A sociocultural perspective of learning: Developing a new theoretical tenet

Year: 2012

Author: Phan, Huy

Type of paper: Refereed paper



Explanation pertaining to individuals' cognitive development and learning approaches is a recurring theme in the areas of education and psychology. The work of Okagaki (e.g., Okagaki, 2001; Okagaki & Frensch, 1998), for example, has provided both theoretical and empirical insights into the structuring and situational positioning of individuals within a community (e.g., the school, the family). Theoretical tenets emphasised by Uri Bronfenbrenner (1979, 1989) and Lev Vygotsky (1978), in particular, form a basis that enables us to understand how individuals acquire their knowledge from societies. Notably, differing from other theories of cognition, the emphasis here entails the social construction of knowledge and how we fit in within the different layers or systems of societies (e.g., the community).

Our work within the last couple of years (Author, 2009, 2010a, 2010b)has entailed a similar approach, emphasing the social process of cognition within different contexts – for example, a child interacting with his/her peers at a local preschool, or a child conversing with his/her siblings at home. The empirical evidence we obtained (Author, 2007, 2008)has led to a conceptualisation that supports previous theoretical tenets (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 1989; Vygotsky, 1978).



The scope of this article espouses a theoretical model that depicts an overall arching system of change. In particular, similarly to previous tenets and studies (e.g., Okagaki, 2001; Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch & Tulviste, 1992), we posit that a person's cognition may be situated within three separate layers: (i) individuals' sociocultural and historical origin, (ii) the community, in general, and (iii) individualised learning and achievement obtained by the individual. Our conceptualisation, for continuing discussion and research discussion, details the intricacy of distinctive layers that individuals may transverse between. Pivotal to our discussion is the quest for us to explore the multi-layered system of cognition from an individual's perspective. Rather than accentuating the potency of what a community entails, our examination discusses the individual's perceptions of learning in the various layers of society. In this analysis, how does an individual's historical genesis shape his/her understanding and perceptions of meanings such as 'learning', 'knowledge', and 'skills'? Similarly, how does an individual fit in with a family that adheres to the beliefs pertaining to collectivism (Markus & Kitayama, 1991)and filial piety (Chow & Chu, 2007)?