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Re: [xmca] Brains, Computer, and the Future of Education

I'm rushing off to catch a ferry but I want to say thank you for this very
thoughtful analysis to my question.  I sincerely hope your proposal to
develop a frame of reference which is genre focused becomes a lively debate
here.  It also seems an excellent approach to work with school staffs.  S.
Kirschner's writings also passionately takes a perspective to encougage
pluaralistic psychology without the goal of a single dominant paradigm.
[see believes neuroscience will win that war]


On Sat, Jan 15, 2011 at 5:51 AM, David H Kirshner <dkirsh@lsu.edu> wrote:

> Larry, Andy, Michael, and Monica.
> Sorry for the delay in responding. Let me first address the technology
> tie-in, and then turn to the pedagogical question about how to deal with
> the multi-paradigmatic theorization of learning.
> I'm sympathetic to the perspective that it is "the current technologies
> being used and developed which transforms our guiding metaphors [for
> learning] and not the internal debates among scholars." If we look at
> the whole ball of wax, psychology certainly does seem a chaotic tangle
> that may well be led by technological happenstance rather than by
> intellectual coherence. But the proliferation of new schools and new
> approaches based on technological developments should not obscure the
> kinds of processes of development that go within each paradigmatic
> school. Certainly, paradigmatic differences are not settled by debate.
> As Kuhn pointed out, the competitive process is inescapably sociological
> rather than purely intellectual. What about within a paradigm? As
> sociohistorical institutions schools of research persist over time
> because of mutually shared projects that often are experienced as
> intellectually coherent. Certainly technological developments can
> influence the basic understandings pursued within a school. For
> instance, psychologists moved on from the telephone switchboard metaphor
> of cognitive processing to the serial digital computer metaphor which
> afforded much more dynamic possibilities for theorization, but with much
> basic conceptual continuity. I don't think it's "wrong" to regard intra
> paradigmatic development as led by technological developments. However,
> I imagine most of the time, for example in thinking about our own
> progress as sociocultural or CHAT researchers, we find it useful to view
> progress in terms of intellectual coherence. In any case, in my work in
> harvesting insights from the diverse branches of psychology for the
> purpose of framing a multi-paradigmatic pedagogy, I find it useful to
> regard the work within paradigms as progressing through rational debate
> (or at least attempting to).
> A Multi-paradigmatic Pedagogical Framework:
> How do we advance pedagogical theory taking seriously the
> multi-paradigmatic status of learning theory?
> Let me warn that this is a theme I've pursued before on xmca without
> much uptake--I think for very good reasons. The path leads to
> delegitimization of education as a co-participant with psychology in the
> scientific enterprise. Alternatively, it leads to the repudiation by
> education of psychology's scientific pretensions. Given how deeply
> enmeshed educational and psychological communities are with one another
> (e.g., xmca) this is not an easy or appealing path for either party.
> The first step on this path is the hardest to take, though it is simple
> to articulate. If we accept that learning is diversely conceived across
> varied paradigms, and we also regard the purpose of teaching as
> promoting learning, then there is only one sensible path to take if one
> desires pedagogical theory to be grounded in learning theory: A genres
> approach to pedagogical theorizing, with each genre of teaching
> addressing learning in a particular paradigmatic sense. To date, a
> genres approach has not been advanced. However, there are two
> alternative approaches that have been attempted, in each case with
> disastrous consequences. One method is to focus on a single paradigm and
> deny the legitimacy of any others (e.g., the behaviorist era in
> education). The other is to fashion a holistic vision of "good teaching"
> that somehow is to address learning in its various interpretations. This
> is the current Zeitgeist in educational theorizing, and I'll devote a
> couple of paragraphs, below, to explaining its multifaceted ill effects
> on education, the most immediate and debilitating of which is systemic
> de-intellectualization of pedagogy. For if teaching practice is to be
> understood in terms of learning theory, it can only be in terms of a
> single theory at a time, given the multi-paradigmatic character of this
> branch of knowledge.
> I have been teaching an Education doctoral course on the genres approach
> for about 15 years, and I've ALMOST NEVER succeeded in making this first
> step comprehensible. So entrenched in our discourse are the ideas of
> holistic pedagogy--"good teaching" as a set of practices that addresses
> learning conceived as a complex and multifaceted whole--that the
> language of genres just doesn't register for my students. Typically,
> when I present a framework for teaching for Skills, Concepts, and
> Dispositions as distinct genres of teaching, this gets assimilated into
> a "learning styles" frame in which the different pedagogical approaches
> provide different routes to learning conceived as a complex and
> multi-faceted whole. Indeed, our discourse typically intermixes these
> learning goals as we talk of "understanding the skill," "practicing the
> concept," or "inculcating thinking skills." Students almost never come
> to grasp the motive of differentiating, rather than integrating, these
> notions of learning as a comprehensible agenda.
> The cost we pay for maintaining an integrative or holistic discourse
> about "good teaching" in education is staggeringly high. First, is the
> impossibility of articulating pedagogical principles, which, as
> discussed above would require that learning be conceived locally,
> relative to the independently conceived notions of learning. Because in
> the standard discourse "good teaching" is somehow simultaneously to
> address learning in its many various senses, we end up instead with
> generalities and platitudes, with intractably dense dialectical analyses
> attempting to span disparate local theories, and with vignettes that are
> meant to illustrate good teaching, but that don't articulate its
> principles. In short, we provide almost no usable intellectual resources
> that can serve to guide development of teaching practice.
> Second is the politicized character of our pedagogical discourse
> stemming from the interpenetration of values issues with issues of
> efficacy. Given the varied notions of learning that motivate educators,
> it is to be expected that values issues will arise as to which sort(s)
> of learning ought to be pursued with students. But since our discourse
> constructs good teaching as a holistic set of practices, there's no
> discursive space for this variation. One's opponent's construction of
> good teaching is not just wrong on values, but also misguided about what
> is effective practice (e.g., the Reading Wars and the Math Wars). A
> discourse framed in genres of teaching would enable values issues to be
> separated from issues of efficacy, thereby protecting the professional
> integrity of the field of teaching practice.
> Finally, with so little to offer professional teaching practice,
> learning theory is easily subject to being dismissed as irrelevant. If
> Teaching is defined in terms of promoting Learning, then learning theory
> ought to be THE theoretical discourse through which teaching practice is
> articulated. We see our growing irrelevance in the current prominence of
> "brain" perspectives on teaching--which is what started this thread--but
> also in other cognitive mechanisms approaches like "learning styles"
> research, as well as in pedagogical framings based on critical theory,
> values theory, philosophical commitments, or metaphysical or spiritual
> bases. In the end what we have is an open-ended pedagogical discourse in
> which each new proposal for "good teaching" can create its own universe
> of discourse within which it is to be analyzed and evaluated. The
> marketplace of pedagogical ideas resembles much more a bazaar than a
> professional knowledge base. A genres approach, while featuring a
> theoretically heterogeneous set of framings for learning, nonetheless
> would enable us to capture the essential interests that motivate the
> pedagogical enterprise within a finite and determinate set of
> theoretical approaches.
> Genres: Why Not?
> One excellent reason to dismiss the genres approach is because it is so
> obvious. After all, it is immediately apparent that learning is
> diversely conceived in varied psychological paradigms. So theorizations
> of good teaching that really come to grips with learning theory would
> need to be constructed locally, relative to a specific notion of
> learning. Surely, if a genres approach had any merit it would have been
> adopted, or at least explored, a long time ago.
> The alternative is that there are powerful interests arrayed against
> recognizing and dealing with the preparadigmatic status of psychology. I
> propose that the genres approach has not previously been advanced
> because it is in psychologists' self interest that it not be.
> To understand these interests, we need to delve a bit into how
> preparadigmatic science functions. Preparadigmatic science consists of
> multiple schools each in competition with the others to the unify the
> field under its own banner. However, paradigmatic differences are never
> settled by debate. As Kuhn pointed out, the competitive process is
> inescapably sociological rather than purely intellectual. Viewed through
> divergent paradigmatic lenses, different aspects of observed phenomena
> become highlighted as problematic. So one paradigm cannot invalidate the
> perspectives of another. Instead, a paradigm succeeds against others by
> addressing the concerns of the other paradigms in ways that are
> sufficiently appealing and powerful as to attract established
> researchers from other schools, and especially new researchers just
> entering the field. Like old soldiers, old paradigms never die, they
> just fade away.
> Viewed in this way, we see that psychologists must lead double lives.
> Within their paradigm, the psychologist's life is similar to that of
> most other scientists. They are involved in deliberate and careful
> elaboration and extension of the basic perspectives that initiated the
> school. However, externally, they are hucksters extraordinaire. Claims
> are exaggerated. Hoped for/planned developments are presented as faits
> accomplis. After all, one wins in the broader game by attracting
> researchers, especially neophyte researchers, to your school.
> One could castigate psychologists for being duplicitous or dishonest,
> but I think this freights individual psychology too heavily. What we
> have is best viewed not as individual misrepresentation, but a
> discursive form reflecting the sociological imperative of
> preparadigmatic science to achieve paradigmatic consensus. The ironic
> result is that across the broad diversity of psychology, there is only
> one tenet espoused by learning theorists of every persuasion: a single
> perspective (eventually) encompasses all of the relevant phenomena of
> learning. Thus a genres approach to pedagogy, building on discrete
> accomplishments across paradigmatic divisions, would subvert
> psychologists' active self-interest in promoting the problem of
> paradigmatic division as (imminently) solved.
> But what about educators? If psychologists prefer to deny the
> preparadigmatic status of their field, why is it that educators haven't
> pressed on with a genres approach on their own? Again, a sociological
> perspective can help, this time explaining the client status of
> Education with respect to Psychology. One of the first preoccupations of
> Psychology, dating back to its emergence as a scientific enterprise, was
> investigation of the transfer of training assumptions of faculty
> psychology (e.g., Thorndike & Woodworth, 1901). These early studies
> found the prevailing belief in broad transfer of learning to be
> unwarranted. Through preceding centuries, the classical (Aristotelian)
> theory of faculty psychology, and its associated theory of
> mental-disciplines, had served as the basis for pedagogical thought. So,
> psychology's attack upon transfer of training effectively dislodged the
> existing foundations for educational practice. As a result, education
> attached itself to the new science, not as a separate and independent
> field of inquiry, but as a client discipline, dependent upon psychology
> for our legitimacy and intellectual authority. In that role, we have
> tended to see the world as the psychologists do. We have not construed
> psychology independently, as we would need to do to adopt a genres
> approach.
> Marshalling Preparadigmatic Psychology for Educational Purposes:
> I'm going to conclude this post with a description of how psychological
> theory gets appropriated and reworked in genres scholarship. (This
> really is where the psychologists get mad.) I mentioned, above, that
> "Within their paradigm, the psychologist's life is similar to that of
> most other scientists." Similar, but not identical. I want to argue that
> paradigmatic science develops more organically based on insights that
> bubble up from within the paradigm, in comparison with preparadigmatic
> science that is more teleologically driven by a felt need to address
> concerns that have emerged in other schools. For instance, cognitivists
> exploring the computational metaphor might eventually have decided, on
> their own, to extend from decontextualized problem solving to encompass
> social and cultural context. But the need to be positioned as
> competitive with sociogenetic approaches like sociocultural psychology
> forced this development earlier. In this respect, we can see a
> trajectory of preparadigmatic science that is not quite parallel with
> paradigmatic science. Preparadigmatic schools tends to evolve from
> simple and powerful, but local, initial insights toward complex and
> opaque interpretations intended to bridge disparate intuitions. And then
> again, some preparadigmatic schools--e.g., social constructivism and
> perhaps situated cognition theory, in psychology--initially are formed
> as a synthesis of diverse perspectives precisely in order to be
> competitive players in the preparadigmatic game, but without a clear and
> simple local insight. The result is that use of psychology to inform a
> genres approach must be highly selective, calling only on those theories
> that most effectively highlight a single metaphorical notion of
> learning, often relying on earlier, more narrow, versions of the theory
> over contemporary forms.
> In my own "crossdisciplinary"* effort to found a genres approach for
> education that builds on insights from diverse psychological schools,
> I've found it convenient to identify the metaphors for learning that I
> see as framing education's diverse interests, and then to hunt around
> for psychological approaches that help to fill out that metaphorical
> interpretation. In this approach, I am guided by the perspective that
> psychology often draws from our culturally shared metaphors for its
> basic images and intuitions (Fletcher, 1995; Leary, 1994; Olson &
> Bruner, 1996; Sternberg, 1997). For instance, my "habituation" metaphor
> for learning-as-skill-attainment draws somewhat on behaviorist
> psychology, but also on a branch of cognitive theory known as "implicit
> learning theory." My "construction" metaphor for
> learning-as-concept-attainment draws somewhat on the Piagetian based
> radical constructivist, but also on the conceptual change literature. My
> "enculturation" metaphor for learning-as-disposition-attainment draws
> partly on sociocultural theory, but also on social psychology. For
> although sociocultural theory is predominantly sociogenetic Vygotsky,
> along with those who have undertaken to extend his legacy, resisted the
> complete social determinism that I see as needed to articulate a
> coherent "enculturation pedagogy." As Penuel and Wertsch (1995) put it:
> "Sociocultural processes on the one hand and individual functioning on
> the other [exist] in a dynamic, irreducible tension rather than a static
> notion of social determination. A sociocultural approach ... considers
> these poles of sociocultural processes and individual functioning as
> interacting moments in human action, rather than as static processes
> that exist in isolation from one another" (p. 84). (Emphasizing social
> determinism, my prototypical exemplar of enculturational learning is
> "proxemics" drawn from social psychology, the study of how individual
> comes to embody the "personal body space" conventions of their national
> culture.)
> I think this serves to establish how psychological science is marshaled
> within a genres agenda. Resisting what is everywhere present in
> psychology--the attempt to develop a comprehensive account of learning
> that suffices for all purposes--the genres approach seeks after partial
> accounts that correspond with what I see as coherently forming the
> discrete interest of educators in teaching skills, concepts, and
> dispositions. It's not "wrong" for socioculturalists to agree, as did
> Larry a couple of posts ago, "that we must account for processes at the
> neurological level from a CHAT perspective." Indeed, such initiatives
> are vital to enable CHAT/sociocultural psychology to remain viable, and
> perhaps eventually prevail, within the competitive game of
> preparadigmatic psychology. But the broader designs of the various
> schools will not help us, today, to support educational practice. The
> psychology of TODAY is a preparadigmatic psychology, and that reality
> must be embraced in order to discern and support the discrete agendas
> for learning that motivate education.
> *I use the term crossdisciplinary in contrast with interdisciplinary to
> signal the coordination, rather than integration, of existing
> theoretical frameworks.
> David
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
> On Behalf Of Larry Purss
> Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 7:35 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>  Subject: Re: [xmca] Brains, Computer, and the Future of Education
> David
> Another quick thought on the competing models of learning and how these
> models become common sense or taken for granted folk psychological ways
> of
> orienting to the world. The  power of metaphors to conventionalize a
> cultural imaginary seems to be  central to this transformative process
> that
> develops various cognitive models at the implicit or tacit level.  Andy
> points to the historical processes that lead to a particular metaphor
> structuring our cognition [the zeitgeist]. As I read his comments
> he suggests it is the current technologies being used and developed
> which
> transforms our guiding metaphors and not the internal debates among
> scholars.  If technological transformation  "constitutes"  metaphorical
> transformation [stronger term than influences] then how do we
> consciously
> engage with these transformative technological processes to influence
> the
> zeitgeist [as a dialogue among models] ? At the level of common sense
> folk
> psychological metaphors of learning are university debates leading the
> way
> or charting where the technology has taken us?
> The underlying question is, How do we get teachers to incorporate
> alternative models of learning and cognition which run counter to common
> sense
> Larry
> On Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 4:37 AM, Michael Glassman
> <MGlassman@ehe.osu.edu>wrote:
> > Hi David,
> >
> > I sort of feel like the human relationship with information has
> changed in
> > very fundemental ways over the last ten years.  Phenomena like the
> Web,
> > Google, FaceBook, the Open Source movement have moved incredibly
> quickly.
> >  Some academic urban legends are rising up, such as the idea that the
> > computer in some way changes the structure of wiring of the brain
> > (absolutely no evidence, or even proto-evidence for this I can.)  But
> I
> > think it is a combination of fear and confusion.  You have first
> amendment
> > lawyers like Floyd Abrams arguing against free speech on the Internet.
> You
> > have brutal authoritarians like Putin signing executive orders making
> > Russian government completely Open Source by 2015 (my guess is he has
> no
> > idea what Open Source actually is).  The whole thing is mind boggling.
> >
> > I think of cognitivist, behaviorists socio cultural theorists, etc,
> etc.
> > arguing over who bats next, not realizing that the rules of the game
> are
> > completely changing.  Changing in ways we don't even have a vocabulary
> to
> > talk about yet.
> >
> > Michael
> >
> > ________________________________
> >
> > From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of David H Kirshner
> > Sent: Tue 1/11/2011 10:45 PM
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: RE: [xmca] Brains, Computer, and the Future of Education
> >
> >
> >
> > Larry,
> >
> > Here's my sociology of science account of the rise of brain studies as
> a
> > substitute for learning theory.
> >
> > 1. In Kuhnian terms, psychology is a preparadigmatic science. For
> > instance, learning is variously studied in behavioral, cognitive,
> > developmental, and sociocultural schools that conceive of learning in
> > fundamentally distinct ways.
> >
> > 2. The grand motive of preparadigmatic science is establishment of
> > paradigmatic consensus. Each school is in competition with the others
> to
> > unify the field under its umbrella by coming to accommodate the
> > interests of the other schools while still preserving the essence of
> its
> > own unique perspective. Most often this competition is implicit, but
> > periodically it leads to open conflict as in Chomsky's repudiation of
> > Skinner's effort to account for "Verbal Behavior," or in the flare up
> in
> > the late '90s between James Greeno and John Anderson and company over
> > cognitivist efforts to account for the situated character of learning.
> >
> > 3. The dominant paradigm in any period always is the one to most
> > strenuously pursue hegemonic designs on the field. The cognitivists'
> > embracing of the rhetoric of situativity has cost them dearly: they no
> > longer can forefront the technical machinery of information processing
> > theory and artificial intelligence computer simulation as their
> central
> > technical method and theoretical thrust. This is really a crisis point
> > for cognitivists. They gained prominence through the Information
> > Processing approach, and are coasting along on their reputation.
> > Embracing brain science enables them to maintain the surface features
> of
> > dynamic "science," while providing a convenient disguise for the fact
> > that there's no longer a central metaphor for learning that is being
> > elaborated and developed by that community.
> >
> > 4. Projecting this forward a decade or so, we have the likelihood of
> > diminishment of the importance of the cognitivist umbrella, and
> renewed
> > opportunity for the other schools to push toward the front of the
> pack.
> > ...should be lots of fun.
> >
> > David
> >
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
> > On Behalf Of Larry Purss
> > Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 7:37 AM
> > To: lchcmike@gmail.com; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: Re: [xmca] Brains, Computer, and the Future of Education
> >
> > Mike,
> >
> > The band wagon may not be a strong enough metaphor.  The image of a
> > steam
> > roller seems more accurate.  I mentioned earlier that the term ZPD is
> > now a
> > recognized term in many school settings [as scaffolding].  However
> this
> > alternative metaphor of mind as computer or mind  as brain is a far
> more
> > powerful metaphor in schools. Often school staffs are fascinated with
> > these
> > explanations and believe that neuroscience is finally getting to the
> > "heart"
> > of the matter [couldn't resist the contradictary metaphor]. Brain
> > science as
> > an explanation of learning is becoming   the dominant narrative in
> > many school debates.  I was wondering if there are any "simplified'
> > articles
> > for a general audience that engage with these neuro/brain metaphors
> that
> > would lead to school staffs possibly having a dialogue [by introducing
> > dought]  I have shared a few articles with interested staff who love
> > ideas
> > but they were too "theoretical" for a staff discussion.
> >
> > With this steam roller comes the call for justifying your practice in
> > schools by using "best practices" which are "evidence based".  This
> > evidence often is dominated by evidence from neuroscience
> >
> >  I have attempted to introduce sociocultural perspectives into the
> > debate in
> >  response to the neuro/brain social representations of learning but I
> > would
> > appreciate an  article for a general audience that I could hand out to
> > start
> > a dialogue among school staffs.
> >
> > Mike, I believe this frame of reference is not a "fad" or a "band
> wagon"
> > but is developing into a "conventionalized" metaphor which most
> > educators
> > may use to explain "learning" in  schools.  Fad indicates a transitory
> > phenomena and neuroscience seems a longer lasting  phenomena.
> >
> > I am looking for an article that does not refute or contradict the
> > neuroscience explanations but rather LINKS the  ideas to sociocultural
> > concepts.
> >
> > One of the principals in a school I work in is attending this
> > conference,
> > and principals do have influence in school cultures.  I hope to
> > influence
> > her.
> >
> > Larry
> >
> > On Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 8:07 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > The bandwagon is visible coming over the horizon!
> > > Check it out at http://www.learningandthebrain.com/brain28.html.
> > > Join for just the price of a click and a clack.
> > > mike
> > > __________________________________________
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