Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory and Contributions to the Development of Constructivist Curricula

By Jaramillo, James A. | Education, Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory and Contributions to the Development of Constructivist Curricula


Jaramillo, James A., Education


Introduction

Vygotsky's (1930s) theoretical contributions to the development of curricula and teaching strategies are widely known among educational theorists. Vygotsky devised a sociocultural theory which subsequently influenced the development of the constructivist movement. Although Vygotsky's contributions to the field of education are apparent, what has not been specifically addressed is how the particulars of his theoretical framework helped shape the development of constructivist curricula. In short, how does his sociocultural theory connect with the schooling praxis of constructivism.

Goals

The purpose of this paper is to analyze Vygotsky's (1930s) sociocultural theory of learning with respect to how it relates to education. To do this, I deem it essential to examine how this theory of learning impacted the teaching strategies and curricula of the constructivist movement The conceptual content of this paper addresses the following primary educational query: With respect to the learning theory of constructivism how do students learn? To answer this query, I deem it essential to investigate how his approach was ultimately based on a theoretical framework because this phenomenon shapes the methodology of an educator's research and teaching.

Objectives

The objective is to describe how this approach was intrinsically shaped by a theoretical framework. This theoretical framework consists of the following interrelated procedural components: query, conceptual framework, philosophical assumptions, methodology, data, principles, techniques, and learning setting. That is, as a researcher of curricula and learning, Vygotsky ([1933] 1978) conceived these ideas and strained them through a procedure to form them, whereas practicing teachers tend to explicitly apply each educational theory's teaching implications to the classroom(1). Fortunately, Vygotsky taught in the classroom setting and conducted research, which probably gave him valuable insight as to how to connect educational research theory with practical application in the classroom.

Teacher-Practitioner and Education Researcher Roles

Although the teacher and researcher of learning both utilize theory, they do so in different ways. In general, the teacher, as a practitioner, primarily employs theory when constructing curricula and teaching strategies while the researcher primarily utilizes theory to test its efficacy in a student-learning setting, or to devise novel ones. Although these distinct roles exist, there is a general relationship between each theory of learning and the respective curricula and teaching strategies that distinct schools of educators employ. Those educators who adhere to behavioristic, cognitivistic, and positivistic theoretical frameworks tend to instruct their students in a teacher-centered mode, whereas those who adhere to constructivism, collectivistic, and thematic holistic theories tend to teach students in a collective learning environment. The teaching strategies and curricula that educators adopt implicitly reflect the learning theories which they advocate. Because teaching strategies and curricula are based on theories of learning, it is necessary to initially examine the explanation of Vygotsky and then, relate it to curricula instruction.

Methodology of this Paper

I interpreted Vygotsky's approach from the standpoint of an educational anthropologist. This perspective involves adopting the roles of an arm-chair researcher and a field-based classroom researcher. The duties of these roles comprise reviewing the literature, interpreting classroom lecture-notes, and employing past participant-observations of various classroom settings; that is, one who interprets student-teacher interactional-learning settings at the school site.

Context of Limitations: Disclaimer

My interpretation of Vygotsky's sociocultural theory is based on English translations of his work, and further upon the interpretations of his works by psychologists, such as Berk (1994), Tudge (1990), and Gallimore and Tharp (1990). …

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