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[Xmca-l] Re: Article on Positioning Theory

Hi Greg!

Well I generally try to maintain my role as a lurker---but I'm dropping in to make
a  comment or two--hope they make sense and are of some help.  

Andy's point may be what is needed to shape the trajectory of the conversation
around collaboration.  Although his reason may be grounded in a Marxist angle, equally
important is a biological one.  We are hard wired to collaborate---we come with the
ability to engage in intersubjectivity, a fundamentally collaborative process.  So, each
and every time peers, teachers and students, etc. come to some relatively shared
understandings, feelings, or interactively enact an identity, and so forth, they are engaged 
in collaborative acts, i.e.,more than one person/child taking part in an event/activity.  And, 
because events/activities come into existence through discourse practices and are influenced 
by the local culture (its historical past & connection to the larger culture), to understand 
collaboration from participants' point of view requires an understanding of the situation
they are in and how this  situation emerges over time---so, collaboration in educational settings  
is not only a way of "rethinking/restructuring" engagement in contrast to traditional educational 
practices--collaboration is   itself part of a developmental process, just as infants learn how over
time  to collaborate with their parents in different cultures.

So, Andy's questions:   "What kinds of collaborations are needed at this moment?  And, "how
should they be configured?" can be combined with so many other contextual questions that can
help unravel what collaboration means and how should collaboration be configured.  For example,
how do children come to value (or see as morally right) helping/coordinating behaviors? Under
what circumstances to children collaborate (help) each other and how is this related to the social
norms and expectations?  I have found that the context shapes what collaboration means and as a 
consequence influences the social processes that enable children to cooperate (or not) with each other. 
An essential part of any collaboration, as Donna points out, is a positioning process---one that is also  
influenced by the meaning/definition/value/moral aspects of engaging in learning activity with others. 

There are so many other questions to be asked to figure out "collaboration"---I hope my musings
on the topic contributes a bit.  In any case, Donna's paper has certainly pushed my thinking--

An appreciative lurker!


What KINDS of
> collaborations are needed at this moment? How should they be configured.

On Mar 29, 2014, at 7:50 AM, Greg Thompson wrote:

> 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?
> -greg
> 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
> http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson

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