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[Xmca-l] Re: Sociocritical Literacies and more context



Dear all,

Thank you for this discussion. And thank you to Kris, Carlos Tejeda, Miguel
and Manuel for being my mentors and bringing me back to the places in my
mind where the sights and sounds of Moore Hall during the summer months are
kept, and treasured. In my experience and through conversations with
students that attended MSLI, I have come to see that one of the ways the
abstract and the concrete intermingle is in the creation of experiences
that generate lasting meanings and hold a certain kind of experiential
power. MSLI was definately such an experience for me personally -- the kind
that one comes back to as a sort of grounding or conceptual/pedagogical
home-base while learning to navigate, shape and participate in new spaces.
This is related (in my mind) to the notion of play as both an imaginary
context and a concrete experience that, as Manuel described, alters
participants.

Teatro was definately a space within the program where we collectively
experimented with this idea. Perhaps a sort of autobiography or testimonio *in
motion*. Looking back, this was one of the ways social analysis and change
were enfleshed -- not just in the mind but in the body. I am attaching a
piece on teatro where Manuel and I sought to describe some of this by
looking at the Migrant program alongside another educational setting with
Iranian youth. When I think back to both of these settings, I remember both
the deep thinking young people were participating in *and *the palpable
sense of joy and laughter. This too feels important both to imagination and
the notion of a collective ZPD.

On the theme of play and in reference to Kris' earlier post, I had the
opportunity during those years (alongside others) to move between MSLI in
the summer and the 5th Dimension/Education 194 course, during the year.
(Kris I would love to hear how you thought about and designed for this
back-and-forth). Looking back, I can see how 194 was a sort of extended
definition of the ZPD, with play serving as a central organizing concept.
The ways I was invited to work on and dig into these ideas by people like
Kris, Manuel, Miguel and Jolynn Asato felt a lot like re-searching. Here
were these exalted texts and ideas, carrying the scent of history,
explicitly traced back to Hegel and Marx. While the mentorship I received
and subsequently worked to offer undergraduate students involved
explicating these texts for the meaning they were intended to generate, I
was simultaneously invited to critique, re-interpret and re-imagine what
these concepts could offer both in our discussions and in our everyday
practice with under-graduate students, high school aged migrant students
and the elementary aged children at the 5th dimension after-school program.
This type of reading was not unlike the ways we invited students in MSLI to
read Galeano, Freire, Anzaldua, Du Bois, Ana Castillo, etc. So there is a
connection in my mind between the "re-search" approach to educational
inquiry and the kind of reading, writing and social analysis we were
working to develop with students (similar to Edward Said's notion of
critique as "restlessly self-clarifying.") Mike mentioned the notion
of "searching
for an answer to a question you have searched for repeatedly without
success" and I would add to that the notion of continuing to search for an
answer when you do have "success" in the sense of new questions arising and
the proverbial horizon that moves as one approaches it. This intellectual
disposition feels particularly important in the context of political
education, which can have both emancipatory and dogmatic tendencies.

With regards to the collective ZPD and Helena's post on Communities of
practice, my experience of MSLI was that there was a heavy emphasis on the
quality of design and mediation. In this space, collective ZPDs had a
pedagogical architecture that was, on the one hand,  deeply planned,
re-hearsed and (based on history, study and experience) anticipated. I
remember standing outside one of the dorms with Manuel before helping lead
the introductory lecture for MSLI one summer (a role I had been carefully
and generously apprenticed into over time, in large part by watching Carlos
teach). I had conceptual notes, stories and metaphors written in my
notebook and was practicing how I might actually do the lecture with Manuel
listening and offering encouragement and feedback. In a similar vein, I
remember Manuel inviting us to watch videos of master orators and stand-up
comedians during breaks before teaching, warming up intellectually,
emotionally, spiritually.

At the same time, I think collective ZPD's are radically open and
improvisatory spaces. There is or can be a generative dialectic between the
overt pedagogical goals and plans and the inevitable, desirable and
unanticipated questions, interruptions, critiques and ideas that students
bring to the table. This is always where things got interesting and where
new productive problems arose that required collective thought, action and
perhaps, growth. So although the forms of apprenticeship among
instructional staff and students definately reflected the fluidity of
expert/novice roles, intent participation and expanding responsibility over
time characteristic of communities of practices, the explicit attention to
pedagogy/mediation both in practice and in the research on MSLI is one of
the ways I think it may also differ. Direct teaching (what Carlos [drawing
on Bakhtin] defined as "Dialogue-1" - distinct from Monologue) was
re-imagined as an art or craft that had a central though not singular role
to play in the everyday development of collective ZPDs. This is not to say
that problems of teacher script vs. students script and the concrete
challenges of creating third spaces did not arise, as they always do. (And
as working within the activity system of academia also created its own
problems and contradictions). But that moving away from pedagogy was not
the spirit of the context - one tasked with the historical responsibility
of supporting students to analyze and work to transform social problems
that directly effected themselves and their families while developing
academic skills they have been systematically denied.

I spent some time in my dissertation trying to articulate the uniquely
collective approach to learning in MSLI and would be happy to share the
chapter. At the time I referred to the phenomenon I was analyzing as
"collective mind" which I now see as having its strengths and weaknesses as
a frame. The layers I sought to analyze included the intersubjective,
distributed and radically inclusive quality of epistemic production, the
performative role of language and listening, and the open, experimental
tone of assistance. Fred Erickson's work on zones of proximal development
was invaluable here (see attached article on "going for the zone" and
particularly the notion of the ZPD as an interactional phenomenon).

I am thankful for the space to re-reflect on these experiences and ideas,
and am very interested in the conversation about socio-cultural and
post-colonial definitions of third space that Aria raised in case people
have any suggested references along those lines.

Respectfully,
Shirin

Attachment: FE_Going.pdf
Description: Adobe PDF document

Attachment: Boal's Children .pdf
Description: Adobe PDF document