Sociocultural Learning Theory


Sociocultural learning theory states that learning is a natural occurance, and since humans are naturally social, the way we learn best is through social interaction. The way this is done in the classroom is through establishing a community of learners.

Sociocultural theorists also believe that everyone has something to teach and something to learn, creating fluid roles for both the teacher and the students and dispelling deficit thinking. “Educators often appropriate the views of policy makers and ascribe the poor academic performance of such students to their cultural, socioeconomic, and linguistic differences. This perspective, we argue, leads teachers to organize instruction for poor and minority students at the ‘lower’ end of their abilities rather than at a level that maximizes their full potential” (Diaz and Flores, 2001, p. 31) A way to teach to their abilities is by teaching to students' ZPD.

Another aspect of sociocultural theory is the importance of creating relevant pedagogy through incorporating your students' communities in the classroom as well as creating opportunity to involve your classroom in the community. This creates an opportunity to tap into students' funds of knowledge. According to Oakes & Lipton (2003), a sociocultural theory of learning “integrates social, historical, and cognitive processes” (p. 78).

Through creating this ever-cyclical exchange of knowledge, students are organically interested in learning.


Diaz, E., & Flores, B. (2001). Teaching as a sociocultural, sociohistorical mediator. In J. J. Halcon & M. de la Reyes (Eds.), The Best for Our Children: Critical Perspectives on Literacy for Latino Students (pp. 29-47). New York: Teachers College Press.

Oakes & Lipton. (2000). Teaching to Change the World, Contemporary Learning Theories (pp. 67-94). San Francisco, CA: McGraw Hill.

Rogoff, B. (1994). Developing understanding of the idea of communities of learners. In Mind, Culture, and Activity. 1-11.

Wenger, E. (1998). A social theory of learning. In Communities of practices: Learning meaning and identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Lerner, R.M. & Anderson, P.M. (2003). Positive youth development: Thriving as the basis of civil society. Applied Developmental Science, 7, 172-180.

Christensen, L. (2000). “Where I’m from: Inviting students’ lives into the classroom” in reading, writing, and rising up: teaching about social justice and the power of the written word. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Rethinking Schools, 18-22.


Moll, L C, Amamnti,C., Neff,D., and Gonzalez, N. (1992).Funds of Knowledge for teaching: Using a Quantitive Approach to Connect Homes and Classrooms. Theory into practice, 31 (1), 132-41.


Powell, R., and Davidson, N. (2005). The donut house: Real world literacy in an urban kindergarten classroom. Language Arts, 82(4), 248-256.