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RE: [xmca] Lave in mca

First, I detached the tail. 

I have started a response to practically every post on Lave's article, but I have a 15 minute limit on the amount of time I can spend reading and responding to the listserve and so I never reached conclusion on any of the other post. (I learned in a professional development workshop earlier this year that in order to even have the opportunity to apply for a tenure-track position in order to make tenure, I am going to have to learn to say "no" to pretty much every kind of social activity that might keep me from my academic writing, so I am trying to practice limiting myself.)

Of course, David K. makes a very good point about the amount of reading required to participate intelligently. That too might be a distraction.

I would also like to respectfully acknowledge the posts made by others who are feeling the pressure and responsibility of their roles in academia.

Lave sets forth several examples of practical revolutionizing research as "possibilities" (p. 161). She chooses deliberately examples of research about learning that lie outside of "institutional arrangements". 

As an educational researcher, I work within the institutional arrangements at multiple levels and so I will draw my examples from my experience. I will simultaneously draw on my first person perspective, my second person, and my third person perspective. While this may not seem like an example, of revolutionizing practice at first read, I have learned that the scale of what changes the relations and activities between people is often very small and might seem insubstantial if compared to larger, more socially public display of political protest and reform.

Here are two short examples:

	In a wonderful service-learning project done at a public elementary school as collaboration between students, teachers, and faculty from the university and their pre-service teachers, I interviewed elementary students and asked them to tell me what they learned and how they learned it on the site where they constructed an outdoor, living history museum. The interviews were very fun. I walked around with my handheld digital recorder and the students pointed and gestured. They happily  recalled details from their experience. They were clearly enthusiastic about the project and their contributions. On the last day of the project, it began to rain and the teachers considered keeping the students inside so they wouldn't have to sit in their desks through the remainder of the day wearing wet clothes. The students protested, not want to miss a day of labor on the project (and I mean labor--they were raking up pine needles by the truckload, clearing leaves and brush, painting, carrying wood and logs, etc.). 
	One of the students, I interviewed the day before, after giving a lengthy and enthusiastic report of his activities, paused, after I prompted him to conclude about his learning "so what did you learn?"
	"I didn't really learn anything," he said conclusively with a smile, shaking his head almost as though he couldn't believe his own fortune.

	I was not one of the teachers who taught the standards based lessons associated with the project in history and science. I wanted to find out what kids would really remember from a project like this so I interviewed the students as a teacher, since I had worked in their building before, and as a researcher trying to understand the way students learn. My question seemed straightforward. "What did you learn?" But the responses that I got from the students, this student in particular, seemed to point to a conception of learning that Lave (p. 161) characterizes as "academic, conventional theoretical assumptions about learning and knowing", something that revolutionizing research ought to resist:

1. A concept of individual, internal mental exercise.
2. Only ever produced as a result of typical bureaucratic, institutional arrangements and trajectories of schooling.
3. Produced in particular through teaching, viewed as a prerequisite for learning.
4. Something that can only be studied from a third-person perspective, thus producing accounts of learning only as something done to others.
5. Knowledge (viewed as a complex elaboration of information...) is the purpose, content, and result of what life and learning are all about.

	It seems that this student did not feel that he could "learn" anything by his own activity from his own experience. In the fourth grade, his concept of learning was something that could only be produced through teaching, and the teaching that he had was not characteristic of the typical arrangement of the institution of school in this project. Therefore, he concluded that he had not learned anything. While he was able to elaborate at length about how to use tools for various jobs on the site, and the reasons for the tasks he had done using the tools, he did not conclude that this was "learning".

Another scene from my daily practice:

	A student sets up an appointment to meet with me to find out what I want her to write in her paper describing the results of her semester long personal research inquiry. I did not just assign the paper, but supported their development through the research process, making the resources explicitly accessible for them to use the libraries online database to search for current articles in education as well as psychology, development, and medicine, and linguistics. "Is it like a paper in English literature classes, with a thesis?" "I have never written a paper for my education classes, just lesson plans." "Can I use the first person?"

This student is an excellent student. She is responsible and has good reading comprehension. Her writing exhibits conventions of academic English, probably better than mine. She is smart enough to ask ahead of the deadline about my expectations as an instructor because she knows I will evaluate her paper for a grade. Not only has she actually read the assignment, but she has already looked at the rubric. She will also be a teacher, next semester, working with her own students. Her topic: the importance of early acquisition of sign language for hearing impaired children and how that might help her understand how language and literacy are developed in social relations with others.

She asked this last question, "can I use the first person?" trepidaciously. This might not seem like a question of revolutionary practice, but I know my answer will reinforce or resist the above assumptions of learning listed by Lave...and I think she knows, too.

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