How would a teacher apply Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development in his/her classroom?
I think that there are many ways in which that the primary school teacher could embrace Vygotsky's approach. In my mind, the most important element to argue in Voygotskian thinking is the idea that the classroom has to contain the explorative elements in which a child can learn. Part of this involves creation of a classroom where students are able to maximize their potential without being limited to great of an extent. In Vygotsky's schema, the development of "pivots," would become critical. These are the domains or instances where children are able to transform what is into what can be. Part of this might be the development of centers, where tasks are designed to maximize student exploration of thoughts. The idea of differentiated instruction and learning is a part of this process. In these environments, I think that one of the most important elements to grasp is that the role of the teacher is one of facilitation and not traditional source of all knowledge. The teacher has to see their role in a different light in trying to provide students with learning experiences that maximize student thought and the various zones of proximal development. I think that in this light, students are able to operate in a configuration where challenge is always evident and where the teachers is a facilitator of this process.
One thing we've learned in the recent years is that children learn better if you allow them to interact. This goes hand in hand with Vygotsky's theories. We've learned that learning increases when you present a question and allow students to talk it over, instead of requiring an answer immediately. We've learned that allowing students to work in smalls groups or with partners is best practice. Students learn from students, which is what Vygotsky's work taught us, so anytime that students are allowed to socialize academically, learning is optimal.