In Brief:

Social Constructivist pedagogy builds on the ideas of Piaget and cognitive constructivism
but emphasises the importance of language, and the social aspect of learning.


Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934).
Vygotsky rejected the simplistic ideas put by cognitive constructivism and instead emphasised the importance of the learner being actively engaged with the 'teacher' (through language) when constructing meaning.

Vygotsky's work defines a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) which he articulated as the space between the problems that a child can solve independently, and those that he/or she cannot solve, even with the help of a 'teacher'. Vygotsky believed that teaching and learning should be focussed within this ZPD.

This social constructivism sees the role of the teacher entering into dialogue with the learner, discovering the learner's current understanding of a certain concept, helping him or her to refine their understandings of a certain area until the learner and the teacher's understandings correspond. When these understandings are the same, the task/idea is no longer part of the ZPD because the learner is able to solve the problem independently.

This scaffolding is done both by the adult and more knowledgeable peers, and this type of training is seen both in schools and in adult learning (apprenticeships, for example)

One key element of social constuctivism is that the teacher understands where the learner needs to go next, and supports them in this area. The development of language and articulation of ideas is therefore central to wider learning.

Key Ideas

The teacher and student engage in learning as a social process where the development of language and articulation of ideas is central to learning. The teacher uncovers children's current understanding and helps to move their understanding through scaffolding in the zone of proximal development (ZPD).

What next?

Jerome Bruner's Theory of Instruction and a spiral curriculum.
John Dewey's experiential learning.