Critiques of Theory
Emphasis on Social-Cultural Context
Vygotosky is the main developmental theorist to emphasize the broader socio-historical context of development. In many ways, sociocultural theory thus "corrects" theories focused on individuals, and gives a different perspective on major topics of development. Particularly useful for contemporary developmental psychology is Vygotsky's focus on the fluid boundary between self and others. According to Vygotsky, society shares its cognitive goals with the child, and the child shapes the environment. Concepts such as the zone of proximal development and internalization refer to the cognitive exchanges that occur at this border. The task for developmental psychologists is to focus on the specific processes that occur in the interface betwen the child and the environment. In other words, "What do a child and other people actually do together moment-to-moment in a particular setting, and how does this interaction affect the child's environment?"
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Sensitivity to Diversity of Development
In contrast to many developmental theories that focus on universal aspects of development, sociocultural theory acknowledges both differences between cultures, and differences within a single culture (e.g., wide versus narrow zones of proximal development for different children). Sociocultural theory questions whether there is a universal endpoint of development, given that ideal thinking and behavior may differ for different cultures based on their particular social and physical circumstances and tools available. In addition, different historical and cultural circumstances may encourage different developmental routes to any given developmental endpoint.

Vagueness of Zone of Proximal Development
The first main ambiguity within Vygotsky's concept of the zone is that only knowing the width of chidren's zones doesn't provide an accurate picture of their learning ability, style of learning, or current level of development compared to other children of the same age and degree of motivation. Having a wide or narrow zone can be desirable or undesirable, depending on its causes. Thus simply assessing children's zones provides a very incomplete developmental picture.
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A second major issue with the zone relates to the problem of measurement. No common, metric scale exists to measure an individual child's zone. Vygotsky sometimes measured the zone in terms of age, such as when a child with an age 6 actual level of functioning and an age 9 potential level of functioning could be said to have a zone of 3 years. However, this is a very global metric, and it cannot be assumed that the difference of 3 years between ages 2 and 5 is equal to that between ages 6 and 9.

Another problem with the zone is the fact that we know little about the generality and stability of an individual's zone. Is a child's zone for one domain equal across all domains? Does the size of a child's zone change over time? Is guided participation from adults necessary or only helpful for development? Is improvement within the zone long-lasting, or only temporary? While the zone is certainly a hallmark of Vygotsky's sociocultural approach, it is thus clear from even these brief critiques that our knowlege about this key concept must be broadened.
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Insufficient Attention to Developmental Issues
A more developmental account of both contexts and children is needed. Vygotsky's theory offers little description of contexts of children of various ages or developmental levels. Along similar lines, children's abilities, needs, and interests at each age influence the nature of the settings they seek out and the effect that a particular setting has on them. We have little idea how the child's cognitive level permits or constrains processes in the zone. Sociocultural research rarely addresses the nature of the cognitive skills that are required for responding to prompts, joint attention, learning from observation, collaborative dialogue, and other such processes. Ultimately, a major issue that Vygotsky's theory seems to overlook is that children of different developmental levels bring different things to a setting, and thus greater attention needs to be paid to a child's cognitive and physical developmental levels themselves.

No Major Prototypic Tasks Associated with the Theory
In comparison to Piaget's object permenance and conservation tasks or Gibson's visual cliff demonstrations, the sociocultural approach to development appears to lack any major prototypical tasks that others immediately associate with the theory. While Vygotsky did develop scenarios involving the use of the Vygotsky blocks and other double-stimulation methods, contemporary researchers seldom utilize these processes to examine sociocultural developmental theory. This may be in part due to the fact that when Vygotsky did conduct experiments, he typically provided very sparse descriptions of his procedures and little or no data, relying instead on general summaries. As a result, sociocultural psychologists today look at a vast array of topics in their research. For example, contemporary research has focused on collaborative problem-solving between parent and child or between two peers, cross-cultural research,and cultural narratives passed down to children by their parents. While this diversity of methods has its advantages, the lack of prototypic tasks and associated developmental findings may continue to make it difficult for contemporary sociocultural theorists to present a systematic, coherent, well-documented account of development.

external image Children_Holding_Earth2.jpg is this different from Social Learning Theory??

The above points sound very similar to social learning theory, and one may wonder if Vygotsky was simply a social learning theorist with a focus on culture. However, Vygotsky did not place emphasis on "end points" of development - he simply believed all people developed at their ownslt.gif pace, and culture determined what these end goals of development were. But, there are no inherent end goals of development in and of themselves. This helps explain why sociocultural theory lacks definitive stages of development.

Further, Vygotsky would delineate between the ideas of modeling and zone of proximal development. For example, a social learning theorist may believe that a child eventually learns to walk partly from watching other people around him/her walk. However, Vygotsky would pose that the child had the potential to walk, but needed physical skills and the assistance or collaboration of a more skilled walker (e.g., an adult, a sibling) in order to achieve this task.

Current State of the Sociocultural Approach to Development
The sociocultural approach remains a major current theoretical perspective, and continues to influence educational practices. Understanding cultural contributions to development is especially relevant given the ever-increasing racial/cultural diversity of the U.S., and globalization of contemporary life. While contemporary developmental psycholgists have built on Vygotsky's legacy through a continued sensitivity to the social and cultural context of development, the modern sociocultural approach differs from the original Vygotskian theory in several key ways. For example, the child-in-context is no longer the basic unit in most current studies. Today's sociocultural research looks at how social settings influence behavior or how a child's performance shifts from setting to setting. The social context is thus grafted on to individual development, rather than conisdered an inherent part of it.
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The zone of proximal development has also largely been plucked out of its social-political context. Whereas Vygotsky emphasized the role of collective society in the sharing of its mental skills with children, current research promotes the idea that an individual child's cognitive development is guided by an individual adult rather than by society in general as a shared endeavor. Along similiar lines, many recent studies of the zone that are presented as Vygotskian-inspired are little more than traditional studies of mother-child interaction that do not incorporate the principles that distinguish Vygotskian studies from any study of adult-child interaction. In many ways, it is perhaps more accurate to say that Vygotsky's theory is often adapted rather than fully internalized by present-day sociocultural psychologists.