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Sociocultural Theory

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This volume focuses on the three most productive research areas within sociocultural theory (Concept-based Language Instruction (C-BLI), Dynamic Assessment (DA), and Teacher Education) as well as areas that have more recently begun to garner increased attention (e.g., the importance of creativity and emotions in language development).

New insights in sociocultural theory contrast with the resurgent assumption that late language learning (i.e., that which takes place after childhood, beginning in adolescence) is guided by the same processes and principles that guide child first-language acquisition. Sociocultural theory challenges this perspective, given evidence from a number of sources, including neuroscience, which suggests that the neurological system responsible for implicit child-language learning begins to decline as we approach adulthood and that the system responsible for explicit learning of the type that occurs in educational settings increases and eventually becomes our most important learning system. C-BLI represents an instructional approach that integrates specific kinds of systematically organized knowledge mediated by teachers who have been prepared to understand and explain this knowledge to students to make it functional and to empower them to use the new language creatively. In fact, C-BLI is the only contemporary approach to language education that promotes linguistic creativity rather than right or wrong performance.

DA is an approach to assessment that emerges from the same theoretical principles as C-BLI. In particular, it blurs the boundaries between teaching and assessment and argues that the only way to develop a full picture of what any learner is capable of is to look into the leaner’s future. This can optimally be achieved through flexible forms of mediation that provide appropriate support for learner performance. How learners respond to this support provides a much fuller account of what learners are not only capable of but will be capable of as a result of future instruction. Teacher education informed by the theory seeks to prepare teachers to provide systematic and theoretically grounded instruction and assessment that maximizes learner development. It provides teachers with a different way of conceptualizing language—one that allows for learner creativity that parallels what they are capable of in their native language. It also prepares them to provide appropriate forms of mediation.

A final section reports ongoing efforts to employ principles from the theory to reorganize practices in such areas as literacy instruction and English as a lingua franca. Together, the topics to be covered in the volume make a clear and coherent statement about the significance and relevance of SCT for enhancing the development of late-learned language ability.

Published: Nov 1, 2025