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Sociocultural Theory

Madhura Panse Nov 24, 2018
Vygotsky's sociocultural theory mainly dealt with the cognitive development of a child depends upon his response to the influences of the culture and society he is born in. This theory included observations of the framework of examining the relationship between learning and development.
Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky, a Soviet psychologist, born in the year 1896, during the time of the Russian Revolution, was quite a pioneer in the field of educational psychology.
In a time where psychologists were offering simple yet incomplete definitions and explanations on human behavior, Vygotsky brought in a multifaceted theory which included a rich mixture of psychology of art, language and thought, learning and development and their consequent influence on the way we are educated.
Vygotsky was the one who brought about the emergence of the Sociocultural Theory or socio-historical psychology and believed firmly that all human development commences with the dependence of guardians and their influence.

A General Overview

Vygotsky said, "Marxist psychology is not a school amidst schools, but the only genuine psychology as a science. A psychology other than this cannot exist. And the other way round: everything that was and is genuinely scientific belongs to Marxist psychology" .
Vygotsky also wanted "to learn from Marx's whole method how to build a science, how to approach the investigation of the mind".
His ideas were often compared to those of Jean Piaget, especially with Piaget's stages of development and also his cognitive development theory.
A child is very impressionable and hence quickly adapts the habits of speech patterns, behavior, written language and literature, and other symbols around him; through which a child learns to associate meanings to an effect to take root in the child's framework of knowledge and intelligence.
Ecology, historical background, culture and family structure do play a vital role in the development of the way a child experiences his stances in the environment he's in.
There were three kinds of learning on which Vygotsky's theory developed. They were based upon the ways a cultural tool can be passed from one individual to another:

»  Imitative Learning - Mainly learning through simply copying the another.
»  Instructed Learning - Self-regulated behavior, imbibed by way of remembering instructions from authoritative persons such as teachers.

»  Collaborative Learning - A group of individuals who try and understand each other, the common denominator for their understanding being the aim to learn a specific skill.
Vygotsky believed, and quite reasonably too, that a child's mind can be enriched if he is placed in a situation with more knowledgeable people to talk to and had a wide array of experiences to count as his own.

Sociocultural Theory Definition

Vygotsky defines Sociocultural Theory as- Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological).
This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals.

The Focus on Thought, Language and Communication

In Vygotsky's theory, the place of language-development and communication (interpersonal and intrapersonal) and thought was a strongly influential factor in cognitive development, especially, the cognitive development in children.
Children verbalize things, especially whilst facing a difficult situation. They make use of verbal communication, even if they talk to themselves, in order to marshal their thoughts to find a solution. A lot of this private speech comes from their parents or the adults they interact with frequently.
Self-talk is used as a tool by children in order to direct, guide and regulate themselves to overcome impulsive action whilst solving a problem. This, initially, is simply 'thinking out loud' and later becomes more of a silent inner speech.
During interpersonal communication, thoughts are converted into speech, whilst in the case of intrapersonal communication, speech is converted to thought. Speech changes with age.
Boisterousness and openness that comes to mind is slowly regulated by what the culture accepts and does and not by the process of problem-solving. This is when children learn to differentiate between what to think and what to say. Language becomes an aid for children to solve problems and a crucial tool for them to direct.

Zone of Proximal Learning (ZPD)

Another term involved in Vygotsky's theory, depending upon social interaction is Zone of Proximal Learning (ZPD). Here Vygotsky suggests the two ways children perform tasks-

➾  Where the child is able to do the task on his own

➾  Where the child needs the guidance of adults/parents/peers or simply a person who is more skilled (Scaffolding)
Thus ZPD can be defined as the difference between what a child can achieve with his own potential alone without any guidance and what he can achieve by assistance or guidance from another individual who is more skilled at the task. The ZPD made clearer the way to help children with learning or behavioral problems.
Vygotsky describes the influence of learning the nature of children, depending upon the culture they were from. He observed that the social interactions bringing about a gradual change in the way a child thinks, feels and behaves varied from culture to culture.
Sociocultural theory can be enriched by providing ourselves with socially rich environment to explore knowledge and learning experiences objectively, and yet in a very subjective way.