‍‍‍Methodology for Observing Development‍‍‍
Vygotsky's sociocultural theory does not outline specific stages in development. However, he did approach methodological issues in theory development on two levels - the theoretical and the developmental (see below article for a more in-depth discussion of this concept).




On a theoretical level, Vygotsky looked at complex change processes using ‍‍‍‍dialectical logic based on the notion of dialectical processes to grasp the relationships between systems. This dialectical logic‍‍‍‍ looked at cognitive processes as being in a constant state of change or development. This was contrary to prior scientific thought viewing phenomena in the mind as fixed and unchanging. At a psychological level, he chose specific research methods in attempts to understand the processes involved with his approach.
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‍‍‍‍Vygotsky believed that methods must capture the dynamic nature of development and social interaction, and thus favored a dynamic assessment of children's potential developmental levels. Based on the conviction that what children can do with assistance is the best reflection of their intellectual ability, a dynamic assessment directly measures children's readiness/potential for learning rather than the products of previous learning. Vygotsky's overarching method of studying development is defined as the microgenetic method‍‍‍‍,in which the researcher studies the process of problem-solving during one or several experimental sessions and tries to capture a "developmental moment." Vygotsky applied this method to children of various ages. Some examples of this method include:
          • Providing an increasingly specific series of clues and determining how many are needed for a child to solve the problem
          • Setting up obstacles that disrupt routine procedures of problem-solving and observing the child's attempts to cope with this change.
          • The double-stimulation method. Providing various materials/tools that could be used for problem solving and observing how children of different ages select from, and use these objects. The term "double-stimulation" refers to the presence of two types of stimulus sources: symbolic (e.g., a word) and nonsymbolic (e.g., a colored block). Older children are more likely than younger children to use symbolic as well as non-symbolic stimulus sources to solve a problem. By observing children's choice of objects, actions on those objects, and remarks while thinking about the problem, the experimenter can infer the small cognitive advances emerging during the session.

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‍‍‍Vygotsky's Blocks.‍‍‍ To examine development using the double-stimulation method, Vygotsky designed a set of 22 wooden blocks of different colors, shapes, heights, and sizes, with no two blocks being identical. One of four nonsense words appears on the bottom of each block, according to their height and size. Thus, all short, large blocks have one word on the bottom, and all short, small ones have a different word. The same is true for the tall, large blocks and the tall, small ones. The experimenter turns over one block to expose its word, then asks the child to select all the blocks he/she thinks have the same word. The experimenter then turns over one of the child's selected blocks that is incorrect, and asks the child to try again. The sequence is repeated until the child discovers what block characteristics define the word. Not only the child's initial selection, but also his/her responses to correction and efficiency in finding a solution indicate his/her cognitive level. For an extensive video demonstration of this method, click here. From these exercises, Vygotsky defined 3 stages of conceptual development, but did not define specific ages by which children would necessarily be expected to achieve each stage:
  • Stage 1: Unorganized Categories(e.g., a random heap).
  • Stage 2: Complexes- Each block is similar in some concrete way to the block next to it, but no single abstract characteristic unites all blocks
  • Stage 3: Concepts - Correct sorting on the basis of height and size, possible because the child can use the nonsense word to abstract out dimensions and detect similarities along these dimensions among the blocks.








‍‍‍Modified Demonstration of Vygotsky's Blocks‍‍‍

Current Vygotskian researchers look at cognitive change through both experimental and qualitative methods to narrow down the developmental processes. Theorists analyze individual and social processes as interconnected components of neuropsychological, psychological, educational, political, and cultural systems (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996).