Born in 1915, Jerome Bruner occupied the chairs of Psychology at the Universities of Harvard and Cambridge. Initially his work was influenced by Piaget but later, and to a greater extent, by Vygotsky, whos work he extensively developed. Like Vygotsky he believed the childs social environment and particularly social interaction with other people were extremely important in the process of learning. Like Piaget he believed individuals actively assimilate and accommodate in terms of an existing set of cognitive structures.
Bruner outlines 3 distinct modes of representing the world: ENACTIVE (actions), ICONIC (pictures) and SYMBOLIC (words and numbers). He believed children think through these modes because actions, pictures and words are used by people around them in interactions and in performing tasks. Bruner considered language as the most important cultural tool in childrens cognitive growth and learning, enabling symbolic representation of the world, especially thinking and reasoning in the abstract.
Bruner's metaphorical term 'scaffolding' has come to be used for interactional support, often in the form of adult-child dialogue that is structured by the adult to maximise the growth of the childs intrapsychological functioning (Clay and Cazden, 1990). Scaffolding refers to the gradual withdrawal of adult control and support as a function of childrens increasing mastery of a given task.