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[Xmca-l] Re: Article on Positioning Theory

I'm learning a lot from all this! :)
If (in my example of the artist hiring a technician) we were to ask "How is the technician positioned as a technician and how is the artist positioned as an artist?" I am assuming that my reader has acquired the same concepts of "technician" and "artist", that is, that they are somewhat educated citizens of a society in which these "roles" (?) are meaningful. In other words, "positioning" is something which takes place to a great extent before the collaborators meet. Likewise, as Greg pointed out, the acceptable and expected modes of collaboration are also created before the kids walk into the classroom. So positioning and collaboration are cultural products which pre-exist their instantiation in any collaborative act.
*Andy Blunden*

Greg Thompson wrote:
Your email points to an interesting tension that I think is at the center
of the discussion of Donna's paper. On the one hand you note that
collaboration is hard wired, biological, and (seemingly) inevitable. On the
other hand you point out that we have to teach children to collaborate, and
collaborative classrooms can be contrasted with traditional education
(which is, by implication, not collaborative).

I take Andy's point to be that even traditional education is collaborative
- just a different kind of collaboration from what you find in a
"collaborative classroom." But the kind of collaboration we find in
traditional classrooms might not be a good type of collaboration for
everyone just as the "collaborative classrooms that Donna describes appear
not to be good for everyone.

Thus, we see two notions of collaboration. One in which "collaboration" is
everywhere (even in traditional education!) and the other in which it must
be "accomplished" or "made" by particular means - "collaborative

That seems to me to be one of the central tensions between folks discussing
on the listserve.

And it seems to me like there is some really important work still to be
done in laying bare this contradiction between notions of "collaboration"
and notions of "classroom collaboration".

For example, how can we find "collaboration" in unexpected places (e.g.
"traditional education")? Similarly, how the different configurations of
"collaboration" can be differently productive for different children. And
also important, as Donna has pointed out, how might "classroom
collaboration" not be so "collaborative"?!

So then with this distinction, we might say that "collaborative classrooms"
might not be a panacea, but we could hardly solve any of the many problems
that confront us without some form of "collaboration."

That's just my two nickels worth.
(same as yesterday's two cents but adjusted for inflation).

"But also when I am active scientifically, etc. - an activity which I can
seldom perform in direct community with others - then my activity is
social, because I perform it as a man. Not only is the material of my
activity given to me as a social product (as is even the language in which
the thinker is active): my own existence is social activity, and therefore
that which I make of myself, I make of myself for society and with the
consciousness of myself as a social being."
Marx, 1844, p. 298

On Sat, Mar 29, 2014 at 12:01 PM, Stone, Lynda <lstone@skymail.csus.edu>wrote:

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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
are head over heels for it and some loathe it (one of Donna's points).
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
literature I'm willing to bet that people talk of "collaborative
classrooms" as a panacea (this is how every "new" idea in education is
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
"collaborative classrooms" all about? What are the fundamental
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
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
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>
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
collaborate. Our objectives as teachers to have them collaborate, may
be very relevant to the student or may be even harmful. That student
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
is a compromise of sort for each person. This is the very essence of
interaction. It's the degree and the damage from the compromise that
be weighted.

Mitchell likely would have picked another person to work with if given
option to work alone or work with a partner or small group. I would
that the students he would have picked out would have been "nice"
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
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.


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

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On 3/28/2014 at 9:54 AM, in message <53357F22.1070109@mira.net>,
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 Blunden*

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