social interactionism

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As an approach to education this theory emphasizes the importance of the location of learning within a particular sociocultural environment, as well as the belief that learners are instrumental in constructing their own knowledge and understanding. Social interactionists adhere to the wider constructivist theory of learning, and place an emphasis on the role which language plays as a medium of learner interaction, pointing out that it is through language that cultural and philosophical ideas are shared and developed. The contextualized and situational nature of learning is, according to the interactionists, a key element in driving cognitive development. This view takes account of the diversity of individuals within any learning group, particularly in the way they interpret or make sense of the world, and suggests that interaction between learners and between learner and teacher provide an important stimulus to learning, which would be missing in an objectivist learning environment, where learners are passive and compliant recipients of learning. Pupils' self‐concept—the view each of them has of herself or himself as an individual—is formed largely through interaction with others, and will change and develop according to the way they see themselves reflected in those interactions. This can affect pupil motivation and confidence, for example, if the view that is reflected back to them is a negative one in terms of their ability or attainment. This is one example of how the individual constructs their own meanings from their own interpretation of their social interactions. Learning based on an interactionist approach, therefore, presupposes a collaborative relationship between teacher and learner, rather than a relationship of learner dependency; and is likely to involve built‐in opportunities for learners to discuss, collaborate, and become actively involved with the learning process. This model is above all predicated on the belief that meaning is created by the learner, rather than simply received unquestioningly from the teacher. See also Vygotsky.

Subjects: Education.

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