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Social competence and learning: What can you learn from play?

1 January 1996


What can we learn by watching a child at play and observing the child in the classroom? How exactly do individuals who are socially competent outside of the classroom differ from individuals who are socially less competent when it comes to academic learning tasks? In reviewing the literature, I have seen that there are many aspects to the questions I have posed, and I know that the answers I have reached do not begin to tell the whole story. Some researchers focused on social interaction for its own sake, while others' scope centered on the emotional benefits of social contact. . My conceptual foundation, Lev Vygotsky's premise that social interaction is the impetus for thought, helped in guiding my research.

In conducting this qualitative study, the triangulation method was used. Namely, I corroborated the evidence I found using test scores, student interviews, and careful observation and notetaking.

The theory founded by Vygotsky seems to be supported by my examination of the classroom. In the group I observed, students with an extensive network of friends and "appropriate" social behaviors did considerably better in classroom situations than did their· less socially competent counterparts.


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