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Positioning the Learner: Agency and Joint Action in a Science Classroom Jenny Martin | School of Education Australian Catholic University

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Presentation on theme: "Positioning the Learner: Agency and Joint Action in a Science Classroom Jenny Martin | School of Education Australian Catholic University"— Presentation transcript:

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2 Positioning the Learner: Agency and Joint Action in a Science Classroom Jenny Martin | School of Education Australian Catholic University 1 Mr G we've finished Alright, get going [claps his hands once] over there ladies [points to a bench]

3 2 THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIVE PROCESS OF DISCIPLINARY LEARNING Roberts (1999) Third space?

4 –John Shotter, 1995, p.62 “Something is going on here that cannot be understood by being separated out into autonomously behaving parts simply in interaction with each other; something is happening that makes us – or ought to make us – question the adequacy of our current analytic forms of descriptions, that confronts us with the necessity for a more holistic form of talk.” 3

5 –Bronwyn Davies, 1990, p.343 “The person is a person by virtue of the fact that they use the discursive practices of the collectives of which they are a member… Each person can only speak from the positions made available within those collectives through the recognised discursive practices used by each collective…. Embedded within those discursive practices is an understanding that each person is one who has an obligation to take themselves up as a knowable, recognizable identity, who ‘speaks for themselves’, who accepts responsibility for their actions, that is as one who is recognizably separate from any particular collective, and thus one who can be said to have agency.” 4

6 5 The ‘social act’, relatively determinate meaning of action (Harré & van Langenhove, 1999), is the smallest unit of analysis. The concept of positioning (Davies & Harre, 1990) is used to capture the relational dynamics of meaning making. Agency: ‘Taking oneself up’ as a person who accepts Tools for the analysis of positioning as a responsible for action were developed for the study of agency. 'The grammar of agency’ used as a coding tool. Responsibility can be indexed using “the grammar of agency”, including pronouns, modality and tense (Arnold & Clarke, 2014). The ‘social act’, relatively determinate meaning of action (Harré & van Langenhove, 1999), is the smallest unit of analysis. The concept of positioning (Davies & Harre, 1990) is used to capture the relational dynamics of meaning making. Agency: ‘Taking oneself up’ as a person who accepts Tools for the analysis of positioning as a responsible for action were developed for the study of agency. 'The grammar of agency’ used as a coding tool. Responsibility can be indexed using “the grammar of agency”, including pronouns, modality and tense (Arnold & Clarke, 2014). Agentic positioning: Positioning as responsible in a social episode Agentic positioning: Positioning as responsible in a social episode Theoretical framework

7 What opportunities do science learners have to position themselves as responsible agents in science learning episodes? How is the agentic positioning of the learner supported in the joint activity of the science classroom? 6

8 Instrumental Case Study: Angie’s Umwelt Year 7 science classroom in the middle school campus of a suburban government secondary college Thinking curriculum was a priority at the school at the time of the study [Teacher pre-unit interview] Three students who were successful according to local assessment practices: Angie, Kesar and Tasha (pseudonyms) Twelve lessons filmed (equivalent to one unit of work - The States of Matter). Post lesson, video-stimulated interviews provided background information for the analysis of classroom conversations Classroom episodes analysed using ‘the grammar of agency’ (Arnold & Clarke, 2014) as a coding system and ‘positioning theory’ (Harré & van Langenhove, 1999) used to interpret relatively determinate meaning of action. 7

9 Episode 1: Slime Liquid or Solid? [written work, Lesson 7] 8

10 The mysterious nature of slime I'm going to, ask you a question. And befo:re we can actually make the slime, I'm looking for everyone to write a response… And the question is this [points to the question, which he wrote earlier on the whiteboard]. Ah I want you to write in your theory book, slime, liquid or solid. And the:n, I want you: to answer this question… My question of you, is based upon, all the information I've supplied so ↓far. >Think about the information for example you've done today< with um, arrangement of ↓particles.hh the >very first activity we did where we looked at shapes<, where we discussed whether >solids liquids or gases occupy space etcetera etcetera<. Think about all the rules that we've really looked at.hh for solids liquids and gases… I want you to explain why: you think sli:me, in your opinion, is a solid or a liquid. Now I'm going to give you, fi:ve >minutes to write down the answer< and once you've done it, show me. >'Cause nobody's gonna do the activity< until you've had an attempt. 9

11 10 Angie:I think it’s both. Kesar: yeah- ah- can we say it’s ↑both? Angie: >I think so.< Angie: Mr Gardiner can we say its both? Teacher: OH IF- LOOK, IF YOU WANT TO SAY ITS BOTH THAT’S OKAY. BUT I’D PREFER A DEF- DEFINITIVE ↓ANSWER. Angie: Are you going to do, one, or are you going to do- Kesar: °I don’t kno:w° I think- I don’t know which one. Angie: >I think its a solid.< : Angie: >But the thing is<, coz when you squeeze slime its squeezable.hh but then, so is a cushion, and cushions are solid. Kesar: But doesn't it depend on, the ho- how much stuffing the, p- pillow has °go(h)t hah° some pillows suck hah.hh °when you squeeze it.° Angie: Yeah but they’re- they're still squishable a bit. Kesar: I guess. Angie: Liquid, oh yeah liquid has a fixed volume Kesar: >I don't know I'm just saying its a solid ↓now.< Angie: [Writes while speaking] Has a fixed volume. I'm jus:t, ly:ing. The collective negotiation of a “personal” opinion Students as collectively responsible for complying with the rules set by the teacher and for working out the right answer ANGIE: I think its both KESAR: Yeah- ah- can we say its both? Students as capable of putting forward their opinions and interpreting the rules of the activity

12 Episode 2 Liquid Helium Is there such a thing as liquid helium? Angie: “Sure why not.” [Lesson 4 transcript] 11

13 Teacher: SOLID TO LIQUID SOLID TO GAS (.) LIQUID TO GAS and >can you go the other wa:y?< Student: Yes. Teacher: Okay. Can anyone suggest to me (.) other than water (.) an example of ah of maybe gas going to liquid that they might ↓know. Student: Dried ice. Kesar: °um° Teacher: °No: (.) >dried ice doesn't have liquid phase<° Cliff: Frozen helium to liquid helium. Teacher: Frozen helium to liquid helium. You mean frozen helium or is it gas (.) are you talking about gaseous helium to liquid helium? >Is there such a thing as liquid helium?< Cliff: Ah. Teacher: no no (.) maybe you are right (.) actually I don't know. So I can't answer that question. UM- Angie: Sure why not. Lane: yeah why no(h)t hah Angie: hh.hh hh Kim: Nitrogen. Teacher: Nitrogen exactly there’s nitrogen gas to nitrogen ↑liquid. I suppose (.) can you go from liquid nitrogen- a liquid to a ↑solid. Angie: Ye:s hah [turns her head towards Lane] Tasha: I thi:nk Teacher: I actually don't know (.) we- maybe something we can investigate I’ll show you a booklet a little bit later on that actually (.) may have the answer to that. It's called the (.) chemistry bible. It's about that thick. I’ll go and show you it later. Tasha: hah it's a bible Kesar: °chemistry bib(h)le° Angie: A chemistry bible. Does that mean they have like a maths bible? Students as passive receivers of scientific knowledge 12 Students as responsible for the co-construciton of knowledge

14 Episode 3 Boiling at 95 Angie: “It’s not rising even though its boiling” [Lesson 5 transcript] 13

15 Angie: Oh come o::n (.) go up to one hundred! : Angie: =>come on< hh (.) One. Two. It’s not going any hi:gher. : Tasha: =now= Angie: = Ninety five. Tasha: That’s the sa:me ↑one heh Angie: I know (.) it's not rising (.) even though it’s ↓boiling. Kesar: Oh we got one more minute! : Tasha: One more= Angie: =I wonder if some actually went to a ↓hundred. Kesar: Oh my god if they did= Tasha: =nah imagine all in one- (.) in one minute it all °went to one hundred°. Come on this is our last one we gotta do! Angie: IT’S NOT RI:SING YOU GU:YS Teacher: TWO MINUTES TO CUT OFF TI:ME Tasha: Now Angie: Ninety five Kesar: Oh my god (.) the same one. Alright (.) we better stop it. Angie: Stop i:t? Kesar: Yeah Tasha: Stop ↓it Students as collectively responsible for getting correct results in practical tasks 14 Students as responsible for articulating aspects of the situation they are attending to and for initiating inquiry

16 Possible positioning 15

17 Angie’s positioning in the joint activity 16

18 17 Solid So what is it? Its a liquid isn't it? Its a liquid. Hmm Solid Yeah slime So do you just write liquid? Explain why slime is a solid or liquid I think it's a solid Yeah it is its a solid its a solified liquid Because even if you break it up it won't like melt or anything When it dries it becomes a solid But its a liquid after all its a liquid No No solid Slime is a solid in my opinion They say solid I say liquid what do you say. But isn't jelly. Yeah but how about this, is jelly solid or liquid? Huh solid Jelly's a solid What do you say? Its turned into a solid. If it was water and crystals, then it would be water a liquid. Nah its your opinion ok Yeah it is its a solid its a solified liquid : When it dries it becomes a solid. No. Slime is a solid in my opinion : Solid

19 –John Shotter, 1995, p. 50 “In addition to the addressee (the second party), the author of an utterance, with a greater or lesser awareness, presupposes a higher super addressee (third), whose absolutely just responsive understanding is presumed… It is as if at each moment a third invisible agent, another voice, created by the conversation itself, emerges from within the background between the dialogue partners, to decree the options open to them or the limitations upon them, that is, as if to set momentary rules between them. It is this that is strange about conversation: it seems to create a super-reality beyond any immediately present entities.” 18

20 Science and the school science curriculum were present in the background as “third agencies” (Bakhtin, 1986). When science was uncritically taken as Ready Made (Latour, 1987, p.4) and the curriculum tacitly understood as “monologic” (Matusov, 2011, p. 103, after Bahktin, 1999), any occurrence of the students’ agentic repositioning lacked social force. The lack of conventionalisation of student agency in this study was related to their lack of social (discursive) resources, and in particular the absence of an “interactive other” (Davies, 1990), who would take up as legitimate their agentic repositioning. Implied is the need for the discursive construction in science classrooms of a science learning community, whose members are psychologically located as responsible for engaging in dialogue to make sense of their own observations and representations of their experiences within science in relation to warrants for scientific knowledge. In addition, the following are also implicated as essential for the maintenance of the science classroom learning community: The discursive capacity of members to reflect upon their collective positioning as learners in relation to science and the science curriculum, and Reflexive attention by members of a science learning community to the discursive construction of science and the science curriculum in the science learning community. third space 19

21 Implications Learners’ observations and representations or explanations of their experiences are dependent upon p-grammars (grammars that locate persons as relatively endowed with rights and obligations) as much as m-grammars (ways of talking about material things) (Harré, 1997). Critiques of theory and practice in education should involve an examination of cognitive psychological assumptions that depict individual minds and knowledge as separated from their social realisation, which, as illustrated here, cannot explain joint action. 20

22 Acknowledgements This research was conducted with the financial support from the Australian Research Council, the supervision of Prof. David Clarke, and in collaboration with the International Centre for Classroom Research, Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne. 21


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