Cobb & Yackel (1996)

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Constructivist, Emergent, and Sociocultural Perspectives in the Context of Developmental Research


Our overall intent is to clarify relations between the psychological constructivist, sociocultural, and emergent perspectives. We provide a grounding for the comparisons in the first part of the article by outlining an interpretive framework that we developed in the course of a classroom-based research project. At this level of classroom processes, the framework involves an emergent approach in which psychological constructivist analyses of individual activity are coordinated with interactionist analyses of classroom interactions and discourse. In the second part of the article, we describe an elaboration of the framework that locates classroom processes in school and societal contexts. The perspective taken at this level is broadly sociocultural and focuses on the influence of individuals' participation in culturally organized practices. In the third part of the article, we use the discussion of the framework as a backdrop against which to compare and contrast the three theoretical perspectives. We discuss how the emergent approach augments the psychological constructivist perspective by making it possible to locate analyses of individual students' constructive activities in social context. In addition, we consider the purposes for which the emergent and sociocultural perspectives might be particularly appropriate and observe that they together offer characterizations of individual students' activities, the classroom community, and broader communities of practice.


Cobb, P., & Yackel, E. (1996). Constructivist, emergent, and sociocultural perspectives in the context of developmental research. Educational Psychologist, 31(3-4), 175–190. doi:10.1080/00461520.1996.9653265
author = {Cobb, Paul and Yackel, Erna},
doi = {10.1080/00461520.1996.9653265},
journal = {Educational Psychologist},
number = {3-4},
pages = {175--190},
title = {{Constructivist, emergent, and sociocultural perspectives in the context of developmental research}},
url = {},
volume = {31},
year = {1996}