Vygotsky’s phases of Everyday Concept Development and Children’s “working theories”

The impact of Vygotsky’s theorising about culture, development, learning and education continues into the 21st century. This paper focuses on teachers’ understandings of elements of young children’s thinking. Young children have been described as “life theorizers”, keenly motivated to make meaning about their worlds during interactions with others. Working theories occur in children’s thinking and sense-making as they attempt to make connections between prior and new experiences and understandings. Specifically, the paper explores the Vygotskian notion of the development of everyday concepts as one theoretical underpinning for the notion of working theories. The concept of working theories is argued as a mediating mechanism that young children employ to progress through Vygotsky’s three phases of everyday concept formation. It may also be a strategy that children utilise as they begin to develop and connect everyday and scientific knowledge. Working theories therefore provide a way teachers might recognise and build on children’s everyday and early conceptual knowledge. To substantiate this argument, examples of children’s working theories and associated pedagogical issues from a qualitative study in two early childhood education settings are provided. Some implications for teachers’ knowledge and practice and future research are described.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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