Vygotskys Sociocultural Theory Essay Assignment

Sociocultural theory is the third set of theories related to cognitive development and is founded in the work of Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky believed that infants are born with elementary perceptual, attention, and memory capacities, which develop in the first two years through interaction with others. Vygotsky did not view cognitive development as individualistic, but placed a significant emphasis on culture or community.

Unlike Piaget, who favored independent discovery leading to construction of knowledge, Vygotsky asserted that acquisition of knowledge is a consequence of social interactions. Specifically, learning takes place within the zone of proximal development, which is a range of tasks too difficult for the child to do alone but possible with the help of adults and more skilled peers.

When these more knowledgeable individuals question, prompt, and suggest strategies for mastering a specific task within the zone of proximal development, the child is drawn into more mature thinking processes. Support during learning can gradually be adjusted, based on the child’s needs, a concept known as scaffolding. Also, due to his emphasis on social experience and language, Vygotsky saw make-believe play as a major zone of proximal development for preschoolers.


When applied in the classroom, Vygotsky’s theory teaches us to highlight collaboration. While we again see that children should be active participants in learning, we now go beyond individual discovery (Piaget) to discovery through teacher guidance and peer partnerships. In preschool, there should be many opportunities for make-believe play. In all grades, there should be opportunities for conversation, as this dialogue prompts reflection on thought processes, which, in turn, leads to increased cognitive awareness.

Knowledge Check

Question 1

Which theory on cognitive development places a large emphasis on language and social interaction as the foundation for learning?

  • Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
  • Core Knowledge Perspective
  • I don’t know

Case Study

To highlight how children’s drawings can help identify adjustment difficulties at school.

As noted in the text, a variety of factors—the realization that pictures can serve as symbols, improved planning and spatial understanding, and the emphasis the child’s culture places on artistic expression—influence the development of children’s artful representations.

According to Harrison, Clarke, and Ungerer (2007), drawings can also provide insight into relationships with adults, as well as children’s overall adjustment. In one study, researchers recruited 125 six-year-olds and collected the following information:

  • Participants completed a 30-minute interview that addressed general perceptions of themselves, their school, and their teachers.

Sample Essay Solution for Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory

The paper “Vygotsky’ s Socio-Cultural Theory” is a perfect example of a psychology essay. Lev Vygotsky (1896– 1934), a Russian psychologist, was the innovative founder of the theory of sociocultural psychology. He had a special interest in the child’ s development and how the child’ s social and cultural interactions impacted his learning and development in general.

Vygotsky’ s work gave rise to the now valued concepts of social-cultural theory, and his works are currently utilized in the schooling and education systems. His theory implied that the social surrounding of the child influences his cognitive growth. His argument was that a child’ s personality alone was not enough to understand the child’ s development (Vygotsky, 1978).

The external factors surrounding the child’ s life go further to explain child development. The child’ s reaction to these factors and participation in certain activities, involving his intellectual abilities, draws the child to use its abilities so as to cultivate and develop them. His idea, therefore, suggested that the learning process in a child’ s growth is greatly influenced by the objects, occurrences, and people it occasionally makes contact with at the early stages of life. Vygotsky’ s theory clearly brings out an idea of a Community of Practice.

The community of practice is used to refer to informal groups of people who are brought together by their similar interests and concerns. Hence, the similarities enhance great learning as people intermingle, share their thoughts and issues, and creatively come up with feasible solutions to their problems. Likewise, Vygotsky accentuated on how the child is influenced by its peers, adults, and beliefs surrounding him/her (Vygotsky, 1978). This theory has been of great help in explaining why a child adapts to its environment.

By interacting with its immediate surroundings, a child will not only gain cognitive advancement but also have its goals molded. At this stage, a child will seek more assistance from the parents, learn communication skills and slowly start its mastery of language Vygotsky defined intelligence as the ability to listen and act on guidelines. He noted that a child could gain expertise through imitating other people, getting instructions and through collaborative learning among friends. A parent, a teacher, or a children’ s expert could act as the instructors.

Moreover, enhancing the attainment of proficiency in a child is also facilitated by its interactions with fellow children, and even through the use of some objects in playing games such as computers and play-stations. Vygotsky referred to these, and any other object, or person who could be of use in advancing the child’ s aptitude by offering directions as the more knowledgeable other (McLeod, 2007). His understanding of learning was that learning is more than a gain of particular information. He argued that learning was supposed to aim at the overall development of the child’ s abilities including creativity and the ability to individually make decisions and communicate them.

This could only be achieved by the use of the social and cultural objects around their lives. Vygotsky’ s theory laid emphasis on particular elements like language. He said that language was central to the psychological enlargement of a child. Another element Vygotsky used to clarify socio-cultural theory is the ‘ Zone of Proximal Development’ (Vygotsky, 1978). This feature has two levels of achievement. The first level is referred to as the ‘ present level of development’ that points out the things a child can handle on their own without the help of anyone (Vygotsky, 1978).

The second level is the ‘ potential level of development’ , which points out what a child can attain when helped out by an instructor. The zone of proximal development, which varies with the age and cognitive growth of the child, is the difference between the two levels (McLeod, 2007). Another feature is scaffolding; which implies that the instructor should progressively limit the amount of assistance they offer to the child.

They should adjust it according to the rate at which the child is grasping the instructions. Common Practice Theory By Lave Jean and Etienne Wenger Theorists Lave and Wenger came up with the idea of a community of practice, which is a process suggesting that; people with common interests learn by participating in these interests, and they develop informal groups.

In the past, this theory has been extended to various fields and organizations, hence formalizing the groups. This theory points out social learning as a coincidental result. Lave and Wegner claimed that community practices are found everywhere (Schaffer, 1996).

They could be incorporated in schools, homes and such areas where people of similar interests meet. A clear example of the community of practice is how a given tribe learns to survive or even cliques of students in schools. Through these interactions, the social groups learn new things and together they get ideas on how to handle situations better.

The end product of this collective learning is a habit reflecting not only the member’ s own natural pursuits but also the characteristics of the groups from which they learn their ideas (Schaffer, 1996). Communities of practice have different characteristics such as naming, though most do not have names, formality or informality, and so on.

Though most of them are informal, some upcoming ones are formal, as Wenger recently discovered, for instance in organizations (Schaffer, 1996). Communities of practice have three elements distinguishing them from any other group. First, their identity is defined by a shared domain, and members are committed to this domain. The second element is a community, which simply means people who have stronger bonds of their similar interests, than just a group of people who find themselves together, for instance, in a job scenario.

The third element is practice, where apart from having a similar interest, the members of a community of practice have means of interactions. These include the tools they use to interact such as stories and experiences. These interactions are developed over time.


  • McLeod, S.A. (2007). Simply Psychology; Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html
  • Schaffer, R. (1996). Social Development. Oxford: Blackwell. Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.