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Laura Sterponi

Associate Professor
Institute of Human Development &
Graduate School of Education
UC Berkeley


5643 Tolman Hall
UC Berkeley
Berkeley CA 94720

Tel: 510-642-0287
sterponi (at) berkeley (dot) edu


Merging my graduate degree training in developmental psychology (Ph.D., 2002) and in applied linguistics (Ph.D., 2004), I have developed a research program that is centrally concerned with the role of language and literacy practices in children’s development and education.


As a developmental psychologist, I have always been interested in discerning the sociocultural underpinnings of learning processes. The cognitive capabilities that our neurological apparatus enables us as human beings to attain do not pre-exist and are never abstracted from the social practices in which they develop and are deployed. Cognitive structures are outcomes of social interaction; and mental growth manifests in forms of competencies that are culturally organized and context specific. As an applied linguist, I am drawn to study language, oral and written, both as a central means of learning and as a critical target of cultural transmission. In fact, I see learning through language and learning language as inseparable dimensions of the process of developing sociocultural competencies. Thus, my research explores the interface between culture and cognition in language and literacy practices across learning contexts. Within this general scope, I have developed three main strands of research: (1) children’s socialization into moral reasoning and discourse (2) reading as psychological process and social practice and (3) language practices in autism.

My research toolkit is comprised of ethnographic and discourse analytic methods. I focus on spontaneously occurring interaction in various social contexts, employing systematic and extended video-recording of focal practices. Through analysis of language structures and sequential organization of interaction I then discern the interplay between sociocultural determinations and individual agency in development and education.


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