In our current “mastery learning” paradigm, the idea of the classroom as a community is largely undervalued. While many say that they take steps to build a community of learners, this is not always the case. Several theorists and researchers on sociocultural learning emphasize the importance of the individual finding himself or herself within the broader confines of the community, and using those communal ties to grow and develop.
Lev Vygotsky, one of the most prominent voices in the sociocultural movement, specifically cites that “the social dimension of consciousness is primary in time and in fact,” meaning that the environment in which we find ourselves growing and learning is actually more critical than the individual is to his or her own development. In fact, Vygotsky continues to state that “the individual dimension of consciousness is derivative and secondary” (1979).
If you think about it, this is a rather intuitive idea. Children are placed in these environments, and it is the environment itself that allows children to grow and develop. In fact, children will not just grow within this environment; they will grow into the environment, becoming intertwined and invested in all of its facets. If any living being was placed in a vacuum, void of any environmental factors or stimuli, the child would cease to grow and develop, as he or she would have neither experiences nor interactions through which to play, experiment, and learn.
If we want our children to grow and develop into innovators, creative thinkers, and problem-solvers, they need to be placed into environments that foster this sort of thinking, so that they may truly grow into that as adults. There is no other way to achieve this ideal.