Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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7. Learning From Others - Learning in a Social Context
"Vygotsky understood that all learning is social – that we don't actually end up doing most of our learning all by ourselves in our own heads; that we work with others, we assist one another to learn. Teachers can help students learn by consciously teaching within their zone of proximal development – right in that area where they're ready to learn and providing assistance, or having other students provide assistance in that social context."
Linda Darling-Hammond
students outside

Key Questions:
  • How do people learn in social contexts?
  • How can teachers develop communities of learning?
studetns laughing

Learning Objectives:

  1. Assisted performance and the "zone of proximal development" – Teachers will understand how they can identify students' levels of proficiency and readiness for a given task and target assistance accordingly.
  2. Strategies for fostering communication – Teachers will understand the importance of language, communication, and interaction in learning. Teachers will consider several specific teaching strategies to foster and guide communication in the classroom, including the role of questioning, group work, managed discourse, and reciprocal teaching.
  3. Social contexts and learning communities – Teachers will recognize that when students work collaboratively to assist one another and take on expert roles, their learning is strengthened, reinforced, and refined. Teachers will consider strategies they can use to build learning communities.

Video Program

Based on Lev Vygotsky's work, this episode explores how learning relies on communication and interaction with others. The episode features two teachers, Yvonne Scott, a fifth grade teacher at San Francisco Community School and Avram Barlowe, a ninth through twelfth grade teacher at The Urban Academy in New York City. Tufts University professor David Elkind, Yale University professor James P. Comer, and University of California at Santa Cruz professor Roland Tharp provide expert commentary.

Key Terms - New in this Session

joint productive activity

learning communities

managed discourse

reciprocal teaching


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