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Sociocultural Learning and Coaching

Sociocultural Learning and Coaching

Author: Trisha Fyfe

In this lesson, you will learn how coaching is supported by Vygotsky's Sociocultural Learning Theory.

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Welcome. I'm Trisha Fyfe, and in today's video lesson I'll be exploring the topic of sociocultural learning and coaching. As we learn about this topic, we will work towards several learning objectives and together we'll use the following two questions to guide our learning in this lesson-- what is sociocultural learning theory and how do the elements of this theory support peer coaching?

Let's talk about how sociocultural learning theory applies to coaching teachers. One part of sociocultural learning theory that applies to the coaching process is the role of the more knowledgeable other. The more knowledgeable other is essentially anyone with more knowledge or a higher understanding and can include peers alongside teachers.

Scaffolding is a teacher coaching technique that utilizes this concept. When a coach scaffolds new learning for a teacher, they provide limited assistance to begin, oftentimes sequential in nature.

A strategy that connects sociocultural learning theory and coaching is cognitive apprenticeship. This is when an expert teaches skills to someone who has less skill, and this idea goes back to Vygotsky's social learning theory and the use of a more knowledgeable other.

Let's look at an example of scaffolding. Teachers and faculty might be trained on the use of a certain classroom management strategy.

At the beginning, the coach comes into the classroom and teaches a lesson, modeling the use of this strategy. Next, the coach comes into the classroom and co-teaches a lesson with the teacher, incorporating the use of this strategy. And finally, the coach comes in and observes the teacher independently using this strategy.

The coach and teacher conference at the end of this process. The coach fades the assistance along the way and encourages the teacher to do the action on their own.

The use of language as a learning medium is another aspect of social learning theory that applies to the coaching process. Social interaction is required for learning. Learning is constructed and communicated through language, and it's important for coaches and teachers to engage and communicate through discourse in the coaching partnership.

So how do teachers and coaches learn throughout this process? Challenges are discussed at the beginning of the coaching process, then they co-plan learning experiences for students. They engage in pre-observation and post-observation conferences together. Learning is the end result of all of this communication.

Let's talk about how peer coaching is supported by Vygotsky's sociocultural theory. Peer coaching is supported by both the idea of the more knowledgeable other and the idea that language is a learning medium.

Let's start with the idea that peer coaching is language rich. Because of this, the result is learning. Language promotes learning and peer coaching is language rich.

New learning and development is promoted by the communication with each other. This can be things like feedback, planning for new instructional strategies, mutual problem solving, and reflection. Coaching involves significant social interaction as it is essentially embedded throughout a teacher's existing role.

Collaboration and communication are extremely important. Peer coaching may involve more knowledgeable others. Generally in the coach-teacher relationship, one colleague is more proficient in an area-- maybe management strategies-- and the other is more proficient in a different area such as maybe the integration of technology. This allows each teacher a chance to service the more knowledgeable other in this partnership.

The interaction between these teachers allows the learner at the time to navigate a new area of potential learning. When a more knowledgeable other, the peer who can complete a task independently, works with one who cannot complete the task independently, learning occurs. This learning is within the zone of proximal development. This is indicated by sociocultural learning theory.

So let's review all these ideas that we talked about today. We looked at the following two questions in this video lesson-- what is sociocultural learning theory and how do the elements of this theory support peer coaching?

Today we talked about sociocultural learning theory. Specifically, we talked about how sociocultural learning theory applies to peer coaching.

The idea of the more knowledgeable other is one aspect that relates to peer coaching. This is the idea that one individual in the relationship is more knowledgeable in an area than another. In peer coaching, oftentimes each in the partnership is more knowledgeable in a different area.

We also talked about the idea that language is a medium for learning, and we talked about how language rich the peer coaching relationship is. There's so much collaboration going on, so there is a lot of opportunity for learning here.

Now that you're more familiar with these concepts on peer coaching and sociocultural learning theory, let's reflect. Have you experienced sociocultural learning theory in action in your own education or classroom to this point? What are the benefits to understanding the connection of this theory to coaching?

Thanks for joining me today in discussing the lesson, sociocultural learning and coaching. I hope you found value in this video lesson and these ideas about sociocultural learning theory, and I hope you're able to apply these ideas to your own teaching and coaching relationships.

Now it's your turn to apply what you've learned in this video. The additional resources section will be super helpful. This section is designed to help you discover useful ways to apply what you've learned here. Each link includes a brief description so you can easily target the resources that you want.

Notes on “Sociocultural Learning and Coaching”


(00:00- 00:24) Introduction/Objectives

(00:25- 01:16) Sociocultural Learning Theory and Coaching

(01:17- 01:56) Scaffolding Example

(01:57- 02:37) Language as a Learning Medium

(02:38- 04:11) Sociocultural Learning Theory Supports Peer Coaching

(04:12- 05:05) Recap

(05:06- 05:59) Reflection

Additional Resources

Handouts and Articles on Classroom Observation, Peer Coaching, and Mentoring 

In addition to useful tools and templates, this resource includes examples of observation, mentoring, and coaching in action. This handout also compares peer coaching and mentoring.

Universal Classroom Strategies Coaching to Improve Implementation

This handout offers practical suggestions for peer coaching in the classroom.