Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Introduced to American researchers in the 1960s and 70s, Lev Vygotsky’s ideas on human development have had a profound effect on the field of child psychology and education. Over time, Vygotsky’s ideas made their way into other fields including anthropology, educational linguistics, and the study of second language acquisition (SLA) where this focus is called the Sociocultural Theory (SCT). SCT states that language learning is a socially mediated activity, i.e., an activity that is ‘mediated’ by the society or learning environment in which it takes place. As a relatively young field of study, SCT research has, for the most part, produced studies that describe the language learning process from a sociocultural perspective.The current pilot study attempts to bridge the gap between descriptive theory and practical application by developing a theoretical framework by which SCT principles might be holistically applied to a second language (L2) classroom environment, creating an experimental classroom environment using this new theoretical framework, and then observing the effects of such an environment on 2nd-year Russian students in a one-year ethnographic study. The experimental course developed for the study created a classroom environment allowing introduction of SCT principles into the existing curricular framework for 2nd-year Russian at Bryn Mawr College. Five students participated in the study and received the experimental treatment over the span of two semesters. The experimental treatment involved course elements aimed at raising student awareness of their learning preferences, promoting learner autonomy, providing learning affordances, facilitating collaborative problem solving through interaction, and promoting multidimensional language awareness. Data was gathered through video-taped participant observation, structured journal entries, structured interviews and pre- and post-tests. While the small number of participants prevents any findings from being generalizable, the data does suggest that the learning process was enhanced according to SCT expectations and that most participants benefited from this enhanced learning process. The qualitative data gathered during the study also gives valuable insight into the challenges of implementing SCT principles in a language classroom while also providing many implications concerning the theoretical framework used in the study and concerning future research design in the area of SCT investigation.
Watson, Jeff R. "Applying Sociocultural Theory to a Language Classroom Environment with Second-Year Students of College Russian." Ph.D. diss., Bryn Mawr College, 2007.