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Re: [xmca] What's new in the learning sciences?
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- From: "O'Connor, Kevin" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Tue, 06 Jul 2010 13:59:54 -0400
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I¹d say that Bill and I draw our sense of ?human science¹ directly from
those 19th c. discussions and more recent developments along the same lines.
We do make these connections in the intro chapter, and return to them in the
conclusion to locate a human science perspective within contemporary
learning research. I¹d also note that Martin Packer directly raises the
links to Vygotsky¹s crisis in his chapter.
On 7/6/10 1:35 PM, "mike cole" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Thanks Kevin, that is very helpful.
> Just from what was in the TC summary, the following question arises for me. To
> what extent is the notion of human science in this overview akin to, or derive
> its theoretical orientation from, discussions about the "humane" "vs" the
> natural sciences in the late 19th century. I ask because this links to
> Vygotsky's "crisis" monograph and ongoing discussions in many places including
> xmca. Will read ch1 when the workday has come to an end.
> On Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 10:31 AM, O'Connor, Kevin <email@example.com>
>> Hi Mike,
>> Thanks for asking, Mike! Below is the original proposal for a special issue
>> that eventually became the NSSE Yearbook this will provide an overview.
>> Also, with the permission of Teachers College Record, which now publishes
>> the NSSE Yearbooks, I¹ve attached the introductory chapter. Of course,
>> different authors in the yearbook develop the idea of a human science in
>> different ways and would emphasize different points.
>> Research on Learning as a Human Science
>> Organizers and Co-Editors:
>> William R. Penuel
>> Kevin O¹Connor
>> Theme Overview:
>> This special issue of Teachers College Record will articulate an approach to
>> learning research as human science. This human science approach views
>> science as an inherently value-laden social practice, implying different
>> epistemologies, methodologies, and research foci. It is concerned not just
>> with what works but also with questions about the goals and purposes of
>> education; the involvement of different actors and groups in advancing those
>> goals; and the enactment of designs for learning and their consequences. The
>> papers aim to exemplify this approach, showing how it can inform broader
>> debates over the nature and purposes of learning, and suggest different
>> understandings of and approaches to how education can transform social
>> futures for individuals and their communities.
>> Recently, both academic research into learning and broader policy discussions
>> over the nature and direction of learning and education have been framed by
>> two largely distinct scientific paradigms. On one hand is an approach,
>> modeled on clinical trials in medicine, that promotes controlled
>> experimentation on learning outcomes as the route to knowledge about
>> learning, and on the other hand is an approach, modeled on engineering, that
>> promotes detailed in situ studies of learning processes in
>> theoretically-derived learning environments. A third broad paradigm of
>> scientific activity, social science as human science, has yet to gain a
>> unified voice in these discussions, despite the work of many individuals.
>> This special issue aims to articulate and offer exemplars of this human
>> science approach to studying learning, which we believe can stand alongside
>> and extend currently prevailing approaches to inform broader debates over the
>> nature and purposes of learning and education. Framing learning research as
>> a human science implies different epistemologies, methodologies, and foci of
>> research than those pursued by many researchers today. In addition, the
>> approach implies different understandings of and approaches to how education
>> can transform social futures for individuals and their communities.
>> Significance of the Proposed Special Issue Theme
>> Much attention in recent years has been paid to the status of research on
>> learning as a science, especially with respect to what kind of science it
>> ought it to be. Although the debate is hardly new, it is particularly pitched
>> at the moment, with significant resources at stake for both research and
>> practice. For example, advocates for more experimental research in education
>> (e.g., Cook, 2002) argue that education should be a science that advances
>> through testing of impacts on student achievement of discrete programs. Their
>> view is that educational research should proceed like medical research, and
>> that such tests are best carried out through random assignment studies is now
>> reflected in federal law that defines research as the products of experiments
>> and allocates evaluation funds principally to those investigators who agree
>> to conduct randomized controlled trials (Slavin, 2002). An alternate view
>> proposed by researchers in the learning sciences is that research on learning
>> ought to be a design science (Barab & Squire, 2004; Brown, 1992; Collins,
>> 1990; Collins, Joseph, & Bielaczyc, 2004; Kelly, 2003). This work has
>> received significant federal support itself over the past two decades (Suter
>> & Frechtling, 2000), primarily from the National Science Foundation, and its
>> signature methodology, the ³design experiment² (Brown, 1992), has received
>> prominent attention within major journals in education (e.g., special issues
>> of Educational Researcher and The Journal of the Learning Sciences). The
>> likening of education to engineering in the learning sciences draws attention
>> to the goal of engaging in the task of developing usable and useful curricula
>> that impact teaching and learning.
>> Each of these images of what kind of science research on learning should be
>> obscures some important humanistic aspects of the discipline. The logic of
>> experimentation explicitly treats characteristics of persons and their
>> contexts as sources of experimental error controllable by random assignment.
>> But teachers, administrators, and policy makers are often very interested in
>> context, in ³what works when, how, and for whom² in ways that demands
>> researchers pay much closer attention to persons and context in selecting
>> programs for adoption (Means & Penuel, 2005). Moreover, the hypothesized
>> relationship of research to practice?namely that identification of effective
>> programs will become information that rational actors use to select programs
>> and improve practice (e.g., Dynarski, 2008)?fails to acknowledge inequities
>> in access to information about programs and resources to support them that
>> exist in systems and overlooks one of the features that makes medical
>> knowledge so useful, namely its signature pedagogies and methods of induction
>> (Shulman, 2005). The image of education as an engineering science gives
>> greater primacy to the local context (e.g., Squire, MaKinster, Barnett,
>> Luehmann, & Barab, 2003), but often either taken for granted or left
>> underspecified are both the larger educational purposes of curricular
>> innovations and the probable consequences of those innovations, if
>> implemented widely, for the long-term social futures of participating
>> students. Casting educational improvement as a problem of design and
>> engineering provides few conceptual handles for engaging larger debates about
>> what is worth knowing (Whitehead, 1929), particularly given how the world is
>> changing; about how to teach ³other people¹s children² (Delpit, 1986); or
>> even for considering who might benefit and who might be harmed if designed
>> innovations were brought to scale.
>> An alternative approach is to cast educational research as a human science,
>> distinct from the logic of social experimentation and from design science.
>> Some key ideas of the approach are:
>> * Educational research is a social practice situated in broader institutional
>> and historical contexts; participants as agents within those contexts are
>> reproducing, adapting, and transforming the social practice of educational
>> research through their research activities.
>> * In contrast to experimental research, a goal of human sciences research
>> should be to understand why actors do what they do from multiple
>> perspectives, including their own. This ³emic² turn in educational research
>> seeks to re-voice the experiences of actors within theoretical frames.
>> * In contrast to engineering-oriented research, a goal of human sciences
>> research should analyze design itself as human activity and consider what
>> values designs reflect and deflect, who benefits and who loses from
>> implementation, and the extent to which particular design activities
>> reproduce or transform new social futures. Like education, design is
>> value-laden. Design research approaches have often foregrounded engineering
>> issues and backgrounded the articulation of values and their origins, with
>> important exceptions (e.g., Edelson & Joseph, 2004) that suggest a human
>> sciences approach may be seen as an extension of or fulfillment of the design
>> research tradition as opposed to a break from it.
>> * Following from these points, research on learning requires that the
>> researcher stipulate, explicitly or implicitly, the endpoint or telos toward
>> which learning and development are directed. Thus, human science is an
>> inherently value-laden endeavor (Kaplan, 1983).
>> * Relationships between researchers and research participants are implicated
>> in operations of power, locally and beyond the immediate situation. This
>> provides an additional warrant for arguing that a human science approach
>> merits more extensive discussion and articulation as a ?third way¹ in
>> educational research beyond both the medical-model and the engineering
>> Such perspectives are not entirely new. Indeed, the idea that the human
>> sciences represent a distinct kind of science, distinguished from the natural
>> sciences, has a long tradition in Western social science and philosophy of
>> science, originating in Vico¹s New Science, which argues for a science of
>> human society based not on an understanding of universal laws but rather on
>> those sensibilities that govern different communities in different human
>> ages. More recent formulations draw attention to the fundamental role of
>> language and interpretation in social scientific accounts (Taylor, 1985), to
>> the vital uses of reasons and arguments in human affairs that consider the
>> particulars of situations rather than a Cartesian timeless and context-free
>> rationality (Toulmin, 1990), and of the need to explicate operations of power
>> within such accounts (Flyvbjerg, 2001)
>> What is new in this series of papers is the articulation of a linked set of
>> perspectives for guiding programs of research based on the idea that
>> educational research should be concerned not just about what works but with
>> questions about the goals and purposes of education; the involvement of
>> different actors and groups in advancing those goals; and the enactment of
>> designs for learning and their consequences. We anticipate that many design
>> researchers agree with such a perspective; others argue explicitly that
>> design research and experimental aims are both similar to the goals for the
>> natural sciences (Collins et al., 2004; diSessa & Cobb, 2004). But in both
>> the design-based and experimental tradition, practitioners, communities of
>> parents, and students rarely get to define the goals for endeavors
>> (Engeström, 2008). Needed within the learning sciences are perspectives and
>> methods that lead to research that can guide practical action and that opens
>> questions about purpose to public dialogue; to designs that enable learners
>> and communities to advance new social futures; and to organizational settings
>> that allow for broad participation in debates about the ends of education.
>> On 7/6/10 12:53 PM, "mike cole" <firstname.lastname@example.org
>> <http://email@example.com> > wrote:
>>> Looks wonderfully interesing, Kevin. McDermott got me to read Moll Flanders
>>> recently in connection with his contribution which is the only one I recall
>>> Is there somewhere in the volume or elsewhere where you and your colleagues
>>> lay out for the reader what is meant by a human science?
>>> Could that be made available to xmca readers?
>>> On Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 9:44 AM, O'Connor, Kevin <firstname.lastname@example.org
>>> <http://email@example.com> > wrote:
>>>> (this time with attachment)
>>>> Hi Mike,
>>>> Bill Penuel and I have co-edited an NSSE Yearbook, just published, on the
>>>> topic of 'Learning Research as a Human Science.' I was not at ICLS, but
>>>> perspective was well-represented there by a number of contributors to the
>>>> yearbook who qualify as both 'learning scientists' and 'XMCA-o-types'.
>>>> I've attached the table of contents for those who might be interested.
>>>> I'm looking forward to others' reports of the conference!
>>>> Kevin O'Connor
>>>> Assistant Professor
>>>> School of Education, 249 UCB
>>>> University of Colorado
>>>> Boulder CO 80309
>>>> firstname.lastname@example.org <http://email@example.com>
>>>> On 7/5/10 11:33 AM, "mike cole" <firstname.lastname@example.org
>>>> <http://email@example.com> > wrote:
>>>>> > Dear XMCA-o-types,
>>>>> > Several of you have visited the charming city of Chicago and attending a
>>>>> > convocation of "learning
>>>>> > scientists."
>>>>> > *WHAT NEWS? WHAT'S INTERESTING? WHAT'S HOT? ONLY LEARNING, NO
>>>>> > :-)
>>>>> > MIKE*
>>>>> > _______________________________________________
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>>>>> > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
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