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Social practice is a theory within psychology that seeks to determine the link between practice and context within social situations. Emphasized as a commitment to change, social practice occurs in two forms: activity and inquiry. Most often applied within the context of human development, social practice involves knowledge production and the theorization and analysis of both institutional and intervention practices.
Through research, Sylvia Scribner sought to understand and create a decent life for all people regardless of geographical position, race, gender, and social class. Using anthropological field research and psychological experimentation, Scribner tried to dig deeper into human mental functioning and its creation through social practice in different societal and cultural settings. She therefore aimed to enact social reform and community development through an ethical orientation that accounts for the interaction of historical and societal conditions of different institutional settings with human social and mental functioning and development.
Social practice involves engagement with communities of interest by creating a practitioner-community relationship wherein there remains a focus on the skills, knowledge, and understanding of people in their private, family, community, and working lives. In this approach to social practice, activity is used for social change without the agenda of research. Activity theory suggests the use of a system of participants that work toward an object or goal that brings about some form of change or transformation in the community.
Within research, social practice aims to integrate the individual with his or her surrounding environment while assessing how context and culture relate to common actions and practices of the individual. Just as social practice is an activity itself, inquiry focuses on how social activity occurs and identifies its main causes and outcomes. It has been argued that research be developed as a specific theory of social practice through which research purposes are defined not by philosophical paradigms but by researchers' commitments to specific forms of social action.
In education, social practice refers to the use of adult-child interaction for observation in order to propose intentions and gauge the reactions of others. Under social practice, literacy is seen as a key dimension of community regeneration and a part of the wider lifelong learning agenda. In particular, literacy is considered to be an area of instruction for the introduction of social practice through social language and social identity. According to social practice in education, literacy and numeracy are complex capabilities rather than a simple set of basic skills. Furthermore, adult learners are more likely to develop and retain knowledge, skills, and understanding if they see them as relevant to their own problems and challenges. Social practice perspectives focus on local literacies and how literacy practices are affected by settings and groups interacting around print.
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