Dialogic Inquiry: Towards a Sociocultural Practice and Theory of Education

Dialogic Inquiry: Towards a Sociocultural Practice and Theory of Education

Dialogic Inquiry: Towards a Sociocultural Practice and Theory of Education

Dialogic Inquiry: Towards a Sociocultural Practice and Theory of Education

Synopsis

For more than a quarter century, the polemics surrounding educational reform have centered on two points of view: those that favor a "progressive" child-centered form of education, and those that would prefer a return to a more structured, teacher-directed curriculum that emphasizes basic knowledge and skills. Vygotsky's social constructivist theory offers an alternative solution, placing stress on coconstruction of knowledge by more and less mature participants engaging in joint activity. This theory offers semiotic mediation as the primary means of obtaining knowledge, whereby the less mature participants can seek solutions to everyday problems by using resources existing in society. In addition to using illustrative examples from classroom studies, this book provides a comparative analysis of the theories and complementary developments in works by Vygotsky and the linguist M.A.K. Halliday. This unique volume will be of tremendous benefit to researchers in the fields of education, sociolinguistics, and psychology.

Excerpt

James, age 5, comes into the kitchen just as his mother has taken some cakes out of the oven. There is a loud, metallic “Crack. ”

James: Who did that?

Mother: I expect it was that tin contracting

James: Which tin?

Mother: The one with your pastry in

James: Why did it make that noise?

Mother: Well, when it was in the oven, it got very hot and stretched a bit . I've just taken it out of the oven, and it's cooling down very quickly, you see, and that noise happens when it gets smaller again and goes back to its ordinary shape

James: Oh! was it a different shape in the oven?

Mother: Not very different . just a little bigger

James: Naughty little tin . you might get smacked - if you do it again

(Wells, 1986, p. 59)

My central argument in this book is that education should be conducted as a dialogue about matters that are of interest and concern to the participants. This is how children learn about the world as they simultaneously learn to talk before they go to school; the above is just one of many spontaneously occurring examples of learning and teaching in the home that were captured on tape in my earlier study of first language development (Wells, 1985, 1986). Surely we should enable children to build on that firm foundation by encouraging their desire to understand and their willingness to observe and experiment, and to read, write, and talk with others about what interests them.

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