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An interactionist would argue...

posted Jul 23, 2012, 10:15 AM by Brian Roach
The interactionist perspective to language development is that humans acquire language through a biological AND social means. The primary aspect of this theory is the social component. 

Lev Vygotsky's socio-cultural theory has strongly influenced the interactionist theory. Vygotsky coined the term Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) to identify the area in which students learn most effectively. This zone is a balance between what the student can learn independently and what they student cannot learn independently. Basically, the ZPD is the zone in which the student can learn effectively with some assistance. Here is a visual of the ZPD: 


In addition to Vygotsky and the ZPD, the interactionist theory also incorporates Jean Piaget's cognitive development theory. Piaget's theory argues that although social interaction helps the development of language, if a student is not cognitively developed--that is, if a student's brain is not ready--he or she will not learn. Here is a visual of Piaget's stages of cognitive development: 


Another proponent of the interactionist theory is Jerome Bruner, who adapted Vygotsky's collaborative learning model and Piaget's cognitive development stages to create his constructivist theory. Basically, Bruner believed that students learn by activating their schema, or prior knowledge, and connect it with their current knowledge to create--or construct--new knowledge. Central to his theory is scaffolding, which he coined. 

Here is a brief video in which Vygotsky and Piaget discuss their theories (including a reference to Bruner):

Vygotsky & Piaget Discuss Their Learning Theories

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