Exploring a Vygotskian theory of education and its evolutionary foundations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Despite his popularity in educational discourses, Lev S. Vygotsky tends to be read mainly as an educational psychologist or learning theorist. His potential contribution to a theory of education remains largely undiscussed. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is often misunderstood as a sort of “educational tool,” which severely reduces the richness of the concept emerging from Vygotsky's works. In this essay, Aline Nardo argues that acknowledging the evolutionary underpinnings in Vygotsky's thinking would enrich an educational discussion of Vygotsky. This substrate in Vygotsky's educational works, she argues, has been strikingly underappreciated, and her analysis seeks to address this gap by building upon the analogy between Vygotsky's Marxist negation of a Darwinian adaptation paradigm and his conceptual differentiation between learning and development in order to draw out the pedagogical dimension of the ZPD. Pedagogical interaction, in an evolutionary reading of Vygotsky, is qualitatively different from peer interactions, as it is connected to development rather than learning. This perspective, Nardo concludes, has important implications for the role of the teacher and a definition of “the pedagogical.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-352
Number of pages22
JournalEducational Theory
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Lev S. Vygotsky
  • zone of proximal development
  • Darwinism
  • adaptation
  • negation


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