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Re: [xmca] What's new in the learning sciences?

I am just back from Chicago and the Learning Sciences meetings.

There were indeed a number of presentations that relayed the themes in that O'Connor & Penuel NSSE volume (which looks great and which I want!).

Obviously I did not get to all the sessions (some lessons about space, time, bodies and learning in that!) and not everything I heard struck me as new, or exciting, much less both, though there was a lot of interest.

The invited symposium I spoke in was about Representations in the Disciplines, and two versions of my written paper (DRAFT file has no images; the larger file is newer and with images, but still not full references) are at:

http://public.me.com/jaylemke [if asked for a password, use jaypublic]

My point was about the importance of our affective/emotional responses to the media and genres of representations, for learning, and for instructional media design. This is an early foray in the direction of my new, evolving work on feeling and meaning-making.

Rogers Hall had some interesting things to say in the same session about ways of thinking of the body in mediated practices in the disciplines, and in a separate session with Reed Stevens and others, there was a lot of interesting discussion of a generally "distributed cognition" sort about how to understand co-ordinations of activities and the role of real and imagined bodies in research explorations in archeology, emergency medical transportation, etc. Very important new ideas coming here.

In another session there were presentations about Sasha Barab's Quest Atlantis online video game environment for learning, and a particularly important point seemed to be that situations which present difficult moral dilemmas and consequences have a special power to engage us in learning-inquiry activities, even in fictional settings. I was inspired to explore the implications a bit in a post to my blog at:


There was a lot else going on, and I hope others will write of their experiences.


Jay Lemke
Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010)
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Visiting Scholar
Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
University of California -- San Diego
La Jolla, CA
USA 92093

On Jul 6, 2010, at 11:04 AM, mike cole wrote:

> cool. downloaded and ready for.... spare time to read it! The overview
> seemed real clear.
> m
> (P.S. *Moll Flanders* is amazing. Almost totally modern in 1683. Always good
> to follow McDermott's advice in such matters).
> On Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 10:59 AM, O'Connor, Kevin <
> kevin.oconnor@rochester.edu> wrote:
>> Mike,
>> I’d say that Bill and I draw our sense of ‘human science’ directly from
>> those 19th c. discussions and more recent developments along the same lines.
>> We do make these connections in the intro chapter, and return to them in
>> the conclusion to locate a human science perspective within contemporary
>> learning research.  I’d also note that Martin Packer directly raises the
>> links to Vygotsky’s crisis in his chapter.
>> Kevin
>> On 7/6/10 1:35 PM, "mike cole" <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Thanks Kevin, that is very helpful.
>> Just from what was in the TC summary, the following question arises for me.
>> To what extent is the notion of human science in this overview akin to, or
>> derive its theoretical orientation from, discussions about the "humane" "vs"
>> the natural sciences in the late 19th century. I ask because this links to
>> Vygotsky's "crisis" monograph and ongoing discussions in many places
>> including xmca. Will read ch1 when the workday has come to an end.
>> mike
>> On Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 10:31 AM, O'Connor, Kevin <
>> kevin.oconnor@rochester.edu> wrote:
>> Hi Mike,
>> Thanks for asking, Mike!  Below is the original proposal for a special
>> issue that eventually became the NSSE Yearbook – this will provide an
>> overview.  Also, with the permission of Teachers College Record, which now
>> publishes the NSSE Yearbooks, I’ve attached the introductory chapter.  Of
>> course, different authors in the yearbook develop the idea of a human
>> science in different ways and would emphasize different points.
>> Kevin
>> *Research on Learning as a Human Science
>> *
>> Organizers and Co-Editors:
>> William R. Penuel
>> Kevin O’Connor
>> *Theme Overview:
>> *This special issue of *Teachers College Record* will articulate an
>> approach to learning research as human science.  This human science approach
>> views science as an inherently value-laden social practice, implying
>> different epistemologies, methodologies, and research foci.  It is concerned
>> not just with what works but also with questions about the goals and
>> purposes of education; the involvement of different actors and groups in
>> advancing those goals; and the enactment of designs for learning and their
>> consequences.  The papers aim to exemplify this approach, showing how it can
>> inform broader debates over the nature and purposes of learning, and suggest
>> different understandings of and approaches to how education can transform
>> social futures for individuals and their communities.
>> *Objectives
>> *Recently, both academic research into learning and broader policy
>> discussions over the nature and direction of learning and education have
>> been framed by two largely distinct scientific paradigms.  On one hand is an
>> approach, modeled on clinical trials in medicine, that promotes controlled
>> experimentation on learning outcomes as the route to knowledge about
>> learning, and on the other hand is an approach, modeled on engineering, that
>> promotes detailed *in situ *studies of learning processes in
>> theoretically-derived learning environments. A third broad paradigm of
>> scientific activity, social science as human science, has yet to gain a
>> unified voice in these discussions, despite the work of many individuals.
>> This special issue aims to articulate and offer exemplars of this human
>> science approach to studying learning, which we believe can stand alongside
>> and extend currently prevailing approaches to inform broader debates over
>> the nature and purposes of learning and education.  Framing learning
>> research as a human science implies different epistemologies, methodologies,
>> and foci of research than those pursued by many researchers today. In
>> addition, the approach implies different understandings of and approaches to
>> how education can transform social futures for individuals and their
>> communities.
>> *Significance of the Proposed Special Issue Theme
>> *Much attention in recent years has been paid to the status of research on
>> learning as a science, especially with respect to what kind of science it
>> ought it to be. Although the debate is hardly new, it is particularly
>> pitched at the moment, with significant resources at stake for both research
>> and practice. For example, advocates for more experimental research in
>> education (e.g., Cook, 2002) argue that education should be a science that
>> advances through testing of impacts on student achievement of discrete
>> programs. Their view is that educational research should proceed like
>> medical research, and that such tests are best carried out through random
>> assignment studies is now reflected in federal law that defines research as
>> the products of experiments and allocates evaluation funds principally to
>> those investigators who agree to conduct randomized controlled trials
>> (Slavin, 2002). An alternate view proposed by researchers in the learning
>> sciences is that research on learning ought to be a design science (Barab &
>> Squire, 2004; Brown, 1992; Collins, 1990; Collins, Joseph, & Bielaczyc,
>> 2004; Kelly, 2003). This work has received significant federal support
>> itself over the past two decades (Suter & Frechtling, 2000), primarily from
>> the National Science Foundation, and its signature methodology, the “design
>> experiment” (Brown, 1992), has received prominent attention within major
>> journals in education (e.g., special issues of *Educational Researcher*and
>> *The Journal of the Learning Sciences*). The likening of education to
>> engineering in the learning sciences draws attention to the goal of engaging
>> in the task of developing usable and useful curricula that impact teaching
>> and learning.
>> Each of these images of what kind of science research on learning should be
>> obscures some important humanistic aspects of the discipline. The logic of
>> experimentation explicitly treats characteristics of persons and their
>> contexts as sources of experimental error controllable by random assignment.
>> But teachers, administrators, and policy makers are often very interested in
>> context, in “what works when, how, and for whom” in ways that demands
>> researchers pay much closer attention to persons and context in selecting
>> programs for adoption (Means & Penuel, 2005). Moreover, the hypothesized
>> relationship of research to practice—namely that identification of effective
>> programs will become information that rational actors use to select programs
>> and improve practice (e.g., Dynarski, 2008)—fails to acknowledge inequities
>> in access to information about programs and resources to support them that
>> exist in systems and overlooks one of the features that makes medical
>> knowledge so useful, namely its signature pedagogies and methods of
>> induction (Shulman, 2005). The image of education as an engineering science
>> gives greater primacy to the local context (e.g., Squire, MaKinster,
>> Barnett, Luehmann, & Barab, 2003), but often either taken for granted or
>> left underspecified are both the larger educational purposes of curricular
>> innovations and the probable consequences of those innovations, if
>> implemented widely, for the long-term social futures of participating
>> students. Casting educational improvement as a problem of design and
>> engineering provides few conceptual handles for engaging larger debates
>> about what is worth knowing (Whitehead, 1929), particularly given how the
>> world is changing; about how to teach “other people’s children” (Delpit,
>> 1986); or even for considering who might benefit and who might be harmed if
>> designed innovations were brought to scale.
>> An alternative approach is to cast educational research as a human science,
>> distinct from the logic of social experimentation and from design science..
>> Some key ideas of the approach are:
>>   - Educational research is a social practice situated in broader
>>   institutional and historical contexts; participants as agents within those
>>   contexts are reproducing, adapting, and transforming the social practice of
>>   educational research through their research activities.
>>   - In contrast to experimental research, a goal of human sciences
>>   research should be to understand why actors do what they do from multiple
>>   perspectives, including their own. This “emic” turn in educational research
>>   seeks to re-voice the experiences of actors within theoretical frames.
>>   - In contrast to engineering-oriented research, a goal of human
>>   sciences research should analyze design itself as human activity and
>>   consider what values designs reflect and deflect, who benefits and who loses
>>   from implementation, and the extent to which particular design activities
>>   reproduce or transform new social futures. Like education, design is
>>   value-laden. Design research approaches have often foregrounded engineering
>>   issues and backgrounded the articulation of values and their origins, with
>>   important exceptions (e.g., Edelson & Joseph, 2004) that suggest a human
>>   sciences approach may be seen as an extension of or fulfillment of the
>>   design research tradition as opposed to a break from it.
>>   - Following from these points, research on learning requires that the
>>   researcher stipulate, explicitly or implicitly, the endpoint or *telos*toward which learning and development are directed.  Thus, human science is
>>   an inherently value-laden endeavor (Kaplan, 1983).
>>   - Relationships between researchers and research participants are
>>   implicated in operations of power, locally and beyond the immediate
>>   situation. This provides an additional warrant for arguing that a human
>>   science approach merits more extensive discussion and articulation as a
>>   ‘third way’ in educational research – beyond both the medical-model and the
>>   engineering model.
>> Such perspectives are not entirely new.  Indeed, the idea that the human
>> sciences represent a distinct kind of science, distinguished from the
>> natural sciences, has a long tradition in Western social science and
>> philosophy of science, originating in Vico’s *New Science,* which argues
>> for a science of human society based not on an understanding of universal
>> laws but rather on those sensibilities that govern different communities in
>> different human ages. More recent formulations draw attention to the
>> fundamental role of language and interpretation in social scientific
>> accounts (Taylor, 1985), to the vital uses of reasons and arguments in human
>> affairs that consider the particulars of situations rather than a Cartesian
>> timeless and context-free rationality (Toulmin, 1990), and of the need to
>> explicate operations of power within such accounts (Flyvbjerg, 2001)
>> What is new in this series of papers is the articulation of a linked set of
>> perspectives for guiding programs of research based on the idea that
>> educational research should be concerned not just about what works but with
>> questions about the goals and purposes of education; the involvement of
>> different actors and groups in advancing those goals; and the enactment of
>> designs for learning and their consequences. We anticipate that many design
>> researchers agree with such a perspective; others argue explicitly that
>> design research and experimental aims are both similar to the goals for the
>> natural sciences (Collins et al., 2004; diSessa & Cobb, 2004). But in both
>> the design-based and experimental tradition, practitioners, communities of
>> parents, and students rarely get to define the goals for endeavors
>> (Engeström, 2008). Needed within the learning sciences are perspectives and
>> methods that lead to research that can guide practical action and that opens
>> questions about purpose to public dialogue; to designs that enable learners
>> and communities to advance new social futures; and to organizational
>> settings that allow for broad participation in debates about the ends of
>> education.
>> On 7/6/10 12:53 PM, "mike cole" <lchcmike@gmail.com <
>> http://lchcmike@gmail.com> > wrote:
>> Looks wonderfully interesing, Kevin. McDermott got me to read *Moll
>> Flanders* recently in connection with his contribution which is the only
>> one I recall seeing.
>> Is there somewhere in the volume or elsewhere where you and your colleagues
>> lay out for the reader what is meant by a human science?
>> Could that be made available to xmca readers?
>> mike
>> On Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 9:44 AM, O'Connor, Kevin <
>> kevin.oconnor@rochester.edu <http://kevin.oconnor@rochester.edu> > wrote:
>> (this time with attachment)
>> Hi Mike,
>> Bill Penuel and I have co-edited an NSSE Yearbook, just published, on the
>> topic of 'Learning Research as a Human Science.'  I was not at ICLS, but
>> the
>> perspective was well-represented there by a number of contributors to the
>> yearbook who qualify as both 'learning scientists' and 'XMCA-o-types'.
>> I've attached the table of contents for those who might be interested.
>> I'm looking forward to others' reports of the conference!
>> Kevin
>> --
>> Kevin O'Connor
>> Assistant Professor
>> School of Education, 249 UCB
>> University of Colorado
>> Boulder CO 80309
>> kevin.oconnor@colorado.edu <http://kevin.oconnor@colorado.edu>
>> On 7/5/10 11:33 AM, "mike cole" <lchcmike@gmail.com <
>> http://lchcmike@gmail.com> > wrote:
>>> Dear XMCA-o-types,
>>> Several of you have visited the charming city of Chicago and attending a
>>> convocation of "learning
>>> scientists."
>>> :-)
>>> MIKE*
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