The Problem of (Learning) Context

In this book we repeatedly note that the social tends to be taken in a trivial sense in much of the existing literature. By this we mean to say that we do not get very far (e.g. Chap. 5) when we merely denote that individuals do things together and learn (internalize) during the process—even if we were emphasizing the increasing and important orientation of educational researchers and practitioners towards the importance of considering learning as a social process. Underlying this generalized treatment of the social there is a particular view on the very idea of context, the epistemological origin of which seems to escape researchers irrespective of their affiliation with a cognitivist, sociocultural, or situated cognition perspective. Rather than seeing the social as external context, Vygotsky’s Spinozist approach takes cognition, learning, and development as social phenomena sui generis. To better understand how this is different from most existing literature on learning and instruction—including literatures that affiliate themselves with a Vygotskian tradi- tion—we provide a critical analysis of the notion of context that goes beyond the individual-social opposition.

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