What is Vygotsky’s sociocultural learning theory? –


What is Vygotsky’s sociocultural learning theory?

by TeachingThe Staff Of Thought

What does Vygotsky say about learning?

“Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of human learning describes learning as a social process and the origin of human intelligence in society or culture. The major theme of Vygotsky’s theoretical framework is that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition. Vygotsky thought that everything was learned on two levels. First through interaction with others, then integrated into the mental structure of the individual.


Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, also known as sociohistorical theory, is a psychological and educational framework developed by Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. This theory emphasizes the role of social interactions, cultural context and language in cognitive development. According to Vygotsky, learning and development are inseparable from the social and cultural contexts in which individuals participate.

He believed that learning had both chronological and psychological facets, explaining: “Every function in the cultural development of the child appears twice: first, at the social level, and later, at the individual level; first between people (interpsychological) then inside the child (intrapsychological). This also applies to voluntary attention, logical memory and concept formation. All the higher functions find their origin in real relationships between individuals.

Let’s take a look at the tenets of his learning theory.

Key Concepts of Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory

1. Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

According to Vygotsky, the zone of proximal development “is the distance between the actual developmental level determined by independent problem solving and the potential developmental level determined by problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with peers. more competent”.

Through collaborative interactions, a more knowledgeable person, such as a teacher or peer, can provide support to solidify the learner’s understanding and skills.

This “zone” is a level of understanding or ability to use a skill where the learner is able, from a knowledge or skill perspective, to grasp or apply the idea, but only with the support of a “more competent other” (Briner, 1999). ).

This “MKO” can be another student, a parent, a teacher, etc. – anyone with a level of understanding or skill that allows the student to master knowledge or skills that could not be mastered otherwise. Strategies that support work in this zone of proximal development include modeling, direct instruction, collaborative learning, concept realization theory, Combined learningand more.

See also 32 learning theories for teachers

2. Social interactions

Vygotsky emphasized the importance of social interactions in cognitive development. He believed that learning happened through interactions with others, especially with the most capable individuals. Language plays a central role in these interactions, as it enables communication, the transmission of knowledge and the development of higher mental processes.

Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory stated that “learning occurs through indirect reinforcement – ​​by observing a behavior And its consequences (which have social ramifications). Vygotsky shares this idea.

3. Cultural tools and mediation

Vygotsky argued that cultural tools, including language, symbols, artifacts, and social practices, serve as intermediaries in learning and development. These tools are the product of a particular culture and are used by individuals to think, communicate and solve problems. Through cultural tools, individuals internalize and construct knowledge, thereby transforming their cognitive processes.

Each function in the cultural development of the child appears twice: first at the social level, then at the individual level;

Vygotsky, 1978, p.57)

4. Scaffolding

Scaffolding is any help, assistance or support provided by a more competent person (e.g. a teacher) to facilitate a learner’s understanding and skill development. Scaffolding occurs by gradually adjusting the level of support based on the learner’s needs and shifting responsibility to the learner as their skills increase.

Scaffolding and similar ideas like The Gradual Release Model: Show me, help me, leave me.

5. Private discourse and self-regulation

In his research, Vygotsky noticed that young children often engage in private discourse, talking to themselves while they are carrying out activities.

He believed that private speech is important for self-regulation and cognitive development, a truth clear to parents and teachers, but important here as a data point observed by a neutral observer in a research setting. Moreover, over time, this “private speech” becomes internalized and turns into inner speech, used for self-direction and problem solving.


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