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Lev Vygotsky

Page history last edited by Butch Latimer 9 years, 2 months ago

Lev Vygotsky

Mozart of Psychology

Misty Eastlake

Historical Context of Work

Born: November 17, 1896

Died: June 11, 1943


Lev Vygotsky was known by many different names, including: “Mozart of Psychology”, Man of his Era, and the Son of the Silver Age.  Lev Vygotsky is one of the most well known developmental psychologist of our time.



Education and Influences

As a child, Vygotsky was greatly influenced by the Torah (5 books of Moses)

Completed his primary education at home with his mother and a private tutor.  He then entered
public school for his secondary education

Vygotsky graduated from secondary school at the age of 17

Studied medicine and law at the University of Moscow

Self-directed studies in Philosophy

After graduating from the University of Moscown, Vygotsky returned to Gomel to teach philosophy and Literature.

People that influenced Vygotsky include:

  1. Pavlov- psychologist
  2. Piaget- psychologist and philospher
  3. Gesell-psychologist and pioneer in the field for child development

Marxist theories: You can only understand a person in the context of the social environment.



Work Life

Vygotsky began the first special education programs in Russia.

In 1924, Vygotsky made a presentation at the Second All-Russian Psychoneurological Congress in Leningrad, and then he was offered a position at the Psychological Institude of Moscow.

In 1925, Vygotsky formed the Laboratory of Psychology for Abnormal Childhood in Moscow


Impact on Best Practices

Vygotsky’s primary focus and study was on human development, historical cultural theory, and development of thought and language. Vygotsky believed that children need social interactions with adults to reach their full potential.  Vygotsky developed the something called the zone of proximal development.  The zone of proximal development discusses the difference between the abilities a child has and what that child can learn from an adult or peer.

Vygotsky also introduced “scaffolding”, which is meant to structure participation in learning for children. 

Vygotsky believed that “play is the source of development.” 

Vygotsky stated that a culture also affects a child’s development.  The abilities of children develop through social interactions with the people who are significant to that child’s life.


Problems or Failures

In October 1917, his support of the October revolution in Russia led to his demise in the Soviet Union.  In the 1930s, Stalinist dogmatic slogans became very influential, and Vygotsky’s situation because extremely unfavorable.  His situation became so unfavorable, that his colleagues and students were terrified to defend him.

During the 1930s, Vygotsky’s work was banned for twenty years in Russia. Due to the cold war, his work was not made available to the West until many years after his death.


Other Interesting Facts

Vygotsky was a speed reader and was exceptionally good at remembering things.

At the age of 38, Vygotsky died of tuberculosis, which he contracted from his younger brother whom he was caring for in 1934

Most of Vygotsky's papers and work, were published years after he passed away.

Impact on Others

Vygotsky has made a great impact on special education, and his views and ideas are still used today.

Reciprical teaching, which was developed by Vygotsky, is used to improve students’ abilities to learn from what they are reading. Teachers and students collaborate in learning and practicing key skills such as: summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting. 

Vygotsky’s theories have also become well known when practicing collaborative learning, suggesting that students have different levels of abilities.


Vygotsky, L. S. (1987) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. (Article)


New World Encyclopedia: Organizing knowledge for happiness, prosperity, and world peace.  2008. Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved on May 28 2011. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Lev_Vygotsky


McLeod, S.A. (2007) Simply Psychology: Vygotsky’s Theory of Social Development . Retrieved on May 28, 2011. http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html




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