6 Vygotsky and Sociocultural Approaches to Teaching and Learning

Educational Psychology

  1. Holbrook Mahn PhD,
  2. Vera John-Steiner PhD

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop207006

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Mahn, H. and John-Steiner, V. 2012. Vygotsky and Sociocultural Approaches to Teaching and Learning. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 7:6.

Author Information

  1. University of New Mexico, Department of Language, Literacy & Sociocultural Studies, Albuquerque, NM, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


Even though he was writing more than 80 years ago, the work of the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky is still relevant to educational psychology today, especially his theories on the interrelationship of individual and social processes in learning and development. In this chapter, we look at Vygotsky's historical background and describe the development of his theoretical framework and methodological approach, focusing on his reliance on the dialectical approach of Marx and Engels. Central to Vygotsky's work is the examination of the unification of thinking processes with language processes. Vygotsky spends most of his last and major work Thinking and Speech describing the nature of verbal thinking—the entity that issues from that unification, and its key role in the development of higher psychological processes. We describe a central, but little known, aspect of his work, the internal system of meaning that is created through the use of language in social interaction and that is central to concept formation. Having described Vygotsky's theory and methodology, we provide an overview of ways that researchers following in his tradition have applied them in practice, particularly in literacy and second language learning research.


  • culture;
  • systems;
  • meaning;
  • second language;
  • thinking;
  • Vygotsky;
  • sociocultural;
  • method;
  • dialectics;
  • literacy