Re: [xmca] LCA: Transparency continued

From: Gordon Wells (
Date: Sat Jul 02 2005 - 17:34:01 PDT

Mike (Cole) wrote:

>Thanks, Michael, for a copy of your paper which takes the discussion
>in a direction I did not anticipate on the basis of your note.
>Here are some reactions and indications of why I think it relevant
>to the sign/tool discussion.
>Speaking of seeing "through" a graph to what the graph represents,
>Michael writes:
> This has an equivalent in visual perception. Although there are
>specks on my glasses, I frequently do not experience them in my
>perception; I have adapted to their presence and see as if they did
>not exist.
>Michael relates the shift from separation of sign and referent, or
>non-transparent to transparent to the shift from action to
>operation. Seems reasonable. But, exactly, is the nature of this

I have thought about the same transparency/fusion with respect to the
difference between spontaneous speech and writing. When I speak "I
don't know what I mean until I hear what I say" but in writing there
is nearly always some degree of attention to the wording in advance
of actually typing/writing the text and also in editing the draft
before addressing it to an audience. [I wonder, where does sending
messages to this listserv come on this continuum?]

Applying this difference in degree of transparency to classroom
interaction, I have suggested that it is not very effective to ask
teachers to think about the formation of the questions they ask in
terms of the actual words that they speak, e.g. "what makes the hands
turn on the clock?" v. "What do you think might cause the hands to
turn on the clock?". Instead, it seems more effective to ask them to
focus on the action for which the wording is the mediating operation,
e.g. Goal = to involve the students in offering their ideas about the
phenomenon, rather than Goal = for students to give the correct
explanation of the clock mechanism.

To pick up an earlier point made by Ana, adopting the former goal
enables the teacher to diagnose the student(s)' degree of
understanding as well as involving them actively in a sense-making


Gordon Wells
Dept of Education,
UC Santa Cruz.

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