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Sociocultural Theory and Mediated Learning


Sociocultural Theory and Mediated Learning Dr Gabriela Meier Learning metaphors Acquisition metaphor Participation metaphor Contribution metaphor Learning metaphors ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Sociocultural Theory and Mediated Learning

Sociocultural Theory and Mediated Learning
  • Dr Gabriela Meier

Todays objectives
  • Review of IIO through the article Pica 2005
  • Presentations I critically engage with diverse
    language learning contexts
  • Gain an elementary understanding of
    socio-cultural theory and its application to the
    field of second language learning.
  • Introduction to concept maps Task for next week

Views of learning
  • Stimulus-response model (behaviourism)
  • Cognitive models (innatism, constructivism,
    information processing)
  • Input interaction output - Computational
    metaphor (based on cognitive psychology and
  • Socio-cultural model (based on social psychology)

  • In your language learning experience
  • do you ever think in the L2?
  • if so, in what type of situations?
  • Do you ever talk in the L2 with a fellow L2
  • Do you feel it helps you in mastering the L2?
  • Why? Why not?

Overview of the session
  • 1. Vygotskian socio-cultural theory key
  • Language in SCT
  • Mediation
  • Zone of proximal development (ZPD)
  • Regulation
  • Scaffolding
  • Learning metaphors
  • 2. Reflecting on your own learning.

  • Draws on
  • Lev Vygotsky (1987)
  • Alexei Nikolaevich Leontev (1978)
  • James V. Wertsch (1985)
  • Etc.

Lev Vygotsky (1896 1934)
  • Social psychologist
  • He was a contemporary of Jean Piaget. His work,
    which was not translated into English until 1962,
    is mainly concerned with general ideas about
    learning (not with language specifically).

Literary Works
  • Thought and Language
  • Thinking and Speech
  • Crisis in Psychology
  • Mind and Society
  • Collected Works 6 volumes

Language in SCT
  • Vygotsky was concerned with the relationship
    between thought and language.
  • He saw language as the means for mediating higher
    level thinking skills.
  • Emphasis on semantic properties of language
    rather than its formal properties.
  • Emphasis on meaning rather than form.

Jean Piaget (1896 1980)
  • Developmental psychologist
  • Stages of development
  • 0-2 years sensorimotor
  • 2-7 years preoperational
  • 7-11 years concrete operational
  • 11-16 years formal operational

Vygotsky and Piaget
  • Who stands for which model?
  • Learning leads development
  • versus
  • Development leads learning

  • Best known for his work on
  • Learning as a social interaction
  • An infant establishes meaning
  • in the interaction with care givers (intermental)
  • and then internalises it (intramental).

The social origin of mental functioning
  • Any function in the childs cultural development
  • appears twice, or on two planes. First it
    appears on
  • the social plane, and then on the psychological
  • plane. First it appears between people as an
  • interpsychological category, and then within the
  • child as an intrapsycholgical category.
  • (Vygotsky, 197857)

Important SCT concepts
  • Mediation
  • ZPD
  • Regulation
  • Scaffolding

  • Mediation

The mediated mind
The role of artifacts (tools and activities) and
other people in learning.
The importance of tools
  • Humans use tools to understand and mediate their
    social and physical environments
  • Tools are socially generated and transmitted
    within cultures through joint activity

Mediated action
M Artefact
O Object
S Subject
Subject and object are seen not only as
directly connected but simultaneously as
indirectly connected through a medium
constituted of artefacts. (Cole 2003119)
Mediated action
Fishing rod
FISH (Supper!)
  • What is an artefact (artifact)?
  • How does this relate to language learning?

Mediated action and SLA
M (artefact) Concrete dictionary Symbolic
language Social significant other
O Understanding a text
SL2 Learner
  • Zone of Proximal Development

Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
  • (the zone of potential/ next development)
  • the distance between the actual developmental
    level as determined by independent problem
    solving and the level of potential development
    as determined through problem solving under
    adult guidance or in collaboration with more
    capable peers.
  • (Vygotsky, 1978 86).

ZPDZone of Proximal Development (ZPD)
  • Regulation

The importance of other people
  • Object-regulation (have no control over
  • Other-regulation (gain control with
    assistance of

  • socioculturally-organized concepts,
    artefacts and activities)
  • Self-regulation (gain control through
    inner speech)

From other to self regulation in ZPD
  • transition from
  • other-regulation activity (inter-mental)
  • self-regulation activity (intra-mental)
  • learner gains increasing control over
  • learning behaviours and the environment
  • (Lantolf Appel, 1994).

  • Scaffolding

  • Vygotsky believed that when a student is at the
    zone of proximal development for a particular
    task, providing the appropriate assistance
    (scaffolding) will give the learner the extra
    help to achieve the task. Once the student, with
    the benefit of scaffolding, masters the task,
    the scaffolding can then be removed and the
    student will then be able to complete the task
    again on his own. (from other to self regulation)
  • Theory developed by Jerôme Bruner in 1950s

Jerôme Bruner 1915 Poland
  • Cognitive psychologist / Professor at Harvard
  • Instruction must be concerned with the
    experiences and contexts that make the student
    willing and able to learn (readiness).
  • Instruction should be designed to facilitate
    extrapolation and or fill in the gaps (going
    beyond the information given).

Scaffolding (Bruner)
Scaffolding is a form of adult assistance
that enables a child or novice to solve a
problem, carry out a task or achieve a goal which
would be beyond his unassisted efforts. It
is a process whereby the adult controls those
elements of the task that are initially beyond
the learners capacity, thus allowing the learner
to complete those that are within existing
capabilities. (Lantolf Thorne, 2006 107).
Instructional scaffolding
  • Instructional scaffolding is the provision of
    sufficient support to promote learning when
    concepts and skills are being first introduced to

  • What scaffolding do you provide for your
  • And how do they move from other regulation to
    self regulation?

Learning metaphors
  • Acquisition metaphor
  • Participation metaphor
  • Contribution metaphor

Learning metaphors
  • Acquisition metaphor
  • knowledge as a commodity that is accumulated by
    the learner (Pavlenko and Lantolf 20001556)
  • Participation metaphor
  • obliges us to think of learning as aprocess of
    becoming members of a certain community (Sfard
  • Contribution metaphor
  • understands the language learner as a potential
    contributor to common goals. (Grabois 2008285)

Sociocultural theory and classroom practice
  • Sociocultural theory highlights the importance of
    people, activities and tools in supporting
    learning and development. It suggests that
    classroom activities and practices need to be
    designed to enable learners to work within their

The problem with operationalizing the concept of
the ZPD in our classrooms.
  • How do we establish a childs current level of
  • How do we know when to increase/ reduce our level
    of assistance or support?
  • How can we teach in ways that can accommodate the
    very different development needs of our learners?
  • If the ZPD is ultimately best understood as an
    activity between learner and mediating artefact/
    significant other then is it possible to make any
    pedagogical generalizations at all?

Some pedagogical insights developed from
socio-cultural theory
  • Sociocultural theory stresses the important role
    that people and artefacts play in learning.
    According to SCT, learning is not an individual
    autonomous process and so the quality of the
    learning experience provided by teachers is
    significant to the learning journey of the
  • Based on SCT
  • Qualities of good mediation/scaffolding.
  • Dynamic assessment (within ZPD)
  • Differentiated instruction (activities and tasks)

  • Whats difference between socio-cultural
    perspectives on learning and other perspectives
    (Behaviourism, Cognitive psychology?
  • What are them main concepts related to
    socio-cultural theory?

Vygotskian SCT compared
  • Vygotsky and Piaget
  • Learning leads development versus development
    leads learning)
  • Vygotsky and Chomsky
  • From inside to outside versus from outside to
  • Vygotskys ZPD versus Krashens i 1
  • Quality of input versus quality of dynamic
    interaction between learner and significant other
  • Vygotsky and Behaviourism
  • Learning from the world versus learning in the

Some SC theorists OR Neo-Vygotskians
  • In Russia by Leontev, especially interaction of
    consciousness and activity elaborated as
    version of activity theory promoted by Engeström.
  • In USA developed in work of Bruner, Cole and
    Wertsch in developmental psychology, cultural
    anthropology and sociolinguistics. This strand is
    most commonly called sociocultural or
  • In N. America developed in relation to second
    language learning by Lantolf (1994 Lantolf and
    Appel Lantolf, 2000 Pavlenko, 2004 Swain et
    al, 2002.
  • In UK delivered in relation to general classroom
    studies by Mercer (1995 2000) Wells (1999).

SCT and its followers in SLA
  • Professor James P. Lantolf
  • Penn State University, USA

SLA authors on SCT
  • Lantolf Poehner 2011
  • Ellis 2008
  • Lantolf and Thorne 2006
  • Kinginger 2002
  • Nassaji and Cumming 2000
  • Dunn and Lantolf 1998
  • Lantolf and Aljaafreh 1995

  • What comes first in the learning process
  • cognition or social interaction?

Teacher-student or student-student?
  • Dialogue among learners can be as effective as
    instructional conversations between teachers and
  • Working collaboratively, people are able to
    co-construct distributed expertise as a feature
    of the group social, and individual members are
    then able to exploit this expertise as an
    occasion for learning to happen cognition. ()
  • Learners are capable of scaffolding each other
    through the use of strategies that parallel those
    relied upon by experts.
  • Lantolf, 2002106

Social interaction is central
  • cognition originates in social interaction and
    is shaped by cultural and sociopolitical
    processes. That is, cultural and sociopolitical
    processes are central, rather than incidental, to
    cognitive development.
  • Watson-Gegeo 2004 332
  • How does this relate to Picas (2005) article?

Our teaching is based on combination
  • IIO
  • Student reading
  • Interactive lectures
  • Output presentation, essays
  • Feedback
  • SCT
  • Dynamic assessment (formative summative)
  • Social participation in class, learning as a
    social activity
  • Essay based on specific context known to you

Task concept map
  • Task produce a concept map
  • Please construct a concept map that reflects
    the following
  • Main strands of theoretical thinking with regard
    to how people learn
  • Main theories relating to first language learning
    / second language learning
  • Main theorists
  • Can you position your own language learning
    context in this?
  • ? See hand out

Todays objectives
Next week Learner strategies and styles
  • Review of IIO through the article Pica 2005
  • Presentations I critically engage with diverse
    language learning contexts
  • Gain an elementary understanding of
    socio-cultural theory and its application to the
    field of second language learning.
  • Introduction to concept maps Task for next week
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