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[Xmca-l] Re: Article on Positioning Theory
"Even to the trained and present eye, it went unnoticed. This has raised to
me very important questions about what is it that teachers actually see,
even when they are looking or thinking they are attending?"
Is a profound question exploring what we are actually attending to when we
are *consciously* attending. Your further insights that,
We simply didn't notice - despite our skill level, engagement, and our
attending. The masking behavior was so effective that we didn't notice -
and this is precisely why the positioning was so powerful and resulted in
Donna, this *concealment* may indicate that what we as teachers are
*attending to* always includes *concealment* as our *attending*
presents partial ASPECTS of our *lived experience* with each other while
other ASPECTS remain *concealed*.
Also you mention you initially PLANNED on attending to the emerging
cognitive development of math concepts, but on *re-reading* the video
sequences, the positioning sequences were so compelling, that your initial
*intention* had to be re-adjusted..
What teacher's are actually *seeing* may be as *constrained* and
*concealed* as what they are *saying* and *hearing* and *doing*. It may be
that the relational flow BETWEEN *revealing* and *concealing* may be very
complex and the conceptual understanding of *discursive* may need to EXTEND
further the notion of *voice* to include *felt tendency* in our
understanding of positioning.
The phrase that we need to *hear each other into voice* speaks to the
vitality of Jennifer's insight that until we EXPLICITLY attend to the
quality of *hearing each other into voice* in contrast to the more
traditional educational goal of helping each student *find their own
voice* [as a possession which they need to locate and claim] we may be
attending to [REVEALING] the more individualistic aspects of *voice* AS
positioning, while the intersubjective dialogical aspect of our
responsibility to HEAR the other INTO voice remains concealed [and
On Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 3:25 PM, Donna Kotsopoulos <email@example.com> wrote:
> Thanks for your comments, Phillip.
> The classroom teacher was textbook exemplary in terms of preparing
> students for collaborative learning and in terms his negotiation of the
> classroom culture and context. Exemplary. In fact, it was a key factor in
> terms of why I chose this class. My goal was to study mathematical learning
> and I did not want poor teaching to distract from that. The reality was
> that my focus was on social interactions more than mathematics, given what
> the videos contained. That was totally unanticipated given how carefully I
> selected the teacher. I was also a seasoned teacher when I conducted the
> I recall, with great clarity, my first viewing of one of the videos where
> the positioning resulting in productive silencing. Most disturbing was
> images of me circulating in the background, the teacher stopping in to
> check on and work with the group. We simply didn't notice - despite our
> skill level, engagement, and our attending. The masking behavior was so
> effective that we didn't notice - and this is precisely why the positioning
> was so powerful and resulted in productive silencing. Even to the trained
> and present eye, it went unnoticed. This has raised to me very important
> questions about what is it that teachers actually see, even when they are
> looking or thinking they are attending? Gee (1999) claim that interactions
> have the potential of infecting future interactions was obvious in the
> videos and watching the broader classroom interactions. It could be that
> what we see is also infected.
> In my current post-secondary teaching, when I circulate amongst groups, it
> is often very clear to me who is suddenly participating when I approach the
> group. What I recognize from this research is that there is likely an
> underlying dynamic that I do not see, even if I try to see it.
> Consequently, assuming I can't see this underlying or subversive context,
> then there is a moral imperative for me to think actively about it when I
> think about teaching and learning.
> Donna Kotsopoulos, Ph.D.
> Associate Professor
> Faculty of Education & Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematics
> Wilfrid Laurier University
> 75 University Avenue West, BA313K
> Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3C5
> (519) 884-0710 x 3953
> DISCLAIMER: This e-mail and any file(s) transmitted with it, is intended
> for the exclusive use by the person(s) mentioned above as recipient(s). Any
> unauthorized distribution, copying or other use is strictly prohibited.
> >>> On 3/26/2014 at 6:00 PM, in message
> <E23E629A42F087498471D39762DF7EB2DCA4221EBA@ESTES.ucdenver.pvt>, "White,
> Phillip" <Phillip.White@ucdenver.edu> wrote:
> your comments resonated with me strongly, Ed. as i read Donna's
> ethnography, i kept on wondering where the teacher was in all this. in my
> experience as a classroom teacher, particularly when students are working
> collaboratively, is constantly moving from group to group observing and
> analyzing the social interactions that should be supporting the learning
> taking place. i rove the room from group to group, jotting down monitoring
> notes (these days on an iPad), particularly noting the group interactions
> in order to make either immediate interventions on the spot, and for
> consideration the next day. i couldn't understand how it came to pass that
> the teacher never observed Mitchell's activity.
> the richness of your descriptions, Donna, illustrated wonderfully the
> complexities of social interactions within a classroom. i wondered, like
> Ed, what engagement expectations had the teacher presented - running a
> classroom of collaborative groups in demanding in paying attention to a
> multiplicity of details. as you noted, Donna, "At the forefront of all
> pedagogical choices made by teachers should be explicit consideration of
> who is privileged and who is silenced and marginalized by such choices" (p.
> 50). regardless of pedagogical practices, it is more than possible, it is
> quite likely that positioning will be undetected. i find myself
> unconvinced my your essentially cause and effect statement that,
> "Participation in collaborative learning may create roadblocks for some
> students in the mathematical learning ..., or in the way in which they come
> to see themselves as a mathematics learners or mathematically able" (p.
> 50). Timothy J. Lensmire's research "When Children Write:
> Critical Re-Visions of the Writing Workshop" (1994) noted that third
> graders were petty, unkind prejudiced and selfish. Lensmire understood
> these behaviors as a reflection of the difficulties, problems and tensions
> with adult American society. Likewise, Karen Gallas' ethnography,
> "Sometimes I Can Be Anything: Power, Gender, and Identity in a Primary
> Classroom" (1997) demonstrates that, as Lensmire noted, students, in this
> case first and second graders, arrive in the classroom with a wide array of
> social practices that involve positioning of each other as well as
> you noted Gee's statement that "interactions have the potential of
> infecting future interactions" (p. 50). and indeed i wondered what history
> your participants Alice, Ella, Joanne, Mitchell and Will had brought to
> this particular activity. my take on this ethnography is that it is
> exceedingly rich, and that there is data embedded there that can explain a
> great deal more than the suggestions that "for educators is to keep in mind
> that for some students, like Mitchell, working collaboratively may not be
> in their best interest" (p. 50). another conclusion could be that
> students, like Mitchell, need additional resources and supports to work in
> a collaborative group. in fact, the behaviors towards Mitchell of Alice,
> Ella and Joanne, suggests that they too fail to understand how to work
> Phillip White, PhD
> Urban Community Teacher Education Program
> Site Coordinator
> Montview Elementary, Aurora, CO
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org [email@example.com]
> On Behalf Of Ed Wall [firstname.lastname@example.org]
> Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 12:48 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Article on Positioning Theory
> I always enjoy reading about the dynamics of mathematics classrooms so
> thanks to Donna.
> Some somewhat random thoughts (and as I am not entirely familiar with the
> terminology of positioning I may use it quite incorrectly) as I've been
> thinking about related issues.
> Teachers are placed in classrooms (positioned?) with certain toolsets and
> among these is something that, in its various forms, is called
> collaborative learning. This is, in a sense, neither good or bad;
> collaborative leaning is simply a tool. When difficulties do arise, it is,
> in a sense, because it becomes a one-size-fits-all method (positioning?)
> for inducing dialogue. When it works it is very very good, when it is bad
> it is horrid (smile). The question, one might say, it gives a sort of
> answer to becomes in mathematics classrooms, at least, how to give
> students opportunities to learn use publicly established ideas, methods,
> and language so as to make, validate, improve, and extend the mathematical
> knowledge of the class. Is this necessary or desirable? It depends on your
> point of view I guess.
> Teachers are placed in some quandaries if they get up from their desk or
> relinquish their place at the blackboard. Collaborative learning of some
> sort (and the group could be two) forces this issue somewhat. However, it
> also surfaces the need for some careful grouping and the possible need to
> publicize appropriately in the collective class. That is, 'positioning'
> yourself as a teacher that supports some sort of collaborative work is
> usefully discomforting (smile).
> Along with this, if done thoughtfully, comes the ability to manufacture
> and juggle ruptures. Mitchell is a nice example of this although
> unfortunately his rupture does not seem to make it out of his group (I tend
> to see this, perhaps incorrectly, a misfire of the very idea of
> collaborative). What I find quite interesting in this regard is Donna's (I
> think I read this correctly) attempt to re-'position' Mitchell and the
> pronounced resistance from Mitchell's colleagues and, in a sense, from
> himself. Ruptures almost always arise with reasonable mathematics tasks and
> are to be cherished (all this is an opinion) for their potential. However,
> realizing that potential takes some serious teacherly skill and I'm not
> sure that re-positioning Mitchell is the solution (he may need to do this
> himself with, one might say, encouragement) although re-positioning his
> rupture may well be.
> Finally, for some reason, I tend to read into the dynamics of Mitchell and
> his group Michel de Certeau's ideas of 'everyday' strategy and tactics.
> Mitchell (and I am, in part, reading myself into this) is engaged in
> tactical maneuvers (he says something to this regard) in the face of a
> somewhat strategic view of mathematics embodied by his colleagues (the
> omnipresent 'it'). He has also put something on the table that with a
> little teacherly push (although this needs some careful thought out) could
> usefully challenge that strategic view of mathematics.
> I have seen this activity done a number of times and when it 'succeeds'
> (my opinion) it usually is because a rupture surfaces for the entire class.
> What I don't know is how people position themselves, if they do, afterwards
> (including the teacher) in the light of the ensuing dialogue. Very
> Ed Wall