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Running head: SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT THEORY

Social Development Theory


Jessyca Wagner
University of North Texas
Distributed PhD in Learning Technologies
CECS 6020
March 13, 2016.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT THEORY

Social Development Theory


Summary:
The underlying notion of Vygotskys Social Development Theory (SDT) is that social
interaction plays a vital role in cognitive development (Culatta, 2015). According to Culatta
(2015), the principles of the theory are: cognitive development is limited to a certain range at
any given age and full cognitive development requires social interaction. The theory itself has
three major themes: social interaction plays a fundamental role in cognitive development; the
More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) which is anyone who has a higher learning ability or more
knowledge than the learner; and finally, the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) which is
the distance between a students ability to perform a task with guidance and the students ability
to problem solve independently (Sincero, 2011; Social Development Theory, 2016). According
to Sincero (2011), SDT has changed the traditional model of teaching from the teacher simply
transmitting information to the students to a method that allows the student to be active in the
learning process. This allows a reciprocation in the learning process where the teacher can learn
from the student as well.
Critique:
Vygotskys theory is often compared to Piagets developmental theory. When comparing
the two, McLeod (2014) stated Vygotsky placed more emphasis on culture affecting cognitive
development and does not refer to stages the way Piaget does. Also, Vygotsky placed
considerably more emphasis on social factors contributing to cognitive development, where
Piaget is criticized for underestimating this. Vygotsky places more and different emphasis on
language. For Vygotsky, cognitive development comes from an internalization of language and
thought and language are separate systems from birth, and then merge around age 3 producing

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT THEORY

inner speech. Piaget theorized that language depends on thought for its development. Finally,
according to Vygotsky, adults are an important source of cognitive development in children.
Piaget places more emphasis on peers and peer interaction.
One criticism of Vygotskys theory is that there is too much emphasis on the social aspect
and not enough on the individual (Liu & Matthews, 2005). For example, gifted students may
excel without the help of a more knowledgeable other. Another criticism is that Vygotsky
implied that his theory is applicable to all cultures and abilities; however, inequalities can exist
among individuals. For example, a student with autism may not get the same results from a
group project as a student without autism (Liu & Matthews, 2005). Another problem with
Vygotskys theory is that ZPD is not clearly defined and does not contain an accurate picture of a
childs learning style, current ability level, or motivational factors. It also does not explain the
process of development or how development occurs; the concept is very vague (Woodland,
Bowes & Roth, n.d.). According to Woodland, Bowes, and Roth (n.d.), the biggest
disappointment is that it appears to be somewhat incomplete, likely due to his early death;
however, it cannot be ignored that Vygotsky made invaluable contributions to psychology and
education.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT THEORY

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References

Culatta, R. (2015). Social development theory (Lev Vygotsky). Retrieved from


http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/social-development.html
H Woodland, S Bowes, & S Roth. (n.d.) Criticism of Vygotsky [Weblog]. Retrieved from
https://blogs.ubc.ca/etec51264bvygotskyonlinelearningconference/criticism-of-vygotsky/
Liu, C. H., & Matthews, R. (2005). Vygotskys philosophy: Constructivism and its criticisms
examined. International Education Journal, 6(3), 386-399. Retrieved from
http://iej.cjb.net
McLeod, S. A. (2014). Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from
http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html
Sincero, S. M. (2011, July 16). Social development theory. Retrieved from
https://explorable.com/social-development-theory
Social development theory (Vygotsky). (2016). Retrieved from http://www.learningtheories.com/vygotskys-social-learning-theory.html