yes, therapy helps!
The Sociocultural Theory of Lev Vygotsky

The Sociocultural Theory of Lev Vygotsky

May 27, 2022

In what sense and proportion can culture and society influence the cognitive development of the kids? Is there any kind of relationship between cognitive development and the complex collaborative process carried out by adults in education and learning (specific and general) that the children receive?

In the same way, what are the main implications of the Sociocultural Theory of Vygotsky for education and cognitive assessment of children?

The Sociocultural Theory of Lev Vygotsky

The Sociocultural Theory Vygotsky puts the accent on the proactive participation of minors with the environment that surrounds them, being the cognitive development the result of a collaborative process. Lev Vygotsky (Russia, 1896-1934) argued that children develop their learning through social interaction: they acquire new and better cognitive abilities as a logical process of their immersion in a way of life.


Those activities that are carried out in a shared way allow children to internalize the thinking and behavioral structures of the society that surrounds them , appropriating them.

Learning and "Zone of proximal development"

According to Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory, the role of adults or more advanced partners is to support, direct and organize the child's learning, in the step before he can be able to master those facets, having internalized the structures behavioral and cognitive that the activity demands. This orientation is more effective in offering help to the children so that they cross the development zone proximal (ZPD) , that we could understand as the gap between what they are already capable of doing and what they still can not achieve on their own.


The children who are in the ZPD for a specific task are close to being able to do it autonomously, but they still need to integrate some key thinking. However, with the right support and guidance, they are able to successfully complete the task. To the extent that the collaboration, supervision and responsibility of learning are covered, the child progresses adequately in the formation and consolidation of their new knowledge and learning.

The metaphor of the scaffolding

There are several followers of Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory (for example: Wood, 1980, Bruner and Ross, 1976) who have brought up the metaphor of the 'Scaffolding 'To refer to this learning mode. The scaffolding it consists of the temporary support of the adults (teachers, parents, tutors ...) who provide the child with the objective of carrying out a task until the child is able to carry it out without outside help.


One of the researchers who starts from the theories developed by Lev Vygotsky, Gail Ross , studied in a practical way the process of scaffolding in children's learning. Instructing children between three and five years old, Ross used multiple resources. She used to control and be the center of attention of the sessions, and used slow and dramatized presentations to the students in order to show that the achievement of the task was possible . Dr. Ross became the one in charge of anticipating everything that was going to happen. It controlled all the parts of the task in which the children worked in a degree of complexity and magnitude proportionate to the previous skills of each one.

The way in which it presented the tools or objects that were the object of learning allowed the children to discover how to solve and perform the task themselves, in a more efficient way than if they had only been explained how to solve it. It is in this sense that Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory points out the "zone" between what people can understand when they are shown something in front of them, and what they can generate autonomously. This zone is the zone of proximal development or ZPD that we mentioned earlier (Bruner, 1888).

Sociocultural theory: in context

The Sociocultural Theory of the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky has transcendental implications for education and the evaluation of cognitive development. Tests based on the ZPD, which emphasize the potential of the child, represent an invaluable alternative to standardized intelligence tests, which usually emphasize knowledge and learning already carried out by the child. Thus, many children benefit from the guidance sociocultural and open that Vygotsky developed.

Another of the fundamental contributions of the contextual perspective has been the emphasis on the social aspect of development . This theory defends that the normal development of children in a culture or a group pertaining to a culture may not be an adequate norm (and therefore can not be extrapolated) to children from other cultures or societies.

  • We recommend you read: "The Theory of Psychosocial Development of Erikson"

Bibliographic references:

  • Daniels, H. (Ed.) (1996). An Introduction to Vygotsky, London: Routledge.
  • Van der Veer, R., & Valsiner, J. (eds.) (1994). The Vygotsky Reader. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Yasnitsky, A., van der Veer, R., Aguilar, E. & Garcia, L.N. (Eds.) (2016). Vygotski revisited: a critical history of its context and legacy. Buenos Aires: Miño and Dávila Editores.

Vygotsky sociocultural development | Individuals and Society | MCAT | Khan Academy (May 2022).


Similar Articles