Phillips & Soltis: Chapter 6
Wenger: A Social Theory of Learning
McLeod: Vygotsky (Links to an external site.) https://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html
Schunk: Chapter 6 (Read Only the Following Pages/Sections)
240 (Vygotsky S.C. Theory) – 248
250 (Socially Mediated Learning) – 233
269 (Peer Assisted) – 271
274 (Summary) – 277
Commentonat least 3 Classmates’Posts (approximately 150 -300 words each)§
– comment must address the R2R prompt and your classmate’s response substantively; if you agree or disagree, provide reasoning and rational evidence from the readings to support your position
– build on the ideas of what your classmate has written and dig deeper into the ideas
– support your views through research you have read or through your personal and/or professional experiences§demonstrate a logical progression of ideas
– comments need to be thoughtful and substantive; not gratuitous comments like “this was a good post” or simply that “you agree”. Simply congratulating the writer on their astute insights is insufficient.
– cite the readings in your response by using proper APA Style format and conventions.
Social learning theory is described as being a “theory of learning process and social behavior which proposes that new behaviors can be acquired by observing and imitating others.” Learning is a social experience in a lot of different ways. Social interactions are critical in learning. We learn so much from interacting with others and our environment. The fundamental principles of social learning states that “learning occurs when observing other’s behaviors and the resulting outcomes of those behaviors.” Observation and mimicking are the first forms of learning as a child. Peer collaboration, reciprocal teaching, apprenticeships, and scaffolding are all examples of learning using the social model. In other words, we learn from everything around us. We learn from our interactions as it stimulates developmental processes and fosters cognitive growth, the information that is “learned” is transformed into knowledge.
Lev Vygotsky is a constructivist theorist; he placed more emphasis on the social environment being a factor in learning. Vygotsky’s theory stresses that “the interaction of interpersonal (social), cultural-historical, and individual factors as the key to human development. Vygotsky considered the social environment critical for learning and thought that social interactions form learning experiences” (Schunk, page 242). One of the fundamental concepts presented by Lev Vygotsky is that a person’s interactions with the environment aid in their learning. Social interactions are necessary for learning to take place, and that knowledge is gained when two or more people interact with one another. Another concept would be self-regulation, which involves “the coordination of mental processes such as planning, synthesizing, and forming concepts” (Schunk, page 252). Additionally, human development happens through cultural practices and the use of the cultures tools such as language and symbols; language is “the most critical tool, and develops from social speech, to private speech, to inner speech.” Lastly, the zone of proximal development (ZPD) is the “difference between what children can do on their own and what they can do with assistance from others” (Schunk, page 243).
Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky were both believers that children are actively involved in their own learning and in the development of new schemas or understandings. However, Vygotsky’s theory was different from Piaget’s theory in a number of ways. First, Vygotsky assumes that cognitive development varied across cultures whereas Piaget stated that it was universal across all cultures. Second, Vygotsky believed cognitive developed occurs from social interactions from guided learning within the ZPD and when the children and their partner co-construct knowledge together; whereas Piaget believed cognitive development happened when children constructed knowledge on their own and independently. Third, Vygotsky places more emphasis on the role of language in cognitive development; and cognitive development results from the internalization of language. Whereas Piaget thought that language depended on thought for its development (thought comes before language). Last, Vygotsky stresses that adults are important because they transmit their culture’s tools of intellectual adaptation that the children internalize, whereas Piaget emphasized the importance of peers and the interactions promoting social perspective taking.
A community of practice is a group of people who share an interest/profession/or a craft. Communities of practice are everywhere; they are in schools, work places, homes, and within our hobbies or interests. We all belong to communities of practice, which change over the course of our lives. Learning is a part of our everyday lives, and is part of our participation in our community. Communities of practice impact learning by providing a way for people to exchange information, ask questions, express ideas and opinions, share best practices, and support one another. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop personally and professionally.
Social Constructivist approaches have impacted teaching and learning in so many ways. This week’s reading has been a much needed reminder of how important social interactions are and how impactful they are when it comes to learning. I learn new things everyday through my environment and the community. As a teacher, I learn so much from my students and the community that they live in. As an educator, I know how important social aspects in learning are; in particular, I know that my students with autism lack certain social skills and that is a big focus for us. This weeks’ reading has reminded me of why social skills are so important to teach my students. So much learning comes from interacting with others and communicating and collaborating ideas. Learning is influenced by social interactions, interpersonal relationships, and communication with others. As an educator, I try to use social interactions to enhance the learning of all students; the school I am at right now does Peer Buddy Groups. Also, inclusion of my students into general ed classrooms, peer buddy groups, peer modeling, and other social strategies are used throughout our school to better all students and their learning.
Thanks for reading my response to think weeks reading.
Learning is a social experience because “all of society and its media are teachers.”, (Phillips, 2009, p.52). From the very beginning of our existence, stimulation and experiences shape the learner, however it is the experiences in which language is involved that make the interaction a social experience for the learner. Instances of social learning is the norm for humans and opportunities for social learning assist in the understanding of morals, history, science, mathematics, literature, and aesthetics, (Phillips, 2009). Social learning is also important outside of academic knowledge, it helps shape our policies, daily actions, and or design of organization and education, (Wenger). Vygotsky even believed that social learning could happen independently and that those who do practice “private speech” are more “socially competent” than other children who do not practice it regularly. Vygotsky’s idea was that high social interaction caused private speech to occur and that it mostly happens during times that require a high cognitive performance.
The fundamental concepts presented by Vygotsky are attention, sensation, perception, and memory. These four functions allow for stronger memories to be created and stored in a more adaptable fashion. Things to be remembered were often paired with something to hold to “remember later” until such strategies were adapted and utilized.
Vygotsky differs from Piaget in the sense that he understand social learning as an independent practice, rather than an event or occurrence that involves another person or form of media. Vygotsky also sees the positive impact of social learning more than Piaget. Piaget focuses much more on the self discovery aspect of learning, which focused on discovery, finding solutions to problems, and restoring cognitive equilibrium. Vygotsky was more focused on what the learner could solve or accomplish with no assistance or guidance.
Communities of practice are essentially the situations and circumstances that teachers create in order for students to have a hands-on, full brain approach to their learning. These communities of practice are similar to that of an apprenticeship, being that the students leave from these communities with a highly sought after skill or trade.
Social constructivists have impacted teaching and learning by outlining the reasons why people learn things in certain situations or by highlighting the scenarios in which learning does not happen. Dewey captures the heart of it with his amazing quote,
“Upon this view, thinking, or knowledge-getting, is far from being the armchair thing it is often supposed to be. The reason it is not an armchair thing is that it is not an event going on exclusively within the cortex or cortex and the vocal organs…Hands and feet, apparatus and appliances of all kinds are as much a part of it as changes with the brain.”, (Phillips, 2009, p.62)
I agree that all teachers should memorize this quote and really take the point to heart with the philosophy they develop their classroom around. Advances in how students learn are significant and are crucial to creating a meaningful atmosphere for students to learn.
These social constructivists relate to me as a student because I was aware that if I asked a friend or someone for help then I would most likely understand it after they help explain it to me. This simple connection goes back to the importance of giving students time to discuss their learning, ask questions, and eliminate misconceptions.
Learning is a social experience in that all of us are taught in one way or another by others. We even see that abandoned children taken in by packs of wild animals learn from those they associate with on a daily basis which is a bit like the modeling Bandura described (Phillips, 59). While Piaget focused on the internal processes of constructivist learning other thinkers including Vygotsky & Dewey put much more emphasis on social aspects. McLeod listed five primary differences between Vygotsky and Piaget with Vygotsky citing:
1) Cultural effects
2) Social factors
3) More emphasis on language
4) The importance of adults
5) “Elementary mental functions” that become more sophisticated as students learn.
Vygotsky coined the term Zone of Proximal Development to describe what students are capable of doing with the proper help from other knowledgeable individuals (Phillips, 57). He also talked about “psychological tools,” such as the language created over time by others, that we need to learn complex concepts (Phillips, 58.) Intuitively any of us who have been around young children know that Vygotsky is right in that we continually facilitate their learning by talking to them, helping them develop their motor functioning, helping them to develop emotion regulation by comforting them when they are upset, and so on. There is no case when any decent person would leave children to fully fend for themselves.
Other thinkers with similar ideas to Vygotsky include Clifford Geertz who argued that there is no such thing as a common human nature (Phillips, 63) meaning we all have different cultural and social backgrounds that affect our daily learning. Shirley Brice Heath presented some interesting research on why underprivileged minority children underperformed in their rural school and found part of the problem to be that they were not used to the type of questioning their teachers gave (Phillips, 64) whereby teachers would ask questions they already knew the answer to. This partially explains why so many students can be really knowledgeable in certain areas but struggle in a traditional school setting. Anecdotally I see this as I interact with my children when we discuss matters, such as American government, that they know I am an expert on yet answer my questions as part of the learning process.
When Wenger talked about Communities of Practice he was referring to the groups of people with something in common they are working on or towards (Wenger, 211). As an example, I work with my department at school to make better lessons and with my fellow volunteer soccer coach on methods to improve the skills on our team of three year olds. It would not be possible to reach my full potential in either endeavor without being able to be social and learn with others. Anecdotally I have seen in schools where students that are part of a strong Community of Practice, such as those in the band, tend to learn more than those in other areas such as history class that tend to be more solitary in nature. Ideally we history teachers will find ways to emulate our band colleagues by making our classes more collaborative while also adequately teaching the vast content required by the state.
Social Constructivist approaches to teaching have influenced the way in which we promote peer collaboration (Schunk, 246) and how we see apprenticeships being useful for those learning new job skills (Schunk, 247). As a teacher I like to promote peer collaboration but cannot always do so given my dual mandate to teach what many students deem boring content and to maintain an orderly classroom. I do strive though to create more engaging projects like I did last week where 6th grade students learned about mapmaking by creating one on their own and adding features, such as recreational opportunities, that relate to their interests. When done right Social Constructivist practices provide the best learning outcomes but in my experience this also requires somewhat motivated and well-behaved students to accomplish.