Theory to Practice Socio-Cultural Theory in Education


Theoryto Practice: Socio-Cultural Theory in Education

Theoryto Practice: Socio-Cultural Theory in Education

Thereare numerous roles that are played by sociocultural theory ineducation since it attempts to illustrate various ways through whichan individual’s mental functioning is connected to the historical,cultural, and institutional contexts. Additionally, socioculturaltheory concentrates on the involvement in social activities andculturally organized undertakings, and how they contribute to thepsychological development of people. As a result, it can be notedthat there is an association that falls between social and individualprocesses that work together with the aim of constructing knowledge.Some of the key roles of sociocultural theory as depicted by theframework of Vygotsky include semiotic, individual development fromsocial interactions, and genetics. Hence, it can be noted that socialinteraction only cannot determine the mental operation of a person,but other involvements such as the definite structures and processhave an impact on an individual.Therefore, the primary objectiveof the research paper is to examine the concepts and limitations ofsociocultural theory, perform a critical analysis of the theory, andhighlight some of its applications.


ConceptLearned About Socio-Cultural Theory

Themajor concept learned about sociocultural theory is the spontaneousand scientific model that is enhanced through mutual discovery,cooperative learning, co-participation, and the environment. Thatassists students to develop the culturally shaped knowledge whilealso valuing the systems that they come along with to school(Lantolf, Thorne &amp Poehner, 2015). With regards to thespontaneous and scientific concept, it provides the basis forassessing how children began learning before their admission toschool, and how that knowledge connects with the ideas acquired inschool. According to Vygotsky, the spontaneous concept refers toideas that children learn without proper instructions, and they arederived from adults. These concepts are not systematically acquired,and children have not been taught how they are related to othertheories. On the other hand, scientific concepts are ideas that havebeen implemented by teachers, and they are taught in a systematicmanner covering an area of knowledge, and they depict therelationship between ideas (Lantolf et al., 2015).

Similarly,another notion derived from the sociocultural theory is the semioticmediation since it is vital for different dimension of knowledgeconstructions. The operation of the semiotic mechanism is in such away that it mediates about social and personal functioning, anddevelops a link with the external and internal as well as with socialand individual settings. Some of the significant techniques ofsemiotic include algebraic symbols system, mnemonic, language, andother conventional signs (Lantolf et al., 2015). Within thesociocultural context, some tools are being discovered on a dailybasis, and they are necessary for knowledge, especially by thedeveloping individual they include a computer, paint brush, andsymbol system. Moreover, when such developing persons are in aposition to master nature, then it is evident that they can masterthemselves adequately (Lantolf et al., 2015).

Limitationsof Socio-Cultural Theory

Thesocio-cultural theory is associated with several merits regardless ofthe fact that certain issues tend to bring some challenges to theconcepts, for instance, with regards to the zone of proximaldevelopment (ZPD). ZPD has some challenges since it does not containvital elements that relate to a child such as learning style,motivational factors, and present ability level (Lantolf et al.,2015). Similarly, some processes are linked to development, but thereis no explanation on how they take place in a child. Additionally,having information about the width of a child ZPD cannot provideprecise illustrations of their level of development, the format ofstudying and learning ability. The dimensions of the zone whetherbroad or narrow they are still characterized by complications sinceit depicts an incomplete development picture. The socioculturalconcept has limitations, for instance, the zone of proximaldevelopment does not have any techniques of measuring it (Lantolf etal., 2015).

Apartfrom the zone of proximal development, there are limited attentionsto development issues, but it accounts for both children and thecontext. The minor description that is given to children of differentages or development stages in most cases does not handle issues ofcognitive skills that are essential in addressing joint attention,learning through observation, and collaborative dialogue (Lantolf etal., 2015). Therefore, in sociocultural theory, there is an urgentneed to shift attention to child physical development stages andcognitive. From the assessment of the theory, there are assumptionsabout the roles of the individual, but there are emphases that aregeared towards the social. Additionally, the theory does not perceivethe mind as being independent of social-cultural groups. Therefore,it can be discerned that there are challenges that are facingsociocultural theory and they require an address to make themefficient, realistic and sustainable in the future (Lantolf et al.,2015).


HowSocio-Cultural Theory Explains Some Aspects of Reading

Inmost cases, reading has been viewed as a cognitive process and thefocus of researchers has been directed towards the cognitive aspectof reading. First, reading is regarded as a receptive skill and thefundamental question that most scholars attempt to answer are thecognitive process that determines the failure or success of learners(Swain, Kinnear &amp Steinman, 2015). According to socioculturaltheory, language learning is considered as a personal and cognitiveprocess and knowledge is developed as a result of the following: whenthe learner is subjected to comprehensible input, has a chance tonegotiate meaning and obtain negative feedback. Even though it isagreed that student must be subjected to input, but there is no clearexplanation of the kind of input needed. Additionally, the processingof the input is not explicitly explained that can enhance acquiringof knowledge (Swain et al., 2015).

Similarly,issues are being raised with regards to reading, but it is evidentthat social context of reading is overlooked to an unlimited degree. Such issues are being obtained from the sociocultural theory ofreading, and it attempts to put more concentration on the socialfactors in the process of reading (Swain et al., 2015). For instance,it indicates that reading is not an individual process and it must belearned within social circles where some adults or experts can helpto grasp the concepts. Conversely, cognitive approaches areprinciples that perceive reading as a process that is guided throughpredetermined stages. On the other hand, sociocultural theory affirmsthat reading or learning occurs within a sociocultural environment,and learners are regarded as active developers of their learningenvironment. Moreover, the sociocultural theory states that readingor learning can only be enhanced through social interactionsespecially with knowledgeable people failure to that cognitivedevelopment will not take place (Swain et al., 2015).

HowSocio-Cultural Theory Help Teachers to Detect Breakdown inComprehension

Socioculturaltheory can help teachers to detect when there is a breakdown incomprehension by determining the effectiveness of reciprocalteaching. Reciprocal teaching is an integrated learning techniquewhere natural dialogue models can expose the thinking process oflearners on learning experiences (Swain et al., 2015). Teachers focuson mutual learning since they believe that when there is acollaborative interaction between teachers and students, then thequality of learning can be improved. As a result, students takecontrol of their roles during reciprocal teaching when they arecomfortable giving their ideas and opinion in an open dialogue. Theprocess works in an alternating style where students think outloudly, and contemplate about their thoughts with every learningstrategy implemented. Reciprocal teaching is grounded in Vygotsky’stheory as the essential social interaction role that assists in theenhancement of cognition. Hence, when teachers apply reciprocalteaching that can help to detect a breakdown in comprehensionespecial when involvement between teachers and students is not active(Swain et al., 2015).

Teacherscan also detect a breakdown in comprehension by critically assessingthe type of social interaction that is depicted in the community.There are certain involvements that learners are subjected to thatcannot contribute to an individual positive cognitive development.Therefore, social interactions that instill positive attitude tolearning act as a bridge to reinforce comprehension (Swain et al.,2015). On the other hand, when a teacher realized that a socialinvolvement of learner is constituted with negative aspect then thatcan be a clear indication that there is a breakdown in comprehension. Such students may not possess the ability to think about an issueand formulate a solution to a certain problem that is being handled.Therefore, understanding the composition of social interaction oflearner can assist the teachers to detect a breakdown incomprehension (Swain et al., 2015).

HowLinguistic Differences are Addressed in Socio-Cultural Theory

Forany academic excellence, there is always an urgent need to develop orincrease literacy skills of any individual. For instance, we look atthe literacy development of children that can be influenced byseveral factors including ecological and sociocultural perception ofthe learner. With reference to the ecological theory ofBronfenbrenner and sociocultural perspective of Vygotsky, it isenvisaged that the involvement of people, the interaction betweenenvironment and people greatly influence linguistics skills (Thorne &ampHellermann, 2015). And such kind of interaction can results in variedtypes of linguistics since they have an impact on cognitivedevelopment. From the theories, many people have been assisted toknow how children learn and develop concept together with adults andage mates in and out of school. For example, the surrounding of achild such as home environment has a significant contribution towardsa child language and literacy acquisition. That can be advantageousto a child when at a tender age they are exposed to different typesof reading and writing activities (Thorne &amp Hellermann, 2015).

Thelinguistic difference also emerges when children are subjected to avaried environment where they learn another language during theirliteracy development. Additionally, when acquiring knowledge aboutprint in the environment there is a certain phonological awarenessthat starts to develop in children. Similarly, learning processesthat are learned at homes such as reading and writing are very muchdifferent from those that are acquired at school (Thorne &ampHellermann, 2015). Conferring to the sociocultural viewpoint, thedisparity in the opinion of a suitable literacy event cannot becultural. Furthermore, students who originate from culturally andlinguistically diverse background there is a significant effect ofparents believes, and that influence their literacy experience. As aresult, the development of literacy skills of children coming fromculturally and linguistically diverse is entirely different fromthose who are coming from a mainstream society (Thorne &ampHellermann, 2015).

Impacton Learning to Read

Thesociocultural theory has a significant impact on learning to readsince it analyzes various factors that can promote reading amongstudents. For instance, it enhances social interactions where thestudent can interact with people who have knowledge of reading, andthey can impart some reading skills. Such learning is conducted inthe community, and they constitute what is known as informal learning(Thorne &amp Hellermann, 2015). Within the school environment, thesociocultural theory also allows children to interact, and they shareideas since they come from different background, and that can enhancereading. Therefore, the educators act as a channel where they borrowideas from the society and merge them with formal learninginstructions to improve reading. Consequently, it is evident thatsociocultural theory has a positive impact on learning to read amongchildren (Thorne &amp Hellermann, 2015).

Pitfallsof Applying Socio-Cultural Theory to Classroom Instructions

Thesociocultural theory has resulted in promoting education as it helpsto understand various factors that influence learning from differentaspects. Alternatively, the approach is associated with certainpitfalls when applied to classroom instructions since it does notaddress issues such as political and socio-economic problems (Thorne&amp Hellermann, 2015). When such challenges are manifested in thecommunity, then they can result in poor classroom teaching andlearning and can also lead to a breakdown. These issues can also havean impact on the cognitive development of a student, for instance, itcan be difficult to handle learners who are coming from low-incomefamilies that are experiencing economic problems. Therefore,application of sociocultural theory to a classroom instruction ishectic since it does not factor vital issues that are important inlearning (Thorne &amp Hellermann, 2015).

Additionally,the sociocultural theory that is mostly used and it was suggested byVygotsky is an incomplete work meaning that some vital element couldhave been left out. For instance, ZPD has some challenges since itdoes not contain essential elements that relate to a child such aslearning style, motivational factors and present ability level(Thorne &amp Hellermann, 2015). Similarly, some processes are linkedto development, but there is no explanation on how they take place ina child. Additionally, having information about the width of a childZPD cannot provide precise illustrations of their level ofdevelopment, the format of education, and learning ability. Thedimensions of the zone whether broad or narrow they are stillcharacterized by complications since it depicts an incompletedevelopment picture. Therefore, certain features such as ZDP ofsociocultural theory come along with some pitfalls that make it hardto apply it to the classroom instructions. On the other hand, whensuch issues can be adequately addressed then ZPD can significantlycontribute to the improvement of classroom instructions (Thorne &ampHellermann, 2015).


InstructionalApproaches Supported by Socio-Cultural Theory

Accordingto the sociocultural viewpoint, learning is expected to take place inan interactive manner, negotiation and collaboration. Therefore,those are some of the instructional approaches that are supported bysociocultural theory. The mentioned elements are containing featuresof learning through cooperation, and instructions are also developedby discourse, norms, and practices that are related to a positivedialogue (Yashima, &amp Arano, 2015). The primary objectives ofinstruction are to help students to get involved in talks andactivities that are relevant to practices in the community thatstudents are being introduced (mathematicians, scientists). Theseprinciples are consistent with the inquiry-based methods, wherestudents are tutors and co-inquire but teachers deliberate on thestudents meaning. Such meanings are emerging from the joint thinkingand opinion of the students and culturally developed sense of thecommunity (Yashima, &amp Arano, 2015).

Additionally,sociocultural theory has been regarded to be effective in advancinginstructional practices that can solve disparity that is present inthe current education system. According to research that wasconducted in the United States, it shows that about 40% ofschool-aged children are having a problem to advance beyond theelementary level of reading comprehension. Similarly, children whoare living in the marginalized area are performing badly, and theirreading ability is below the standard criteria (Yashima, &amp Arano,2015). Additionally, statistics indicates that majorities are belowthe cutoff mark and teachers are called upon to formulate a conicaltechnique to literacy instruction. Therefore, such implementationscan only be enhanced when literacy guidelines are reviewed concerningsociocultural theory and that assist to understand the situationalspecificity of literacy practice. Additionally, instructionalapproaches that are supported by sociocultural theory includecollaboration with external parties such as family members. Thefamily will continue to put more emphasis on concepts that have beenlearned in the school, and that will improve on child education(Yashima, &amp Arano, 2015).

HowInstructional Implications are Connected to Socio-Cultural theory

Instructionalimplications are related to a sociocultural theory in the sense thatteachers are focusing on developing a third space. The concept ofthird space states that the student’s primary discourse includingcommunity and informal social interactions can be integrated with thesecondary discourse comprising of knowledge acquired from school andany other formal institutions form what is known as third space(Hawkins, 2016). Therefore, third space act as an instructionalapproach and teachers are required to be more attentive in itsdevelopment since there is always a challenge of merging priorexperiences and knowledge of students to the current schoolcurriculum. Additionally, it has been established that theinstructional use of discourse in the third place is productiveespecially in teaching science subject. Through instructionaltechnique, children were being encouraged to think about theirpersonal exploration concerning scientific occurrence such as waveson water (Hawkins, 2016). Such experience can be gained from theschool setting, social interactions and at home and they can be usedto enhance education. Furthermore, an instructional method isconnected to the sociocultural theory since it encourages priorconversation and extensive reading of books at school and at homeduring read-aloud secession. Hence, instructional approachconcentrates on the contributions that are made by students in theclassroom and teachers utilize them to promote learning of concepts(Hawkins, 2016).


Socioculturaltheory concentrates on the involvement in social activities andculturally organized undertakings and how they contribute to thepsychological development. Similarly, the major concept learned aboutsociocultural theory is the spontaneous and scientific concept thatis enhanced through mutual discovery, cooperative learning,co-participation, and the environment. Additionally, ZPD has somechallenges since it does not contain vital elements that relate to achild such as learning style, motivational factors and presentability level. Moreover, the sociocultural theory can help teachersto detect when there is a breakdown in comprehension by determiningthe effectiveness of reciprocal teaching.


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Lantolf,J. P., Thorne, S. L., &amp Poehner, M. E. (2015). Socioculturaltheory and second language development. Theoriesin second language acquisition: An introduction,14(3),207-226.

Swain,M., Kinnear, P., &amp Steinman, L. (2015). Socioculturaltheory in second language education: An introduction throughnarratives(Vol. 11). Multilingual matters.

Thorne,S. L., &amp Hellermann, J. (2015). Sociocultural approaches toexpert–novice relationships in second language interaction. TheHandbook of Classroom Discourse and Interaction,6(1),281-297.

Yashima,T., &amp Arano, K. (2015). Understanding EFL learners’motivational dynamics: A three-level model from a dynamics systemsand sociocultural perspective. Motivationaldynamics in language learning,12(4),285-314.