The 3 Key Themes of The Sociocultural Learning Theory
1. Culture
Vygotsky suggested that cultures are actually formed through the use of tools and
symbols, and that this key distinction is what differentiates the human race from
that of animals. Intelligence is achieved when a learner can “internalize” the tools
that are being provided in the culture itself. When the tools of a culture evolve and
emerge, the learners’ ability to grow as individuals and increase their knowledge
base is broadened. As such, according to the Sociocultural Learning Theory, it's
important for instructors to understand the human mind from a historical point of
view as well as a cultural one.
2. Language
According to the Sociocultural Learning Theory, language is a direct result of the
symbols and tools that emerge within a culture. An individual is able to learn
language through a variety of social events, scenarios and processes, which all
result in the acquisition of language. This aspect of the Sociocultural Learning
Theory relies upon the idea that learners go through three stages of speech
development. First, they must engage in the social environment, which is known
as “social speech” and begins at the age of 2. Next, they will learn about “private
speech”, which occurs when learners voice their thoughts aloud, and begins at
the age of 3. The last is “inner speech”, which takes the form of ideas that remain
within our minds and directly impact our behavior or thoughts, and begins at the
age of 7.
3. Zone of Proximal Development
This is the “gap” or distance that exists between a learner's possible educational
development, which is determined through problem solving activities, and the
development that actually takes place. This is assessed when learners are asked
to engage in problem solving tasks under the supervision of an instructor. Their
responses and capabilities are then compared to that of their peers. This
assessment is based upon a spectrum, wherein what learners are capable of doing
without any assistance is at one end of the spectrum, and what they can do while
being assisted is at the other. In essence, the zone allows instructors to learn what
a student is not yet capable of doing or has not yet learned, but can be taught
with the proper instruction.
Applying The Sociocultural Learning Theory
The Sociocultural Learning Theory also takes into account how learners are
impacted by their peers, and how social scenarios impact their ability to acquire
information. As such, instructors who apply the Sociocultural Learning Theory in their
instructional design can also become aware of how learners may directly impact one
another, as well as how cultural “norms” can influence a learner's learning behavior. They
can then create an eLearning course plan that integrates the principles of Sociocultural
Learning, in order to enhance the effectiveness of the curriculum.