Attempting to Apply The Vygotsky Experiment…

To reiterate my experiment discussed in my previous blog post, Experimenting With Vygotsky, I had mentioned that I wanted to test an aspect of Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, namely whether the presence of an encouraging teacher affects the performance of children within the classroom.

As much as I was really eager to try out this experiment to test my hypothesis and see if it works, but with all sincerest honesty, time was not a factor in my favor during the past two weeks. First of all, I had realized earlier that I will not be able to have access to enough children to do my experiment. Thus, I have decided to tweak the experiment a bit and make my subjects adults, as in people my age since they will be more accessible. However, every time I try to schedule some time with a group of my friends to do the experiment, either some of them apologize because something they have to do comes up or I am the one who has trouble with the timing. And since the past two weeks were crammed with midterms and project submissions, it was indeed difficult to find a timing that fits all of us.

Basically me when things were not working out.
Basically me when things were not working out.

I then had to find a way to make it work anyhow. I figured I might do the experiment with my eighteen-year old brother and thirteen-year old sister. “But Shaza, this could not possibly be a valid experiment! There is an age and gender difference, and hey…these are even two groups,” the scientist in me shrieks. Nevertheless, this is the only option I was left with at that moment. So let’s see how it went.

I called on Mostafa and Rana and talked to them briefly about what the experiment entails. I gave Mostafa the hard task with the detailed instructions and left him to solve it (picture 1). On the other hand, I gave Rana the relatively easier task and tried to help her with it by offering guidance and encouragement whenever she was going on the right track (picture 2).

Picture 1: Mostafa's task.
Picture 1: Mostafa’s task.
Picture 2: Rana's task.
Picture 2: Rana’s task.

The results were as follows:

  • Mostafa was able to do the task on his own only using the instructions I gave him and without any help. However, he told me that it was no fun for him because he was doing it on his own. He said he preferred to have someone to encourage him along the way. Moreover, he added that even though the intrinsic motivation he felt from solving a hard problem was enough a motivator for him; however, one still needs the extrinsic motivation along with it as well because both are essentially important for achievement. (You can be sure that my brother did not use such sophisticated terminology, but that what the essence of what he said).
  • As for Rana, she enjoyed working on the task much more than Mostafa did. She said that it was partially because the task was relatively easy and because she had someone to work with. She also added that working with someone made it seem like a game and not a boring task to do.

Hence, from this extremely humble experiment (if I can call it so), I can conclude that my hypothesis was not correct. It appears that there is more to learning that just finishing tasks or being assessed. It is about the unique interaction between the student and the teacher. It is about the teacher being a guide and a mentor as well, if possible, and not about being a person who just applies the laws and makes sure the students have finished their tasks and that is all.

Once again, I wholly apologize for the mishaps on this experiment. I had really wanted it to be much better and more refined. Maybe it was a problem of time management, or simply I had too much on my plate over the past few weeks. I can promise that this will not happen again over the semester. Thank you for understanding.

-All images are hyperlinked to their sources.

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