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[Xmca-l] From Eugene Matusov -- FW: EDUC855 Curricular Map: Sociocultural Theories in Education

Dear XMCAers–


Thanks A LOT to many of you who sent your syllabi and suggestions in response to Ana’s request for the “Sociocultural Theories in Education” course. I do not have the access to XMCA so I asked Ana to ask you.


I have created a draft of the Curricular Map for my doctoral fall seminar, EDUC855 “Sociocultural Theories in Education” – 30 topics (please, see below). My EDUC855 grad students will have a chance to choose topics that they want to study from the Curricular Map and to add new topics of their interest that may be relevant to the class. For each topic, I created it’s label, descriptive teaser and readings. The order if the topics is not important because my students will select a topic they will want to study for a next class. In developing the topics, I focus on sociocultural theories, approaches, applications, and debates. Please do not be concerned about, at times, huge amount of readings for some topics as my students will choose how much they will want to read for each selected topic. Actually, I have completely eliminated homework in my classes and limited in-class reading to 20-30 min. This promotes students self-assignment when they want to study on their own a topic of their own interest (sometimes beyond the semester).


Can you look through my topics to see if I missed something important in terms of sociocultural educational theories, approaches, applications, debates, and readings, please? I’d appreciate your suggestions, including changing titles of topics of their descriptive teasers.






PS (by Ana): Please send  your responses to Eugene at ematusov@udel.edu


Curricular map for EDUC855.16F: Sociocultural Theories of Education


1. Orientation to the class curriculum. Psychological sociocultural approaches (James Wertsch)
Introduction to the course. Why are you taking this class? What do you want to learn? What is “sociocultural” theory/approach to education? What theory/approach is not “sociocultural”? Diverse answers to these questions. 

Diverse sociocultural approaches: Curricular Map for our class. Approaches, dialogic oppositions and applications.

Sociological view of our class: who you are and who am I? Am I a “student,” or a “learner,” or both, or neither? How do you want to be treated in the class: as a “student” or as a “learner” or both? What does it mean in practical terms? Our roles in the class mediated by syllabus. Diverse type of syllabus: Closed Syllabi, Opening Syllabi, Open Syllabi. What should type of syllabus be in our class? Curriculum as content (stuff to study) vs. vista (diverse perspectives on the societal practices and institutions of education). Giving table of context of textbooks and conventional syllabus curricula. Virtual people in the practice. What type of learning activities do we want in our class? Class web (do we need it). What is our next topic?


Wertsch, J. V. (1989). A sociocultural approach to mind: Some theoretical considerations. Cultural Dynamics, 2(2), 140-161. 

Wertsch, J. V. (1991). Voices of the mind: A sociocultural approach to mediated action. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge Press.

2. Lev Vygotsky's sociohistorical theory
How do development and learning relate? Individual and social: cultural, communal, and practice-based... Are we losing agency? One of the major contribution of Vygotsky in developmental psychology and education is that he showed that individual development is NOT rooted in individual -- not even in his/her interaction with the environment, --  but rather in a culture. The key concept for this idea is the "zone of proximal development" (ZPD) created, according to Vygotsky, in a joint activity with more knowledgeable others (peers or adults). Matusov argues that although Vygotsky demonstrated that development is a social and cultural process, he still assumed that the result of the development is individual property of doing everything well by him/herself. According to Matusov, Vygotsky was culturally biased assuming that mastery of solo activity is developmentally more advanced than joint activity with others. Lave resolves the described dichotomy of individual and social by considering an individual as a member of a "community of practice." Do you think that these scholars has gone too far in their emphasis on the social, cultural, and communal nature of human development that they have "forgotten" about individual human agency? What do you think?


Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (ch. 6, 79-91). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Matusov, E. (1998). When solo activity is not privileged: Participation and internalization models of development. Human Development, 41(5-6), 326-349.

Lave, J. (1992, April). Learning as participation in communities of practice (1-6). Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

3. Mediation (Wolfgang Köhler): 6) Cognition as mediation: Cognition in a cage vs. cognition in the wild
What is cognition? What is stupidity? What defines thinking? Smart affordances vs. mediation. Is cognition in a cage different or similar to cognition in the wild? 


Köhler, W. (1927). The mentality of apes (intro, ch1, pp. 1-24). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Waal, F. B. M. d. (1989). Chimpanzee politics: Power and sex among apes (pp. 86-139). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

4. Cognition: Universal vs Particular
Cultural diversity and universality in cognition: Do "primitives" have abstract reasoning? These three sequential chapters (please read them in this order) present one story about how Western culture views traditional cultures. Luria's chapter presents a "deficit model" of portraying others by focusing on deficits in thinking of others. Scribner, who replicated Luria's research and got the same results reinterpreted the findings. She not only found evidence of abstract formal thinking in traditional people's reasoning but she also found a "strange property" of such Western practice as syllogisms. Scribner raised a question of why these practices developed in the history of Western civilizations and what it has to do with schooling. Finally, Latour seems to take the matter further by challenging the idea of illogical and irrational thinking and behavior arguing that "irrationality" can be evidence of cultural "egocentrism" (in Piagetian terms) of the Western observer who is ignorant of his or her own cultural, institutional, and historical contexts in which thinking and behavior are situated. It appears that in the x-cultural studies like Luria's one we learn more about observers and researchers than about observed. Which returns back to Scribner's quest about schooling and asking questions that do not make practical sense (e.g., syllogisms).



Luria, A. R. (1976). Cognitive development, its cultural and social foundations (ch. 1, 3-19; ch. 5, 117-134). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Scribner, S. (1977). Modes of thinking and ways of speaking: Culture and logic reconsidered. In P. N. Johnson-Laird & P. C. Wason (Eds.), Thinking (pp. 483-500). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Latour, B. (1987). Science in action: How to follow scientists and engineers through society (ch. 5, pp. 179-213). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

5. Western schooling and non-Western informal learning
How guidance in informal learning is different/similar to guidance in school? About a decade ago, a friend and colleague of mine returned from Togo, a West African country on the Gulf of Guinea, where he taught mathematics for nine months in a local university. He told me that the native people of Togo do not care about their kids and do not teach them anything. The kids grow like wild grass under the sky and are left to their own devices. My friend gave me a long list of what Togo adults and children do that does not, from his point of view, constitute guidance. Knowing (in an abstract way) the complexity of human practices in any given society, I could not believe his conclusion about the Togo people; however, I felt also that he was probably faced there with some very interesting and real phenomenon.

Dutch researcher Mariétte de Haan’s book about how Mexican Mazahua Indian children learn in their community and in school helps me to understand the phenomenon that my friend faced in Togo. It is not because I believe that how adults provide guidance and children learn in Togo and Mazahua communities are necessarily similar but because to a high degree the phenomenon centers around people from Western middle-class communities to which my friend and I belong. To be exact, it is about relations between the communities. For a long time, Western educators and psychological researchers have believed that “guidance is guidance” and “learning is learning” – they are universal everywhere. Wood, Bruner, and Ross’ pioneering research on adult guidance described important principles of adult engagement with children in adult-child tutoring sessions that the authors called “scaffolding” (see article by Wood, Bruner and Ross). Rogoff (1990) presented these principles of scaffolding.  It appears that my friend could not find these principles in the interactions between Togo adults and children and, thus, he concluded that there was no guidance. Similarly, in de Haan’s research, a non-Mazahua, Mestizo informant reported that Mazahua parents are “not interested in their children… and do not educate” them (p. 74).



Wood, D., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child psychology and Psychiatry, 17, 89-100.

de Haan, M. (1999). Learning as cultural practice: How children learn in a Mexican Mazahua community (ch. 5, 6). Amsterdam: Thela Thesis.

6. Activity Theory (Vasiliy Davydov, Yrjö Engeström)
Activity Theory claims that human (and higher animals') subjectivity is shaped by their purposeful activities, by their goals. Goals make human activity meaningful. However, goals are undergoing through transformation in the activity. Activity, based on overcoming obstacles, generates the subject and the object mediated by tools and solutions. Activities involve contradictions. Learning is a by-product of a purposeful activity. To teach means to engage students in certain activities that are meaningful, i.e., purposeful, for the students.


Davydov, V. V. (1998). The concept of developmental teaching. Journal of Russian & East European Psychology, 36(4), 11-36. 

Davydov, V. V., & Tsvetkovich, Z. (1991). On the objective origin of the concept of fractions. Focus on learning problems in Mathematics, 13(1), 13-64. 

Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretic approach to developmental research. Helsinki, Finland: Orienta-Konsultit Oy.

Engeström, Y., Miettinen, R., & Punamèaki-Gitai, R.-L. (1999). Perspectives on activity theory. New York: Cambridge University Press.

7. Situated cognition (Jean Lave and others): Math in school and everyday life
Math in everyday life: Does school help to do everyday math? School assumes to prepare students for "real life." But does it? Does school math help everyday math? Do people use in grocery store the same math that is used in schools? If school does not teach math used in other practices what does it teach? Why do we need schools?


Säljö, R., & Wyndhamn, J. (1993). Solving everyday problems in the formal setting: An empirical study of the school as context for thought. In S. Chaiklin & J. Lave (Eds.), Understanding practice. Perspectives on activity and context (pp. 327-342). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lave, J. (1988). Cognition in practice: Mind, mathematics, and culture in everyday life (chs. 4-6, pp. 76-144). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Hutchins, E. (1983). Understanding Micronesian navigation. In D. Gentner & A. L. Stevens (Eds.), Mental models (pp. 191-225). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.

8. Teaching as cultural practice: Math in schools
Teaching as a cultural practice: What does it take to be a good math teacher?  What does it mean to teach math in context? Does it mean using everyday contexts for math word problems? Or using hands-on manipulatives? Or fieldtrips? Or engaging kinds in personal and social math-based activism? What kind of math should school teach and how? Is teaching governed by pedagogical techniques or by cultural practices? Can teaching be borrowed from another culture?



Stevenson, H. W., & Stigler, J. W. (1992). The learning gap: Why our schools are failing and what we can learn from Japanese and Chinese education (ch. 9, pp. 174-199). New York: Summit Books.

Lave, J. (1992). Word problems: A microcosm of theories of learning. In P. Light & G. Butterworth (Eds.), Context and cognition: Ways of learning and knowing (pp. 74-92). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Mukhopadhyay, S., & Greer, B. (2001). Modeling with purpose: Mathematics as a critical tool. In B. Atweh, H. Forgasz & B. Nebres (Eds.), Sociocultural research on mathematics education: An international perspective (pp. 295-311). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

9. Community of practice (Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger)
Learning is viewed as transformation of participation and identity in a community of practice as the participants become legitimate peripheral participants. Learning is not separate from social relationships -- a membership in a community of practice. A community is defined by a shared practice, in which the members participate.


Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

10. Community of learners (Ann Brown, Joe Campione)
The idea of a community of learners is based on the premise that learning occurs as people participate in shared endeavors with others, with all playing active but often asymmetrical roles in sociocultural activity. This contrasts with models of learning that are based on one-sided notions of learning— either that it occurs through transmission of knowledge from experts or acquisition of knowledge by novices, with the learner or the others (respectively) in a passive role.


Brown, A. L., & Campione, J. C. (1994). Guided discovery in a community of learners. In K. McGilly (Ed.), Classroom lessons: Integrating cognitive theory and classroom practice. (pp. 229-270). Cambridge, MA,: The MIT Press.

Brown, A. L., & Campione, J. C. (1998). Designing a community of young learners: Theoretical and practical lessons. In N. M. Lambert & B. L. McCombs (Eds.), How students learn: Reforming schools through learner-centered education (pp. 153-186). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Rogoff, B., Matusov, E., & White, C. (1996). Models of teaching and learning: Participation in a community of learners. In D. R. Olson & N. Torrance (Eds.), The handbook of education and human development: New models of learning, teaching and schooling (pp. 388-414). Malden, MA, US: Blackwell Publishers Inc.

Matusov, E., von Duyke, K., & Han, S. (2012). Community of Learners: Ontological and non-ontological projects. Outlines: Critical Social Studies, 14(1), 41-72. 

11. Cultural and social reproduction (Pierre Bourdieu)
In Bourdieu’s social reproduction thesis. Cultural capital is assumed to be one of the central family based endowments whose social class value impacts offspring intergenerational educational probabilities unequally. Inequalities in educational stratification and occupational achievement are reproduced via schools. As an analytic concept, cultural capital has generated considerable interest. But as a mechanism of class analysis the social reproduction thesis, and the role of cultural capital in it, cannot be confirmed empirically in large - scale representative, longitudinal data (or across various national settings). The role of teachers and schools, argued in Bourdieu’s theory to be central agents of exclusion and reproduction of class inequality connecting families to stratification outcomes cannot be confirmed in quantitative research. Cultural capital seen strictly as a mechanism of class reproduction as specified in Bourdieu’s framework, has limited analytic potential that restricts its application in multicultural societies. 


Bourdieu, P. (1977). Cultural reproduction and social reproduction (pp. 487-611). In Power and ideology in education, edited by J. Karabel and A. H. Halsey. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 

Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J. C. (1990). Reproduction in education, society, and culture. London: Sage.

Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (1976). Schooling in capitalist America: Educational reform and the contradictions of economic life. New York: Basic Books.

12. Cultural apprenticeship (Jean Lave, Barbara Rogoff)
The cultural apprentice perspective is an educational theory of apprenticeship concerning the process of learning through cultural, social, and physical integration into the practices associated with the subject, such as workplace training. By developing similar performance to other practitioners, an apprentice will come to understand the tacit (informally taught) duties of the position. In the process of creating this awareness, the learner also affect their environment; as they are accepted by master practitioners, their specific talents and contributions within the field are taken into account and integrated into the overall practice.

The Apprenticeship Perspective can be used to teach procedures to students. For example, tying a shoe, building a fire, and taking blood can all use the Apprenticeship Perspective to teach students these skills. However, it can be used to develop master practitioners in fields that involve increased complexity, numerous webs of interaction, or shifting environments demanding constant attention. Driver education, flight training and sports training all use the Apprenticeship Perspective for learners to learn a specific skill.


Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lave, J. (2011). Apprenticeship in critical ethnographic practice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

13. Funds of knowledge and culturally responsive pedagogy (Luis Moll, Gloria Landson-Billings)
Funds of knowledge is defined by researchers Luis Moll, Cathy Amanti, Deborah Neff, and Norma Gonzalez (2001) “to refer to the historically accumulated and culturally developed bodies of knowledge and skills essential for household or individual functioning and well-being” (p. 133). When teachers shed their role of teacher and expert and, instead, take on a new role as learner, they can come to know their students and the families of their students in new and distinct ways. With this new knowledge, they can begin to see that the households of their students contain rich cultural and cognitive resources and that these resources can and should be used in their classroom in order to provide culturally responsive and meaningful lessons that tap students’ prior knowledge. Information that teachers learn about their students in this process is considered the student’s funds of knowledge.

Culturally relevant or responsive teaching is a pedagogy grounded in teachers' displaying cultural competence: skill at teaching in a cross-cultural or multicultural setting. They enable each student to relate course content to his or her cultural context. While the term culturally relevant teaching often deals specifically with instruction of African American students in the United States. It has been proven to be an effective form of pedagogy for students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. For instance, in Canada, research reflects the need to bridge the gap between traditional Aboriginal education and Western education systems by including spirituality in Aboriginal educational practices. By making education culturally relevant, it is thought to improve academic achievement. Although the majority of this practice is undertaken in a primary or secondary school setting, 


Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & González, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into Practice, 31(2), 132-141.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465-491. 

14. Ecological historical approach to minority school failure (John Ogbu)
Why do so many minority students fail in school? Debate on home-school mismatch and involuntary minorities. Different scholars explain differently of minority students disproportionably fail in school. Vogt, Jordan and Tharp refer to the home-school cultural mismatch as the main source of failure. While Ogbu argues that history of the minority is more important than a cultural mismatch. To solve the problem, Delpit suggests teaching minority students "the master's tools" and culture in an explicit way. However, Gee argues that it is impossible to destroy "the master's house using the master's tools" -- the critical review of institutional power in schools is due.



Ogbu, J. U. (1990). Literacy and schooling in subordinate cultures: The case of Black Americans. In K. Lomotey (Ed.), Going to school: The African-American experience (pp. 113-131). Albany, NY, US: State University of New York Press.

Vogt, L. A., Jordan, C., & Tharp, R. G. (1987). Explaining school failure, producing school success: Two cases. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 18(4), 276-286.

Delpit, L. D. (1995). Other people's children: Cultural conflict in the classroom (pp. 152-166). New York: New Press: Distributed by W.W. Norton.

Gee, J. P. (1996). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses (ch.1, viii-21). London: Taylor & Francis.

15. Culture as disability (Ray McDermott): School success and school failure
Design of academic success and failure in school: Where is academic success and failure located? Learning and teaching disabilities... Why do some children fail in school while others succeed? Traditionally to answer these questions, educators, scholars and general public refer to individual properties of the students: natural intellect, motivation, learning disabilities, giftedness, attitude, and so on. The following readings represent another approach although. These scholars argue that academic success and failure design by schools. Yes, schools despite their all claims to commitment to "educate all children" (cf. Labaree's first goal of schools of "democratic participation"), schools are busy designing school successes of whom are below average. As Labaree argues, success for all would inflate school credentials and thus would undermine the social mobility goal of school. However, how success and failure are designed in classrooms? How the dynamics set that produce school failure and school success on a systematic basis?



McDermott, R. P. (1993). The acquisition of a child by a learning disability. In S. Chaiklin & J. Lave (Eds.), Understanding practice: Perspectives on activity and context (pp. 269-305). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Varenne, H., & McDermott, R. P. (1998). Successful failure: The school America builds (Ch. 5, pp 106-128). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Matusov, E., DePalma, R., & Drye, S. (2007). Whose development? Salvaging the concept of development within a sociocultural approach to education. Educational Theory, 57(4), 403-421.

16. Feminism (Carol Gilligan) 
Many feminists believe that women are being suppressed by a male-dominated society both in education and also in later life. They argue that the curriculum is more based around traditionally male-dominated subjects. Thus it sets up men more than women for further education or more prosperous work opportunities. Coupled with this is the stereotypical view of a woman’s part in society – of becoming housewives, marrying early and having children. Feminists argue that this contributes to the suppression put on women by the male-run society.

Sociologists Heaton and Lawson (1996, p. 76) argue that the ‘hidden’ curriculum is a major source of gender socialisation within schools. They believe that schools seemed to show or have: text books with modern family culture and where children are taught from an early age that males are dominant within the family; various subjects are aimed at a certain gender group, for example Food Technology would be aimed at females, leading on to the typical role of females doing housework and cooking; sports in schools are very much male and female dominated within the education system, with boys playing rugby and cricket while girls play netball and rounders. It could be seen that the majority of teachers are female, but that the senior management positions are mainly male-dominated, although this is not the case in some schools.


Gilligan, C. (1993). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women's development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Purvis, J. (1994). Feminist theory in education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 15(1), 137-140. 

17. Critical race theory in education (Gloria Ladson-Billings)
Critical race theory (CRT) is an analytical framework that stems from the field of critical legal studies that addresses the racial inequities in society. Critical race theory (CRT) recognizes that racism is endemic to American life, expresses skepticism toward dominant legal claims of neutrality, objectivity, colorblindness, and meritocracy challenges ahistoricism and insists on a contextual/historical analysis off the law (and education) presumes that racism has contributed to all contemporary manifestations off group advantage and disadvantage. Scholars of education have used CRT as a framework to further analyze and critique educational research and practice.


Ladson-Billings, G., & Tate, W. F. (1995). Toward a critical race theory of education. Teachers college record, 97(1), 47-68. 

Dixson, A. D., & Rousseau, C. K. (2006). Critical race theory in education: All God's children got a song. New York: Routledge.

Parker, L., Deyhle, D., & Villenas, S. A. (1999). Race is-- race isn't: Critical race theory and qualitative studies in education. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Lynn, M., & Dixson, A. D. (2013). Handbook of critical race theory in education. New York: Routledge.

18. Ecological approaches (Urie Bronfenbrenner, James Gibson): Contextualism and affordances in psychology education
What is context? Is it a factor that can be considered separately in addition to a main, universal function (e.g., cognition, learning) or is it an inseparable part of the any phenomenon? Is context objective, existing outside of a psychological phenomenon, or is it subjective and a part of a psychological phenomenon? What kinds of contexts exist? Why context is important for learning? Purposeful activity vs affordances: all "action possibilities" latent in the environment, independent of an individual's ability to recognize them, but always in relation to agents (people or animals) and therefore dependent on their capabilities. For instance, a set of steps which rises four feet high does not afford the act of climbing if the actor is a crawling infant. Gibson's is the prevalent definition in cognitive psychology.



Bronfenbrenner, U. (1995). Bioecological model from a life course perspective: Reflections of a participant observer. In Moen, P., Elder Jr., G. H., and Luscher, K. (Eds), Examining lives in context: Perspectives on the ecology of human development (pp. 599-647). Washington DC: APA.

Cole, M. (1995). The supra-individual envelope of development: Activity and practice, situation and context. In J. J. Goodnow, P. J. Miller & et al. (Eds.), Cultural practices as contexts for development (pp. 105-118). San Francisco, CA, US: Jossey-Bass Inc, Publishers.

Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Gibson, E. J. (2002). Perceiving the affordances: A portrait of two psychologists. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.

19. Connectionism and actor-networks theory (George Siemens, Bruno Latour)
Which skills and practices are relevant to an even changing world, and how are those skills addressed in current educational practices? Technology-mediated personal learning networks: How does "connectivism" (as defined by George Siemens) impact our view of what knowledge or expertise are? Including technology and connection making as learning activities begins to move learning theories into a digital age. We can no longer personally experience and acquire learning that we need to act. We derive our competence from forming connections. Chaos is a new reality for knowledge workers. Unlike constructivism, which states that learners attempt to foster understanding by meaning making tasks, chaos states that the meaning exists – the learner's challenge is to recognize the patterns which appear to be hidden. Meaning-making and forming connections between specialized communities are important activities. Chaos, as a science, recognizes the connection of everything to everything. 

Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.


Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 1-8. Retrieved fromhttp://itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm

Latour, B. (1996). On actor-network theory: A few clarifications plus more than a few complications. Retrieved from http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/P-67%20ACTOR-NETWORK.pdf

Latour, B. (1996). Aramis, or, The love of technology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

20. Dialogism (Mikhail Bakhtin, Paulo Freire, Socrates)
Russian philosopher of dialogism Mikhail Bakhtin argued that meaning making process is dialogic in its nature and occurs in the relationship between genuine question and seriously answer. Can education be dialogic in this sense, when the teacher knows "more" and students know "less"? Ironically, Bakhtin used examples of conventional educational practices to illustrate his notion of "excessive monologism." Should education focus on critical meaning making or on students' arriving at the curricular endpoints, preset by the teacher in advance (e.g., educational standards, common core)? If dialogic pedagogy possible, what is its goal and what can be the teacher's role in it, as a genuine dialogic partner?


Plato, & Bluck, R. S. (1961). Meno. Cambridge, UK: University Press.

Freire, P. (1986). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Matusov, E. (2009). Journey into dialogic pedagogy. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Sidorkin, A. M. (1999). Beyond discourse: Education, the self, and dialogue. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Wegerif, R. (2007). Dialogic, educational and technology: Expanding the space of learning. New York: Springer-Verlag.

21. Authorial Agency (Eugene Matusov)
Authorial agency focuses on the production of culture, which is the individual’s unique culture making activity on larger, more recognizable, and smaller, less recognizable, scales. Authorial agency is defined through socially recognized personal transcendence of the given — a person’s transcendence of the given recognized positively and/or negatively by others and by the self, “the subject desires recognition from another and is constituted through this recognition… The gaps embedded in repetition are, for Butler, the location of agency” (Clare, 2009, p. 51). Authorial agency is not freedom from the natural causes, necessities, ready-made culture, social dynamics, nature, and iron logic but rather it uses these as the material of transcendence. In the process of socially recognized transcendence of the given culture and practice, new goals, new definitions of quality, new motivations, new wills, new commitments, new skills, new knowledge, new relationships will emerge. 

In conventional technological education, students are expected to postpone exercising their authorial agency until they become fully equipped with the powerful cultural toolkit of essential knowledge, skills, attitudes, and dispositions — i.e., after the education is fully completed. Student’s agency is usually neglected if not actively suppressed by the teachers as distraction from the preset curricula. Thus, learning is often alienated from the students’ authorial agency. Occasionally, teachers may try to exploit students’authorial agency for engaging them into the prescribed curriculum but the teachers often worry that things may get out of control and the students may hijack the lesson (Kennedy, 2005). The technological approach to education sees its goal as the reproduction of the ready-made culture and in preparing students’ future active participation in the ready-made culture. 


Matusov, E. (2011). Authorial teaching and learning. In E. J. White & M. Peters (Eds.), Bakhtinian pedagogy: Opportunities and challenges for research, policy and practice in education across the globe (pp. 21-46). New York: Peter Lang Publishers.

Matusov, E., von Duyke, K., & Kayumova, S. (2016). Mapping concepts of agency in educational contexts. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 50(3), 420–446. doi: 10.1007/s12124-015-9334-2

22. Cultural creolization (Eugene Matusov)
What is a cultural mismatch between the teacher's and students' cultural expectations and behavior? Have you experienced ones? What can educational problems result from a cultural mismatch? Is it possible to prevent cultural mismatches or not and why? How can a teacher recognize a cultural mismatch (and not intentional violation of cultural norms and expectations)? Facing a cultural mismatch, what should the teacher do: a) make the student learn and use only the cultural pattern of expectation and behavior dominant in the mainstream culture that the teacher belongs to, b) learn the student's cultural pattern of expectations and behavior for providing better guidance and comfort to the student, or c) something else (what is it and why)? What would you do, as a teacher, when face a cultural mismatch?

Cultural creolization is based on a sociocultural family of approaches which treats the differences of the participants in multicultural settings as resources in the construction of new, precisely multi-cultural. or creole, learning communities rather than on fixing individuals' deficits. In this model, an appropriate pedagogical regime is conceived of as building a new, creole educational community that draws on the cultures and histories of children, teachers, instructors, and community leaders.


Matusov, E., St. Julien, J., & Hayes, R. (2005). Building a creole educational community as the goal of multicultural education for preservice teachers. In L. V. Barnes (Ed.), Contemporary teaching and teacher issues (pp. 1-38). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Publishers.

Matusov, E., Smith, M. P., Candela, M. A., & Lilu, K. (2007). “Culture has no internal territory”: Culture as dialogue. In J. Valsiner & A. Rosa (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Socio-Cultural Psychology (pp. 460-483). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

23. Sociocultural psychological approaches as a response to the Information-Processing psychological framework
Arguably, a Sociocultural approach has emerged in part in a response to the Cognitive Revolution started in the 1950s and its Information-Processing approach (IP). The Information-Processing approach considers mind to be processing information, like some kind of a super-powerful computer, affected by diverse contextual factors. In contrast, a Sociocultural approach argues that mind is shaped by diverse contexts (e.g., societial, physical, cultural, institutional, dialogic, activity) and does not exist outside of these contexts. Below is an informative debate between information-processing and sociocultural paradigms, arguing "wrong questions."


Anderson, J. R., Reder, L. M., & Simon, H. A. (1996). Situated learning and education. Educational Researcher, 25(4), 5-11.

Greeno, J. G. (1997). On claims that answer the wrong questions. Educational Researcher, 26(1), 5-17.

Anderson, J. R., Reder, L. M., & Simon, H. A. (1997). Situated versus cognitive perspective: Form versus substance. Educational Researcher, 26(1), 18-21.


24. Learning and motivation in institutional contexts
Why are so many students who are not intrinsically motivated to learn in school? How and why do the school and society create non-motivated students? What shapes learning and motivation? Based on Labaree’s analysis, do you agree that that many low-income students are not motivated in school learning differently than unmotivated middle-class students, why, how? Can we change the situation with non-motivated students and if so, how?



Labaree, D. F. (1997). How to succeed in school without really learning: The credentials race in American education (ch. 10, pp 250-262). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Labaree, D. F. (1997). How to succeed in school without really learning: The credentials race in American education (ch. 1, pp 15-52). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.


25. Transfer and context
Does transfer of learning exist? If not "transfer" then what? Situated and information processing theories of cognition and learning. Where is learning located: in individuals' heads or in their activities? Is the purpose of schools to teach students decontextualized basic skills and how the students can apply these skills for different specific situations? Traditional schools are somewhat successful in teaching many (but not all) students how to pass school exams and tests on basic skills. The main educational paradox is that passing these tests does not guarantee that the students can successfully apply them for diverse specific situations. Many students could not recognize the situations requiring the basic skills learned in school or they apply wrong skills that are not appropriate for the given situation. Moreover, some people, who cannot pass the school basic skill tests, can very successful operate in specific situations. The described difficulties experienced by students of traditional schooling are called "transfer problem."


Bransford, J. D., & Schwartz, D. L. (2001). Rethinking transfer: A simple proposal with multiple implications. Review of Research in Education, 24(3), 61-100.

Beach, K. D. (1999). Consequential transitions: A sociocultural expedition beyond transfer in education. Review of Research in Education, 24(3), 101-139.

Tuomi-Gröhn, T., & Engeström, Y. (2003). Conceptualizing transfer: From standard notions to developmental perspectives. In T. Tuomi-Gröhn & Y. Engeström (Eds.), Between school and work: New perspectives on transfer and boundary-crossing (1st ed., pp. 19-38). Amsterdam: Pergamon.

Packer, M. (2001). The problem of transfer, and the sociocultural critique of schooling. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 10(4), 493-514. 


26. Literacy, culture, and cognition
Does literacy changes human cognition? Do literate people think differently, more powerfully than illiterate? Ong says, "yes." Scribner, Cole, and Matusov say human cognition is shaped by practices and social relations in which literacy is embedded. Are you with Ong or Scribner, Cole and Matusov? Why?


Ong, W. J. (1982). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word (ch. 2, pp. 28-43). New York: Methuen.

Scribner, S., & Cole, M. (1988). Unpackaging literacy. In E. R. Kintgen, B. M. Kroll & M. Rose (Eds.), Perspectives on literacy (pp. 57-70). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Matusov, E., & St. Julien, J. (2004). Print literacy as oppression: Cases of bureaucratic, colonial, totalitarian literacies and their implications for schooling. TEXT: International Journal, 24(2), 197-244.

27. Ways of talking, writing, and reading
Doesn’t non-Standard English reflect deficiency in one's talking and thinking or non-Standard English is full-developed language among other languages? Why do people, who form different cultural communities, organize their language differently? Whether and if so how can the teacher support diverse ways of talking in the classroom? Should the teacher do so? What do you think?


Bereiter, C., & Engelmann, S. (1970). Language learning activities for the disadvantaged child (pp.5-9). New York: Anti-Defamation League of B'Nai Brith.

Labov, W. (1974). Academic ignorance and Black intelligence. In R. J. Mueller, D. Ary & C. McCormick (Eds.), Readings in classroom learning and perception (pp. 328-345). New York: Praeger.

Kaplan, R. B. (1966). Cultural thought patterns in inter-cultural education. Language Learning, 16(1-2), 1-21.

28. What happens when you can't count past four? Contexts in Cognition (developmental cognition)
Do contexts always necessarily affect cognition at its most basic level? For instance, it would be interesting to read about the Amazonia tribes—the Munduruku and the Piraha. These are two examples where their contexts are very different from ours and yet-- they have numerical systems similar to ours. Why is that? How do they differ when context is brought into the picture? How are they the same?  


Butterworth, B. (2004). What happens when you can't count past four? https://www.theguardian.com/education/2004/oct/21/research.highereducation1

Gordon, P. (2004). Numerical cognition without words: Evidence from Amazonia. Science, 306(5695), 496-499.

29. Science in action: Do scientists discover truth or construct knowledge? Or why is it so difficult to read scientific texts?
Science in action: Do scientists discover truth or construct knowledge? Or why is it so difficult to read scientific texts? What is science and how is it different from non-science or pseudoscience? Philosophers like positivist Popper tried to develop criteria of science based on what individual scientist does (according to the scientist’s own record). Latour, who had training in anthropology studying African indigenous religions, approach to study of science differently -- like an anthropologist. He decided to study not what scientists say about what they do, but actual practice of science making (science-in-action). He then compared his findings with scientists' claims and got two face Janus...



Popper, K. (1998). Science: Conjectures and refutations. In M. Curd & J. A. Cover (Eds.), Philosophy of science: The central issues (1st ed., pp. 3-9). New York: W.W. Norton.

Latour, B. (1987). Science in action: How to follow scientists and engineers through society (intro and ch.1, pp. 1-62). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

30. Science in school
What is the purpose of science education? What is science teaching about? Is it about providing hands-on activities where students will discover scientific facts for themselves? Or should science classroom promote scientific thinking in every students as a set of individual skills? Or should science classes reproduce scientific communities? Or should science create "semantic networks" of talking science? Or should it involve students' identity? Why do school alumni know little science? Some do students become scientists but many do not? Why are fewer women or minority scientists there?


Lemke, J. L. (1990). Talking science: Language, learning, and values (ch.1, pp. 1-24). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Pub. Corp.

Matusov, E. (2016, submitted). What kills science in school?: Lessons from pre-service teachers’ responses to urban children’s science inquiries, 1-25.

Brickhouse, N. W., Lowery, P., & Schultz, K. (2000). What kind of a girl does science? The construction of school science identities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(5), 441-458.




Eugene Matusov, PhD

Editor-in-Chief, Dialogic Pedagogy Journal

Professor of Education

School of Education

16 W Main st

University of Delaware

Newark, DE 19716, USA


Publications: http://ematusov.soe.udel.edu/vita/publications.htm

DiaPed: http://diaped.soe.udel.edu

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