Sociocultural Perspectives on Learning

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Modern sociocultural learning theories stem from the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. When examining learning theories, LIDT professionals should consider the role culture, interaction, and collaboration have on quality learning. We propose a set of principles to guide the design of learning experiences. We provide examples of applications and environments that promote deep and meaningful learning.

When examining learning theories, LIDT professionals should consider sociocultural perspectives and the role culture, interaction, and collaboration have on quality learning. Modern sociocultural learning theories stem from the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky noticed the dynamic interdependence of social and individual psychological processes and recognized the role social interactions, language, and culture play in developing higher-order thinking skills. Although Vygotsky’s views are considered primarily developmental, they have practical implications for learners of all ages (Kozulin, 1990). Most recently, Vygotsky’s and other sociocultural scholars’ work have led to new approaches to learning, teaching, and instructional and learning design.

In this chapter, we first review the sociocultural theory’s central tenets. We then propose a set of principles informed by sociocultural perspectives to guide the design of learning experiences. We also provide examples of applications and environments that promote deep and meaningful learning.

Sociocultural Perspectives On Learning

Three themes can be identified within Vygotsky’s view of sociocultural learning: (a) learning is inherently a social process, (b) psychological tools mediate learning, and (c) learning occurs within the Zone of Proximal Development and can be supported by assistance from others.

Learning Is Inherently a Social Process

Proponents of sociocultural theory contend that thinking has social origins and social interactions play a critical role in developing higher-order thinking skills and learning (Vygotsky, 1978). Learners adopt socially shared experiences and acquire strategies and knowledge as they work with others on various tasks (Scott & Palincsar, 2013). While working together toward a common goal, such as solving a problem, learners seek to understand the problem, search for possible solutions, share multiple perspectives, negotiate meaning, and potentially come up with a mutually-satisfying solution. During this process, they gain a deeper understanding of issues related to the problem, including the knowledge of needed facts, theories, processes, and activities associated with the discipline. They use relevant terminology and discourse and practice valuable soft skills and strategies. This type of learning reflects a “transformation of participation in a sociocultural activity” rather than a traditional transmission of discrete cultural knowledge or skills (Matusov, 2015, p. 315).

In addition to learning being social in origin and participatory in character, Vygotsky believed that cognitive development, and learning, in particular, cannot be fully understood without considering the social, cultural, and historical context within which it is embedded (Vygotsky, 1978). Social structures determine people’s working conditions and interactions, shaping their cognition, beliefs, attitudes, and perception of reality (Vygotsky, 1978). The opposite is also true. People influence, adjust and transform social structures and their environment. The bidirectional nature of individuals and their context has important implications for learning design and research, highlighting the need to focus on the activity rather than on the sequestered individual. As we design and research learning experiences, we need to consider the participants (the learner, peers, the teacher) and their roles, available tools, artifacts to be used and created, as well as the community with its rules (Engeström, 2015).

Psychological Tools Mediate Learning

Another key aspect of sociocultural theory is the role tools play in the learning process. Vygotsky reasoned that social and individual work is mediated by signs or semiotics, such as language, systems of counting, conventional signs, works of art, and such (McLeod, 2022). These tools facilitate social and individual functioning. They also support meaning-making and co-construction of knowledge (Vygotsky, 1978).

Appropriation, a process where an individual adopts these socially available psychological tools to assist future independent problem solving, plays a vital role in learning (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996). Learners do not need to reinvent already existing tools to be able to use them. They only need to be introduced to how a particular tool is used, and then they can apply it across various situations solving new problems (Scott & Palincsar, 2013).

Vygotsky viewed language as the most powerful tool at our disposal, the ultimate collection of symbols that emerge within a culture (Vygotsky, 1986). Language as a form of symbolic mediation assists with two critical roles: (a) communicating with others and (b) facilitating our cognitive development. Using language as a tool for thinking enables us to add meaning to our experiences, organize our thoughts, construct logical meaning, and develop broad and abstract concepts (McLeod, 2022).

Learning Occurs Within the Zone of Proximal Development

The most widely applied Vygotskian sociocultural concept is the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), which is “the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner” (McLeod, 2019). For learning to be most effective, ZPD should be matched with an individual’s developmental level and be slightly beyond their capability. See Figure 1.

Learning in the Zone of Proximal Development
Figure 1. Learning in the Zone of Proximal Development. From "Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory of Cognitive Development," by S. Mcleod, 2019, SimplyPsychology ( CC BY-ND 2013 by Steve Wheeler, University of Plymouth.

In practice, work within the ZPD can be done through productive interactions. Through guided participation, learners actively acquire new valuable skills and capabilities as they engage in a meaningful collaborative activity with an assisting, more experienced other (Rogoff, 1990). The notion of instructional scaffolding is also related to learning in the ZPD. Scaffolding is any support provided to a learner throughout the learning process to help them complete a task within the ZPD. The types and the extent of support provided are based on performance needs and should be gradually removed as the learner becomes more confident and capable of completing the task independently (Miller, 2011).

Ideas such as ZPD, guided participation, and scaffolding bring to light a fundamentally different view of an instructor who serves as a facilitator of learning rather than a fount of knowledge. Likewise, the learner takes on more responsibilities, such as actively collaborating in the learning process, determining their learning goals, and becoming a resource of knowledge for peers (Grabinger et al., 2007). This shift in roles promotes individualized, differentiated, and learner-centered instruction. When paired with effective pedagogical practices, it can become a powerful alternative for reforming current educational systems and creating environments where many different individuals develop a deep understanding of important subjects (Watson & Reigeluth, 2016).

Strengths and Limitations of Sociocultural Theory

The sociocultural theory has several widely recognized strengths. First, it emphasizes any human activity's broader social, cultural, and historical context. It does not view individuals as isolated entities; instead, it provides a richer perspective, focusing on the fluid boundary between self and others. It portrays the dynamic of a learner acquiring knowledge and skills from society and then shaping their environment (Miller, 2011).

Second, the sociocultural theory is sensitive to individual and cross-cultural diversity. In contrast to many other universalist theories, sociocultural theory acknowledges differences in individuals within and across cultures. Moreover, it recognizes that “different historical and cultural circumstances may encourage different developmental routes to any given developmental endpoint” depending on particular social or physical circumstances and tools available (Miller, 2011, p. 198).

Finally, sociocultural theory contributes to our theoretical understanding of cognitive development by integrating the notions of learning and development. The idea of learning driving development rather than learning being determined by the learner’s developmental level fundamentally changes our understanding of the learning process and has significant instructional and educational implications (Miller, 2011).

There are also limitations to the sociocultural perspective. The first relates to Vygotsky’s premature death, as many of his theories remained incomplete. Additionally, his work was largely unknown until relatively recently for political reasons and issues with translation. The second major limitation is associated with the vagueness of the ZPD theory. For example, the zone varies among individual learners and differs for an individual across different learning domains and time. Additionally, there is no standard metric scale to measure it. Finally, some constructs within the theory may not be as applicable to all cultures as initially thought. For example, since scaffolding heavily depends on verbal instruction, it may not be equally effective in all cultures and for all types of learning (Rogoff, 1990).

Learning Check

(MC) According to Vygotsky's theory of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), for learning to be most effective

the rigor of a lesson must be matched to a student’s IQ score

ZPD should be matched with an individual’s developmental level and be slightly beyond their capability

support should be provided to a learner to help them complete a task outside their ZPD.

(T/F) Learner-centered instruction paired with effective pedagogical practices may lead to learning environments where many different individuals may simultaneously develop a deep understanding of important subjects.



(MC) One possible shortcoming of sociocultural perspectives on learning is that it

emphasizes the broader social, cultural, and historical context of any human activity

promotes the idea that learning is purely determined by the learner’s developmental level

is an “incomplete” theory that may not be consistent across all cultures or situations

Read and Reflect

Consider a learning experience that you participated in as a learner. How can you understand this experience based on sociocultural views of learning? For example, how did you learn through interaction with others or through cultural tools? What aspects of the experience were beneficial? How could sociocultural aspects have been applied to improve the learning experience?

Principles to Guide Design of Learning Experiences 

The concepts reviewed above emphasize the importance of always considering the learners and their context, orchestrating collaborative learning in communities, providing assistance to support learning, and promoting active participation.

Consider the Learner in Context

Sociocultural theory and related perspectives focus on the learner within their social, cultural, and historical context as an essential part of sound pedagogical solutions that facilitate the development of critical thinking and lifelong learning (Grabinger et al., 2007). Likewise, sociocultural perspectives of instructional design recognize how learners construct their personal meanings of material, with the primary goal of engaging in authentic contexts that help develop transferable skills and knowledge (Grabinger et al., 2007). To do so, instructional designers must take into account learner diversity and encourage learning in authentic contexts.

Account for Individual and Cross-Cultural Differences

Most instructional design models consider an isolated concept of the learner. However, a strong call has recently been issued for a complete shift in our education and instructional design approaches to reflect our society’s changing educational needs (Watson & Reigeluth, 2016). More contemporary design approaches, such as Universal Design for Learning, recognize that every learner is unique and influenced by his or her embedded context. These approaches strive to provide challenging and engaging curricula for diverse learners while designing for the social influences surrounding them.

Another implication based on Vygotskian views of learning is acknowledging individual and cross-cultural differences in learning and development. As instructional designers, we should be more sensitive to diversity in learners and recognize that a large amount of research has been done on white, middle-class individuals associated with Western tradition. The resulting understanding of development and learning often incorrectly assumes universality. Realizing that “ideal thinking and behavior may differ for different cultures” and that “different historical and cultural circumstances may encourage different developmental routes to any given developmental endpoint” may prevent incorrect universalist views of all individuals and allow for environments that value diversity as a resource (Miller, 2011, p. 198).

Additionally, recognizing learners as individuals involves considering their autonomy in addition to appreciating their identities and social contexts. As teachers function more as facilitators than masters of knowledge, learners have increased opportunities to develop their goals, identify their learning pathways, and even contribute to making assessment decisions. Compared to a more traditional model in which the decisions for learning rest with the teacher, sociocultural perspectives advocate for involving learners in the decision-making processes of “what to learn, how to study, and which [instructional] resources to use” (Grabinger et al., 2007, p. 7).

Encourage Learning in Authentic Contexts

An authentic context is a scenario the learners may experience in real life. Learning within authentic contexts provides learners with opportunities to experience daily practice and explore realistic problems. Authentic activities contextualize learning and allow for a diverse application of skills and knowledge within real-world scenarios. Students’ backgrounds, cultures, and locations should be considered when identifying contexts for social learning experiences. For example, authentic contexts for learners on the Florida coast differ from those in a rural town in the midwestern United States. As a result, the development of curriculum, instructional materials, and resources for learning experiences cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, it should provide opportunities for teachers to modify the activities to ensure authenticity for their students.

An example of collaborative learning in authentic contexts is anchored instruction, which focuses on developing knowledge and skills through collaborative problem-solving experiences. Typically presented in a narrative format, anchored learning begins with the “anchor,” or a story in which the problem is set, and uses multimedia outlets to allow learners to explore the problem (Bransford et al., 1990). As learners collaborate and engage with the material, the teacher becomes a coach and guides them in developing creative solutions to complex problems.

Learning Check

(T/F) The education field’s collective understanding of learning development often incorrectly assumes universality due to the inequitable amount of research that has been done on white, middle-class individuals associated with Western tradition.



(T/F) Anchored instruction allows learners to engage in collaborative problem solving within learning contexts that provide for connection-building across the curriculum in order to develop meaning.



(MC) In her university class, Susan has been asked to write an essay on an important lesson learned in high school. However, Susan was homeschooled, attending a virtual high school part-time, supplemented with material from her parents. She is not sure how to approach the assignment. According to sociocultural learning theory, why is this assignment not working for Susan? (Select all that apply)

the teacher assumed that one approach to learning was universal for all of the students

the assignment is not authentic because it is not related to the student’s real experiences

there were no choices for Susan in writing this essay.

Orchestrate Collaborative Learning in Communities

Sociocultural perspectives value learning through interaction, negotiation, and collaboration as learners solve authentic problems, emphasizing learning from experience and dialogue. The principles of collaborative practice go beyond social constructivism and cooperative learning by situating learning activities within communities of practice where novices and experts work and learn together. Collaborative learning environments encourage learners to think critically and apply knowledge and skills as they explore and solve problems embedded in real-life situations (Reeves et al., 2002). It promotes contextualization of learning in simulating practical problems, developing cultural skills through guided participation, and using language to communicate and internalize learning. Furthermore, “in interactive and collaborative instructional contexts, individuals have an opportunity for perspective taking and reflective thinking that may lead to higher levels of cognitive, social, and moral development, as well as self-esteem” (APA Work Group, 1997, p. 6).

Teachers, trainers, and facilitators guide and support collaborative efforts as they help learners make sense of the problems, ask questions that promote deep understanding, and scaffold learning with tools and resources. When designing collaborative learning experiences, it is critical to foster learning in communities of practice, engage all learners, and facilitate collaboration.

Foster Learning in Communities of Practice

As instructional designers and educators plan collaborative learning experiences, they should find ways to help establish and foster communities of practice that enhance learning. Wenger (1998) identified communities of practice as groups of individuals who are engaged with each other on a shared project or focus and who share similar skills.

Approaches grounded in sociocultural theory attend to the discourse, norms, and practices associated with a particular community of practice and believe these are key to successful learning (Scott & Palincsar, 2013). As learners and those facilitating learning engage in authentic practices within the target context in communities, learning and transfer of knowledge and skills occur naturally and on deeper levels (Lave & Wenger, 1991). “People who use tools actively rather than just acquire them, by contrast, build an increasingly rich implicit understanding of the world in which they use the tools and of the tools themselves” (Brown et al., 1989, p. 33).

Community of inquiry is an instructional design framework for creating and supporting educational communities where groups of learners actively engage in constructing understanding. It provides valuable guidance about what elements and processes may be necessary when designing successful community-based learning experiences.

Learn More About the Community of Inquiry Model

Watch on YouTube
XRP News. (2021, June 8). Community of inquiry model simply explained: Inquiry-based learning. [Video]. YouTube.

Engage All Learners

Learners of all ages benefit from understanding expectations for a collaborative activity. Having clear goals and establishing rules for interaction provide support. The acronym PIES represents features of collaborative learning (Kagan, 1999) that instructional designers and teachers could utilize to support successful collaboration:

When creating learning experiences for adults, the tasks must be complex enough to foster positive interdependence and hold individuals accountable. Adult learners and more experienced younger collaborators may be able to organize themselves, assuming their roles and distributing tasks naturally. Instructional designers and teachers who prepare collaborative learning experiences for younger children or less experienced collaborators may consider supporting equal participation by assigning specific roles within learning teams (i.e., leader/facilitator, recorder, timekeeper, spokesperson).

Such support helps establish communities of learners who are comfortable working with others across various contexts. It also assists learners from different backgrounds in understanding expectations and learning as they collaborate successfully.

Facilitate Collaboration Online

New technologies enable online collaborative learning experiences, offering significant access, flexibility, and economic advantages. They afford unique ways of interacting within communities of practice, promote synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, and enhance reflective thinking opportunities. Besides affording more democratic participation in the learning process, online technologies also provide a possibility of a greater diversity of participants than in a physical classroom, bringing about more cross-cultural connections to inspire social learning (Garrison & Akyol, 2013; Harasim, 2017).

Higher-order learning that emerges in collaborative learning communities represents both the process and its outcomes. “Its quality and success are strongly influenced by the design features (i.e., the structure, types of interactions, sequences of activities) and the teaching approach (facilitating, mentoring, and guidance to support the integration of ideas into meaningful constructs)” (Allman, 2021, pp. 35-36) and must be carefully orchestrated. Two process-oriented models help instructional designers intentionally design critical discourse interaction opportunities necessary for meaningful learning: online collaborative learning theory (Harasim, 2017) and the practical inquiry process (Garrison & Akyol, 2013). Although intended for online learning, understanding these processes makes creating effective collaborative learning experiences possible in any environment (i.e., online, blended, technology-mediated, in-person).

Learn More About the Online Collaborative Learning Theory

Watch on YouTube
McDowell, K. (2019, June 3). Online collaborative learning theory. [Video]. YouTube.

Learn More About the Practical Inquiry Process

Watch on YouTube
Teaching Online. (2022, March 6). Quick-tip: The 4 simple steps of a practical-inquiry process for deep topic engagement. [Video]. YouTube.

Learning Check

(T/F) Community of inquiry framework provides valuable guidance about what elements and processes may be necessary when designing and enacting successful community-based learning experiences.



(T/F) According to Kagan’s PIES features of collaborative learning, learners have a greater potential to achieve more working individually than as a group.



(MC) Which of the following is NOT a shared characteristic among communities of practice:

Situated cognition developed from interacting with others in real-life contexts

Mutual engagement built from established norms

Joint enterprise created by a shared understanding of what binds the group

Provide Assistance to Support Learning

As teachers and instructional designers create learning experiences for interaction, they need to strategically embed opportunities for assistance to support learning within the ZPD. The assistance of the more knowledgeable other, whether it is a teacher or peer, and the support through embedded scaffolds and technology, enable the learner to stretch their ability, learn beyond what they could do on their own, and develop skills and strategies they will eventually apply independently in other situations (Vygotsky, 1978).

Support Through Scaffolding

Instructional scaffolding can be embedded or contingent. Embedded (hard) scaffolding is any structure prepared ahead of the learning task that is expected to be difficult. The teacher or instructional designer anticipates points of difficulty and provides ways to support the learners. This can be as simple as building on prior knowledge, pre-teaching key vocabulary at the beginning of a lesson, using visual aids and graphic organizers, conducting checks for understanding, and revisiting key ideas strategically during the lesson. It can also be modeling valuable strategies such as think-aloud or mind maps and encouraging learners to use them effectively.

Embedded scaffolds could be used to support performance during assessments by providing clear instructions, rubrics, practice, and examples. In the case of digital learning experiences, scaffolds are not necessarily provided by individuals but may be embedded into the experience using technology. For example, Learning Management Systems (LMSs) help organize lesson content, activities, and assessments. Alternatively, think about how the multimedia content, learning checks, and examples from practice embedded in this chapter support your learning of the content.

Teachers and instructional designers should also create space and opportunities for contingent (soft) scaffolding. This type of support varies based on the individual learner's needs during the instructional event. The expert motivates and guides the learner by providing just enough assistance, modeling, and highlighting critical features of the task while continually evaluating and adjusting supports as needed. The dynamic nature of interaction enables both the learner and the one providing the scaffold to influence each other and adjust their behavior as they collaborate. Typically, the expert is the teacher, but it could also be a peer or a group of peers collaboratively working together (reciprocal scaffolding). Each group member has their own experiences, knowledge, and understanding. As they work together on a shared task, they learn from each other and actively assist those that may need support. Technology tools, such as adaptive learning technologies and intelligent-tutoring systems, could also provide flexible assistance that meets learners’ specific needs and is dynamically responsive.

Utilize Technology to Enhance Learning

Technology can provide support for learning in the classroom in many valuable ways. Through current and emerging online collaborative spaces (e.g., Google tools, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, wikis) as well as hands-on collaborative technology in the classroom (SMART tablets and iPads), students have robust opportunities to experience meaningful collaborative learning that embody the tenets of sociocultural learning (Polly, 2011). In addition, technological and online tools can assist with more effective communication, realistic simulations of real-world problem scenarios, and even greater flexibility when seeking to scaffold instruction within learners’ ZPD.

Digital tools can make learning more visible for both the learner and the teacher and create a space for reflection and improvement (Mercer et al., 2019). Embracing technology within collaborative learning can also foster an equal distribution of voices compared to in-person groupings (Deal, 2009), providing opportunities for active participation for all students. Using technology to support the implementation of social learning theories in the classroom, students experience collaboration while refining 21st-century skills.

While the array of technology available to support social learning is beneficial, the volume of resources available for technology-based collaboration may be overwhelming to some groups of students. Therefore, incorporating different types of scaffolding based on individual class needs may be appropriate to ensure technology is used productively. In addition, by providing students with resources and being explicit about technology use, students may focus better on the actual problem-solving task rather than wrestling with technical issues.

Learning Check

(T/F) When scaffolding instruction, it is important for teachers to remove all levels of support when learners are stuck and unable to continue with the task.



(T/F) Utilizing different technological and online tools can lead to greater classroom equity by fostering an equal distribution of voices and providing greater flexibility when seeking to scaffold instruction within students’ ZPD.



(MC) Instructional designers should consider providing assistance in technology-mediated contexts for these reasons, EXCEPT

Second-language learners do not need assistance with technology as they are still learning the language

the volume of resources available for online and in-person technology-based collaboration may be overwhelming to some students

it ensures that technology is used productively

it helps students focus on learning

Promote Active Learning

Humans are naturally curious and inquisitive beings. Therefore, instructional designers and teachers should take advantage and strive to increase engagement and active participation as they create meaningful learning experiences. Several instructional approaches may be employed to provide students with more agentive and autonomous roles in the learning process. Dialogic teaching, inquiry-based approaches, and flipped classroom models are a few such methods that place students in the nucleus of activity in the classroom.

Encourage Teaching Through Dialogue

Dialogic teaching is an approach where learning takes place through dialogue between the teacher and students. It harnesses the power of language to exchange ideas, facilitate thinking, and co-construct understanding (Mercer et al., 2019). The teacher and students learn together. They share ideas, listen to each other, and consider alternative viewpoints. All learners are encouraged to participate and explain, explore, analyze, evaluate, justify, and question. They build on each other's ideas and connect them into coherent and deepening lines of inquiry. Teachers talk less to give information but carefully listen to assess students’ understanding and assist their learning by restating, asking questions, and probing beyond simple recall. With a specific learning goal in view, they encourage learners to think, conceptualize ideas differently, and extend their understanding.


Learn More About Dialogic Learning

Watch on YouTube
Kemp, B. (2020, June 24). Dialogic teaching introduction. [Video] YouTube.

Nurture Inquiry

Inquiry-based approaches actively engage learners as they explore and solve authentic, complex problems through dialogue in collaborative learning environments. As students work together and conduct an inquiry, they learn content and apply their skills and knowledge. Three similar approaches that differ in focus and scope offer ways to design learning through inquiry: inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, and project-based learning.


Learn More About Project-Based Learning

Watch on YouTube
Spencer, J. (2019, August 20). What happens when students engage in project-based learning? [Video]. YouTube.

Flipped Learning

The flipped classroom is one way to maximize students' learning engagement. In a flipped classroom, students prepare for an upcoming lesson by learning content and watching instructional videos before class. Instead of using the class time for lecture and other passive knowledge and skill acquisition methods, students participate in active and social learning activities, a key component of sociocultural theories. Being able to prepare before class is a great equalizer.

Flipped learning enables students with diverse needs to spend as much time preparing as needed, using strategies to access the content and learn. They can use dictionaries or translation to access information and learn the language. They can pause, rewind, reread, and reflect on their learning as it is happening, a phenomenon that rarely occurs during a lecture given in class and in real-time (Educause, 2012; Brame, 2013). Preparing before class enables students to spend more time communicating about the subjects in meaningful ways, constructing knowledge with hands-on activities during class, and gaining a deeper understanding of the content (Educause, 2012).


Learn More About Flipped Learning Model

Watch on YouTube
Common Sense Education. (2016, July 12). What is flipped learning? [Video]. YouTube.

Learning Check

(MC) Dialogic learning approach enables (select all that apply)

teacher and students learning together

teachers to talk more to give information

learners to consider alternate viewpoints

teachers to assess students’ understanding

(T/F) Inquiry-based approaches actively engage learners in exploration and solving authentic, complex problems in collaborative learning environments.



(T/F) The flipped classroom model enables learners with diverse needs to spend as much time as needed preparing to access the content and learn.




The notion of social origins of learning, the interrelationship of language and thought, and the Zone of Proximal Development are Vygotsky’s most important contributions. Practical applications of sociocultural theory emphasize creating learner-centered instructional environments in authentic contexts, where learning by discovery, inquiry, active problem solving, and critical thinking are fostered through dialogue and collaboration with experts and peers in communities of learners. Encouraging self-directed lifelong learning habits, presenting authentic and cognitively challenging tasks, scaffolding learners’ efforts, and providing authentic and dynamic assessment opportunities are all important aspects of this approach.

Sociocultural principles can be applied in effective and meaningful ways to design instruction across the curriculum for learners of different ages and various skills. They can be effectively integrated using a wide range of technologies and learning environments. The challenge remains for educators and instructional designers to elevate our practices from efficient, systemic teaching and instructional design approaches to a focus on individual learners and effective pedagogical practices that foster empowered learners ready to successfully negotiate the rapidly changing era of information. Technology is at our fingertips, and it is up to us to competently implement its unique affordances to promote new ways to educate and support deep, meaningful, and self-directed learning. Grounding our practices in sociocultural theory can significantly aid our efforts.

Think About It!

Consider what are common aspects of learning experiences that have been influenced by sociocultural views of learning? What are some advantages of designing learning experiences based on sociocultural views of learning?

Editor's Note

To read more on this topic, see the chapter titled "Sociocultural Perspectives of Learning" published in the first edition of this textbook.


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Bohdana Allman
Bohdana Allman is an educator, researcher, and learning experience designer. Her work focuses on designing and implementing online collaborative teacher professional development grounded in sociocultural principles and communities of practice. Her research interests include actively engaging learners from diverse backgrounds, facilitating close collaboration and dialogue within professional communities, integrating learning with practice, and fostering reflection.
Amanda R. Casto

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Amanda R. Casto is a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her primary research interests are elementary STEM education and educational equity. She has more than ten years of experience in teaching K-8 students in a variety of educational settings. She has presented workshops at the NCCTM Annual Regional Conferences, NCTIES Annual Conference, and was the keynote speaker at the WNC Edcamp in 2015.

Drew Polly

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Drew Polly is an Associate Professor in the Department of Reading and Elementary Educationat the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His research interests include supporting standards-based pedagogies in mathematics and supporting technology-rich learner-centered tasks in elementary school classrooms. Drew also serves as the Co-Director of the UNC CharlotteProfessional Development School Network, as well as the Program Director for the Graduate Certificate Add-on Licensure Program in Elementary School Mathematics.

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