Mathematics Education: Exploring the Culture of Learning

By Barbara Allen; Sue Johnston-Wilder | Go to book overview

2

Towards a sociology of learning in primary schools

Andrew Pollard

Abstract

In this paper the aim is to highlight the absence of a sociology of learning in relation to primary education. Further, it is argued that there is considerable scope for cooperation between psychologists and sociologists in tackling this issue and one way will be explored in which this could be achieved by drawing on social constructivist psychology and symbolic interactionist sociology. In support of this suggestion, some brief illustrative material is presented, drawn from a longitudinal ethnography of a pupil cohort progressing through a primary school in the UK.


The limitations of disciplinary boundaries

One could argue that the division of labour between the academic disciplines which make up the social sciences has justified itself over the years by the quality of descriptions and depth of analyses which have been produced. There are processes of research, publication and debate which foster such refinement. Thus, within each discipline, dominant perspectives tend to come and go as development takes place and each decade witnesses new 'taken for granteds' and discrete progress within the disciplines.

However, the demarcations between disciplines must be seen as socio-historical products, maintained by people and institutions who had, and have, enormous personal, cultural and material investments in them and who must respond to the specific circumstances which they face. This throws up the danger that the reliance on detailed intra-disciplinary development could result in the establishment of theoretical perspectives and empirical procedures which in fact fail to engage with the more complex and enduring realities of social processes and phenomena. Indeed, I would argue that, as our understanding of the social world becomes more sophisticated, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the validity of the study of many issues cannot be maximised unless each of the relevant disciplines is drawn on in sustained study.

Interestingly, such more complex and enduring issues are often those which are regarded as being particularly important by practitioners - by the people who live out the processes which academic analysts study - and, indeed, by policy makers - people who have to make decisions of great significance with whatever information and

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