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RE: [xmca] Fleer/Hedegaard for discussion

like Larry and Andy, i greatly enjoyed Marilyn's and Marianna's article which describes, in my interpretation, how a six year old boy becomes otherized and problematized by the practitioners of an institution - in this case, primary school teachers.

to back ground my comments, i want to describe two experiences from past years of elementary school teaching.  one is with a student i worked with in kindergarten and the other is a student i worked with in the third grade.

the names i use here are pseudonyms:  Maria Gonzalez arrived in my third grade classroom a few months after the beginning of school.  the records from her previous school indicated that her teacher had begun the process of identifying Maria as a child needing special education.  Maria's first language was Spanish and she had been in the states for only a few years.  Maria was a rover - moving around the classroom continuously - particularly during large group instruction.  requests from me for her to join has had little effect.

Elizabeth Guerrero arrived in my kindergarten classroom on the first day of school.  she was also a rover, except during large group instruction or when books were read aloud  -  her first language was English.  during small group activities or center time or free time she never engaged in the activities - instead she roved around and observed.  she was always smiling, though quiet.  

Marilyn and Marianna suggest in their article that a better understanding of Andrew's development trajectory at home would have informed "making judgements about his approach to learning in the school."  The go on to state that their study draws "attention to the need for problematizing the existing view of development as a naturally evolving process and to provide teachers with better theoretical tools for thinking about development."  

they suggest that the "school was also working hard to help Andrew be a successful learner, but in ways that were very different to his home practices and traditions."

what they school was doing, however, besides diagnosing from a deficit theory perspective, is not described, as far as i can tell.

for me, in working with Maria & Elizabeth, i used Vygotsky's theory of learning as a social activity, and Lave's and Wenger's theory of community of practice - which meant that working for my own idealized goal of what student practice in classroom activities looked like, began a slow process of providing structured/scaffolded practice for the student to participate in, and watched for how class their approximation was in the activity.  with Maria, she figured out what i was asking for within two weeks - for Maria it was closer to three months.  in fact, with Maria it wasn't until i individually taught Maria particular activities and then asked her to teach these activities to other students (at the same time explaining to the other students that they were to go to Maria to learn particual activities) did Maria become a full participant within the classroom.

as Larry noted: 
       At home the mother was a "helicopter mom" doing more than making sure the children were safe. She was actively RECOGNIZING and validating the children and encouraging their INTENTIONAL RESPONSE in the motivation to stay CONNECTED [intersubjectively]
The terms "activity" "participation" "affordances" "practices" "communication" while accurate and definitely capturing [and foregrounding] the STRUCTURAL aspects of the institutional arrangements leaves the dialogical imperative of ongoing engagement [of the child's relation with the mother] [and the child's relation with the teacher] in the background while emphasizing the institutional structures that constrain and facilitate this INTERSUBJECTIVE COMMUNICATION.

the classroom teachers could have embodied the same goals as the mother - active recognition and validation of Andrew, coupled with intentional responses to stay connected.  i didn't read much evidence of these practices.

while i deeply believe that classroom teachers need to know home practices of activities, i also believe that these same teachers need to explicitly teach classroom activities of participation, monitor for approximations, and as well recognize that some changes are going to take even longer than three months to accomplish the student mastery of classroom practices.


Phillip White, PhD
University of Colorado Denver
School of Education
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