Why Vygotsky? : A look at alternative methods of teaching and learning in the English classroom

Pinheiro, Michelle
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This paper describes an alternative approach to the teaching of concepts related to the English Curriculum. It combines a shift in the theory of school teaching with psychological theory development. This research was conducted at a private, Catholic Secondary School in Johannesburg over a period of almost six months with a class of twenty Grade Ten students. The research was designed in response to the fact that many traditional, ‘rote’ teaching methods are not effective in the classroom and that an alternative needs to be found. This research aimed at testing the theories of the Sociohistorical school in order to ascertain whether they could provide clues as to methods that might be more conducive to real learning. Vygotsky’s (1978) theoretical construct of the Zone of Proximal Development, Hedegaard’s (1996) idea of a ‘double move’ and the ideas posited by Wells (1996, 1999) and Tharp and Gallimore (1988, 1992) form the theoretical basis for these ‘alternative’ teaching methods. The results shown in this paper indicate that a ‘double move’ is possible within the context of the English classroom and that the ideas of the Socio-historical school indeed provide an alternative method that is far more successful than those traditionally used in most classrooms.
Socio-historical school, zone of proximal development, Vygotsky, double move, Hedegaard, Wells, Tharp and Gallimore, generative teaching, collaboration, mediation