Theory – Vygotsky on Second Language Learning

Vygotsky and Online Second Language Learning

In a social constructivist (Vygotsky) multi-cultural international learning environment, a common social-cultural context needs to be created where language use is appropriately focussed and modulated to meet differentiated capabilities. I see, for example, the possible applications of this approach in popular literature studies, and another in academia in evaluating research. Whereas oral and aural involvement and cohort participation in reading and writing can absorb a range of capabilities within individually identified zones-of-proximal-development (Vygotsky), grammar and genre intermediation needs to target those specific students that demonstrate the need for additional review and practice or individual coaching. This is where the idea of parallel development makes sense, allowing for the supplemental online teacher-directed content instruction in support of identified discreet point remediation or practice within the larger framework of open-forum social-constructivist mediated literature studies and cohort interaction.

To meet the need for individualized support and practice, a bank of digitized and indexed content could be made available. Scanned and digitized content can be taken from, for example, old but useful texts where copyright has expired and that can serve in the creation of these indexed resources.

To meet the requirement of an authentic and motivating social context suitable for social constructivist learning in ESL/EFL, I suggest cohort recreational literature study or professional academic literature study where both objective and subjective opinions may play a role. Their simulated socio-historical contexts are seen to be ideally suited for second language students with the potential for multiple associated cross-cohort discussion activities that will, in the process, highlight specific language issues that need individual attention, easily drawn and supported from our digitized resources previously mentioned. It is in the work of these socially interactive activities that cognitive and language growth is generated, mediated, modulated and solidified for long-term memory access in accordance with social constructivist pedagogical principles.

Suzanne Miller (2003) in an article named How Literature Discussion Shapes Thinking suggests that the opportunity exists for open-forum cohort discussions where multiple perspectives on the text are invited with opportunities to examine individual interpretations in conversation with others. With this socio-cultural approach in mind, thinking and mediation based on disequilibrium toward mediated equilibration originate in dialogues which are modulated and internalized as ‘inner speech‘.

Such open forums in an online social constructivist literature study, in B2CEF – C2CEF ESL/EFL (CEF=Common European Framework at levels B2 through C2) settings, need to be organized so that the curriculum allows students within a cohort to collaborate, interact, and raise questions of both classmates and the teacher. Crouse and Davey (1989).  According to Gould (2005), constructivist frameworks challenge teachers to create innovative environments in which they and their students are encouraged to think and explore. Learners must play an active role in selecting and defining the activities which must be both challenging and intrinsically motivating. There must be appropriate teacher support as learners build concepts, values, schemata, and problem-solving abilities. Teaching this way is not easy. It requires a considerable degree of flexibility, and a strategic allocation within student cohorts of work-flow, student to student mentoring, and group-work taking the focus off the teacher until needed, to ensure outcomes.