The Theories of Lev Vygotsky in the Classroom

Updated March 23, 2017

Considering and implementing the theories of psychologist Lev Vygotsky in the classroom is helpful for students of all ages and backgrounds. Thousands of schools have modelled their curriculum after his principles, allowing children access to a supportive learning environment and empowering them to develop their personal strengths. Experiences that students have at school contribute to learning both inside and outside of the classroom.


Children who are encouraged to engage in enjoyable activities develop better than those whose teachers focus solely on academics. Vygotsky claimed that, contrary to popular belief, educational games served no more purpose than those with no purpose outside of entertainment. In his own words, "a child's greatest achievements are possible in play, achievements that tomorrow will become her basic level of real action."

Zone of Proximal Development

One of Vygotsky's foundational beliefs was that children should not be tested on their current knowledge, but on their potential to perform under ideal circumstances. Assessing a student's zone of proximal development, or ZPD, would provide the most adequate representation of their intelligence. As explained by psychologist Diane Papalia, Vygotsky's emphasis on the role parents and educators play in a child's cognitive development enable her to feel comfortable and confident in her abilities.

Social Interaction

Regular socialisation with peers is a necessary ingredient for ample cognitive development. Interpsychological interaction, which involves face-to-face contact with other people, permits intrapsychological reasoning, the ability to consider a variety of options before coming to a conclusion.


Children need to become familiar with the basics of spoken language in order to ensure that they learn as much as they can. Additionally, mastery of communication enables students to better interpret their thought-processes and form knowledgeable opinions about the world. As described by Vygotsky himself, "Thought undergoes many changes as it turns into speech. It does not merely find expression in speech; it finds its reality and form".

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