Contexts for Learning: Sociocultural Dynamics in Children's Development

By Ellice A. Forman; Norris Minick et al. | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Dewey ( 1902), a contemporary of Vygotsky, urged that if educators:

Abandon the notion of subject-matter as something fixed and ready-made in itself, outside the child's experience; cease thinking of the child's experience as also something hard and fast; see it as something fluent, embryonic, vital;. . . [then we would] realize that the child and the curriculum are simply two limits which define a single process [He urged that] "Just as two points define a straight line, so the present standpoint of the child and the facts and truths of studies define instruction. [Instruction] is continuous reconstruction, moving from the child's present experience out into that represented by the organized bodies of truth that we call studies. [p. 11]

We have described the role that teacher-student dialogues play in reconstruction, facilitated by a specialized form of discourse, in hand with the use of usable, coherent, connected topics of discussion. The theoretical underpinnings of reciprocal teaching attribute learning to the process of internalizing cognitive activities that were originally experienced in a social context. The children use metacognitive strategies to generate their own questions about the text, to relate their own knowledge to the new knowledge posed in the text, to summarize what they have learned, and to identify what they found confusing in the text and how they might proceed to render the text more meaningful. The teacher proceeds, with deliberate intention, to enable the children to acquire knowledge about reading and themselves as readers that will be useful to them. Because of the diversity of experiences and knowledge the children bring to these texts, each participant can make a useful contribution to the emerging understanding of the content at hand. In such a context, classrooms of diverse learners become communities of knowledge users.


Note
1.
There is an interesting aside to this anecdote -- testimony to the fragile nature of children's understanding. At the end of this lesson, the teacher made use of Traver's mentioning the theme of extinction and asked the children, "Why do you suppose the snowshoe rabbits are not extinct? She immediately called on Traver, who answered, "Probably smart like a dog." However, a second child in the group interjected, "Because he can change colors and blend in."

References

Barnes D. ( 1982). Practical curriculum study. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Bloome D. ( 1984). Building literacy and the classroom community. Theory into Practice, 25( 2), 71-76.

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