Social Development 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.


We should use Vygotsky's theory because when a student is at the ZPD for a particular task, if the MKO provides the appropriate assistance/scaffolding it will give the student enough of a "boost" to achieve the task.

Example of Application

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.

Principles of Vygotsky's Theory

1. Cognitive development is limited to a certain range at any given age.
2. Full cognitive development requires social interaction.


Culatta, R. (2013, January 1). Social Development Theory (Lev Vygotsky). Social Development Theory. Retrieved July 13, 2014, from

Galloway, C. M. (2001). Vygotsky's Constructionism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, amd technology. Retrieved (insert date) from

Social Development Theory (Vygotsky) | Learning Theories. (n.d.). Learning Theories RSS. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Zone of Proximal Development and Scaffolding - Tools of the Mind. (n.d.). Tools of the Mind. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from

Created by: Kirsten Uran