Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Okay, so socially situated learning research is valid.

My head hurts. I almost feel like Chaiklin and Lave crammed so many different perspectives on learning and socially situated activity into the book in order to overwhelm dominant paradigm critics—they’d never get their heads around all of it and therefore wouldn’t be able to really discount the research tradition of these societally significant practices (p. 386). As I read the conclusion, it became apparent that the purpose of the book was less to explore different ways of viewing situated learning and more to lend credibility to non-dominant research approaches. There weren’t enough common threads carried through the different chapters to form a coherent development of thought or perspective, except for the five commonalities pointed out by Chaiklin having to do with research characteristics (the use of a concrete, direct object of study; interest in theoretical frameworks; studied contexts related to societal institutions; situations studied held significant consequences for participants; and the discussion of the idea that not all knowledge belongs to the individual (p. 384-5)). The last commonality mentioned—the idea of social cognition—comes close to acting us a cohesive foundation for the different chapters, but even this concept is very general.

If the purpose was to convince me to take research of societally significant practices seriously, it worked. I’m a believer. But if it was to get me to think in any depth about different perspectives on situated learning, I’m afraid it was too much for me without some tool or platform to frame an overlapping, ongoing dialogue. Is there some framework—like a mindmap, maybe—that provides the situation in which all of the relationships between these approaches makes sense?


Blogger mdl said...

Hi there,
I would also like to talk about a larger framework we can use to understand these different articles. I think we get one in Lave's introduction, but maybe we can talk about more/flesh it out in class. This book actually reminds me of several feminist collections, for example, feminists theorize the political, where people from different discplines gave their perspective on a theme (the theme in the book I mention being the influx of anti-foundationalism into feminist discourse). So, what you get is a complex mix of voices and a challenge for everyone (because not even all the contributors are from the same background...) It's an interesting genre of academic publication. But a challenging one!

9:07 PM  
Blogger asw said...

GFP and MDL-
I agree with you both -- I found certain examples in this text really hard to connect to concepts from other chapters and how they all come together. I mentioned in my post how difficult it was to get through the AI and the psychotherapists cases -- maybe by having a framework or mind map like you said would have made it easier?

I thought the authors did a nice job in the conclusion in showing how some of the cases can be grouped into categories of practice that apply to most of us at some point in time and how others are for specific professionals that are in that practice. But -

I found myself lost in trying to understand the overall context of how all of them come together and connect. A mind map could have been extremely handy and relative to the topic on hand.

I wonder if the editors/authors had ever thought of doing it during the manuscript process (maybe realizing it too late?) and were told not to do it by the publisher because of timing or the length of the book? Is that ever likely to happen? Does anyone know how the academic publishing world works in that sense?

10:38 PM  
Blogger Eileen McGinnis said...

In response to ASW: in textbook publishing, we would have told the authors to put together some kind of overarching framework or bust, and would have plugged away to whittle these chapters down into a consistency of voice and structure, which is necessary for creating a (false) sense of authority and unity in a textbook. However, I can't imagine editors at an academic press intervening in that way, which goes back to Fleck's distinction between textbook and journal science; this book falls somewhere in between, allowing us to see some of the messy-but-fruitful inconsistencies within the esoteric circle. Although I sympathize with your frustration with the lack of framework/unity (my slacker response to it was to be v. selective in the cases I read!), which makes sense, given that we are newcomers to this thought collective and want the Distilled Message, I think L/C wanted to avoid drawing conclusions for the reader. If L's introduction and phenomenological v. activity theory framework don't fully reflect what follows, but are only L's perspective on what's contained within the book, I think that's part of the point here.

10:18 AM  
Blogger jmj said...

I'm inclined to agree with Eileen; I think the book was disorienting in that it covered a lot of ground, but I'm not sure the editors necessarily need to make all the essays fit together in a coherent framework. There may not be such a framework. I wouldn't complain if we tried to create one in class so I could get a better handle on this material, though.

10:53 AM  
Blogger gt said...

I thought it was interesting how similar the beginning of your post, ie., " order to overwhelm dominant paradigm critics - they'd never get their heads around all of it and therefore wouldn't be able to really discount..." was to Mehan's description of the language of the school psychologist in the Beneath the skin...chapter, to wit: "The other members of the committee are placed in the position of assuming the psychologist is speaking knowledgeably and the hearer does not have the competence to understand."
Not that you were necessarily saying Chaiklin and Lave are doing the same thing as the psychologist is in Mehan's chapter; but, a comment abou/t how similar the two situations are.

3:08 PM  

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