Social Constructivist Theory and Principles of Inclusion: Challenges for Early Childhood Special Education

Bruce L. Mallory, University of New Hampshire
Rebecca S. New, University of New Hampshire - Main Campus


Current theoretical and practical conceptualizations in the field of early childhood special education are limited in their attention to the sociocultural context in which development occurs. This article argues for a paradigmatic shift away from the individualistic models of development and learning to a social constructivist model that stems from views of learning and development first articulated by Vygotsky and since expanded upon by Rogoff and others. Such a shift is supportive of the current press for more inclusive classroom practices through an emphasis on the sociocultural context, the role of social activity—including instruction—in learning, and the contributions of learners to their own development. Principles for inclusive early childhood practice are explicated based on the concepts of classrooms as communities, learning as socially mediated, curriculum as contextually relevant and problem based, and assessment as authentic and personally meaningful