Universal design for learning (UDL).

According to Turnbull, R, Turnbull, A, Shank, M and Smith, S (2004).  Universal design originated as a concept in architecture. There design seeks to ensure that buildings and public spaces are accessible to all people, including those who experience mobility impairments. Drawing from the success of designing buildings that are accessible to everyone. From the outset, universal design for learning is a process for:

(1) Considering the needs of all students in the classroom-including those with an exceptionality, linguistic diversities, and varied learning styles-from the beginning of the planning stage, and

(2) designing curriculum, instruction, and evaluation with sufficient flexibility so that each student benefits. 

According to Turnbull, R, Turnbull, A, Shank, M and Smith, S (2004), universal design  for learning begins by assuming that students vary widely, even though  they may all be in the same grade and same course, and is flexible in order to respond to a wide degree of student diversity  from the very onset.

Principles of the Universal Design for learning.

             There are three principles of the universal design for learning. 

  1. Presentation- to offer learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge.
  2. Expression- to provide students alternatives for demonstrating what they know
  3. Engagement- to tap into students’ interests, challenges them appropriately, and motivates them to learn.

Multiple methods of presentation:  Based on information retrieved from an article entitled “what is universal design for learning” (n.d) presenting information and ideas in multiple ways is an essential part of good teaching. This principle of the Universal design for learning (UDL) addresses diverse learning styles and provides multiple opportunities for students to grasp key concepts. The same article went on to identify some strategies that can be implemented to facilitate this principle of the UDL in the classroom. They are: “apply this principle by breaking up long lectures and reading assignments into activities that engage students into listening, watching, reflecting, and doing. They also asserted that teachers should offer documents in multiple electronic formats, and check materials for compliance with accessibility, standards and guidelines. 

It is also important to note that a number of individuals have given their perspectives on the benefit of administering this principle in the classroom. The article entitled (what is Universal Design” (n.d) outline some quotes identifying others perspectives of the benefit of administering this principle in the class room. One such quote is:

“The thing I like about UDL is that it maximizes students learning by increasing the number of ways that students get to see information, and I think that more students can be reached when you use many alternatives to traditional lecture….”

  • Erica Suchman, Assoc. Professor of Microbiology

Immunology and Pathology .

Multiple modes of expression:   the second principle of UDL is that students should be given multiple ways to express their comprehension and mastery of a topic. Learners differ in the ways that they can navigate a learning environment and express what they know. For example, individuals with significant movement impairments (e.g., cerebral palsy), those who struggle with strategic and organizational abilities (executive function disorders), those who have language barriers, and so forth approach learning tasks very differently. Some may be able to express themselves well in written text but not speech, and vice versa. It should also be recognized that action and expression require a great deal of strategy, practice, and organization, and this is another area in which learners can differ. In reality, there is not one means of action and expression that will be optimal for all learners; providing options for action and expression is essential. Information retrieved from an article entitled “what is universal design for learning” (n.d) identify some ways in which this principle of the UDL can be achieved. it was stated that teachers should consider accepting students projects in alternative formats, including oral presentation, videos, newspaper articles, photo essay, radio documentaries, community research, community research, and web publication for students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

“Students like the fact that there are opportunities to show what they know outside of traditional examinations- that they can participate through the clickers, that they can do group problem solving, and that they can show their knowledge in alternative ways”.

Dr. Erica Suchman

Multiple opportunities for engagement: getting students excited about learning by providing multiple opportunities for engagement in the third, and perhaps most powerful, UDL principle.  Affect represents a crucial element to learning, and learners differ markedly in the ways in which they can be engaged or motivated to learn. There are a variety of sources that can influence individual variation in affect including culture, personal relevance, subjectivity, and background knowledge, along with a variety of other factors presented in these guidelines. Some learners are highly engaged by spontaneity and novelty while other are disengaged, even frightened, by those aspects, preferring strict routine. Some learners might like to work alone, while others prefer to work with their peers. In reality, there is not one means of engagement that will be optimal for all learners in all contexts; providing multiple options for engagement is essential. Information retrieved from an article entitled “what is universal design for learning” (n.d) identifies ways in which this principle can be facilitated in the classroom.  Begin by focusing your course objectives on essential knowledge and skills. As you teach, clarify the importance of each topic, and express your own enthusiasm for it.  Put students in an active learning role. Provide prompt and informative feedback. Explain to students how the concepts you present are relevant to their careers and meaningful to society.




Cooper, J.(2006).  Classroom Teaching Skills. USA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Dixon, M and Matalan, B(2009). Exceptional students in the classroom. Jamaica:

         Chalkboard press .

Friend, M. and Bursuck, W.(2012). Including students with special Needs : A practical

       Guide for classroom Teachers.  USA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Heward, W. (2009). Exceptional Children: An introduction to special Education.

          New Jersey: Pearson Education Ltd.

Lerner, J.(2003).  Learning disabilities. USA. Houghton Mifflin company

Lerner, J. and Kline, F.(2006). Learning disabilities and related disorders: characteristics

        and teaching strategies. USA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Mercer, C. and Pullen, P.(2009). Students with learning disabilities. New Jersey: Pearson

          Education, Inc

Turnbull, R, Turnbull, A, Shank, M and Smith, S. (2004).  Exceptional Lives: Special

         Education in today’s schools.  New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

What is Universal design for Learning(n.d). retrieved from http://accessproject.colostate.

          edu/udl/documents/what_is_udl.pdf on May 3, 2014.

Labelling in Special Education. (Advantages and Disadvantages)

“Labeling is a process of creating descriptors to identify persons who differ from the norm. Normal is a broad relative term. Everyone is different in some way from someone else” (Darrow and White) as sited in Davis, K. (2004). As humans we use numerous labels on a daily basis without being conscious. We may say the teacher, the doctor, or the principal, this is done to conjure up an image of the person in question, and how they might look or act. In a similar way, we often label persons with disabilities.

Why are persons with disabilities ladled? W.L. Heward(2010) mentioned that “Labeling is required to be included in special education. Under current law, to receive special education services, a child must be identified as having a disability and, in most cases, must be further classified into one of that state’s categories, such as mental retardation or learning disabilities”. Persons with disabilities are ladled based on their medical and educational diagnosis, for example cripple which is used to refer to a person(s) with a mobility impairment. This may leave one to ask if labeling is all bad. Perhaps “there are some positive aspects to labeling a person’s disability. The brings to the fore the famous labelling theory, which states that if an individual is given a certain label (example: “criminal”, “convict”, “gangster”, etc.), even if it is a label that negatively affects their reputation, the individual will resort to behaving like the label. Labels are sometimes used as a prerequisite to receiving federal funding or to acknowledging accommodations that must be made for a person with a disability” (Cassidy & Sims, 1990 in Darrow and White)(as sited in Davis, K. (2004 ).

Advantages of labeling.

1. Labeling the disability spotlights the problem for the public. Labeling can spark social concern and aid advocacy efforts. When persons are labeled, advocacy groups now have an opportunity to identify the problem and lobby for it on behalf of the individuals. In other words, Labeling creates cohesive communication for advocacy groups.

2. Labeling may make the majority without disabilities more tolerant of the minority with disabilities. Labeling provides the person without the disability an opportunity to research about the condition and make them more tolerant of the person with the disability. This is so because people are labeled based on their educational or medical diagnosis.

3. Labeling makes it easier for legislators to understand the need for laws protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities. In cases where applicable, labeling allow legislators to see the discrimination that persons with disabilities face thus, making legislators develop laws to protects persons with disabilities.

4. Labeling has led to the development of specialized teaching methods, assessment approaches, and behavioral interventions that are useful for teachers of all students. By labeling, educators are able to research the disabilities and identify or develop specialized methods to teach students with the varied disabilities.

Disadvantages of labeling.

1. Students cannot receive special education services until they are labeled. In many instances, the intervention comes too late. Students with disabilities are at a disadvantage when they have to wait to be labeled before they can receive special education services. In essence, the need to label students before help arrives undermines a preventive approach to mild learning problems.

2. Labels tend to focus on impairment and may encourage people to see the impairment instead of the child. Often times when a child is labeled, the person without the disability focuses on the child limitations and not their strength. The onlooker id forced not to look pass the disability, while the real beauty is shoved aside by the label.

3. When a child is labeled, the blame and guilt is forced onto the shoulders of the parent. This makes the parent feel as if their child is constantly discriminated and the parent eventually feels that it is their fault. As a result, the parent may with draw the child from the wider society as a means of protection.

4. Labels may result in lower expectations for the child than for peers. In some cases, the moment a child is labeled, the expectation of the child is lowered. As a result of the child disabilities, they are not expected to perform at a high standard as the rest of the class or their peers in general.


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Inclusion In The Classroom.

“There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do.” Dr. Temple Grandin. In light of these words uttered by  Dr. Temple Grandin, the concept of inclusion comes to mind if we are to place more emphasis on what children can do instead of what they cannot. With that being the case we cannot separate our disabled children from the  general education classrooms, they must be included so that they  can enjoy the benefits that are to  be  had. Inclusion is referred to as, the educational practice of educating children with disabilities in classrooms with children without disabilities.  The concept of inclusion takes on two general models, namely; “Push in” and “full inclusion”.

The concept of inclusion, works  in tandem  with mainstreaming. Subsequently, advocates of mainstreaming did not  want  to  see students    with disabilities placed in special classrooms for  an  entire day. Rather, they developed the belief that more exposure to  the  general education classroom would be beneficial to  everyone. Similarly, inclusion speaks to children with disabilities being included in the general setting under the responsibility of the general classroom teacher. Inclusion is considered to be flexible because students with disabilities can receive their instruction in another setting such as a resource room with additional support been provided by “paraprofessionals ”. (this  is special-education worker who is not licensed to teach, but performs many duties both individually with students and organizationally in the classroom).  When considering  inclusion,  there are characteristics that must be observed  and  these include; all students been welcomed in the general classroom regardless of their disability or the severity, the proportion of students with and without disabilities are proportional to  each other, students are educated with peers in the same age grouping available to those without disability labels, and students with varying characteristics and abilities participate in shared educational experiences.

As mentioned earlier, inclusion has two main models:  “Push in” and “full inclusion”. “Push In” recommends that the special education teacher enter the classroom to provide instruction and support to the children. The “push in” teacher will bring materials into the classroom. The teacher may work with the child on math during the math period, or perhaps reading during the literacy block. The push in teacher also often provides instructional support to the general education teacher, perhaps helping with differentiation of instruction. On the  other  hand, full inclusion refers to the  practice of serving students with  disabilities and  other special needs entirely within the general classroom. Consequently, all students with disabilities are  served the entire day in the general classroom, although special education teachers and other personnel may also be present in the general classroom. (Knowlton, 2004 ).

Is the concept of inclusion applicable within the Jamaican context? In response to that question, we ought to consider the benefits that can be procured from the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom.  The  benefits for students include; a greater emphasis on students strength as opposed to shortfalls and limitations, students with disabilities demonstrate higher level of academic performance in inclusive setting, and students with disabilities  have a greater opportunity the develop social skills from other students. Inclusion is applicable in the Jamaican context because there are students in our Jamaican society that are diagnosed with disabilities of one kind or another and we want then to  be able to enjoy the benefits that were outlined earlier. In an article published in The Gleaner dated May 2, 2013, the author is quoted as saying  “PEOPLE with disabilities (PWD) represent one of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of people in Jamaica. They are often uneducated, live in extreme poverty and hunger, and are often at serious risk of discrimination and violence.”  Consequently, it is applicable and wise to promote inclusion in the Jamaican context. UNICEF (2004) (as sited in the The Gleanre may 2013),  disabled  children have little opportunity to enjoy their right to an education, as stipulated in the Child Care and Protection Act as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, because less than 15 per cent of these persons are enrolled in government operated schools. In addition,  Susan B. Rifkin and Pat Pridmore (2001)  (as sited in  The Gleaner may 2013), argues that “education is a powerful tool for the economic empowerment of people with disabilities because people who lack education/information often lack power and lack choices about how to improve their lives.” This is goes to  show why inclusion is applicable in the  Jamaican context. It is heartwarming to know that  in Jamaica the national disability policy stipulates that no child shall be denied access to any public education institution on the basis of a disability.



Davis, G., & Rimm, S. (2004). Education of the gifted and talented (5th ed.). Boston:

Allyn and Bacon.


Davis, K. (2004 ).  What’s in a Name: Our Only Label Should Be Our Name: Avoiding the Stereotypes.  http://www.iidc.indiana.edu/?pageId=364    Retrieved April 28, 2014.


David W. Dillard (). Differentiated instruction challenges.   wvde.state.wv.us/…/PD/Differentiated%20Instruction%20Challenges.ppt‎.   Retrieved April 20, 2014.


Geralis,E (editor). Children With Cerebral Palsy: A Parents’ Guide. MD: Woodbine House, 1998.


Hall, T(2009). Differentiated Instruction and Implications for UDL Implementation. http://aim.cast.org/learn/historyarchive/backgroundpapers/differentiated_instruction_udl#.U1VMoPldVvl.  Retrieved April 20, 2014.

Jaevion Nelson(2013). What About Children With Disabilities?. The Gleaner.

Jerry Webster(2014) .Inclusion – – What is Inclusion.  http://specialed.about.com/od/integration/a/Inclusion-What-Is-Inclusion.htm.  Retrieved April 20, 2014.

Mavropoulos,Y.(2000). Inclucive Education. http://www.uvm.edu/~cdci/prlc/unit2_slide/sld005.htm Retrieved April 20, 2014.


Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health().Children’s Mental Health Disorder Fact Sheet for the Classroom. http://www.schoolmentalhealth.org/Resources/Educ/MACMH/PTSD.pdf.  Retrieved April 16, 2014.


Pace center(2006). What Is An Emotional or Behavioral Disorder?. http://www.pacer.org/parent/php/php-c81.pdf.  Retrieved April 20, 2014.


Price, G(2013). Dyscalculia: Characteristics, Causes, and Treatments. Numeracy advancing education in quantitative literacy,  6,1, p3-6. P4


Smith,M,  Segal,J (2014). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). http://www.helpguide.org/mental/post_traumatic_stress_disorder_symptoms_treatment.htm. Retrieved April 20, 2014.


Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


W.L.Heward(2006). Labeling and Eligibility for Special Education. http://www.education.com/reference/article/labeling-eligibility-special-education/


What is Content area reading inventory (Cari) and Cloze procedure.

Content area reading inventory.

       Content area reading inventory is described as an assessment created by the teacher to fathom the level at which the students are able to read the textbooks used in the subject area.  This assessment uses a 250 to 500 word passage directly from the textbook, a passage that the students will read. Ten (10) questions on a variety of comprehension levels from Bloom’s Taxonomy is then asked to aid in identifying the level of the skills that students possess in the handling of text and to  help  the teacher determine what he or she can build the lesson around.  Content area reading inventory is useful in the sense that it will allow the teacher to know how well the students are able to use the textbooks (use of the content page, glossary, index, appendices), content area reading inventory indicates as to whether or not the students will be able to master the text and content area reading inventory will help the teacher assess skills needed for the students to achieve success.  Skills which include: exhibiting good comprehension, understanding of graphics, the ability follow given directions and using textbook.

 Four objectives for administering the Content area reading inventory (CARI) to students at the secondary level.       

Objectives of Content area reading inventory include:

  • Determine student’s prior knowledge of the subject.
  • Identify student’s metacognitive skills.
  • Identify how students decode text.
  • Determine student’s knowledge of how to use the text.

Cloze Procedure

    The cloze procedure can be used with students at all levels of reading ability to assess reading comprehension or test vocabulary knowledge. With this technique the students are presented with a passage to read. After reading, words are deleted from the same passage and the students are required to supply the omitted words to complete the sentences. Completing this task requires critical thinking skills and presents the teacher with an opportunity to measure how well students are able to use semantic and syntax cues to construct meaning from the text. Cloze procedure is also useful in determining how well students have retained knowledge of content or vocabulary. The teacher awards one point each time the missing word is correctly identified. The percentage of correct answers is determined by dividing the number of points by the number of blanks. Then the percentage of correct  word replacement is compared with this scale: 61% or more correct: independent level, 41-60% correct: instructional level, less than 40% correct: frustration level.

Four objectives for administering the cloze procedure. 


  • To identify students’ knowledge and understanding of the reading process.
  • To encourage students to think critically and analytically about text and content.
  • To encourage students to look for meaning through context clue while reading.
  • To measure the degree of students’ vocabulary and knowledge of a subject.




Culver, V., Godfrey, H., & Manzo, A. (1972). A partial reanalysis of the validity of the cloze procedure as an appropriate measure of reading comprehension. Journal of   Reading, 16, 256-257.


Preszler, J,. Rowenhorst, B,. & Hartmann, J.,(2006). On Target strategy. Black Hills Special Services Cooperative.

Seinost, R.,  & Thiese, S. (2007). Creating the frame work for reading. In Reading and Writing Across Content Areas (Chapter one). Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks. Retrieved from: http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/11724_Sejnost_Chapter_1.pdf

Treptow, A., & Burns,K.,& McComas J. (2007)Reading at the Frustration, Instructional, and Independent Levels: The Effects on Students’ Reading Comprehension and Time on Task. School Psychology Review,  36, (1),


How to teach the 21st century learner.

The integration of technology is vital in teaching the 21st century learner.

“Every child can learn, every child must learn,” these word should rest on the mind of every teacher as they enter the classroom.  In this the 21st century the words of (Prensky, 2001) are holding true that “Today’s students are no longer the people our education system was designed to teach.”  In light of this, the learners have undergone a conspicuous change with which the education system has to be keeping abreast. One such change is the is their technological advancements.

The twenty first century is laced with more technology devices than ever seen in human history. This technological advancement has created a radical change in the learners. In light of this, the learners are moving away from gathering their information through the use of “dog eared” text books but through the use of some device that was given birth to by the advent of technology.  In an article entitled, “Technology in the classroom,” written  by Keeli Cambourne(2013),  shed some light on the technological revolution that is impacting classrooms across the globe. It emphasize that students are moving away from “dog eared” text book and gathering their information through the use of itunes and similar software. As a result   students are now more interested in staying away from the physical classroom but stay connected through the use of video conferencing and social sites. Student s have thrown the books aside to the extent where they are resorting to ebooks  (electronic books) and Epistemic games which put students  in simulators and allow them to solve real world problems. These are the changes that teachers have to keep up with.


As it is with changes, there are implications that the education system has to deal with. These drastic changes can be viewed as a two edged sword, on one edge the schools are becoming more technologically advance to keep abreast with the students, and on the other schools have to be implementing stringent measures to curtail the use of these technologies. Features that schools has to implement include;

the electronic white board and the features that it offers: internet access, converting hand writing to text and video conferencing. These features will enhance the teaching learning process in the sense that the facilitator can stay in a remote location and disseminate information to the students via video conferencing and or social Medias.  This feature can also be used to combine classes with student in another room on the same building or in a different location; this will create a new classroom ethos. Another feature that the teacher can use to good effect is the instant internet access, with this the teacher will be able to instantly research unfamiliar terms or just to make a point clear.

Integration of technology  

Integrating technology in schools will improve the quality education that our students will be receiving. But to back track a bit, integration is considered as the act of combining parts together in an attempt to make a whole .  Technology integration has five levels; entry, adoption, adaptation, infusion, and transformation. These steps are vital in achieving the desired results.  Entry is the point at which the teacher deliver the content using technology, which then leads to the adoption phase where the teacher directs students in the conventional use of tool-based software , then with infusion, the teacher constantly provide the students with the technology where they can understand, apply, analyze, and evaluate learning task. These phases have to be followed in order to maximize the use of the technology.  Three ways how the integration of technology will improve the quality of education includes; the creation of virtual classrooms, the introduction of epistemic games the facilitating of global learning as it relates to foreign languages.

related article: http://kemardaley.wordpress.com/



Abrikian, J. (2012, September 23). Educators Must Take Charge Of Discipline. The Gleaner . Retrieved from: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120923/focus/focus4.html

Cambourne, K. ( 2013). Technology in the classroom.  Retrieved from: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/back-to-school/technology-in-the-classroom-20100119-mhn3.html.

Douglas, L.( 2009,November 06 ).  Guns, gangs plague schools. Observer.  Retrieved from: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/163215_Guns–gangs-plague-schools.

Edutopia staff (2013). Report on: Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The       Reasons Are Many. Retrieved from:  http://www.edutopia.org/technology-integration-introduction .

Lev Vygotsky cognitive development.

A Brief Background and work of Vygotsky

Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky was a Russian psychologist, the founder of an original holistic theory of human cultural and biosocial development commonly referred to as cultural-historical psychology and leader of the Vygotsky Circle.He was born on November 17, 1896 and died on June 11, 1934. He got married to Roza Noevna Smekhova with whom he got one child, Gita Vygodskaya. The theorist was educated at Moscow State University and Shanyavskii People’s University.

The work of Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) has become the foundation of much research and theory in cognitive deveImagelopment over the past several decades, particularly of what has become known as Social Development Theory. Vygotsky’s theories stress the fundamental role of social interaction in the development of cognition. Vygotsky believed strongly that community plays a central role in the process of “making meaning.”Unlike Piaget’s notion that children’s’ 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”.  In other words, social learning tends to precede (i.e. come before) development.

Social Influences on Cognitive Development

Like PiagetVygotsky believes that young children are curious and actively involved in their own learning and the discovery and development of new understandings. However, Vygotsky placed more emphasis on social contributions to the process of development, 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 provide verbal instructions for the child. Vygotsky refers to this as co-operative or collaborative dialogue. The child seeks to understand the actions or instructions provided by the tutor (often the parent or teacher) then internalizes the information by using it to guide or regulate their own performance.

Role of Social Interaction in Cognitive Development

The Social Development Theory (SDT) mainly asserts that social interaction has a vital role in the cognitive development process. With this concept, Vygotsky’s theory opposes that of Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory because Piaget explains that a person undergoes development first before he achieves learning, whereas Vygotsky argues that social learning comes first before development. Through the Social Development Theory, Vygotsky states that the cultural development of a child is firstly on the social level called inter-psychological, and secondly on the individual or personal level called intrapsychological.

“The more knowledgeable other” is vital.

   Prior to vygotsky’s study of the cognitive development of children, there existed several theories such as that of Jean Piaget. But lev vygotsky took a completely new look at the cognitive development of children. Vygotsky, strongly linked sociocultural interactions to the cognitive development of a child. As a result he made mention of three important features of the sociocultural interaction: The More Knowledgeable Other, the zone of proximal development and scaffolding.   As his study progressed several “test were conducted with children to concrete his point that sociocultural development plays an integral role in a child’s cognitive development.

With such a strong link between sociocultural interaction and cognitive development, “the more knowledgeable other” place a key role in this feature. The more knowledgeable other  can be parents, adults, teachers, coaches, experts, professionals, other children, friends and even the technologies that we have today such as computers, cell phones and other gadgets or simply anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. The requirement for the “more knowledgeable other” is linked to what vygotsky defined intelligence as. He defined intelligence as “the capacity to learn from instruction” he believed that children’s thinking is affected by their knowledge of the social community which is learnt from either technical or psychological

cultural tools. He also suggested that language is the most important tool for gaining this social knowledge; the child can be taught this from other people via language. According to Vygotsky, the acquisition of language (and in particular, speech) is fundamental to children’s cognitive growth because language provides purpose and intention so that behaviors can be better understood. Through the use of speech, children are able to communicate and learn from others through dialogue, which is an important tool in the Zone of proximal development. In a dialogue, a child’s unsystematic, disorganized, and spontaneous concepts are met with the more systematic, logical and rational concepts of the skilled helper. According to (Vygotsky, (1978). Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development he felt social learning precedes development. He states: “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). It is evident that the social interaction with a child is key to their cognitive development.  Just to use an example,  Shaffer (1996) gives the example of a young girl who is 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 comer/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 type of social interaction involving co-operative or collaborative dialogue promotes cognitive development.

Vygotsky, then went on to discover another key feature, “the zone of proximal development.” The Zone of Proximal Development is described by Vygotsky as the distance between a student’s ability to perform a task under adult guidance and/or with peer collaboration and the student’s ability to solve the problem independently.   However, there are two levels of the zone of proximal development:

Level 1 – the ‘present level of development’. This describes what the child is capable of doing without any help from others.

Level 2 – the ‘potential level of development’. This means what the child could potentially be capable of with help from other people which we mention early “the More Knowledgeable Other”.

Consequently, the gap between level 1 and 2 is what Vygotsky described as this zone of proximal development. He believed that through help from other, “the more knowledgeable people”, the child can potentially gain knowledge already held by them. However, the knowledge must be appropriate for the child’s level of comprehension. Anything that is too complicated for the child to learn cannot be learnt at all until there is a shift in the Zone of Proximal Development. When a child does attain their potential, this shift occurs and the child can continue learning more complex, higher level material.

Another key feature that Vygotsky made mention of was Scaffolding.  When an adult provides support for a child, they will adjust the amount of help they give depending on their progress. Over the course of a teaching session, a more skilled person adjusts the amount of guidance to fit the child’s potential level of performance. More support is offered when a child is having difficulty with a particular task and, over time, less support is provided as the child understands and masters the task better. A prime example that was used is a parent teaching or helping a child to walk. A child learning to walk might at first have both their hands held and pulled upwards. As they learn to support their own weight, the mother might hold both hands loosely. Then she might just hold one hand, then eventually nothing. This progression of different levels of help is what vygotsky referred to as scaffolding .

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Related article:

Lev Semenovich Vygotsky


James,  Samuel. Theories of Cognitive Development: Lev Vygotsky. Available at: http://psychohawks.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/theories-of-cognitive-development-lev-vygotsky/,  November 3, 2010.

Saul McLeod. Lev Vygotsky. Available at: http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html. 2007

Sciencestage.Lev Vygotsky Zone of Proximal Development.Available at: http://sciencestage.com/v/687/lev-vygotsky-zone-of-proximal-development.html. retrieved September 26, 2012.


How to study and get good grades

         In order to be truly successful in school, you must be rounded and obtain high grades. Students must have time for reflection and exploration if they are going to profit fully from school life. You must find time to read widely and study ahead.  It is harmful to  constantly play “catch up”, worrying about whether you are learning effectively and being bombarded with the desperation of being inundated by assignments.  Students can eradicate these pitfalls by developing positive and practical study habits.  

Are good grades important?

The grades you obtain in school will have a profound effect on the life course you want to choose. Your grades will help you  to move on to the  next leg of the academic race that you are trotting and  it can be the factor that determines whether or not you get the  next scholarship that you are so hoping for.  You are able to determine the pace of the race with good grades.

Do you have good work habits?

A good student must have good work habits. On the other hand, good work habits and good grades are inextricable linked you cannot have one without the other. Students need to develop good habits while in the classroom, in the  library and  in  their study.

In the  classroom:

  • Listen attentively.
  • Answer questions and participate  in discussions.

In the  library:

  • Make  a  list  of  what  you’re going to look for.
  • Take along with you  all your study apparatus.
  • Get right to work  don’t  waste  time.
  • Make notes  on  what  you  have found.  

While studying.

  • Create a study schedule.
  • Find a place that is conducive to studying.
  • Know exactly what you’re to study.
  • Make a note of things that are not clear and research them.
  • End your study session on time and get  some rest.  

    All  good  students will not only study but they will have extracurricular activities in which they take part. The  key thing is striking a  balance, by planning well.  What  students  need to keep in mind  is that no executive takes a step without careful thinking and planning. The student without a  plan for his daily activities lives from one study predicament to the next.  Students are encouraged to create a study schedule at least two weeks after school begins when they have found  out  what  the  program is  like and what extracurricular activities that  will be taking part in. True success will be gained if you stuck to the study schedule that you have created. Feel free to modify this schedule as the work load gets more demanding and ensure  that you place this schedule in an area  where it  is visible.

   The  more time you  permit to elapse between study and a test of what you have learned, the less you  will remember of it. In planning your schedule, make time for studying each subject as close as possible to the time its class meets. With this  in mind  ensure that you study when you  are at  your best. You  do your best work during certain time of the day. Study when you are at your best. Some students study best at night while others are at their best when day breaks. The  job is yours to find the  time when you are at your best and construct your schedule around that time.

  Finally, sleep and healthy meals are just as important as studying so ensure that you factor in sleep and meals in your study routine.