Saturday, October 30, 2010

Situating learning in communities of practice - Lave 1991

Lave, J. (1991). Situating learning in communities of practice. In L. Resnick, J. Levine, and S. Teasley (Eds.), Perspectives on socially shared cognition (pages 63-82). Washington, DC: APA.

Key ideas:
p63. Lave views learning as an emerging property of whole persons' legitimate peripheral participation in communities of practice.

p64. Learning is recognized as
+ a social phenomenon constituted in the experienced, lived-in world , through legitimate peripheral participation in ongoing social practice;
+ the process of changing knowledgeable skill is subsumed in processes of changing identity in and through membership in a community of practitioners;
+ and mastery is an organizational, relational characteristic of communities of practice

p65. Lave asks us to consider learning not as a process of socially shared cognition that results in the end in the internalization of knowledge by individuals, but as a process of becoming a member of a sustained community of practice. Developing an identity as a member of a community and becoming knowledgeably skillful are part of the same process, with the former motivating, shaping, and giving meaning to the latter. which it subsumes.

Theories of Situated Experience
Three genres of simulative approaches
1. Cognition plus - cognitive theory that takes into account people, process, relationships, etc., in a social world
2. Interpretive view - Interpretivists argue that we live in a pluralistic world composed
of individuals who have unique experiences and perspectives; the use of language and social interactions contribute to situativeness
3. Situative social practice – Lave’s POV: This theoretical view emphasizes the relational interdependency of agent and world, activity, meaning, cognition, learning, and knowing. It
emphasizes the inherently socially negotiated quality of meaning and the interested, concerned character of the thought and action of persons engaged in activity. But unlike the first two approaches, this view also claims that learning, thinking, and knowing are relations among people engaged in activity in with, and arising from the socially and culturally structured world. This world is itself socially constituted. This third position situates learning in social practice in the lived-in world; the problem is to translate this view in to a specific analytic approach to learning.

Learning as Legitimate Peripheral Participation
Legitimate peripheral participation offers a two-way bridge between the development of knowledgeable skill and identity, the production of persons and the production and reproduction of communities of practice.

Newcomers become old-timers through a social process of increasingly centripetal participation, which depends on legitimate access to ongoing community practice. Newcomers develop a changing understanding of practice over time from improvised opportunities to participate peripherally in ongoing activities of the community. Knowledgeable skill is encompassed in the process of assuming an identity as a practitioner, of becoming a full participant, an old timer. p68

Example 1: Yucatan Mayan Midwifery
Girls/women learn to become midwives through apprenticeship. p70
Broad exposure to ongoing practice, such as that described for the midwives' apprentices is in effect a demonstration of the goal toward which newcomers expect, and are expected, to move. The other is the notion that knowledge and skill develop in the process - and as an integral part of the process - of becoming like master practitioners within a community of practice. p71

Example 2: Alcoholics Anonymous
Cain argues that the main business of AA is the reconstruction of identity, through the process of construction of these life stories, and with them, the meaning of the teller's past and future action in the world. p73

Communities of Practice and Processes of Learning
Participation as members of a community of practice shapes newcomers' identities and in the process gives structure and meaning to knowledgeable skill. p74

The process of becoming a full practitioner in a community of practice involves two kinds of production: the production of continuity with, and the displacement of, the practice of old-timers (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Newcomers and old timers are dependent on each other: - newcomers in order to learn, and old-timers in order to carry on the community of practice. At the same time, the success of both new and old members depends on the eventual replacement of old-timers by newcomers-become-old-timers themselves. The tensions this introduces into processes of learning are fundamental. p74

Apprentice forms of learning occur in graduate programs in universities and in the practice of medicine, law and the arts.

Lave argues that learning occurs under just the circumstances where the fashioning of identity and the gradual mastery of knowledgeable skill are part of an integral process of participation. p77

+ What learning curriculum is afforded by the legitimate participation that makes it possible for newcomers to become old-timers in a given setting?
+ What are the characteristics of communities of practice that make broad accessibility to the whole steadily available to newcomers?
+ What are the conditions that make deep transformations possible?

+ The main part of the chapter explored ways in which communities of practice and cultural processes of identity construction shape each other. p80
+ Lave recommends a conception of learning as  “legitimate peripheral participation in communities of practice” p81

Ecological theory of knowing; affordance networks, effectivity

Barab, S.A. & Roth, W.M. (2006). Curriculum-based ecosystems: Supporting knowing from an ecological perspective. Educational Researcher, 35(5), 3–13.

Key ideas
p4: James J. Gibson and colleagues have conducted numerous studies that demonstrate how the environment perceptually specifies possibilities for action (chairs as sittable, doorways as passable, platforms as crawlable, etc.). Central to their work is the belief that the environment includes qualitative regions of functional significance (affordances) that are visible to individuals with reciprocal skills (effectivities) and the intention to act (Gibson, 1986).

p8: an affordance is a possibility for action by an individual

p5: affordance network
An affordance network is the collection of facts, concepts, tools, methods, practices, agendas, commitments, and even people, taken with respect to an individual, that are distributed across time and space and are viewed as necessary for the satisfaction of particular goal sets.

pp6-7: effectivity
Gibson introduced the concept of effectivities as complementing affordances. If an affordance is a possibility for action by an individual, an effectivity is the dynamic actualization of an affordance. Functionally defined, an effectivity set constitutes those behaviors that an individual can in fact produce so as to realize and even generate affordance networks. When an individual has a particular effectivity set, he or she is more likely to perceive and interact with the world in certain ways—even noticing certain shapes of networks that are unavailable to others. This view has overlap with Foucault’s (1975) notion of gaze or Shaffer’s (2004) discussion of epistemic frames. For example, Foucault suggests that experts perceive the world very differently from novices and outsiders, and Shaffer suggests that an important aspect of learning is to support the learner’s adoption of a new way of knowing and caring about the world.

p8 knowing
knowing is described as the process of being able to realize affordance networks; that is, the coupling of affordance networks and effectivity sets in the service of particular goals.

p7: life-world
To understand living beings, theoretical biologists distinguished between the material bodies of the animals, demarcating inner worlds, and the surrounding, material outer worlds. However, the behaviorally relevant concepts are not the inner and outer worlds, but the developmental, functionally related worlds that the organism perceives and the world that the organism affects through its actions; in fact, these two worlds are not independent but co-emerge in the course of development and therefore mutually presuppose one another.

p7: Different (physical) individuals relate to the same material environment in different ways and therefore inhabit different, personal life-worlds, which nevertheless share family resemblances across individuals. In other words, the contents of any life-world are dependent both on the individual’s effectivity sets and on the available affordance networks (Roth, 2003), leading to a continuous evolution of both individual life-world and communicative patterns with others (Roth, 1999).

p8: ecological theory of knowing
At the very core of an ecological orientation and distinguishing it most sharply from prevailing approaches to the study of human development is the concern with the progressive accommodation between a growing human organism and its immediate environment, and the way in which this relation is mediated by forces emanating from more remote regions in the larger physical and social milieu. (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, p. 13)

Problem / Goal / Challenge:
p3: It is one thing to learn about the concept of erosion to pass a test (having exchange value) and quite another to use it as a conceptual tool (having use value) for understanding why the water quality of a local river is deteriorating (Lave, 1988).

p3: When educators fail to engage students in meaningful relations and instead impart core ideas as isolated facts or abstract concepts, these facts and concepts are no longer connected to the situations that allow them to be powerful tools in the world.

p3: The irony is that we then wonder why children appear unmotivated to learn after we have disconnected meaning from the learning situation, assuming that the learner somehow will attribute the same functional value to the information as the teacher does.

p7: A core goal of education is how best to support learners in developing personal life-worlds that overlap with those socially agreed-upon life-worlds that are engaged by more knowledgeable others. Similarly, a core challenge of education is how to develop curricular contexts that extend themselves meaningfully into the personal life-worlds of individuals.

p8: As educators, we want to support both functioning in a particular context and participation that carries over to other places and times—not simply a short-lived or local adaptation to an immediate situation (i.e., the classroom, the next unit test). Such cross-contextual application requires that learning environments, beyond aiding students in appreciating the contextual value of that which is being learned, also serve as a mechanism for attuning the learner to the underlying invariance. This type of knowing involves not just succeeding in one situation but developing the capacity and interest to create new action possibilities, even reconstructing relations that might not have been readily apparent in the dynamic structure (Shaffer, 2004).

p9: Thus knowing, as described here, is the process of successfully engaging an intentionally bound system such that particular goals can be accomplished.

Learning Environments as Curriculum-Based Ecosystems

p.9 : The design challenge lies in establishing contexts that support user-adopted intentions that give rise to an appreciation for, even creation of, sets of relations that are consistent with socially agreed-upon ones. From our perspective, this involves establishing rich contexts through which students attend to the socially agreed-upon formalisms and at the same time appreciate the situations for which those formalisms have value.

p9 These curriculum-based ecosystems begin by setting up the problem and then making available various resources and suggested activities through which students assemble the necessary networks for solving the introduced problem.

This should not be taken as a move toward formalism-free contexts.

Formalisms are useful in that they provide an important organizing role for a discipline, can mitigate contextual ambiguity about core conceptual meanings, and help reveal the common deep structure underlying different contextual phenomena, thereby potentially supporting transfer and theory building (Nathan, 2005).

However, while disciplinary formalisms clearly serve a useful role for experts, our ecological framework implies that they are less useful for facilitating the conceptual development of an individual who is learning about the discipline or just beginning to recognize the value of disciplinary formalisms for meaningfully interacting with the world.

Barab et al. suggest that it is a balancing process in terms of the quality of formalism (explicit versus implicit) and the quality of context (noisy versus tailored).

p10: Barab et al.’s work has focused on building rich contexts-of-use and determining which tasks will most likely facilitate students in enlisting formalisms as conceptual tools.

Project: virtual park, virtual fish, declining fish population

In Year 2 of their research Barab et al. redesigned the curriculum, ensuring that each of the tasks involved one of the key standards and target concepts to be learned—mapping out the trajectory and aligning the various activities with the target formalisms.

In addition to increasing the diversity of contexts, Barab et al. also decreased the number of contextual specifics so that over time students were required to understand the formalisms in increasingly tailored contexts, until the abstracted formalism itself became the focus almost explicitly. More generally, in supporting students in attending to the cross-context applicability of specific nodal content, Goldstone and Son (2005) advocated a process that they referred to as concrete fading: In their experiment, students first were immersed in a rich context and then worked with more abstract representations of the same underlying conceptual tools—a process that effectively facilitated transfer.

When using contextually rich problems, Barab et al. have found that, in addition to contrasting cases, some type of meta-contextual decomposition in which learners interrogate the problem in terms of the invariant and variant aspects is an important step in fostering the development of a cross-contextual appreciation for the underlying invariant structures.

+ Barab et al. argued that learning is not simply scoring high on a test or assignment, but should involve increasing possibilities for action in the world.
+ Learning and participation, with respect to this project and our ecological framework, is about successfully participating as part of an ecosystem, an intentionally bound network, and it fundamentally involves increasing possibilities for action in the world.
+ Life-world expansion, as the ultimate trajectory of learning, involves engaging in sets of experiences that have overlapping core components such that children build up “effectivity sets” that span multiple affordance networks—potentially evolving into new ways of interacting with the world.
+ Transfer can occur when individuals begin to see different contexts as having similar underlying affordance structures—even in the context of differing contextual particulars.
+ In the best cases, individuals appreciate the power of, or adopt commitments with respect to, a particular effectivity set and begin to assert this “toolset” in multiple situations even when the affordances are not readily apparent on the surface.
+ Educators need to better understand the types of curriculum that will engage children while also supporting disciplinary learning and future-oriented trajectories.
+ At its core, our pedagogical argument highlights the primacy of rich experience and the importance of enmeshing students in such experience—not simply describing abstracted contents.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Situated cognition and the culture of learning; cognitive apprenticeship

Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18, 32-41.

Key ideas:

1. The activity in which knowledge is developed and deployed is not separable from or ancillary to learning and cognition. Nor is it neutral. Rather, it is an integral part of what is learned. Situations might be said to co-produce knowledge through activity. Learning and cognition are fundamentally situated. (p32)

2. Concepts are like tools. Like physical tools, it is quite possible to acquire a conceptual tool but to be unable to use it. (p33)

3. People who use physical tools actively rather than just acquire them, by contrast, build an increasingly rich implicit understanding of the world in which they use the tools and of the tools themselves. (p33)

4. Learning how to use a tool involves far more than can be accounted for in any set of explicit rules. The occasions and conditions for use arise directly out of the context of activities of each community that uses the tool, framed by the way members of that community see the world. The community and its viewpoint, quite as much as the tool itself, determine how a tool is used. Thus, carpenters and cabinet makers use chisels differently. (p34)

5. Activity, concept, and culture are interdependent. No one can be totally understood without the other two. Learning must involve all three. p33

6. Students are too often asked to use the tools of a discipline without being able to adopt its culture. [i.e., acquire conceptual tools but not use them in authentic ways] p.33

7. The ways schools use dictionaries, or math formulae, or historical analysis are very different from the ways practitioners use them (Schoenfeld, in press). Thus, students may pass exams-(a distinctive part of school cultures) but still not be able to use a domain's conceptual tools in authentic practice. p34

8. Authentic activities are defined simply as the ordinary practices of the culture. p35

Examples of authentic activity (p35)
a. Weight-watchers: take 3/4 of 2/3 cup of cottage cheese. Mathematically 3/4 of 2/3 cup is 1/2 cup (.75 x .6666 = .500). But the dieter solved this problem by measuring out 2/3 cup of cottage cheese, dividing the portion into 4 parts, and removing one part.

9. Authentic activity is important for learners, because it is the only way they gain access to the standpoint that enables practitioners to act meaningfully and purposefully. It is activity that shapes or hones their tools. p36

10. Most school experiences encourage students to learn about a subject rather than learn a subject with understanding (surface learning vs. deep understanding, low meaning vs. high meaning)
Example of teaching multiplication using authentic activity approach: Lampert (1986) p38
+ First phase of teaching starts with simple coin problems, such as "using only nickels and pennies, make 82 cents." With such problems, Lampert helps her students explore their implicit knowledge.
+ Second phase of instruction:  the students create stories for multiplication problems.  They perform a series of decompositions and discover that there is no one, magically "right" decomposition decreed by authority, just more and less useful decompositions whose use is judged in the context of the problem to be solved and the interests of the problem solvers.
+ Third phase of instruction: gradually introduces students to the standard algorithm, now that such an algorithm has a meaning and a purpose in their community. The students' procedure parallels the story problems they had created. Eventually they find ways to shorten the process, and they usually arrive at the standard algorithm, justifying their findings with the stories they created earlier.

11. characteristic of cognitive apprenticeship approach to teaching: p38
+ beginning with a task embedded in a familiar activity
+ stress that multiple solutions are possible
+ allowing students to generate their own solution paths
+ by enculturating through activity, learners acquire some of the culture's tools-a shared vocabulary and the means to discuss, reflect upon, evaluate, and validate community procedures in a collaborative process.

12.  Craft apprenticeship enables apprentices to acquire and develop the tools and skills of their craft through authentic work at and membership in their trade. Through this process, apprentices enter the culture of practice. [this might be a better way to train teachers than traditional teacher prep programs] p.39

13. In this model, the relationship of the teacher to the student is one of master to apprentice [does this requires the avg. K-12 teacher to "know" a lot more and/or be better trained than most K-12 teachers to teach this way] p.40

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Misconceptions reconceived

Smith, J. P., diSessa, A. A., & Roschelle, J. (1994). Misconceptions reconceived: A constructivist analysis of knowledge in transition. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3, 115-163.

+ Casting misconceptions as mistakes is too narrow a view of their role in learning
+ Misconceptions are faulty extensions of productive prior knowledge
+ Misconceptions are not always resistant to change; strength is a property of knowledge systems
+ Replacing misconceptions is neither plausible nor always desirable
+ Instruction that confronts misconceptions is misguided and unlikely to succeed
+ It is time to move beyond the identification of misconceptions

p115: basic premise of constructivism: that students build more advanced knowledge from prior understandings

p117: The knowledge system framework makes it easier to understand how novice conceptions can play productive roles in evolving expertise, despite their flaws and limitations.

p124: Learning Paradox: How is it possible for our existing cognitive structures to transform themselves into more complex forms? Smith et al. suggest that misconceptions, especially those that are most robust, have their roots in productive and effective knowledge.

p125: If concepts are more like complex clusters of related ideas than separable independent units, then replacement looks less plausible as a learning process (disessa, in press; Smith, 1992).

p128: Smith et al. show that novices can exhibit expert-like behavior in explaining how a complex but familiar physical system works. Specifically, novices are willing to search for appropriate underlying mechanisms that are independent of salient surface representations. The heart of this analysis is that explanation is an everyday activity.

p132: These analyses have generally asserted that the flaws in students' understandings result from overgeneralized applications of prior mathematical knowledge-for example, using only knowledge of whole number order and place value to order decimals. Although many students eventually work through and beyond their flawed conceptualizations, mastery of these elementary mathematical domains is neither easy, rapid, nor uniformly achieved

p137: Smith et al. claim that learning in both of these cases involves shifts in the applicability of strategies more than changes in the content of the strategies themselves. The examples suggest that mastery is achieved, in part, by using what you already know in more general and powerful ways and also by learning where and why pieces of knowledge that are conceptually correct may work only in more restricted contexts.

p139: Larkin's analysis emphasized fundamental differences between novice and expert reasoning. She claimed that her expert and novice subjects used different representations and different concepts. Without disputing that experts' reasoning is different in important ways from that of novices, we emphasize the substantial continuities between them.

p145: Smith et al. have argued that there is often more similarity between expert and novice than meets the eye. Historically, elements of prior knowledge have played essential roles in the development of scientific theory. Prior knowledge has provided new concepts for scientific theory by abstracting objects and processes from everyday experience.

p145: In the final section, Smith et al. identify a set of theoretical principles that represents a step beyond the epistemological premise of constructivism.

+ Knowledge in pieces: A shift toward viewing knowledge as involving numerous elements of different types
+ Continuity: Persistent misconceptions, if studied in an evenhanded way, can be seen as novices' efforts to extend their existing useful conceptions to instructional contexts in which they turn out to be inadequate. p147
+ Functionality: Learning is a process of finding ideas that sensibly and consistently explain some problematic aspect of the learner's world. Conceptions that do not work in this way (or are linked to other conceptions that do) are unlikely to take root, be applied in reasoning, and subsequently defended by students
+ A Systems Perspective: Smith et al. for an analytical shift from single units of knowledge to systems of knowledge with numerous elements and complex substructure that may gradually change, in bits and pieces and in different ways.


Discussion rather than confrontation. Classroom discussion, when freed of its confrontation frame, can play an important role in learning, particularly when it concerns problematic situations in which students' ideas are strongly engaged and the impact of reformulation may be most clear. But the purpose of discussion changes when we conceptualize learning in terms of refinement rather than replacement. We still need to have students' knowledge -- much of which may be inarticulate and therefore invisible to them -- accessed, articulated, and considered. Rather than opposing those ideas to the relevant expert view, instruction should help students reflect on their present commitments, find new productive contexts for existing knowledge, and refine parts of their knowledge for specific scientific and mathematical purposes. The instructional goal is to provide a classroom context that is maximally supportive of the processes of knowledge refinement.

Analytic microworlds can foster interactive learning and reflection; Three types: simulation environments, computer-based graphics packages, and knowledge spaces

Cognitive sciences perspective on learning - analyzing tasks, behavior and representations

Bruer, J. T. (2000) Schools for thought, Chapter 2: The science of mind: Analyzing tasks, behavior and representations (pp. 19-50). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

p. 21: Cognitive scientists claim that human minds can be described as a computing device that builds and executes production-system programs. Children learn by adding better rules to their production systems.

p. 25: Declarative memory - episodic and semantic memory - are things we can recall, express, or describe.
Non-declarative memory is memory for motor, perceptual, non-conscious, and hard to describe or be aware of.

p. 26: Schemas are network structures that store our general knowledge about objects, events or situations; they influence what we notice, how we interpret information, and how we remember it

p. 28: Prior knowledge influence what we notice and how we interpret new information

p. 46: When a learner is told explicitly what to encode and how to encode, they will sometimes improve performance on problem tasks. The instructor told them what was important and taught them a strategy for remembering it.

p. 47: Existing rules and initial representations affect one another. Effective instruction must break into and change this interaction.

p. 49: "acquisition of new knowledge depends in predictable ways upon the interaction of existing knowledge, encoding processes, and the instructional environment." We learn by modifying existing memory structures, such as production systems. In some cases, we can learn from new experiences only if we receive explicit instructions about how to represent, or interpret, those experiences.

Developmental systems theory - Young minds in social worlds

Nelson, K. (2007). Young minds in social worlds, Chapter 2. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

In this chapter, Nelson begins by noting the failings of cognitive science in the eyes of it's critics. She then considers some of the roots of a different, more pragmatic and cultural-theoretical approach, connecting those strands to contemporary work, evolutionary, developmental, and cultural, with an emphasis on the systems approaches to theories in developmental psychology.

Flaws of the computational model of the mind include:
+ its assumption of universals does not take into account different perspectives and positions (i.e., cultural and history shapes worldviews and perceptions)
+ it leaves meaning and content outside its neutral operations
+ it does not allow for the influence of social and cultural conditions on its operations
+ the computer model is a "top-down" process requiring the a priori stipulation of rules and representations; knowledge of the environment can be assembled in a "bottoms-up" process through action in the environment
+ much of human cognition takes place in terms of social problems solving, where shared or situated knowledge processes are in play rather than individual rule following
+ this model lies outside the natural world; there is explanation of its biological evolution in the form of symbolic representations (Bickhard, 2002) or computations (Hendriks-Jansen, 1996)
+ there is no explanation of its development
+ computers do not grow or change, but children do

Philosophical Pragmatism
+ From the pragmatic point of view, knowing derives from action and remains action oriented
+ "knowledge as use"
+ things are what they are experienced as
+ Pragmatism is opposed to ideas from the dualist and representationalist camps

John Dewey is a critical figure in philosophical pragmatism and developmentalism
+ He asserted that experience is the basis for thought
+ Procedural knowledge (or implicit memory) precedes the capacity for the declarative or metarepresentational knowledge (explicit memory) useful in conscious thought processes such as problem solving.
+ pragmatist's creed: knowing is derived from experience, not a copy of something independent of the experiencer but a function of action, carrying meaning for the individual because of its relation to his or her goals

Pragmatism and postmodernism: they share common themes and great strengths (Kloppenberg, 1998)
+ denial of absolutes
+ its admission of uncertainty
+ a resolute commitment to the continuing vitality of the ideal of democracy as a way of life

Contextualism - rests on the presumption that behavior is modulated by its context, where context may be very small-scale, in terms of a particular discourse, or as large as cultural millieu (p.37)

Developmental systems theory (DST) is a broad conceptual framework for thinking about the development of organic systems and the emergence of new forms, applicable to long-term evolutionary change as well as short-term ontogenetic change. The theory approaches the question of how systems originate and develop by analyzing the development of the process itself in the same way that developmental biologists do.
The key to understanding in this framework is the analysis of process, in terms of multicausal contributors to the system, rather than the product (the organism) of the presumed interaction of static genes and unchanging environments.

Key related concepts: self-organization; emergence

p41: The position that human minds are emergent products of interactions, beginning in infancy and developing with in the environment of communicating adults, as argued by Hendriks-Jansen (1996), is consistent with the DST perspective

P44: One advantage of developmental systems theory is its insistence that many different influences enter into the organization of the organism; thus the phylogenetic inheritance incorporates epigenetic influences, including the inheritance of environments -- particularly the social and cultural environment -- as well as the collectivity of human genes.

p46: In any theory of human development, language must be considered a "core capacity" but not an unchanging one.

p53: Activity Theory: derives from the cultural developmental psychology within the general theory originally proposed by Vygotsky (1962, 1978), and like the pragmatic theories of the past, it places special emphasis on the derivation of knowledge from action  (Scribner, 1985; Stetsenko, 2003, 2004)

p57: Nelson views the process from the child's perspective and from that of individual developmental change. These two aspects may be thought of as the twin constructs of simultaneously "being" and "becoming."
Nelson described the state of being in terms of experience and meaning. These processes must lead to "becoming" something different - older, wiser, bigger, more knowledgeable - all accomplishments of the developmental process

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Improving impact studies of teachers’ professional development: Toward better conceptualizations and measures

Desimone, L. M. (2009). Improving impact studies of teachers’ professional development: Toward better conceptualizations and measures. Educational Researcher, 38(3):181–199.

Overarching research question: How can we best measure professional development, and its effects on teachers and students, toward the end of improving professional development programs and policies to foster better instruction and student achievement?

Three relevant subquestions:
1. What counts as professional development?
2. What purposes could a core conceptual framework serve, and what such framework is supported by the research?
3. What are the implications for modes of inquiry in causal studies of teacher learning?

Desimone's argument: we have a research consensus on at least five core features professional development and they are: (a) content focus, (b) active learning, (c) coherence, (d) duration, and (e) collective participation

Thesis: although we use different language and examine teacher learning from different perspectives and depths, there is a foundational conception present in most studies, whether they are conceptual, empirical, or both, which points to the common framework that I am proposing.

Teacher surveys that ask behavioral and descriptive, not evaluative, questions about the teachers’ professional development experiences and teaching have been shown to have good validity and reliability (Mayer, 1999; Porter et al., 1993; Yoon, Jacobson, Garet, Birman, & Ludwig, 2004).

The critical features of professional development (e.g., content focus, active learning) can be well measured with surveys.

In terms of instruction, teacher surveys can provide valid and reliable data on the amount of time that teachers spend on specific practices occurring during a set time frame—up to about a year (Koziol & Moss, 1983; Mayer, 1999; Newfield, 1980).

Surveys can also obtain valid and reliable data about the topic and cognitive demand coverage of a particular lesson or set of lessons (Porter, 2002).

Research shows that teachers overreport their implementation of professional development and other reforms (Cohen, 1990; Frykholm, 1996; Ross et al., 2003).

Observation provides a guard against overreporting if a sufficient number of observations are implemented and the rater is well trained (Hintze & Matthews, 2004).

Using video observation to assess both classroom instruction and teacher learning experiences has the potential to offer rich data that capture the complexity of interactions (Stigler, Gallimore, & Hiebert, 2000), but there are many challenges to address.

An area for future study is professional development using nonvolunteers. There is evidence that the most qualified teachers are the ones who seek out professional development with effective features such as content focus.

We need more work that links professional development and changes in teaching practice to student achievement.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy: Rethinking Knowledge for the Knowledge Age

Bereiter, C. & Scardamalia, M. (2005). Beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy: Rethinking Knowledge for the Knowledge Age. In M. Fullan (Ed.) International Handbook of Educational Change: Fundamental Change. The Netherlands: Springer. pp. 5-22

p.6 -  Key questions:
(1) What does it mean to have a deep knowledge of something?
(2) In what way is a knowledge worker different from any other kind of white-collar worker?

p.11: "The psychology that informed Bloom's taxonomy was a blend of behaviorism, which was the dominant scientific psychology of the day, and a common sense view, which has come to be called 'folk psychology"
From behaviorism came the choice to define educational objectives in behavioral terms and to base the the hierarchy of levels "on the idea that a particular simple behavior may become integrated with other equally simple behaviors to form a more complex behavior" (Bloom, 1956, p. 18)

p.12: Critiques of Bloom’s Taxonomy
1) it defines a hierarchy of general intellectual (domain independent) skills. Problem: students could have signifcant skill in "recognizing unstated assumptions" but fail a test item because they don't have much knowledge of physics
2) the view of knowledge implicit in Bloom’s Taxonomy is not very helpful anymore
3) Bloom’s Taxonomy encourages schools to emphasize the acquisition of low-level factual knowledge because it is the only level that is well defined
4) it is futile to try to define levels of understanding across domains, or even within a domain.
     example: suppose we worked out six levels of understanding of Huckleberry Finn and six levels of understanding of the principle of natural selection. What correspondence could we expect to find between these two hierarchies?
5) it fails to define clearly what "deep understanding" is

p.13 Bereiter and Scardamalia (2005) make the following proposition:
The educated mind has various abilities and dispositions.
Paramount among these are the ability and the disposition to create and work with abstract knowledge objects.

p.14 Definition: "Having a deep understanding of something means understanding deep things about it."

p.17 Provisional scheme of levels for working with knowledge
1. Knowledge as individuated mental states
2. Knowledge as itemizable mental content
3. Knowledge as representation
4. Knowledge as viewable from different perspectives
5. Knowledge as personal artifacts
6. Knowledge as improvable personal artifacts
7. Knowledge as semi-autonomous artifacts

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The influence of Piaget and Vygotsky - Brown, Metz, & Campione (1996)

Brown, A. L., Metz, K. M. & Campione, J. C. (1996). Social interaction and individual understanding in a community of learners: The influence of Piaget and Vygotsky. In A. Tryphon & J. Von├Ęche (Eds.), Piaget Vygotsky: The social genesis of thought. (pp. 145-170). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Piaget and Vygotsky have more in common than is usually supposed.

Piaget's Influence
What can children be reasonably expected to learn and understand?
Piaget argued that the development of logical thought is enhanced by the need to defend one's ideas to actual or imagined audiences.

Grade school child as a scientist or theorist concept:
+ children of this age are able to identify variables, determine cause, and refine theories
+ children's reasoning can be much more sophisticated in familiar situations and well developed knowledge
+ children's thinking often reflect a natural inductive logic

Vygotsky's Influence

Participant structures:
1. Reciprical teaching
2. Jigsaw
3. Guided writing

Main principles
1. classrooms invoke multiple zones of proximal development
2. a community of academic and scientific discourse is developed
3. meaning is negotiated and refined
4. ideas are seeded and appropriated; and
5. common knowledge and distributed expertise are both essential

Cole & Wertsch (1996) Where is the mind?

Cole, M. & Wertsch, J.V. Beyond the Individual-Social Antimony in Discussions of Piaget and Vygotsky. Human Development, 39: 250-256.

Mainstream View

Piagetans: individual childen construct knowledge through their actions in the world

Vygotskians: understanding is social in origin

In Piaget’s writing, he acknowledges the importance of the social world.

In Vygotsky’s work, he insisted on the centrality of active construction of knowledge.

Where is the mind located?

Because what we call mind works through artifacts, it cannot be unconditionlly bounded by the head or even by the body. Rather, it must be seen as distributed in the artifacts that are woven together and that weave together individual human actions in concert with and as part of the permeable, changing events of life.

The human environment is surrounded by the achievements of prior generations

Human artifacts include: language, various systems for counting; mnemonic techniques; algebraic symbol systems: works of art ; writing; schemes, diagrams, maps, mechanical drawings, all sorts of conventional signs, and so on.

Artifacts do not serve simply to facilitate mental processes that would otherwise exist. Instead, they fundamentally shape and transform them.

Higher functions are, by definition, cultrually mediated.

Artifacts are recognized as transforming mental functioning in fundamental ways.

[Note: human-computer interaction studies a human and a machine in conjunction; some believe that that developing artificial intelligences is a less fruitful direction than creating great human-computer systems]

Changing views of knowledge and their impact on educational research and practice (Case, 1996)

Case, R. (1996) Changing views of knowledge and their impact on educational research and practice. In D. Olson & N. Torrance (Eds.) The handbook of education and human development (pp.75-99). Oxford: Blackwell.

Epistemological positions have practical consequences that are of great concern to psychologists and educators. The way we view knowledge and its acquisition is likely to have an increasingly large impact as scientific and technical knowledge are likely to play a more central role in the future than they have in the past. and to become increasingly central to our economic, social, and physical well being.

Three general conceptual frameworks have contributed to our understanding of knowledge and its acquisition during this century: (1) the empiricist, (2) the rationalist and (3) the sociohistoric

Views of Knowledge
Empiricist position: knowledge of the world is acquired by a process in which the sensory organs first detect stimuli in the external world, and the mind then detects the customary patterns or "conjunctions" in these stimuli (David Hume, 1748). Our knowledge of the world is a repertoire of patterns that we have learned to detect and operations that we can execute on these patterns;

Rationalist position: Kant suggested that knowledge is acquired by a process in which order is imposed by the human mind on the data that the senses provide, not merely detected in them. Knowledge is seen as something that is constructed by the mind, and evaluated according to rational criteria such as coherence, consistency, and parsimony.

Socio-historic position: knowledge does not have its primary origin in the structure of the objective world. Rather, it has its primary origin in the social and material history of the culture of which the subject is a part. If we want to understand the knowledge that children acquire in the course or their development. then, we must first examine the technology that the culture has evolved in the course of its history, and the use to which that technology has been put. (Hegel and Marx) Knowledge is seen as the creation of a social group, as it engages in its daily interaction and praxis, and both adapts to and transforms the environment around it

Views of Learning
Empiricists: learning is the process that generates knowledge: it begins when we are exposed to a new pattern, continues as we learn to recognize and respond to that pattern in an efficient manner, and does not end until we can recognize the new pattern in other contexts. and generalize our response in an appropriate manner

Rationalists: learning is seen as the process that takes place when the mind applies an existing structure to new experience in order to understand it

Socio-cultural view: learning is seen as the process of being initiated in to the life of a group, so that one can assume a role in its dally praxis (technologies that a culture has evolved in the course of its history)

For rationalists, the fundamental problem with the empiricist tradition is that it views human knowledge in a fashion that is far too atomistic, and far too rooted in external as opposed to internal processes.

For socio-historic theorists, the fundamental problem with the rationalist tradition is that it locates human knowledge in the cognitive processes of the individual, rather than the patterns of activity of the human group.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Four main perspectives on learning

Gurney, B. F. (1995). Tugboats and tennis games: Preservice conceptions of teaching and learning revealed through metaphors. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32(6), 569-583.

Davis, E.A., Petish, D. & Smithey, J. (2006). Challenges new science teachers face. Review of Educational Research, 76(4), 607–651.

Gurney investigated 151 preservice secondary teachers and identified four main perspectives on learning, which can be seen as  

1) a process of delivery (in which learners receive a message),
2) change (in which learners become different as a result of learning),
3) enlightenment (in which the hidden potential of students is revealed through learning), or
4) humanics (in which learning involves interaction, struggle, and persistence).  

Overall, the papers in this set conform to Gurney’s overarching finding and indicate that preservice teachers hold varied perspectives on learners and learning; no single, consistent perspective emerged.  

Some studies characterize not the extent of but the nature of preservice elementary and secondary teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about students as learners. Southerland and Gess-Newsome (1999) studied 22 preservice elementary teachers and found that they tended to believe that learners have fixed abilities, which led them to place students in categories (e.g., high and low ability), tailor instruction to those perceived abilities (e.g., students who are perceived as high-ability might be permitted to engage in research projects), and not revisit the categorization, so that categories were possibly reinforced over time (see also Geddis & Roberts, 1998, for another example of student categorization). Other studies describe the varied nature of teachers’ views of learning (Abell et al., 1998; Gurney, 1995; Lemberger et al., 1999; Meyer et al., 1999).  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wells, G. (1999). The zone of proximal development and its implications for learning and teaching

Wells, G. (1999). The zone of proximal development and its implications for learning and teaching. In Dialogic inquiry: Towards a sociocultural practice and theory of education (pp.313-334). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vygotsky’s definition of the zone of proximal development (ZPD): "the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potentia1 development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers" (1978, p. 86). In other words, operationally, it is the zone defined by the difference between a child's test performances under two conditions: with or without assistance.

In this context, the significance of the zpd is that it determines the lower and upper bounds of the zone within which instruction should be pitched. "Instruction is only useful when it moves ahead of development" (p. 212), "leading the child to carry out activities that force him to rise above himself" (p. 213).

Some of the earliest attempts to apply Vygotsky's concept of ZPD occurred in the context of testing. Picking up his concern with appropriate assessment, attempts were made to use the concept of the zpd in the administration of tests under two conditions: without and with assistance.

"good learning": learning that is advance of a child’s development.

The zone of proximal development is created in the interaction between the student and the coparticipants in the activity, including the available tools and the selected practices, and depends on the nature and quality of that interaction as much as on the upper limit of the learner's capability.

Vygotsky’s fundamental insight was “higher psychological processes unique to humans can be acquired only through interactions with others”

There are other sources from which learners call receive assistance in the zpd including others who are not physically present in the situation.

At every stage, the learner is necessarily a participant in, and therefore a part of, the community whose practices he or she is learning (Rogoff, 1990).

The concept of ZPD can be applied to both individuals and groups.

More capable peers: it is not necessary for there to be a group member who is in all respects more capable than the others

This is partly because most activities involve a variety of component tasks such that students who are expert in one task, and therefore able to offer assistance to their peers, may themselves need assistance on another task.

[Effective] teaching involves much more than appropriately selecting and delivering a standardized curriculum and assessing the extent to which it has been correctly received

To be truly effective, teaching involves the ongoing co-constructing of each student’s ZPD

For the most part, teacher development has meant teacher training. Only recently has this begun to give way to a more agentive view of development: teachers learning in their ZPDs, constructing their own understanding of the art of teaching through reflective practice, and seeking assistance and guidance from a range of sources.

Expanded view of ZPD:
1. rather than being a fixed attribute of the learner, the zpd is dynamically created and emerges in the activity
2. the ZPD potentially applies to all participants in a learning community
3. the sources of assistance and guidance are not limited to human participants who are physically present

Major effects
1. Role of teacher: instead of the primary dispenser of knowledge, the teacher is seen as a fellow learner whose prime responsibility it to act as a leader of a community committed to the co-construction of knowledge

The ZPD may apply to any situation
To teach in the ZPD is to be responsive to a learner’s current goals
Learning in the ZPD involves all aspects of the learner and leads to the development of identity as well as of skills and knowledge

If Vygotsky’s theory is to provide the guidance that many believe it should, we should treat his ideas as a source of assistance in our zones of proximal development

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

John-Steiner & Mahn: Sociocultural approaches to learning and development

John-Steiner, V. & Mahn, H. (1996). Sociocultural approaches to learning and development: A Vygotskian framework. Educational Psychologist, 31 (3/4), 191-206.

Sociocultural approaches emphasize the interdependence of social and individual processes in the co-construction of knowledge.

This article uses three central tenets of a Vygotskian framework to examine the relation between learning and development: (a) social sources of individual development, (b) semiotic (signs and symbols, including language) mediation in human development, and (c) genetic (developmental) analysis.

The role played by culture and language in human development is an essential aspect of the Vygotskian framework and provides an overarching theme for this article.

Similarities & differences between social constructivist and sociocultural approaches:
  • Social constructivist critics of the Vygotskian framework, such as Cobb and Yackel (1996) characterize internalization as a transmission model through which students inherit the cultural meanings that constitute their intellectual bequest from prior generations.
  • Although "cognitive constructivist research and practice … is mostly oriented toward understanding the individual learner" (Derry, this issue, p. 164) and separates individual processes of knowledge construction from social processes of joint understanding, we think of them as connected and interdependent.
According to social constructivist theory
  • learning occurs in a context of social interactions through reflection, collaboration, and articulation (Yildiz, 2009)
  • participation and dialogue in social settings offers participants the opportunity to construct and organize knowledge (Kukafka, 2007)
  • knowledge is socially situated and is constructed through reflection on one's own thoughts and experiences (Ruey, 2009)
  • the best way to alter students' affect in the classroom is to alter the norms that prevail in the classroom  ... Efforts aimed at individual students miss the point." (Prawat & Anderson, 1994, p.213)
Sociocultural approaches to learning and development are based on the concept that human activities take place in cultural contexts, are mediated by language and other symbol systems, and can be best understood when investigated in their historical development.

Almost all sociocultural researchers place language in a central position.

Representational activities and the sociocultural theory of semiotic mediation are fundamental to Vygotsky's concept of internalization and the transformation of interpersonal processes into intrapersonal ones.
According to the cultural-historical perspective, learning and development take place in socially and culturally shaped contexts

Sociocultural researchers reject "the cause-effect, stimulus-response, explanatory science in favor of a science that emphasizes the emergent nature of mind in activity and that acknowledges a central role for interpretation in its explanatory framework" (Cole, 1996).

A central concept of dialectics, the unification of contradictions, distinguishes it from traditional approaches: "Whereas, within the standard view, conceptual unity among objects relies on the commonality of elements, it is the interrelatedness of diverse elements and the integration of opposites that creates unity within dialectics" (Falmagne, 1995, p. 207).

"Our concept of development implies a rejection of the frequently held view that cognitive development results from the gradual accumulation of separate changes. We believe that child development is a complex dialectical process characterized by periodicity, unevenness in the development of different functions, metamorphosis or qualitative transformation of one form into the other, intertwining of external and internal factors, and adaptive processes that overcome impediments that the child encounters. " (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 73)

"education must be thought of in terms not of the transmission of knowledge but of transaction and transformation." (Chang-Wells & Wells, 1993, p. 59)

Rogoff (1994): "Learning is a process of transforming participation in shared sociocultural endeavors" (p. 210).

Internalization is simultaneously an individual and a social process.
Sociocultural researchers emphasize methods that document cognitive and social change.
Sociocultural theorists, expanding the concept of the zone of proximal development, increasingly conceptualize learning as distributed (Cole & Englestrom, 1993), interactive (Chang-Wells & Wells, 1993), contextual (John-Steiner, Panofsky, & Smith, 1994), and the result of the learners ' participation in a community of practice (Rogoff, 1994).

Two themes in sociocultural approaches to classroom learning and teaching: (a) the implementation of an educational program that allowed for or encouraged the coconstruction of knowledge and (b) the analysis of this learning that contributed to our understanding of classroom learning from a sociocultural perspective.
Sociocultural research on collaboration also includes examination of the mutual dependence of teachers engaged in collective activity and dialogue in the process of curriculum innovation.

Teachers in traditional schools often do not have the opportunity to interact with colleagues
Analyzing how students learn, as well as acknowledging and attempting to understand the culturally conditioned knowledge they bring to the classroom, can help lead to effective teaching.

The concept of "funds of knowledge" is based on a simple premise: people are competent and have knowledge, and their life experiences have given them that knowledge. (Gonzalez, Moll & Amanti, 2005)

Chang-Wells and Wells (1993) used Vygotsky's work on both learning and development, and spontaneous and scientific concepts to examine three dimensions of change in mental functioning that can be ascribed to formal learning: intellectualization of mental functions, bringing them under conscious and voluntary control; decontextualization, being able to detach a concept from the context in which it was first encountered; and a movement toward integration and systematization. They asserted that all these dimensions of cognitive change are dependent on literacy

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Learning Theory of Piaget and Inhelder

Gallagher, J. and Reid, D. (1981). Genetic epistemology as a learning theory. In The Learning Theory of Piaget and Inhelder, Chapter 1, pp. 1-11. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

  • Unlike most learning theorists, Piagetians do not explain learning as a reording of facts that are internalized through frequency and contiguity. Instead, they argue that a learner always makes inferences that go beyond the observable aspects of the world
  • Piagetians claim that what children are able to observe about the world is more dependent on what they already know than what actually exists.
  • The theory developed by Piaget and Inhelder is more than a theory of development. It also offers us a great deal of understanding about how children learn.

Six principles of learning derived from Piaget and Inhelder's genetic epistemology are:
1. Learning is an internal process of construction; that is, children's own activities determine their reactions to environmental stimulation.
2. Learning is subordinated to development; that is, competence is a precondition for learning.
3. Children learn not only by observing objects but also by reorganizing on a higher mental level what they learn from coordinating their activities.
4. Growth in knowledge is often sparked by a feedback process that proceeds from questions, contradictions, and consequent mental reorganization.
5. Questions, contradictions, and the consequent reorganization of thought are often stimulated by social interaction.
6. Since awareness (or conscious realization) is a process of reconstruction rather than sudden insight, understanding often lags behind action.

Other ideas and points:
  • Learning does not stem from observation or experience alone
  • Children are sensitive to stimuli only when they have the competence to understand
  • To grow in knowledge, children must both discover and invent.
  • Genetic epistemology differs from the more traditional approaches to learning in that it does not postulate that growth in knowledge is only the "result of experience." Instead, genetic epistemology emphasizes the active role of the person.