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Socio-cultural approaches to learning and teaching suggest that learning must be understood as a process that is not solely in the mind of the learner. This stance is very close to situated learning theory.

“Although most of the situated and socio-cultural approaches are grounded in the writings of Vygotsky, Leont'ev and Bakhtin (see Wertsch, 1991) the perspective is not a single view. The perspective includes the ideas of learning as a situated process, as a process of changing participation, as mediated by cultural tools and as the joint construction of knowledge.” (Van Boxtel, 2000:15)

A good example showing various influences of thought is the following definition from an article on theoretical perspectives of collective learning and that contrasts socio-constructivism with a socio-cultural approach:

Whereas social-constructivist perspectives make a distinction between individual cognitive activities and the environment in which the individual is present, the socio-cultural perspective regards the individual as being part of that environment. Its supporters point out that learning cannot be understood as a process that is solely in the mind of the learner (Van Boxtel, 2000). Knowledge is distributed over mind, body, and its surroundings (Hewitt & Scardamalia, 1998) and is constructed in settings of joint activity (Koschmann, 2000). Learning is a process of participating in cultural practices, a process that structures and shapes cognitive activity (Lave & Wenger, 1991). The socio-cultural perspective gives prominence to the aspect of mutuality of the relations between members and emphasizes the dialectic nature of the learning interaction (Sfard, 1998). Construction of knowledge takes place in a social context, such as might be found in collective activities.

(de Laat & Simons, 2002)


  • Cobb, P. (1994) Where is the mind? Constructivist and Sociocultural Perspectives on Mathematical Development, Educational Researcher, 23(7), pp 13-20
  • de Laat, Maarten and Robert-Jan Simons, (2002). Collective learning: Theoretical perspectives and ways to suppport networked learning, Vocational Training, 27. PDF
  • Van Boxtel, Carla. (2000). Collaborative Concept Learning: collaborative learning tasks, student interaction and the learning of physics concepts, Universiteit Utrecht, 2000. PDF
  • Koschmann, T. Toward a dialogic theory of learning: Bakhtin's contribution to understanding learning in settings of collaboration. Paper presented at the CSCL'99, Palo Alto, 1999.
  • Hewitt, J., & Scardamalia, M. Design principles for distributed knowledge building processes. Educational Psychology Review, 10(1), pp. 75-96, 1998.
  • Lave, J., & Wenger, E. Situated Learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Sfard, A. On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one. Educational researcher, 27(2), pp. 4-13, 1998.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1934/1962). Thought and Language. Cambridge, MIT Press.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.