Sociocultural Theory and its Role in the Development of Language Pedagogy

Abdul Hameed Panhwar, Sanaullah Ansari, Komal Ansari


This paper reviews the literature on Vygotskian theory of Socio-cultural learning and constructivist approach to teaching and learning and attempts to relate the socio-cultural theory to constructivism. The purpose of the paper is to investigate the ways socio-cultural theory helps to develop language pedagogies. Critical analysis of the literature on the socio-cultural theory suggests that the theory has potential for forming new context-oriented language teaching-learning pedagogies which can help teachers in maximising the effectiveness of their teaching and their student’s learning. The review further suggests that the language pedagogies and activities developed from the sociocultural theory of Vygotsky may not only improve students’ language skills, but it also has potential to develop students’ cognition. Since theory promotes more and more communication of students with each other through scaffolding, that is, the Zone of Proximal development (ZPD) in Vygotsky’s language. Thus, the theory directly points towards the promotion of student-centred learning by establishing learner autonomy.

Keywords: socio-cultural theory, language, constructivism, pedagogies, students

Full Text:



Applebee, A.N. (1993). Literature in the Secondary School: Studies of Curriculum and Instruction in the United States. National Council of Teachers of English, 1111 W. Kenyon Rd., Urbana, IL 61801-1096 (Stock No. 30070-3050: $14.95 members, $19.95 nonmembers).

Byrnes, H. (2000). Shaping the discourse of a practice: The role of linguistics and psychology in language teaching and learning. The Modern Language Journal [e-journal], 84(4), 472-494. Available through: Anglia Ruskin University Library website [Accessed 7 December 2013].

Blake, B., & Pope, T. (2008). Developmental Psychology: Incorporating Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s Theories in Classrooms. Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education, 1(1), 59 – 67.

Cole, M., & Engestrom, Y. (1993). A Cultural-Historical Approach to Distributed Cognition. In: G. Salomon, ed. Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations. (pp. 1-46) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Draper, R. J. (2002). School mathematics reform, constructivism, and literacy: A case for literacy instruction in the reform-oriented math classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45(6), 520-529.

Daniels, H. (1996). Introduction: Psychology in a Social World. In: H. Daniels., ed. An Introduction to Vygotsky. (pp.1-27), London: [e-book]Routledge. Availabe at: [Accessed 05 December 2012].

Daniels, H. (2001). Vygotsky and Pedagogy. London: Routledge.

Davydov, V. V. (1990). The Content and Unsolved Problems of Activity Theory. In Yrjö Engeström, Reijo Miettinen, Raija-Leena Punamäki (Eds.), Perspectives on Activity Theory. (pp. 39-52). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ferreira, M. M., & Lantolf J.P. (2008). A Concept-Based Approach to Teaching Writing through Genre Analysis. In: J.P. Lantolf & M.E. Poehner., eds., Sociocultural theory and the teaching of second languages (pp. 350-379). London: Equinox.

Firth, A., & Wagner, J. (1997). On Discourse, Communication and (Some) Fundamental Concepts in SLA Research. Modern Language Journal., 81(3), pp. 285–300. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 January 2012]

Fogarty, R. (1999). Architects of the Intellect. Educational Leadership, 57(3), pp. 76-78. [online] Available at: [Accessed 08 July 2013].

Fosnot, C.T. (1996). Constructivism: A psychological theory of learning. In Catherine T. Fosnot (Ed.), Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice (pp.8-33). New York: Teachers College Press.

Grabois, H. (2008). Contribution and Language Learning: Service-Learning from a Sociocultural Perspective. In: J.P. Lantolf & M.E. Poehner eds., Sociocultural theory and the teaching of second languages (pp. 350-379). London: Equinox.

Gregory, E. (2002). Getting to Know Strangers: A Sociocultural Approach to Reading, Language, and Literacy. Paper was originally presented as part of the first IRA Multilanguage Literacy Symposium, held in July 2002 in Edinburgh, Scotland, following the 19th World Congress on Reading. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 February, 2013].

Gray, A. (1997). Constructivist teaching and learning. SSTA Research Centre Report, pp.97-07.

Gewirtz, P. (1996). On" I know it when I see it". The Yale Law Journal, 105(4), 1023-1047.

John-Steiner, V., & Mahn, H. (1996). Sociocultural Approaches to Learning and Development: A Vygotskian framework. Educational Psychologist, 31(3/4), 191-206. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 February, 2013].

Lantolf, J. P., & Poehner, M.E. (2008). Introduction to Sociocultural Theory and the Teaching of Second Languages. In: J.P. Lantolf & M.E. Poehner, eds., Sociocultural theory and the teaching of second languages (pp. 1-32). London: Equinox.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. [e-book] Cambridge: Cambridge, University Press. Available at: Available at: Google Books [Accessed 10 JuLY 2013].

Lave, J. (1996). The Practice of Learning. In: S. Chaiklin and J. Lave, eds., Understanding Practice: Perspectives on Activity and Context. [e-book] Cambridge: Cambridge University.

Magnan, S. S. (2008). The Unqualified Promise of Teaching for Communicative Competence: Insights from Sociocultural Theory. In: J.P. Lantolf & M.E. Poehner, eds., Sociocultural theory and the teaching of second languages (pp. 350-379). London: Equinox.

Moll, L. C. (1990). Instructional Implications and Applications of Socio-historical Psychology., In: L.C Moll ed. Vyogotsky and Education. 1-27. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Phillips, D. C., & Burbules, N. C. (2000). Postpositivism and Educational Research. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Salomon, G. (1993a). Editor’s Introduction. In: G. Salomon ed. Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Salomon, G. (1993b). No Distribution without Individuals’ Cognition: A Dynamic Interactional View. In: G. Salomon ed. Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations, (pp. 111-138) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schneuwly, B. (1994). Contradiction and Development: Vygotsky and Paedology. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 9(4), 281-291. [online] Available at: [Re-accessed 05 October 2014].

Shrum, J., & Glisan, E. (2009). Teacher's Handbook: Contextualized Language instruction. (4th ed.). [e-book] America: Heinle & Heinle. Available at: Google Books [Accessed 11 July 2013].

Stetsenko, A., & Arievitch, I. M. (2004). The Self in Cultural–Historical Activity Theory: Reclaiming the Unity of Social and Individual Dimensions of Human Development. Theory and Psychology., 14(4), pp. 475–503. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 August 2012]

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. In: M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner and E. Souberman, Eds. and trans. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1934; 1986). Thought and Language. In: Kozulin, A. ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Weegar, M. A., & Pacis, D. (2012). A Comparison of Two Theories of Learning—Behaviorism and Constructivism as applied to Face-to-Face and Online Learning. In Proceedings E-Leader Conference, Manila.

Wertsch, J . V. ed. (1985). Culture, communication, and cognition: Vygotskian perspectives New York: Cambridge.

Wertsch, J. V. (1991). Voices of the mind: A Sociocultural Approach to Mediated Action (1st ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wertsch, J. V. (1998). Mind as Action. New York NY: Oxford University Press.

Wertsch, J. V. (2007). Mediation. In: H. Daniels, M. Cole, and J. V. Wertsch eds., The Cambridge guide to Vygotsky (pp. 178- 192). Cambridge: CUP.

Wertsch, J., V., Rio, P.D., & Alvarez, A. (1995). Sociocultural studies: History, action and mediation. Sociocultural studies of mind., In: J. V. Wertsch, P. Del Rio and A. Alvarez., eds. New York: Cambridge University Press.

White-Clark, DiCarlo, M., & Gilchriest. (2008). Guide on the side: An instructional approachto meet mathematics standards. The High School Journal, 91(4), 40-45.

Wood, D., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. (1976). The Role of Tutoring in Problem Solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 17, 89-100.

Yamagata-Lynch, L. C. (2010). Understanding Cultural Historical Activity Theory. Activity Systems Analysis Methods. Springer US, 13-26. [online] Available at:

[Accessed 10 September 2014]

Zemelman, S. Daniels. H., & Hyde, A. (1993). Best practice: New standards for teaching and learning in America’s schools. Heinemann: Educational Publishers.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2010-2019 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

Advances in Language and Literary Studies

You may require to add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list’ If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox'. Otherwise, you may check your 'Spam mail' or 'junk mail' folders.