"Unpacking" social interaction and social class

From: Phil Chappell (phil_chappell@access.inet.co.th)
Date: Sun May 09 2004 - 05:04:10 PDT

Dear Folks,

As some know, I am interested in how collaboration during classroom (other)
language learning activity promotes learning.

Today I read and re-read an article by Carolyn Panofsky (in the new book on
LSV and Education: Vygotsky's Educational Theory in Cultural Context) in
which she focuses on social interaction as a form of mediation in the
classroom. The main thrust is that the plethora of ethnographic and
anthropological research done on the issue of social class and its impact
on the personality and agency of students over time in classroom settings
could be reassessed to greater depths by applying theoretical frameworks
developed Vygotsky, Ratner and Bordieu.

Panofsky cites well-known research done by Ray Rist, Kathleen Wilcox, and
James Collins, and exemplifies very convincingly the greater depths of
analysis that are enabled using Vygotsky's theory of mediation, Bourdieu's
notions of habitus, field and capital, as well as Ratner's 5 main kinds of
cultural phenomena (cultural activities; cultural values, schemas,
meanings, concepts; physical artefacts; psychological phenomenon; agency)
see http://www.humboldt1.com/~cr2/culture.htm

This paper in itself would be a great one for discussion here, but more
pressing for me is to source other studies that don't simply conceive
social class of constituting fixed entities, but rather situated spaces
"...invisible realities that cannot be shown but which organise agents'
practices and representations" (Bourdieu). I'm interested in looking in
greater detail not so much at the discourse between teacher and student,
but at the possible "symbolic violence" (Bordieu) that emerges through
creation of distances due to social class in student activity where the
teacher is not a direct participant. The work of Basil Bernstein is
obviously of significance here, too.

Panofsky's literature review came up with very little in terms of work done
on the dynamics of the processes of social interaction as mediation. I
agree with her statement that "[T]he mediation of social relations - the
dynamics of power, position, social location in the social interaction of
learning - is of profound significance in education". I know of a couple of
studies related to L2 learning and development. Anything else that anyone's
aware of?

Phil Chappell

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