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[Xmca-l] Re: Request for advice
Wholeheartedly do I endorse Andy's idea--that separating the language of
the curriculum (the regulative register, to use a Bernsteinian term) from
the language of the tutorial (the instructional register, in the Bernstein
lingo) is a subversive move rather than a revolutionary one: it is designed
to bring in the native language through the back door, until we are in a
position to lay revolutionary hands on the regulative register itself. But
I think that we may find that laying native-speaking hands on the
regulative register will sometimes have the unexpected effect of
transforming the native language as well.
The Chinese language passed through a very interesting period in the early
twentieth centruy called the May Fourth Movement when revolutionaries tried
to introduce foreign political concepts with foreign sounds, so that for
example "democracy" became "de-mo-ke-la-xi". Today it is the morphemes and
not the phonemes we use: "min zhu zhu yi" = "people-rule-thought-ism".
Needless to say it is the latter word that united China in 1989 during the
70th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement which coincided with the 200th
anniversary of the French Revolution, the death of Hu Yaobang, and which
culiminated in the so-called Tiananmen Massacre (a movement which the West
still mistakenly associates with students, with Gorbachov's visit to
Beijing, with the supposed impact of the VOA and the BBC and thus with
their own shining example, showing that the West still thinks about
democracy as "de-mo-ke-la-xi").
Transforming the native language is not a bad thing at all, unless of
course you are a craven fundamentalist, in which case there would be a
turning of backs rather than a laying on of revolutionary hands (the good
thing about revolutionaries is that they are always willing to undertake a
revolutionary reconstruction of their own ideas; the bad thing about them
is that they sometimes want to do this first, before they have laid
revolutionary hands on the environment, and the Genetic Law--we control
ourselves through controlling the environment--tells us that this is
contrary to nature and will not do). But this brings us back to the
question of what exactly needs to change, and how. Teaching mathematics is
a bit of a dodge: mathematics already has a (written) language of its own,
and all we really need to do is to oralize it. Helena's task is much more
And yet not completely unrelated. Since Helena has given me permission to
bust the one frame rule, let me take the example I have last time;
"Fracture growth rate is directly proportional to the increase in pressure
on the materials." The underlying structure of this clause is just "y = f
(x)", that is, "Fracture growth rate" = "increase in pressure on the
materials"/n. How did we get this structure, which barely exists in Greek
and Latin, and which certainly did not exist in Chaucerian English (see his
"Discourse on the Astrolabe", a text that he wrote in the scientific
English of the time, which is actually quite close to the sort of thing we
see in discovery learning classes based on the Piagetian model. Halliday's
answer to this question actually moves us AWAY from the "hands on" model of
science teaching and towards the more Davydovian theoretical model of
We go this structure from the work of people like Galileo and Newton, and
in Newton's "Opticks" we can actually see it taking shape, as Newton gets
himself a prism and does experiments (rather as Chaucer did with his
astrolabe, and Galileo with his telescope) and then tries to write them up.
He finds that he needs words to describe the convex quality of lenses, and
so he invents the word "plumpness". This word did not stick, but the
concept certainly did, and so did the other words that arose from it:
"refraction", "reflection", "dispersion", etc.
So perhaps one way in which small group work works is as a time machine: it
allows the tutor to dialogically unpack the "matematized" terms of
discourse into everyday speech, e.g.
Tutor: Look at this. "Fracture growth rate". What is it? Is it a fracture?
Is it a growth? Or is it a rate?
T: Right. What kind of rate? Is it fracture rate or growth rate?
T: Good. But growth rate of what?
T: You got it. Now, what would your mother say about this, if you were
eating crackers and making a mess? She might say this: The cracker cracks
are growing fast? Or slow?
Of course the other terms can be unpacked in the same way, until these
"yes/no" questions and "why" questions eventually give rise to questions
like "Why does the fracture growth rate increase/decrease in circumstance
Let me make two points about this kind of unpacking and then I'll shut up.
The first is Andy's: it can and should be done in the native language, not
least because when we do this in the native language we may find ourselves
setting new standards in native language teaching as well. But the second
is that for precisely that reason, I don't think it depends on small
groups, peer tutorials, and the kinds of classroom interaction patterns
that have become historically associated with it in the West
for historically specific reasons, some of which have more to do
with bourgeois individualism than with pedagogical efficiency).
On Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 11:53 PM, Helena Worthen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> David, I'll make an exception this time.
> Helena Worthen
> Vietnam blog: helenaworthen.wordpress.com
> On Jan 4, 2016, at 2:19 PM, David Kellogg wrote:
> > A number of discussants have made the suggestion of small groups,
> > tutorials, peer presentations, and so on, and this is an excellent
> > suggestion. But we need know—and be able to explain—exactly why it is
> > excellent, in what this excellence consists of, and what the limitations
> > the excellence are, because we often do find that in situations like the
> > one which Helena is describing (situations like the ones where I have
> > the last three and a half decades teaching), when we try to introduce
> > groups, tutorials, and peer presentations that we’ve only multiplied the
> > problems that we started with and sometimes even exacerbated them. For if
> > the professor has only a minimal grasp of English, and if the students
> > it almost impossible to have a conversation about the topic even when the
> > professor is prompting them, we have to ask what the effect of removing
> > sidelining or backgrounding the professor will be. Many students feel—and
> > the evidence is that they are not entirely wrong—that the effect is to
> > remove or to background the only source of English and the main source of
> > conceptual knowledge.
> > The argument has to be taken seriously, for at least three reasons. First
> > of all, as I said, there’s a lot of evidence that shows that although the
> > professor undoubtedly feels a great deal of relief that his or her poor
> > grasp of English is no longer the centre of the student’s critical
> > attention, all that’s really been accomplished is to move the centre of
> > attention to a student who in some cases bears it even less well than the
> > professor did. Often the results of small groups are not noticeably
> > than the results of teacher fronted classes, except in “skills based”
> > classes which offer practice to learners, e.g. conversation classes, and
> > the case of conceptual knowledge based classes the results are sometimes
> > dramatically worse. In fact, Hywel Coleman’s large scale studies in
> > showed that there really wasn’t any particular advantage for small
> > over large classes, given highly motivated students (and the autodidacts
> > amongst us can easily see why this might be).
> > Secondly, even if there were no objective evidence on the side of large
> > classes and against groupwork, there is an important subjective argument.
> > Many learners, right or wrong, feel they learn better from a professor
> > from their peers, just as we sometimes feel that we learn better from our
> > peers than from ourselves (or our children). This subjective argument is
> > particularly important because I think one reason why groupwork and peer
> > seminar have such clout with us is that, unlike Professor Silverstein, we
> > are more interested in empowering our learners than merely informing
> > yet again, of the ways they are disempowered. The argument that groupwork
> > and peer seminars are right because they empower learners appears to be
> > unanswerable—but suppose the learners use this power to call for the
> > of large professor led classes? The argument is, once again,
> > and I think it shows the dangers of confusing issues that are pedagogical
> > (and therefore social, political) with issues that are ethical (and
> > therefore interpersonal, moral). The personal is NOT political; they are
> > two very different, if linked, levels of being.
> > But thirdly I think the argument in favor of large classes deserves to be
> > taken seriously because it will help us get beneath the surface and find
> > out what it is about small classes that is pedagogically more effective.
> > is certainly not the case that all small classes are pedagogically
> > effective nor is it the case that large classes never are. Is it SIMPLY
> > aesthetic-political preference, that small is beautiful? Is it once again
> > something we all favor for the convenience of the instructor rather than
> > for the comfort of the student? Or is there something about the shape of
> > actual discourse that we should be attending to, not least because it
> > be transferable to larger classes? Does this mysterious factor, having to
> > do with the shape of actual discourse, apply equally to so-called
> > subjects, where the emphasis is on what Vygotsky calls “science concepts”
> > and to everyday conversation classes?
> > (But...I am well over Helena's one screen limit, and I feel the cold
> > hand of her hook on my throat....)
> > David Kellogg
> > Macquarie University
> > On Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 10:14 AM, Helena Worthen <email@example.com
> > wrote:
> >> Hmm, this will take me some research to check out. Thank you, Michael -
> >> However, I was given a Cross-Cultural leadership class to teach (in
> >> English) that drew from a syllabus placed online by an MIT professor. I
> >> said yes just to see what it would be like. It was a skimpy syllabus
> >> relied heavily on the kind of student who would show up in a MIT class
> >> (multi-national and academically skilled) and the readings were mostly
> >> Amazon; you got a button to click and buy. I was told that the
> >> lecture notes were all on line but what was actually on line was
> >> he probably wrote in an hour.
> >> I had to re-write the class, of course.
> >> Helena Worthen
> >> firstname.lastname@example.org
> >> Vietnam blog: helenaworthen.wordpress.com
> >> On Jan 3, 2016, at 9:26 PM, Glassman, Michael wrote:
> >>> Hi Helena,
> >>> There is a possibility that your university is attempting to follow the
> >> Open Educational Resource model that is being promoted by UNESCO (that
> >> just a guess). Are they using OpenCourseware, which started at MIT,
> >> major universities post their curriculum and some related resources in
> >> their native language (mostly at this point in English?) A number of
> >> universities similar to yours are attempting to follow this model.
> >> UNESCO itself recognizes the problem that you describe. There is a
> >> part to the OER movement which involves Learning Objects. These are
> >> locally developed, much smaller approaches to teaching - even taking
> >> of OpenCourseware and experimenting with them in local classrooms and
> >> posting them to share and in the best possible worlds discuss with other
> >> universities in Learning Object Repositories. African Virtual
> >> is a good model for this. You can make one an argument that the
> >> can achieve the type of recognition is requires by developing a Learning
> >> Objects Repository for Southeast Asia.
> >>> Michael
> >>> -----Original Message-----
> >>> From: email@example.com
> >> [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
> >> Behalf Of Helena Worthen
> >>> Sent: Saturday, January 02, 2016 11:39 PM
> >>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <email@example.com>
> >>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Request for advice
> >>> Thank you, Elinami.
> >>> H
> >>> Helena Worthen
> >>> firstname.lastname@example.org
> >>> Vietnam blog: helenaworthen.wordpress.com
> >>> On Jan 3, 2016, at 11:32 AM, Elinami Swai wrote:
> >>>> Dear Helena.
> >>>> Your dilemma resonates with what we are experiencing in Tanzania. As a
> >>>> post colonial country, we have been grappling with the issue of
> >>>> language of instruction for a very long time. Our education system has
> >>>> been jogging between Kiswahili and English and for a long time we had
> >>>> settled on Kiswahili for all the subjects in elementary level (primary
> >>>> 1-7) and English for secondary to university level.
> >>>> Talk of silences in classrooms. Here and there you could hear a sound
> >>>> of broken English from the teachers. The end product of such a process
> >>>> does not need to be described here.
> >>>> Of recent, the new policy has granted the use of both languages
> >>>> (Kiswahili and English).
> >>>> In your case, think of code-switching and code-mixing. Another
> >>>> strategy is team teaching (check Stanford University).
> >>>> Kind Regards,
> >>>> Elinami
> >>>> On 03/01/2016, Annalisa Aguilar <email@example.com> wrote:
> >>>>> Helena,
> >>>>> Is it possible to ignite their imaginations around the concept of a
> >> seminar?
> >>>>> Or dare I say, peer-learning / study groups?
> >>>>> Vera devised the peer-exam, which is really cool, how about that?
> >>>>> I don't think peer-exam technically qualifies as an "Ivy-League
> >>>>> (though it certainly is innovative), but it's peer-led learning, and
> >>>>> that may be useful for overcoming the obstacles you and your teachers
> >> face?
> >>>>> So those are my (naive) pieces of broccoli and spinach for your
> >>>>> Vietnamese noodle soup.
> >>>>> Kind regards,
> >>>>> Annalisa
> >>>> --
> >>>> Dr. Elinami Swai
> >>>> Senior Lecturer
> >>>> Associate Dean
> >>>> Coordinator, Postgraduate Studies
> >>>> Faculty of Education
> >>>> Open University of Tanzania
> >>>> P.O.Box 23409
> >>>> Dar-Es-Salaam
> >>>> Tell:255-022-2668992/2668820/2668445/26687455
> >>>> Fax:022-2668759
> >>>> Cell: (255) 076-722-8353; (255) 068-722-8353
> >>>> 0230102484
> >>>> ...this faith will still deliver
> >>>> If you live it first to last
> >>>> Not everything which blooms must
> >>>> wither.
> >>>> Not all that was is past