Contexts for Learning: Sociocultural Dynamics in Children's Development

Contexts for Learning: Sociocultural Dynamics in Children's Development

Contexts for Learning: Sociocultural Dynamics in Children's Development

Contexts for Learning: Sociocultural Dynamics in Children's Development

Synopsis

This provocative new work on children's development in context presents recent theoretical developments and research findings that have been generated by sociocultural theory. Sociocultural theory began with the work of L.S. Vygotsky and his colleagues but has been significantly expanded and modified recent years. Since the late 1970s, sociocultural theory has challenged existing notions of cognitive development by suggesting that psychological functioning is specific to its social context and is dependent on the mastery of culturally defined modes of speaking, thinking, and acting. For this volume, the editors have assembled a list of contributors noted for their distinguished work in sociocultural theory and research. Taken together, they offer a multifaceted perspective on an emerging research paradigm and argue for a fundamental reconceptualization of mind and its development. Three main themes are explored in detail: discourse and learning in classroom practice, interpersonal relations in formal and informal education, and the institutional context of learning. Research findings are consistently discussed in terms of their theoretical implications. The book includes three commentary chapters and an afterword that propose future directions for sociocultural research. This book will be of interest to a wide range of researchers, educators, and students concerned with the theory and practice of developmental, educational, social, and cognitive psychology.

Excerpt

Over the past 10 to 20 years, scholars concerned with human development have shown increasing interest in the social and cultural foundation of developmental processes. A recognizable piece of this complex fabric of theory and research consists in attempts to apply, extend, and develop the work of what is now widely known as the Soviet sociohistorical school -- the work of L. S. Vygotsky, A. N. Leont'ev, A. R. Luria, and their colleagues and students. This volume continues the tradition by offering examples of theoretical and empirical attempts to extend and enrich the evolving framework. Though their ideas differ in many ways, the authors of the chapters included in this book share the view that early attempts to apply the Soviet sociohistorical framework to issues of development and learning had serious limitations. These limitations represent in part failure to capitalize on existing aspects of the framework and in part failure to integrate other frameworks into a more inclusive sociocultural theory of human development.

When we refer to the Soviet sociohistorical school, we are referring to more than Vygotsky's work on language and thought. Although Vygotsky was indeed very much concerned with the links between modes of discourse and modes of thought, his discussion of the links between these phenomena constituted only one element in a much broader conception of the relationships between the social and the psychological that he was working to develop. Though little of this material has been translated into English, Vygotsky's writing dealt not only with cognition but also with the emotions, motives, and personality. Moreover, his conception of the social extended well beyond social interaction and discourse to include both cultural and social-institutional levels of analysis. It is also important to understand that though Vygotsky's scholarship and leadership were critical to the emergence of the Soviet sociohistorical school, it makes little more sense to equate the two than it would to equate "cognitive-science" with the early work of Miller, Galanter, and Pribram (1960). Vygotsky's colleagues -- A. N. Leont'ev . . .

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