Social Development and Constructivist Theory


A comparison of the Social Development and Contructivist Theory


Social Development Theory by Lev Vygotsky
Social Development Theory argues that social interaction precedes development; consciousness and cognition are the end product of socialization and social behavior.

1. Social interactions play a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development.
Vygotsky: "Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level."

2. The More Knowledgeable Other
MKO refers to someone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner. An adult, child's peers or a computer may be the individuals with more knowledge or experience.

3. The Zone of Proximal Development
ZPD describes the area between a child’s level of independent performance and the child’s level of assisted performance with the help of a MKO.

Constructivist Theory by Jerome Bruner
A major theme in the theoretical framework of Bruner is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. The learner selects and transforms information, constructs hypotheses, and makes decisions, relying on a cognitive structure to do so.

1. Readiness: Instruction must be concerned with the experiences and contexts that make the student willing and able to learn

2. Spiral organization: Instruction must be structured so that it can be easily grasped by the student

3. Going beyond the information given: Instruction should be designed to facilitate extrapolation and or fill in the gaps

Example of Application(s)

Social Development Theory
Vygotsky provides the example of pointing a finger. This behavior begins as a meaningless grasping motion; however, as people react to the gesture, it becomes a movement that has meaning. In particular, the pointing gesture represents an interpersonal connection between individuals.

Example of ZPD: A child is struggling to learn how to read. By working with the student to teach how to sound out words and use other word recognition strategies, the child is able to learn to read.

Constructivist Theory
The concept of prime numbers appears to be more readily grasped when the child, through construction, discovers that certain handfuls of beans cannot be laid out in completed rows and columns. Such quantities have either to be laid out in a single file or in an incomplete row-column design in which there is always one extra or one too few to fill the pattern. These patterns, the child learns, happen to be called prime. It is easy for the child to go from this step to the recognition that a multiple table , so called, is a record sheet of quantities in completed multiple rows and columns. Here is factoring, multiplication and primes in a construction that can be visualized

Similarities and Differences


  • Social interaction is essential in cognitive development
  • Socialization will lead to an increased level of knowledge because students will formulate reactions to the social interaction
  • Both theories rely heavily on meeting the student at their current knowledge or skill level
  • In order to move to the next level of knowledge, both theories utilize scaffolding


  • Bruner believes that the teacher should be there to support and scaffold at the right time, while Vygotsky on the other hand believes that students can only acquire information through the MKO and that problems occurred when students do too much independently.
  • In the Social Development Theory all development is driven by input and more advanced skills of the MKO. In the Constructivist theory, Bruner expects the students to learn new principles on their own and only reference the teacher.


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Created by: Kirsten Uran