The conference will focus on the following six themes, all central to the work of Vygotsky and to early childhood education research and practice:

1. The facilitative role of adults and peers in child development

Vygotsky’s concept of a “zone of proximal development” emphasizes the critical role that adults and peers have in extending learning. How can peers and adults provide adequate supports for children’s development? What are the effects of interactions with peers and adults on children’s social-emotional and cognitive development?

2. Language as a tool of interaction and cognitive development

Vygotsky explored the critical role of speech in development. How do teaching and learning environments influence the development of language and, more broadly, a child’s development? How can educators support children who speak one language at home and a different language at school and in the broader society?

3. Art, culture and development

Vygotsky explored how art, culture, and language help children internalize social values. Today’s multicultural environments expose children to many cultures and languages. How do art, culture and language affect children’s learning and development?

4. Assessment testing and its applications

Vygotsky used individualized testing to try to authentically measure children’s potential. When and what kind of testing is appropriate for different age groups? When is it harmful? How can assessment of children be used to develop individual learning plans?

5. Inclusive education: embracing diversity

Today’s classrooms bring together children of different abilities from diverse cultures, languages, ethnicities, and religions. How can educators use this diversity to support children’s learning and development? How can culture enhance and strengthen the curriculum?

6. Policy and practice

Vygotsky’s work, which had a powerful and lasting influence worldwide on theories and practices of early childhood development and education, challenged authorities in the Soviet Union. How political is early childhood education and development? How can researchers and practitioners more effectively influence policy?