Encyclopedia of Language and Education

2008 Edition
| Editors: Nancy H. Hornberger

The Ecology of Language Learning and Sociocultural Theory

  • Leo van Lier
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-30424-3_221


Sociocultural theory (SCT) has received a significant level of prominence in educational circles and in language education over the past two decades or so (Lantolf and Appel, 1994; Moll, 1990). Historically speaking it is based directly on the work of Vygotsky and his colleagues or students (e.g., A.A. Leontiev, A.R. Luria, and P.Y. Galperin; for a recent overview see Kozulin, Gindis et al., 2003), but it has also (and increasingly) found connections with other work in various parts of the world, for example Jean Piaget, Maria Montessori, John Dewey, G.H. Mead, and Jerome Bruner.

Key features of Vygotsky's SCT are mediation, activity, the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and the relationship between learning and development. Other areas that receive increasing attention are inner speech, scaffolding (although this term should be referenced to Bruner, e.g., Bruner and Sherwood, 1975), dynamic assessment, activity theory, agency and the use of tools and signs (this...


Language Learning Ecological Perspective Perceptual Action High Mental Function Authentic Audience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Agar, M.: 1994, Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation, William Morrow, New York.Google Scholar
  2. Bakhurst, D.: 1991, Consciousness and Revolution in Soviet Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  3. Bronfenbrenner, U.: 1993, ‘The ecology of cognitive development: Research models and fugitive findings’, in R.H. Wozniak and K.W. Fischer (eds.), Development in Context: Acting and Thinking in Specific Environments, Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, 3–44.Google Scholar
  4. Bruner, J.S. and Sherwood, V.: 1975, ‘Peekaboo and the learning of rule structures’, in J.S. Bruner, A. Jolly, and K. Sylva (eds.), Play: Its Role in Development and Evolution, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 277–285.Google Scholar
  5. Colapietro, V.M.: 1989, Peirce's Approach to the Self: A Semiotic Perspective on Human Subjectivity, State University of New York Press, Albany, NY.Google Scholar
  6. Donato, R.: 1994, ‘Collective scaffolding’, in J. Lantolf and G. Appel (eds.), Vygotskyan Approaches to Second Language Research, Ablex, Norwood, NJ, 33–56.Google Scholar
  7. Ellis, R.: 2003, Task‐Based Language Learning and Teaching, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  8. Finkbeiner, C.: 2005a, Interessen und Strategien beim fremdsprachlichen Lesen, Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen.Google Scholar
  9. Finkbeiner, C.: 2005b, ‘Handlungsorientierter Unterricht (Holistic and action‐oriented learning and teaching)’, in M. Byram (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning, Routledge, London, 255, 258.Google Scholar
  10. Forman, R.: 2005, Teaching EFL in Thailand: A bilingual study, Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Technology, Sydney.Google Scholar
  11. Gibbons, P.: 2002, Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching Second Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom, Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH.Google Scholar
  12. Gibson, E.: 1993, ‘Ontogenesis of the perceived self’, in U. Neisser (ed.), The perceived self: Ecological and Interpersonal sources of self-knowledge, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 25–420.Google Scholar
  13. Gibson, E.J. and Pick, A.D.: 2000, An Ecological Approach to Perceptual Learning and Development, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  14. Gibson, J.J.: 1979, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.Google Scholar
  15. Gibson, M.A. and Ogbu, J. (eds.): 1991, Minority Status and Schooling: A Comparative Study of Immigrant and Involuntary Minorities, Garland Press, New York.Google Scholar
  16. Greeno, J.G.: 1994, ‘Gibson's Affordances’, Psychological Review 101, 336–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gregory, R.:1991, ‘Seeing as thinking: An active theory of perception’, in E. Gibson (ed.), An Odyssey in Learning and Perception, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 511–519.Google Scholar
  18. Heath, S.B.: 2000, ‘Seeing our way into learning’, Cambridge Journal of Education 30, 121–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kozulin, A., Gindis, B., Ageyev, V.S., and Miller, S.M. (eds.): 2003, Vygotsky's Educational Theory in Cultural Context, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  20. Kramsch, C.: 1993, Context and Culture in Language Teaching, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  21. Lantolf, J.: 2005, ‘Concepts in L2 learning’, paper presented at the XIIth Annual Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning Research Working Group Meeting October 27–30 2005, Monterey, CA.Google Scholar
  22. Lantolf, J. and Appel, G. (eds.): 1994, Vygotskyan Approaches to Second Language Research, Ablex, Norwood, NJ.Google Scholar
  23. Legutke, M.: 1996, ‘Redesigning the language classroom’, in H. Christ and M. Legutke (eds.), Fremde texte verstehen. Festschrift fuer Lothar Bredella, Gunther Narr, Tuebingen, 1–14.Google Scholar
  24. Mead, G.H.: 1934, Mind, self, and society, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  25. Moll, L.: 1990, Vygotsky and Education: Instructional Implications of Sociocultural Psychology, Cambridge University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  26. Neisser, U.: 1987, ‘From direct perception to conceptual structure’, in U. Neisser (ed.), Concepts and Conceptual Development: Ecological and Intellectual Factors in Categorization, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  27. Neisser, U.: 1988, ‘Five kinds of self‐knowledge’, Philosophical Psychology 1, 35–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Neisser, U.: 1992, ‘Two themes in the study of cognition’, in H.L. Pick, D.C. van den Broek, and D.C. Knill (eds.), Cognition: Conceptual and Methodological Issues, American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, 333–340.Google Scholar
  29. Neisser, U. (ed.): 1993, The Perceived Self: Ecological and Interpersonal Sources of Self‐Knowledge, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  30. Neisser, U. and Fivush, R. (eds.): 1994, The Remembering Self: Construction and Accuracy in the Self‐Narrative, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  31. Neisser, U. and Jopling, D.A. (eds.): 1997, The Conceptual Self in Context: Culture, Experience, Self‐Understanding, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  32. Norton Peirce, B.: 1995, ‘Social identity, investment, and language learning’, TESOL Quarterly 29, 9–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Swain, M.: 2000, ‘The output hypothesis and beyond: Mediating acquisition through collaborative dialogue’, in J. Lantolf (ed.), Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 97–114.Google Scholar
  34. Taylor, C.: 1989, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  35. Trevarthen, C.: 1993, ‘The self born in intersubjectivity: The psychology of an infant communicating’, in U. Neisser (ed.), The Perceived Self: Ecological and Interpersonal Sources of Self‐Knowledge, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 121–173.Google Scholar
  36. Valsiner, J. and van der Veer, R.: 2000, The Social Mind: Construction of the Idea, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  37. van Lier, L.: 1996, Interaction in the Language Curriculum: Awareness, Autonomy and Authenticity, Longman, London.Google Scholar
  38. van Lier, L.: 2004, The Ecology and Semiotics of Language Learning: A Sociocultural Perspective, Kluwer Academic, Boston.Google Scholar
  39. Vygotsky, L.S.: 1987, Lecture 1. Perception and its Development. Lectures on Psychology. Collected Works, Volume 1, Plenum Press, New York, 289–300.Google Scholar
  40. Vygotsky, L.S.: 1997, Collected Works, Volume 4, Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  41. Wells, G.: 1999, Dialogic Inquiry: Towards a Sociocultural Practice and Theory of Education, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  42. Wertsch, J.V.: 1991, Voices of the Mind: A Sociocultural Approach to Mediated Action, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  43. Wiley, N.: 1994, The Semiotic Self, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leo van Lier
    • 1
  1. 1.Monterey Institute of International StudiesMontereyUSA