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[Xmca-l] Re: Article on Positioning Theory

Folks, if I may jump in here, I think that there is a definitional problem
here: What is collaboration?

Andy seems to be coming at this from the Marx's angle that to be human is
to collaborate (man is a zoopoliticon - humans are collaborative all the
way down...). I think from Andy's point would be that all classrooms are
collaborative. But this isn't the way that most ed researchers think.

The ideology of individualism runs rampant in much theorizing about
education. Ed researchers start at square one that says that students begin
as individuals. In this case "collaboration" is an activity that one must
ACTIVELY make happen in the classroom (or anywhere else for that matter).
"Group projects" and "collaborative classrooms" are seen as exceptions to
the rule of "individualized learning" that is taken as the norm. And in
theorizing about education, "collaborative classroom" has a very particular
meaning (I'm not very familiar with this lit, but I gather this is true
from what Donna has told us - here and in her paper).

I'd add that there is a counterpart in the business world that follows this
same kind of thinking - it's called "working in teams." Again, this
involves an active and conscious decision to do something different from
what people normally do (i.e. "individual work") and have them work
together. Most folks in business know this genre/frame of interaction. Some
are head over heels for it and some loathe it (one of Donna's points). But
it seems to generally be accepted that "collaboration" is something
unnatural that one must "make" happen.

It is this notion of "collaboration" that Donna is going after. And in the
literature I'm willing to bet that people talk of "collaborative
classrooms" as a panacea (this is how every "new" idea in education is sold
to people). Frankly, I think this makes for a very weak view of
collaboration - and one in need of criticism (as Donna has done).

So I think that this would be a very interesting direction to pursue the
questions that Donna has raised in more depth: what is this discourse about
"collaborative classrooms" all about? What are the fundamental assumptions
that serve as the starting point against which "collaborative classrooms"
are seen as having to be "made"? And, to follow Andy's thinking, isn't
collaboration always already there in the classroom - in the class clown's
jokes, in the passing of notes during class, the conspiring against the
teacher or conspiring with the teacher against another class or the
principal, etc. (and I bet if you looked closer, you'd find that even
Mitchell is involved in some pretty impressive collaborations in this
classroom! It's just that they won't be happening during those times that
are EXPLICITLY marked as "collaborative work").

And I think this will naturally lead not to the question of "to collaborate
or not to collaborate" but rather to Andy's question: What KINDS of
collaborations are needed at this moment? How should they be configured.

Collaboration anyone?

On Sat, Mar 29, 2014 at 5:58 AM, Donna Kotsopoulos <dkotsopo@wlu.ca> wrote:

> It's been a pleasure joining the group so thank you for this invitation. I
> admire the scholarly exchange and it has really stretched my thinking in a
> number of ways.
> Yes, for some students collaboration may not be in their best interest to
> collaborate. Our objectives as teachers to have them collaborate, may not
> be very relevant to the student or may be even harmful. That student that
> really ought to have an option has to compromise something in such
> instances - their emotional, social, and or intellectual well
> being/advancement, for example. That being said, any collaborative effort
> is a compromise of sort for each person. This is the very essence of human
> interaction. It's the degree and the damage from the compromise that must
> be weighted.
> Mitchell likely would have picked another person to work with if given the
> option to work alone or work with a partner or small group. I would surmise
> that the students he would have picked out would have been "nice" students,
> for lack of better words, than stars mathematically.
> Alice would have picked the cool kids to work with. She would have
> compromised her intellectual outcomes.
> Ella would have picked the smartest in the class by her standards, and
> then should have tried to outsmart them. Ella is another interesting case.
> Always the perpetrator in every group she was in regardless of the group
> membership. Ella was also the class Victorian that year. She would
> compromise social relationships to achieve her means to her end.
> Will would have picked those students that would have done the work for
> him. Learning was an easy compromise for him.
> Collaboration means compromise in my mind. Regardless of the context.
> 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 3/28/2014 at 9:54 AM, in message <53357F22.1070109@mira.net>, Andy
> Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
> Thank you, Donna, BTW, for your generous use of your time and energy to
> discuss these issues with XMCA-ers.
> I think this means then, Donna, that it cannot quite make sense to say
> that "for some students... collaboration may not be in their best
> interests", for the more appropriate posing of this question must be
> *what type of collaboration* is or is not in the best interest of this
> or that student. Which then poses the question of "What types of
> collaboration are there?" rather than turning to the detailed mechanisms
> by which a given individual is positioned in a way which may be damaging
> to them.
> What do you mean by "compromise" in this context, Donna?
> Andy
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.mira.net/~andy/
> Donna Kotsopoulos wrote:
> > I'll try to address the recent comments in one email.
> >
> > Yes, I fully agree with Andy that every human relationship is an
> > instance of collaboration. This should suggest that more realistic
> > expectations of school based collaborations are in order. There is
> > compromise with every human relationship and the same is true in
> > collaborative activities with children and schools.
> >
> > Andy's point about the need for a conceptual framework for these types
> > of understanding such human relations and interactions in a school
> > setting is interesting. Such a framework would have to include the
> > possibility of compromise, an open lens attending to productive
> > silencing and what I had referred to in earlier drafts as productive
> > privileging (Will's case in the article), a critical evaluation of
> > learning and the kinds of learning that has taken place.
> >
> >

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
Status: O