Lee (2001) deconstructs a process of scaffolding literary analysis process among a group of students described as underachieving African Americans. Central to her approach was the use of a Cultural Modelling Project, where she took great care in aligning class readings and activities with the African American vernacular of her students. Her conviction that all her students brought value to the class and were fully capable of engaging in rich discussion proved fruitful. She highlights the importance of using relevant texts and language for her students, which were often far removed from standardized English Language Arts courses. In the discourse analysis, she spoke about differences in classroom norms such as multiparty overlapping talk, which made some outsiders uncomfortable. She knew how to engage students and recognized contextual cues.

Cobb et al., (2003) describe the design experiment methodology within educational research. They position the methodology as a way to simultaneously develop theory and improve instructional design to support new forms of learning. Design experiment research is domain specific and lives in-between developing theories about specific classrooms and grand theories of learning. The aim is for the theories to be adaptable to new circumstances. Design experiment research is characterized by five features: 1) to develop theories about the processes of learning and design means to support those learning processes, 2) it relies on intervention using prior research to specify and justify the design, 3) it is both prospective and reflective (conjecture-driven), and 4) it is iterative, 5) the theories developed must do real work. The methodology is focused on testing conjectures about student reasoning and how to support shifts in student reasoning through design. Cobb et al., also discuss considerations for preparing for design experiments, such as specifying researchers’ assumptions about learners’ intellectual and social starting points. During analysis, researchers must account for historical factors that effect students’ learning, such as what students may have learned about a subject before the study. In conducting this retrospective analysis, Cobb et al., stress justifying how histories are selected and incorporated into the analysis.

Greeno, Collins, and Resnick (1996) discuss cognition and learning in educational psychology from three perspectives. They identify the three perspectives of knowing in learning in European and North American contexts as: behaviourist/empiricist, cognitive/rationalist, and situative/pragmatist-sociohistoric. First they discuss the nature of knowing from each perspective. In the second section they discuss each perspective’s issues around the nature of learning, transfer, motivation and engagement. In the third section, they discuss how each perspective is carried out in educational practices. Behaviourism is described as knowing and learning as a process of accumulating and making associations between ideas. It is also characterized by observable connections between stimuli and learner response as evidence of strengthening or weakening associations. Cognitivism is build around knowledge as understanding of concepts in different subjects learned through reasoning, planning, and solving problems. It is strongly influenced by Piaget’s notion of constructivism, where learning is based on transforming prior understanding. In the situative view, knowledge is the result of learner interaction with other people and material environments. Knowing is a collective experience and learners develop an attunement to the constrains and affordances of systems they are a part of and interact with. The authors conclude by distinguishing the three views as studying learner activities (behaviourist), studying individual learner activity of internal structures of information (cognitivist), and studying learner activities in aggregate (situative).

Greeno et al., (1996) give a conceptual framing of the major perspectives of thought around cognition and learning. While subsequently reading Lee (2001) I found elements of several perspective in her work. The larger project seemed to follow a design-based/situative approach but there were also behaviourist moments, such as sending Marcus out of class until he was ready to participate again. Lee used (and recognized) strong use of community within the classroom as a tool for building relevance and engaging students with the text and each other. Her work aligns closely with the processes described by Cobb et al., in terms of being iterative, intentional with her intervention, and having the theories do real work. She was also very aware of students’ historical and cultural backgrounds, and incorporated those considerations into the design. Despite Lee’s detailed analysis of students’ progress and rich engagement with the text, I was puzzled by her comment at the end that the Cultural Modelling Project was insufficient. I wonder what she would have considered to be sufficient?

Cobb, P., Confrey, J., DiSessa, A., Lehrer, R., & Schauble, L. (2003). Design experiments in educational research. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 9–13. doi:10.3102/0013189X032001009

Greeno, J. G., Collins, A. M., & Resnick, L. B. (1996). Cognition and learning. In D. C. Berliner & R. Calfee (Eds.), Handbook of Educational Psychology (pp. 15–46). New York, NY: Macmillan.

Lee, C. D. (2001). Is October Brown Chinese? A Cultural Modeling Activity System for Underachieving Students. American Educational Research Journal, 38(1), 97–141. doi:10.3102/00028312038001097

~This post is part of a weekly reflection requirement for a graduate level introductory course of the historical and philosophical foundations of the Learning Sciences. As such, it may seem a bit out of place without the context of the in-class discussions, but I’m including it here for posterity. The general premise is to create a brief summary of each reading and include a reflection about them.~