New Cognitive Curriculum for Early Years – the Vygotsky Way

13 September, 2013

New Cognitive Curriculum for Early Years – the Vygotsky Way

By Galina Dolya – August 2013

Almost eight decades after his transformational study of developmental psychology was suppressed in Stalin’s Russia, Lev Vygotsky’s ideas are about to be re-established in his native land to a greater extent than ever before.

I am proud that will be helping to “repatriate” Vygotsky’s methods back throughout Russia with my Key to Learning curriculum.

I came to the UK 18 years ago from Russia to introduce Developmental Education, a programme based on Vygotsky’s theory of child development. I will now be taking my Key to Learning curriculum, based on his theories and research over the decades, back to Russia.

Vygotsky’s theories have changed the way psychologists think about development and the way educators work with young children. It gives early childhood educators a new perspective and helpful insights about children’s growth and development.

Key to Learning is a direct descendant of the Vygotsky school of thinking. Developed by myself and Professor Nikolai Veraksa, it is a unique educational programme which gives parents and teachers the tools to develop children’s cognitive learning abilities – as proven in hundreds of schools throughout the UK and Europe.

The Key to Learning programme is different from others because it focuses on developing learning abilities and using cultural tools – the how – rather than just education content – the what. It creates the right conditions for minds to open, for learning to become a pleasure and for creativity to flourish,” said Galina.

As a young teacher, I was inspired by Vygotsky and especially Professor Olga Diachenko at the Eureka University. She was instrumental in those early days of making Vygotskian ideas accessible to teachers.

I wanted to take his ideas and build on them. Ongoing research projects confirm that the Key to Learning curriculum has done that: it has a profound and positive impact on young children’s achievements, helping them to become independent learners.

The Key to Learning curriculum has 12 programmes and is designed for children aged three to seven years old. It contains more than 600 learning activities and games and comes with supporting materials, manuals, schedules and detailed descriptions of materials and procedures.

Children work independently to solve cognitive problems: a child confident with external forms of substitution and visual modelling becomes capable of using substitutes and visual models mentally.

With the help of these models, the child is able to process the information offered by adults, visualising the results of his/her actions in advance. These are the qualities characteristic of a high level of cognitive ability.

The curriculum involves integrated play and develops symbolic literacy and equips young children with the psychological tools necessary for learning, so they can use them independently and creatively.

My curriculum makes it possible to increase substantially the developmental effect of education and its influence on the development of cognitive abilities thereby helping children to become independent learners.

It teaches giftedness. Children start to plan and organise their own activities, openly express their points of view and, most importantly, believe in themselves and their abilities.

The 12 programmes are: Sensory Mathematics, Visual Spatial, Logic, Creative Modelling, Mathematics, Construction, Story Grammar, Exploration, Developmental Games, Expressive Movement, Artographics and  You-Me-World.

Key to Learning can be used in any early years setting to complement, extend, enrich and systemise existing good practice.

It has now been introduced successfully in a wide variety of different pre-school and school settings, both in UK and abroad. In each case, teachers have recorded improvements in children’s cognitive, communicative and self-regulative abilities as  well as in their ability to focus and to concentrate.

Since I was first introduced to Vygotsky as a young teacher in Russia, I have followed his theories. I was honoured to be invited to the UK and bring his theories with me.

With the recently introduced Russian standards for Early Years recognising the importance of Vygotsky, it is an honour to be invited back to share our programmes with the educators in Russia. Key to Learning is built on Vygotsky’s inspirational ideas and I believe it will help future generations in many countries to enjoy learning and believe in themselves.


Galina has successfully trained hundreds of teachers and trainers worldwide. She has presented at many international conferences in the UK, New Zealand, USA, Canada and notably at The World Congress on Thinking, in Malaysia.

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