another view of Panofsky

From: Ares, Nancy (
Date: Mon May 31 2004 - 12:51:22 PDT


On a different note...

Panofsky contributes important insights to sociocultural theory in her
examination of a "multiple
perspectives" approach to looking at how social class status affects the
treatment of
students in classrooms. I appreciate her broadening the levels of analysis
to help us make sense of classroom processes. The attention to social
as mediating influences for both learning and activity is critically
important to advancing sociocultural theory, as well.
I do think, though, that we must also pay attention to other social
relations operating in classrooms (and
elsewhere) to understand better what is happening and to complexify the
between spheres of activity (e.g., classroom, school, district, society).
Especially in heterogeneous classrooms, issues of race/ethnicity and
language confound analyses that focus solely on one facet, say social class.
It seems that we must take into consideration the
inter-relationship of class, race and language in schools and societies.
(I'm sure
that others would add that attention to gender is equally important.)
Just as social class is, according to Bourdieu, something that is 'done'
than something one 'has,' race/ethnicity are enacted in social spaces of
classrooms, schools, neighborhoods, etc., and enacted differently in the
varied arenas of activity. There is evidence in the
US that middle class White, middle class
Black, middle class Latinos, middle class Asians are treated differentially,
they may share many of the norms and practices that middle class membership
often entails; it seems that outcomes similar to those arising from
teachers' and other educators' social class expectations result, but based
on notions about
race/ethnicity. A recent posting asking about a White teacher teaching
English to Japanese students is another good example of the need to attend
to the dynamism of culture and class as enacted rather than received. What
all this says to me is that, while attending to social relations as they are
played out in classrooms or other settings is critically important,
embracing the complexity and inter-relatedness of such things as social
class and race/ethnicity, gender, etc. is necessary to truly advance our

also, I think that sociocultural theories' strengths
in attending to practices can inform the more structural approaches that
can seem to place students, in this case, in a position of always being
acted upon and as lacking in agency. Students do develop a wealth of
knowledge, skills, and ways of interacting and communicating as a result of
engaging in practices of their homes and communities. It seems to me that
sociocultural frameworks for examining connections/resonances/relationships
across contexts are particularly powerful (see Rogoff's planes of analysis,
1995, for example).

Finally, a different question that emerges from Panofsky's piece is whether
and how mediating artifacts such as texts or computers function similarly to
social relations. Does it make sense to place them both at the 'top' of the
activity system triangle (see Cole & Engestrom, 1993)? Or do they function
in multiple facets of systems (e.g., roles, rules)?

Enough already,

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