reality is that family structures can vary widely, including single-parent households, working couples, or families where gender roles are non-traditional . Each family situation has a distinct impact on the child, and teachers need to understand and respect the diversity of family structures to effectively support the child’s development.

During the developmental stage, children often face two major challenges: eating and learning. Many parents find that their children do not eat well in terms of quality and quantity, which may be due to parental ignorance or anxiety. Providing the right food, in the right amount, and at the right time remains a persistent concern. Learning, on the other hand, involves gathering information, comprehending it, and making meaning out of it.

Language and communication skills are essential tools for learning, with informal learning occurring through social interactions and formal learning taking place in school settings. Language skills aid in conceptualization, while effective communication facilitates social interaction. Prioritizing the child’s questions and encouraging their curiosity fosters a positive learning experience. Each child is unique and possesses strengths and talents, and praising their achievements at every stage promotes a joy for learning. Teachers and parents should help children learn from both successful and unsuccessful experiences.

Children have diverse personalities and inclinations. Some may be action-oriented and enjoy sports and physical activities, while others may be sociable and thrive in social settings. Some children may have a philosophical inclination, preferring deep thinking and maintaining few close friendships . Others may be visually inclined, expressing themselves through drawing and painting. Musical talents may come naturally to some, enabling them to recognize and reproduce songs and melodies. There are also logical thinkers who enjoy numbers and problem-solving, as well as linguistic individuals who excel in reading, crosswords, and verbal expression.

Some children are thinkers, while others are dreamers. When learning aligns with their inherent talents and aptitudes, it becomes easier and more enjoyable for them. A positive and nurturing environment in the first three years of a child’s life greatly contributes to their growth and development. Self-confidence, self-esteem, and initiative are key attributes that set a child apart and enable them to shine. Mere knowledge and intelligence are not enough; without these traits, a child may feel diffident and insignificant.

In raising a morally upright child, I would like to offer a suggestive approach rather than a prescriptive one. There are multiple options depending on the socio-economic and cultural context.

To master these intricacies and fare well in the Sociology Optional Syllabus , aspiring sociologists might benefit from guidance by the Best Sociology Optional Teacher and participation in the Best Sociology Optional Coaching . These avenues provide comprehensive assistance, ensuring a solid understanding of sociology’s diverse methodologies and techniques.

Best Sociology Optional Teacher, Best Sociology Optional Coaching, Sociology Optional Syllabus, Child Development, Role of Parents, Role of Teachers, Social Interaction, Family Structures, Learning Challenges, Language Skills, Communication Skills, Personality Types, Moral Development, Self-confidence, Self-esteem, Initiative, Individual Strengths, Socio-Economic Context, Cultural Context.

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Home — Essay Samples — Education — Teacher — The Role of a Teacher in the Classroom and Beyond


The Role of a Teacher in The Classroom and Beyond

  • Categories: Teacher

About this sample


Words: 2211 |

12 min read

Published: Apr 17, 2023

Words: 2211 | Pages: 5 | 12 min read

Table of contents

Introduction:, conclusion:, bibliography.

  • Hayes, D., (2008) Foundations of Primary Teaching. 4th ed. London: Routledge.
  • Assets.publishing.service.gov.uk. (2020). [online] Available At: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/665522/Teachers_standard_information.pdf [Accessed 5 October 2020].
  • Hall, A., 2013. [online] Safeguardinginschools.co.uk. Available at: [Accessed 5 October 2020].
  • Grigg, R. (2014) Becoming an outstanding primary School teacher. 2nd ed. Routledge.
  • Cooper, H. (2014) Professional studies in primary education. 2nd ed. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
  • Jacques, K. and Hyland, R., (2007) Professional Studies. Exeter: Learning Matters.
  • Kapoor, I., (2004) Hyper‐self‐reflexive development? Spivak on representing the Third World ‘Other’. Third World Quarterly, 25(4), pp.627-647.
  • Richardson, R., 2015. British values and British identity: Muddles, mixtures, and ways ahead. London Review of Education, 13(2), pp.37-48.
  • Assets.publishing.service.gov.uk. (2020). ● Department For Education And Skills (2005). Aiming High: Meeting The Needs Of Newly Arrived Learners Of English As An Additional Language (EAL).. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 October 2020].
  • Cornwall.gov.uk. (2020) Assess, Plan, Do, Review Cycle - Cornwall Council. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 October 2020].
  • Pound, L. (2014). How children learn: educational theories and approaches: from Comenius the father of modern education to giants such as Piaget, Vygotsky and Malaguzzi. 2nd edn. London: Practical Pre-School Books.
  • Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital, In: Richardson, J. Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education. New York: Greenwood Press, pp.241-258.
  • Clough, P. and Corbett, J. (2000). Theories of Inclusive Education , A Students’ Guide. London: SAGE Publications.
  • Dare, A. and O'Donovan, M., 2000. Good Practice In Child Safety. : Nelson Thornes.

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role of teacher in child development essay


International Women’s Day 2024: Five insightful charts on gender (in)equality around the world

Anna tabitha bonfert, divyanshi wadhwa.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day in 2024 , the urgency for gender equality is more palpable than ever. With the World Bank's forthcoming 2024–2030 Gender Strategy aiming to expedite gender parity to end poverty on a livable planet, it is imperative to delve into the data highlighting the critical areas requiring immediate attention. Drawing from the World Bank’s Gender Data Portal , let’s navigate through three pivotal goals underscoring the pressing need for progress: combating gender-based violence, enhancing economic opportunities, and fostering women’s leadership roles.  

Did you know about our #Gender Data Portal? Explore hundreds of indicators spanning 14 topics from around the globe, accompanied by engaging data visualizations, stories, guidelines, and resources. Dive in now: https://t.co/Qn0AoSeuIj pic.twitter.com/ZMBIW9gVqN — World Bank Data (@worldbankdata) March 4, 2024

Chart #1: Gender-based violence (GBV) remains inexcusably prevalent

Gender-based violence (GBV) is the most egregious manifestation of gender inequality and an alarming challenge to global public health, human rights, and development. One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by a non-partner over the course of their life. Young women are the most at-risk group. This pattern holds irrespective of country income classification. GBV has wide repercussions, including deteriorating physical and mental health, reduced access to education and jobs, and worse human development and economic outcomes for survivors and their children.  

Chart #2: Gains in human capital for both boys and girls

Human capital is the foundation for economic progress and development success. The last few decades saw some hard-won gains in gender equality.  

Chart #3: Exploring economic barriers faced by women

Women’s economic prospects remain constrained. Across all regions of the world, women’s labor force participation remains below that of men.  

Chart #4: Women and girls’ time poverty limits their choices

In every single country with data available, women spend more time on unpaid domestic and care work. Women’s disproportionate burden of care and household work has wide-ranging consequences. It takes away time that could be spent working for pay, developing new skills, or growing a business. As a result, women often remain stuck in informal and lower-paying jobs or remain completely outside of the labor force. Valuing unpaid care work is essential for addressing existing gender inequalities and improving labor market outcomes for women.   

Chart #5:  Spotlighting the gap in women’s leadership representation

Though there are many initiatives focused on increasing women's leadership roles at the local governance level, women are still underrepresented in national governance structures and in corporate management.  The last 25 years have seen a steady increase in the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments more than doubling from about 12% in 1997 to 27% in 2022. Yet, even in high income countries women account for just over 30 percent of parliamentarians. In lower middle-income countries 4 out of 5 parliament seats are occupied by men. 

What lies ahead?

Global trends such as climate change, natural resource scarcity and technological transitions will further exacerbate gender inequalities if no mitigating action is taken. Tracking global trends on key gender statistics will be more vital than ever to develop and implement solutions. Women’s economic participation and leadership improves the management of natural resources, strengthens resilience, and makes economies more competitive. Closing gender gaps remains an urgent imperative, on this day and every day. 

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Divyanshi Wadhwa

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