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Chapter 4

Chapter 4 Sociocultural Theories PSY312

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Stuart Kamenetsky

Chapter 4: Sociocultural Theories of Development -developmental theories that emphasize the roles of the social and cultural world in children's development -Russian psychologist: Vygotsky -living in the midst of other people eager to help them acquire skills needed to live in their culture -Vygotsky emphasized factors that differ among children growing up at diff times in diff circumstances -explain the processes that differentiate humans from animals "higher psychological processes" such as reasoning and concept formation -social and cultural basis of human thought Central Themes of SocioculturalApproaches to Cognitive Development Two central themes of Vygotsky's sociocultural theory 1. Cognitive development occurs in social interaction 2. Psychological functioning is mediated by cultural tools, including language In the last 2-3 decades, two additional themes were added 1. Cultural norms and other people influence children's opportunities for learning 2. Social and cultural learning require particular cognitive abilities on the parts of learners and teachers Cognitive Development Occurs in Social Interaction -Piaget believed that social partners could provide children with information that might provoke states of disequilibrium and thereby elicit cognitive change (mostly own aged peers- most likely to critically analyze views held by peers, esp. if it differs from their own) -Piagetian theory conceptualizes the social environment as an outside force that influences individual children's learning and cognition -basic unit of analysis is the individual child - the environment only influences -sociocultural theories view the social environment as an integral part of children's thinking and behaviour- cannot be separated child in context as the unit of analysis -Vygotsky proposed a mechanism for developmental change that is inherently social -he argued that developmental change occurs via the internalization of socially shared processes -in the course of development, every psychological function occurs twice, once in the intermental level (b/w ppl who are involved in social interaction) and later in the intramental level (within individual) -social interactions is not merely an outside force that influences the path of development, it is instead a causal mechanism for development itself -internalization ex: pointing during infancy- reaching for desired object tying a show, child listen to parents direction, with time, the child internalizes the sequence of steps and can control her won action without adult assistance, she may hear the parents voice in her head -this framework emphasizes the transfer of responsibility for cognition from more skilled individuals to less skilled ones Zone of Proximal Development: defined as the distance between what a child can do independently and what the child can do in interaction with an adult ot a more advanced peer -they can often reason in more complex ways or perform more complex behaviours when they receive assistance -ex: boy getting help from his mother with a puzzle -to accurately characterize a child's knowledge at a given point in time, it is essential to consider the child's potential competence as manifested in the zone of proximal development as well as the child's actual competence in independent performance Psychological Functioning is Mediated by Language and Other Cultural Tools -behaviours also shaped by cultural tools that are available in the time and place that development occurs -technical tools- tools for acting on the environment (plows, hammers, silverware) -psychological tools- tools for thinking (language, maps, diagrams, number systems, tools for solving mathematical problems etc) -psychological tools influence the way we organize and remember info -material artifacts can also serve as psychological tools (appointment books, rosary beads)- these tools sometimes become internalized an influence thought even in situations in which the material artifacts are absent -abacus used to solve arithmetic problems in EastAsian countries -Hatano, Miyake, Binks, Stigler investigated whether individual who are skilled at using the abacus use a "mental abacus" -the children's errors show that they did indeed use a mental abacus when they needed to perform mental arithmetic- abacus has become internalized (different cultural tools are available in different cultural settings -people behaviours is shaped in large by the cultural tools that are available -cultural tools increase, in effectiveness as well as in number over historical time (ex: the amount of writing utensils we have today) - evolutionary process that applies to cultural tools has been termed the "ratchet effect" -the moment language becomes integrated with action, it is the most significant moment in the course of intellectual development Cultural Norms and Other People Influence Children's Opportunities for Learning -how cultural norms and social practices influence the activities in which children engage and the opportunities that children have for learning -cultural norms influence many aspects of children's activities -different cultural communities defined both in terms of different societies and different social classes, provide children with varying types of opportunities for learning ex: Girl Scout Cookies, requires a lot of skills, fosters learning -different cultures provide different learning activities, but in all cultures, children learn a wide range of values and skills through participation in activities that reflect the values of their society Social and Cultural Learning Require Particular CognitiveAbilities -mechanisms involved in social and cultural learning -the most basic cognitive ability needed for social and cultural learning: intersubjectivity: shared understanding b/w ppl that merges through processes of mutual attention and communication (higher intersubjectivity= greater learning) -capacity for intersubjectivity starts at about 2 months, they are their caregivers begin to display contingent interaction-reciprocal actions and reactions that resemble the mutual give and take of conversation -by 9 months, infant can readily follow adult gaze and pointing gestures, contribute to establishing joint attention: they and their caregiver share a common focus on a particular object or events Tomasello and his collaborators -only humans are capable of certain, more advanced forms of social learning that require understanding of others as individuals with intentions and goals -3 forms of cultural learning that rely on this understanding: imitative learning: reproducing another individuals behaviour in order to achieve the same goal, understanding relation b/w other individuals behaviour & their goal -emulation is different in the fact that it involves focusing on the end result of the other individuals behaviour- how most non human primates are instructed learning: learning that involves direct, intentional transmission of info from one individual to another with the learner attempting to understand the task or material from the teacher's point of view; internalize teachers instructions and alter use them to regulate their own behaviour (learning in school, how to cast a fishing line) - non human primates do not do this collaborative learning: learning that occurs when multiple individuals engage in cooperative, goal directed problem solving (2 kids setting up track for a toy train) - joint construction of new knowledge -- all 3 forms involve ability to take perspective of another individual- learn from social interactions Modern Empirical Research in the Sociocultural Tradition Learning in Interaction with Adults -scaffolding -adults provide social scaffolding to support children's task performance. -allows children o extend the range o their activities and to perform task that would be impossible for them to perform alone -once the children can perform the tasks unaided, the scaffolding is no longer needed • Sensitivity of adult support -provide children with simplified tasks, reduce number of steps -adults adjust the directness and specificity of their instruction -sensitive adult-child interaction also plays an important role in children's language acquisition (building blocks, mothers instructions sensitive to child's skill level) -child does better with assistance from their parent -various types of adult support are effective at fostering children's learning -adults do a better job at scaffolding children's thinking than do the children's peers -adults teach more effectively, superiority due to style of interaction -give reasons, strategies, making decisions -adults who share responsibility with learners to a greater extent promote more effective learning than adults who do not involve the children as much Learning in Interaction with Peers -peer collaborations can be beneficial for children's learning in a variety of ways: -can motivate children to try difficult tasks -provide opportunities to imitate and learn each other's skill -enable children to participate in discussion that increase their understanding -sometimes this is good, sometimes it is not AGE -ability to collaborate effectively with peer is a relatively late achievement -hard to focus attention on same aspect of a problem ex: two preschoolers building Lego house QUALITY OF INTERACTION -children who share responsibility for the task and who become engaged in each other's thinking are more likely to benefit from collaboration than those who pay each other's reasoning less attention -ex: two 5 year olds grocery shopping, those that shared responsibility planning the route performed better -pairs of siblings share more involvement in task than pairs of unrelated children -Schwartz: argued that individuals working in pairs often construct more sophisticated and more abstract representations of problems than do those working alone -abstract representations often facilitate task performance, and because children working in pair
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