Reflective Essay: This essay is a reflective essay on my learning development from a young age through to my current position as a University Student. I will be relating my learning development back to two theories of human development, Vygotstsky’s socio-cultural theory and Marcia’s version of Erikson’s theory of identity development. I will identify and discuss the challenge I have faced with my identity and how this has impacted on my development. Vygotsky is a theorist who believed that the social and cultural environment of a child can help them develop and learn.
Vygotsky was born into an intellectual Russian-Jewish family. His father was a bank manager and his mother was a teacher. Being a Jew his education was restricted. However, he was able to win a place into the University of Moscow in 1913, gaining a degree in law, with a specialisation in literature. After graduating he taught a range of subjects to adults and children, including language and literature, logic and psychology, and art history and theatre. In 1934, Vygotsky was invited to join the Institute of Psychology in Moscow. There he collaborated with two other Russian psychologists, Alexander Luria and Alexei Leontiev.
They developed a ‘cultural-historical’ or ‘sociohistorical’ view of human development that emphasised cognitive activities such as thinking, memory and reasoning (Miller, 1993). Due to the Communist Party increasing control, Vygotsky’s work was not accessible until the 1960’s. (Cited in Educational psychology, Krause). Vygotsky’s argued that how we learn is related to our interaction with others. “The true direction of the development of thinking is not from the individual to the social, but from the social to the individual. ” (Vygotsky 1986, p. 6) The thought that individuals internalise the ideas they observe during social interaction is a way of thinking. Their thinking and learning is forming with each interaction. From a young age I have always found it easier to learn when in a social group environment. In primary school through to High school I worked better in a small group, was able to study better in a group environment and also learn a lot more when social interaction was taking place. In these instances I was developing a process of thinking that helped me to learn in an easier fashion than I would have as an individual. 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). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relations between human individuals. (Vygotsky 1978 p. 57) I now find that still, at the age of twenty six, I learn and process ideas a lot more easily when engaging in discussions, or undertaking a task in tutorial groups.
As Vygotsky believed that cognitive development is an outcome of the social interaction between adults and children, his ideas that language and other cognitive skills psychological tools began to emerge. The mental tools passed from adults and peers to children during social interaction include language, and also include various systems for counting; mnemonic techniques; algebraic symbols systems; works of art; writing; schemes, diagrams, maps, and mechanical drawings all sorts of conventional signs , and so on. (Vygotsky, 1981, p. 137, cited by Cole & Wretsch, 2000) For Vygotsky, language is the most important mental tool.
Initially we use language as part of our social function while interacting with others. However as language skills increase, it begins to have a more intellectual function, and it then becomes a tool for problem solving and self-regulation. It’s the shifting from spoken language to internalised or private speech. He also believed that speech uttered out loud or self-talk is used by individuals to aid their thinking (Krause 2010, p84-85) The use of ‘Private Speech’ and ‘Self-talk’ as a tool has helped me not only to understand written text but also to process thoughts, information and problem -solve.
I have found that through private speech I am thinking about my actions and results. Take Maths for example, when given an addition problem to solve or even when purchasing something, I often find myself counting on my fingers or muttering the equation in my head so that I am able to solve it. With this tool I am able to create a situation in my head, think about it logically and then come up with an answer. After spending a couple of years working in the customer service environment, I have gone through intensive weeks of training before being let onto ‘the floor’.
These training sessions introduce us to our products, spiels and hugely needed customer service skills, “being able to answer every question in the book” as it was so called. As each phone call or email came in, I would find myself discussing my options in my head before relating this to the customer. This way I had made sure that I had the correct information and was delivered as per our training. This, however, has lead to me constantly pausing or ‘pondering’ situations before responding to a request. Even as I am writing this essay, I have found, on more then several occasions that I am talking to myself.
Discussing how many more words I need to write, do I have the theory correct, how many more hours/minutes before I can have a break or even discussing what I would like for dinner. The tool of self talk has helped me to focus and think in a clearer way. However it is a little embarrassing when I am caught muttering my ingredients out loud when standing at a checkout and telling myself off if I have forgotten something. Erik Homburger Erikson was born to Danish parents in Germany. He was raised by his mother until she married a Dr Theodor Homburger when he was three years old.
Both his mother and step-father were Jewish, but Erikson looked different – more like a tall blond, blue-eyed Dane. He was named ‘the goy’ (non Jew) at his stepfather’s temple, while to his schoolmates he was a ‘Jew’ (Erikson, 1975, p. 27). After going through what he would call a ‘moratorium’ period Erikson, at the age of 25, accepted an invitation to teach. He studied along side Anna Freud and was inspired by Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, where he ultimately went beyond the focus on childhood and adolescence, extending his study to include an entire life cycle. (Cited in Educational psychology, Krause)
Erikson’s theory moved between eight psychosocial development stages, where selfhood, independence, identity and self worth may develop or get crushed, depending on how we resolve issues and interact with others. These eight stages are Infancy, Early childhood, Play age, School age, Adolescence, Young adulthood, Adulthood and old age. The period of adolescence has captured the attention of many researchers who have extended Erikson’s seminal work, including Marcia who expanded on adolescent identity development. (Krause 2010 p. 113) Marcia had identified four stages in which adolescents discover themselves as individuals.
Identity achievement, Identity foreclosure, Identity diffusion and Moratorium made up these four stages. Early in my teenage years I was faced with each of these steps. From the age of 13yrs I had started to face a rather large identity crisis. I was attending a high school where I was no longer part of a minority group, as I was used to being in primary and intermediate, but a part of majority group. I had believed myself to be a European, or as others would not so kindly put it ‘white’, and did not see that I was actually a Pacific Islander with brown skin.
Due to this belief in myself I started high school hanging out with the Europeans in my class. This was a no no. I had become a social out caste in my school and it was only my first year. My peers from other groups couldn’t understand why I would want to be seen with this group of girls and started to mock me for it. It had taken me a couple of years to realise that there was a part of me I did not understand or see. I was going through the Identity foreclosure stage, where I was following the footsteps of others (being my European friends) without working through identity issues for myself.
It was not until I had reached Fifth Form (Year 11) that I then started to process who I was. I started to gain an understanding that I was different from my group of friends and wanted to know why. I had come to the Identity achievement stage that Marcia talks about. I was exploring several identity roles and was able to successfully negotiate decisions about myself. I was not only a European, but am also Fijian. However this made things harder for me. There were no Fijians in my school, social group or even in my immediate family. Yes I had Uncles and Aunties, but I have had little to do with them.
This identity that I was finding for myself was based more on other cultures than my own. I started to discover the different cultures around me and through this gained a group of friends that helped me through this phase. I experimented by joining several culture groups, such as the Kapa Haka group and Nuiean group, and learned the values of the Pacific Island cultures, such as respect, pride, love, strength, family and God. This was different to anything I had known or grown up with. In my sixth form years I had no direction for my future, I did not know what I wanted to do, where I was heading and still no true ground on my true identity.
Yes I had learnt that I was a pacific islander, but how do I fit into this culture. I spent the next couple of years trying to figure it all out. This had made it hard for me to focus in school or commit to my education. I felt that there was no point in learning when I did not even know anything about myself. I started to pursue extra circular activities in the hope of gaining more knowledge about myself. It was not until I was 18 years old and heading for Australia that things started to change. I had always planned to attend university, but felt that I needed to experience the world and gain some ‘life experience’ behind me.
This was the moratorium stage of Marcia’s four stages. I was taking time out between childhood and adult hood and was experimenting with different roles in areas such as work, family and friends. Australia opened my eyes to who I was, what my background was and I came to accept myself as Rachel Senikaucava. This was a trial in itself. I made a number of mistakes, gained and lost friends but most of all found me, and was happy with who I was. No longer was I suffering from being an outcaste, or struggling to gain social acceptance, I had simply found who I was and what I really wanted to do with life.
Teach. In conclusion I have reflected on my learning developing relating it back to Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory, where the cognitive development is influenced by the social interactions between adults and children, and Marcias version of Erikson’s theory of identity development, the four identity stages. I have identified the challenge of finding my identity as a half European and half Fijian student and how it has effected my learning development. Word count: 1929 References: • Miller P. H (1993)Theories of developmental psychology (3rd ed. New York, W. H Freeman • Citation – Krause K, (2010) Cognitive Development: Educational psychology for Learning and Teaching. (3rd ed. ) p. 81, • Vygotsky, L. S (1986) Thought and language (A. Kozulin trans) Cambridge, MA: MIT press (Original work published 1934) • Vygotsky, L. S (1978) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press • Vygotsky, L. S (1981). The genesis of higher mental functions. In Wertsch, J. V (Ed and Trans). The concept of activity in Soviet psychology.
Armonk, NY. : M. E Sharpe. • Krause k, (2010) Cognitive Development: Educational psychology for Learning and Teaching. (3rd ed. ) Cengage Learning Australia. • Erickson. E. H (1975) Life history and the historical moment. Oxford: W. W Norton. • Citation – Krause K, (2010) Social, emotional and moral development: Educational psychology for Learning and Teaching. (3rd ed. ) p. 109. • Krause K, (2010) Social, emotional and moral development: Educational psychology for Learning and Teaching. (3rd ed. ) Cengage Learning Australia.