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[Xmca-l] Re: Article on Positioning Theory



Donna,

What's ambiguous in your paper and the ensuing discussion is whether dysfunctional relations within collaborative groups are inevitable (owing to some as yet unnamed principle of group dynamics), or are collaborations merely usually dysfunction (at least for some participants) because of the statistical unlikelihood of finding an entire set of people for whom effective collaborative relations are possible, given that "collaborative learning doesn't work for everyone."

Thinking about this former possibility, I think it's important to resist looking only inward to invariant structures of group dynamics. First of all, the broader culture creates a context. For instance, Israeli school relations are deeply influenced by the cultural principle of "Gibush" or social cohesion. As well, the patterns of participation can be influenced by positioning of the group relative to external entities, for instance, as illustrated by the Hawthorne effect (the increased productivity of workers that accrued to the fact that they had been selected to be studied). Perhaps the solidarity that can build within oppressed groups is a better example.

David

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Donna Kotsopoulos
Sent: Thursday, March 27, 2014 3:41 PM
To: Culture Activity eXtended Mind
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Article on Positioning Theory

Thanks for the probes, Greg!

I think that to answer your question, I may need to ask a series of rhetorical questions.

Have you ever worked collaboratively with others where: 
(a) someone had to agree to disagree?
(b) there was a slacker in the group?
(c) someone did all the work and all the talking?
(d) there was consensus but you wouldn't have called it collaboration?
(e) what you hoped to gain from the experience was not up to what you expected?

I believe most people, including children, would answer yes to some or all of those questions. This is because there is an endemic deficit to collaboration that has been ignored in the literature in my view. It's been a cup overflowing discourse despite the realities of many people.

I still have students collaborate - pretty extensively. My goals and expectations are different now. My approach in sharing the expectations is different now. I address those rhetorical questions head-on and encourage the students to own their own responsibility and to keep others accountable.

To some extent collaboration is merely an illusion. While we hope that shared discourse leads to learning, this can't be assumed and what is learned, intended or otherwise, can't be assumed. Similar to teacher directed learning, collaborative learning doesn't work for everyone. If an artifact or a decision is the outcome of collaborations, it is probable that someone in the group perhaps didn't agree or had alternative ideas. Collaboration and consensus are different. Collaboration is incredible complex and hard to achieve. Even as adults, the challenge is formidable - its because there is an illusion that must be perpetuated in order to achieve an end. Ultimately, a united front is presented - despite the fact that there may have been problems.




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
www.wlu.ca/education/dkotsopoulos
www.wlu.ca/mathbrains


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 3/27/2014 at 3:47 PM, in message <CAHH++Pn57e7juVzXvm2TK5dhXDp8bG6MNxzAgUqSaFoAfjc4-Q@mail.gmail.com>, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com> wrote:

Donna,
I wonder if you could speak more about the endemic nature of failure in collaboration? (and/or the inherent deficit of ANY collaboration?)

Perhaps some more examples of the kind of thing that you are seeing as being systematic and consistent across all (nearly all?) instances of collaboration?

If I'm following you, your key point is that there may be (always will be?) people for whom collaboration will not work and for whom there is no such thing as a good collaboration (e.g., p. 50 - "for some students...
collaboration may not be in their best interests").

Do you feel that there is no way to help students (both the alienated and the alienating) to be better collaborators? And do you feel that these are inherent characteristics of these students or does it matter what types of groups they are being asked to collaborate with? Am I missing your point entirely?

(and I can't help but wonder about the larger cultural contexts in which these social contexts are built and the degree to which the failure of collaboration might actually be pointing us to a larger failure - a system(at)ic social/cultural failure in which social exclusion is demanded by our dominant social system and the exclusions observed in classroom collaborations are just children doing what they have learned is "normal"; but maybe things are different in Canada?).

My rose colored collaboration glasses seem to be stuck to my head and, much as I try, I can't get them off. Perhaps you can help me remove them?

-greg


On Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 12:52 PM, Donna Kotsopoulos <dkotsopo@wlu.ca> wrote:

> I'll have to think about some more about your ideas. My immediate 
> thought when I read "essentialize the student, as well as view them as 
> having a deficit," was, no. More inline with my thinking is that it 
> may be more that my assertions essentialize humans working together 
> more generally (in the
> plural) rather than one student or any one person. It is a deficit of 
> group dynamics rather than of an individual.
>
> It might be worth turning our attention to another student in the 
> article, Will. Will's participation in the group was unchallenged 
> despite his level of engagement. In early drafts of the paper, I 
> talked about his productive privileging - also using productive in a 
> dystopic sense. This didn't make it into the paper - which is an 
> altogether different discussion about attempts to theorize; however, 
> Will also illustrates a different type of deficit that is privilege by 
> the group. It isn't Will or Mitchell that is a deficit. The deficit exists inherently in any collaborative endeavor.
>
> I should make clear that I started out as collaborative learning 
> enthusiast. Indeed, my view is that much of individual's success in 
> life is situated in their ability to work with others. That being 
> said, my research illustrates that the learning that is intended and 
> the learning that actually materializes is often quite different. So 
> approaching collaborative learning form this lense is now different for me.
> Collaborative learning has pretty much been seen from pretty rosy glasses.
> It's been the slayer of teacher directed learning. My research 
> suggests a more critical perspective is warranted.
>
> d.
>
>
>
>
> 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
> www.wlu.ca/education/dkotsopoulos
> www.wlu.ca/mathbrains
>
>
> 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 3/27/2014 at 2:30 PM, in message
> <E23E629A42F087498471D39762DF7EB2DCA4221EC2@ESTES.ucdenver.pvt>, 
> "White, Phillip" <Phillip.White@ucdenver.edu> wrote:
>
> greetings, again Donna  -
>
> i do agree with Huw here, that the difficulties you've uncovered in 
> your ethnography reflects what i was initially attempting to get 
> across to you in my first posting.
>
> which is why i'm uncertain in accepting your conclusion that "for some 
> students, like Mitchell, working collaboratively may not be in their 
> best interests."  you have asserted that the classroom teacher is 
> exemplary, yet there is no evidence to support this description within your ethnography.
>  as a clinical teacher coach and classroom teacher for more than forty 
> years, i'd be prone to wonder, based on the described behavior of the 
> three girls, exactly what conditions for learning (Cambourne) were 
> actually in place.
>
> i have found the ethnography highly thought provoking and strongly 
> connected with your deep sympathy for students who are marginalized 
> ...  at the same time, positioning is an endemic tension not only in 
> classrooms but throughout all of society's points of collaboration - 
> certainly the inherent political and social injustices of position was 
> first brought to my attention reading the works of Gloria Steinem, for example.
>
> what i fear is that by following your suggestion that for students who 
> experience difficulties in collaboration, by understanding the 
> activity itself of collaboration as not in their best interests, is to 
> both essentialize the student, as well as view them as having a deficit.
>
> phillip
>
>
> Phillip White, PhD
> Urban Community Teacher Education Program Site Coordinator Montview 
> Elementary, Aurora, CO phillip.white@ucdenver.edu or 
> pawhite@aps.k12.co.us ________________________________________
> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu 
> [xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Huw Lloyd 
> [huw.softdesigns@gmail.com]
> Sent: Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:33 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Article on Positioning Theory
>
> Dear Donna,
>
> The impressions I thought about were:
>
> 1. The difficult task of establishing a collaboration so that everyone 
> is committed voluntarily and that allows for re-appraisal of the commitments.
> That is, to establish a task in which "positions" are not a big deal.
>
> 2. Problematic aspects of the activity: the priming of a competitive 
> schema in the positioning questionaire and the operational nature of 
> much of the work.  It seems to me that the collaborative conjuction of 
> the various operations (cutting shapes etc) is in the ongoing planning 
> and directives, but that the emphasis is on the making.
>
> 3. The relations of "posiitioning" to inferential perspectives 
> (Brandom) and methods to show its "genesis".
>
> So this seems, to me, to be all about the difficulty children have 
> with planning and thinking about their tasks: how they need to be 
> doing them in order to help them think about the planning but also the 
> potential amplification of the problem if they are doing it in a "scrum".
>
> I think what you are reporting serves to elucidate the complexity (for 
> the
> children) in this task and how the difficulties in coming up against 
> this complexity may obscure the intended mathematical content (i.e. 
> reduce the salience of the mathematical concepts).
>
> Perhaps, one basic activity theoretic contribution would be to seek to 
> calibrate the complexity of the collaboration to the point whereby the 
> mathematical concepts themselves become the issues that dominate the 
> planning.
>
> Thank you for presenting the paper!
>
> Best,
> Huw
>



--
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson

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