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What do Symbolic Interactionists Say about Today’s Education?

Symbolic interactionism is an influential theory in sociology that looks at how individuals interact with one another in everyday life. It starts from the premise that individuals learn about the world through their interactions with others, and that these interactions are shaped by shared meanings and symbols. Symbolic interactionism has had a significant impact on our understanding of education, particularly in terms of how students interact with teachers, peers, and the environment. In this article, we will discuss the main principles of symbolic interactionism and its application to education.

Definition of Symbolic Interactionism

Symbolic interactionism is a sociological theory that looks at the relationships between individuals and the symbols they use to make sense of the world. Symbols are the things that people use to define their social worlds, such as language, gestures, and physical objects. Symbolic interactionism is based on the idea that individuals create meaning through their interactions with others, and that these meanings are shaped by the symbols they use to communicate.

Overview of Symbolic Interactionism’s View on Education

Symbolic interactionism has had a major impact on our understanding of education. It emphasizes the need to look at the student-teacher relationship as a form of social interaction, rather than simply a process of transferring knowledge. According to symbolic interactionism, students learn best in an environment where they can interact with their peers, their teachers, and the surrounding environment.

The theory suggests that students learn best when they are actively engaged in their learning, rather than passively absorbing information. This means that teachers should be seen as facilitators rather than transmitters of knowledge, encouraging students to explore and interact with the material. Symbolic interactionism also suggests that teachers should be aware of the symbols and meanings that students use to make sense of the world. Teachers should adjust their instruction to fit the symbols that students are using, rather than trying to impose their own meanings on them.

Symbolic interactionism also suggests that students should be encouraged to develop their own unique perspectives and interpretations of the world. Rather than trying to fit students into predetermined categories, teachers should encourage them to express their own interpretations and to collaborate with their peers. By doing so, students will be better able to understand the material being presented to them.

Symbolic Interactionism’s View on Today’s Education

Symbolic Interactionism’s view on today’s education is a fascinating and complex one. This view considers the way we learn, think, and behave as fundamentally shaped by our interactions with others. Symbolic Interactionism suggests that our lives are formed by the symbols we use to communicate with each other and our environment. Symbolic Interactionism is based on the idea that our social lives are symbolic and that we use symbols to interpret and make sense of our environment. 

One of the core beliefs of Symbolic Interactionism is that our environment has an effect on our behavior. It suggests that we learn and behave through interactions with others. Therefore, if we want to create an effective learning environment, it is important to consider the symbols we use as well as the interactions we have with our peers and teachers. 

Symbolic Interactionism also emphasizes the importance of the quality of the relationships between students and teachers. If the interactions between teachers and students are positive, then students are more likely to be motivated to learn and be interested in their studies. This is because positive relationships create an atmosphere of trust, respect, and collaboration, which encourages students to take risks and be creative in their learning. 

It also believes that the symbols we use to communicate with each other have an effect on our behavior. For example, if a student is being praised for their work, they will feel encouraged and motivated to work harder. Similarly, if a teacher is using critical language to reprimand a student, they may feel discouraged and less likely to take risks in their learning. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the interactions between teachers and students are positive and constructive. 

Finally, Symbolic Interactionism suggests that the way we learn is shaped by our interactions with our environment. This means that the learning environment should be designed to promote collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. By creating an environment that encourages students to think critically and take risks, they will be more likely to be engaged in their learning and find success.

Related Article: What does ACT Stand for in Education?


In conclusion, symbolic interactionism’s view on education has important implications for education today. It emphasizes the importance of interpersonal relationships and communication in the classroom, and emphasizes the need for teachers and students to be aware of their own and others’ perspectives, as well as the need for empathy and understanding. Furthermore, it suggests that education should be based on the individual’s particular cultural and social environment, and that teachers should be conscious of the symbolic meanings that they are conveying. By taking these aspects into consideration, educators can ensure that they are providing students with a quality education that is tailored to their individual needs.



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