Theoretical Background to our Learning and Teaching

Lev Vygotsky

Vygotsky, a Russian Psychologist formed many views on education during his working life, those most significant to St. Peter's include:


The Importance of Play

Vygotsky understood the importance of play as a psychological phenomenon and its role in the child's development. Play is a critical feature in the development of higher mental functions.

Important also is the idea that play allows for the development of social rules and self regulation which comes as a result of having to learn the rules associated with play and games. Learning is social.


Thought and Language

Vygotsky also explored the relationship between language development and thought. He established an explicit link between speech (both inner speech and oral language) and the development of mental concepts and cognitive awareness.

Our involvement with the OLSEL project has allowed us to view oral language as the platform for other literacy skills in reading and writing and also in the area of cognitive development.


Zone of Proximal Development

This refers to the level of support needed for a child to perform certain tasks. At the lower end of ZPD a child can work independently and at the higher end it is what the child can understand with adult assistance. This fits with the notion of scaffolding in our classrooms. Over the course of a teaching session, a more-skilled person adjusts the amount of guidance to fit the child's current performance. Dialogue is an important tool of this process in the zone of proximal development.



This also is derived from the work of Piaget, which ascertains that learners learn best when the construct their own knowledge from their own experiences and then reflect on these. The learner is actively involved in their own learning experience and learn through doing. Teachers act as facilitators of learning. This is in contrast to the 'behaviouralist' model which sees the teacher as the holder of the knowledge and that the students learn only what the teacher teaches them.


Howard Gardner

Gardner's theory of 'Multiple Intelligence' first came to notice in 1983 through his book 'Frames of Mind'. His theory noted that intelligence takes on eight different forms, with the possibility of more being added. He noted that intelligence may be:

1.Linguistic - words and language

2.Mathematic / logical - numbers and reasoning

3.Intrapersonal - knowledge and understanding of self

4.Interpersonal - ability to get along with others, to be socially aware


6.Spatial - ability to manipulate shapes and space

7.Bodily / Kinesthetic - physical skills

8.Naturalist - natural affinity with nature

When looking at student intellect the question then becomes 'How are you smart?' not 'How smart are you?'

This theory forces us to look outside of the normal way of expressing your intelligence in schools, which have traditionally focused on the areas of linguistics (Literacy) and Mathematical / logical (Numeracy). Reading, writing and numeracy skills form the skills for broad learning but are not the only goals of learning.


Loris Malaguzzi

Malaguzzi was the theorist responsible for the approach to early childhood education in the province of Reggio Emelia in Italy.

The approach offers teachers a way of encouraging student's natural curiosity and creativity, by encouraging them to work on projects that interest them. The children demonstrate their knowledge and understandings in a variety of creative ways.

There are some key components that teachers take into account when developing this approach into Australian classrooms. These include;

• Building on the strengths and competencies of children. This is called the image of the child.

• Encourage, support and develop collaborative learning within the environment.

• Have carefully planned spaces for learning within the classroom, the environment is described as the third teacher.

• Negotiate curriculum with the children to develop projects.

• Skilling of children in a variety of art media, this is called 'the hundred languages'.

• Development of documentation which demonstrates the child's understandings and knowledge.

• Communication with parents and encouraging parents as partners in their child's education

Adults listen closely to children and ask questions to explore their ideas. Teachers provide experiences to children, which provoke their thinking and learning. Parents are active partners in their children's education.