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Jie Park, Sarah Michaels, Renee Affolter, and Catherine O'Connor
This article focuses on both research and practice relating to academically productive classroom discourse. We seek to “expand the conversation” to include newcomers to the field of classroom talk, as well as practitioners and youth researchers who want to contribute to knowledge building in this area. We first explore a variety of traditions, questions, and methods that have been prominent in work on classroom talk. We also summarize some key findings that have emerged over the past several decades:
• Finding 1: Certain kinds of talk promote robust learning for ALL students.
• Finding 2: The field lacks shared conceptualizations of what productive talk is and how best to characterize it.
• Finding 3: Dialogic discourse is exceedingly rare in classrooms, at all grade levels and across all domains.
• Finding 4: A helpful way forward: conceptualizing talk moves as tools.
Following the presentation of each research finding we provide a set of commentaries—explicating and in some cases problematizing the findings. Finally, we provide some promising approaches that presume cultural and linguistic assets among both students and teachers, including curricular programs, teacher education, professional development programs, teacher research, and intergenerational communities of inquiry. In all of this, we try to make our own assumptions, traditions, and governing gazes explicit, as a multi-generational and multi-role group of authors, to encourage greater transparency among all who work in this important and potentially transformative field of study.
David Litz and Rida Blaik-Hourani
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
One of the most widely discussed and utilized notions that has risen to the forefront of educational administration is the concept of transformational leadership. Transformational leadership was initially conceived as a process whereby leaders strategically transform the system or organization to a higher level by increasing the achievement and motivation of their followers. Early theorists would also argue that transformational leadership and change are inexorably intertwined, which in turn underscored the importance of a leader’s ability to positively transform the attitudes, norms, institutions, behaviors, and actions that structure our daily lives. Later writers and researchers would gradually extend and develop the theory and argue that the ultimate goal of transformational leadership is to transform people, as well as organizations.
While early work on transformational leadership concentrated on politics, business, and the armed services, the research emphasized the value of “followers” as a distinguishing factor present in the transformational leadership model. This distinction is likely what attracted scholars to begin applying its tenets to modern educational contexts, which are typically characterized by significant pressures to implement widespread reforms and change. In this regard, transformational leadership is often viewed as well suited to education as it empowers followers (i.e., instructors) and provides them with a sense of hope, optimism, and energy as it defines the vision of productivity as they accomplish goals. Additionally, transformational leaders work toward influencing shared beliefs and values to create a comprehensive level of change and innovation, and aim to nurture a school culture that is oriented toward a learning ethos, whereby such leaders seek to expand the capacities of each employee, enhance his or her way of thinking, and promote individual ambition. In this way, learning and growth becomes a shared responsibility.
Transformation in Higher Education in South Africa Toward the Decolonization of South African Universities
Ruksana Osman and Felix Maringe
Higher education in South Africa, as elsewhere in the world, is under pressure to reinvent and transform itself. Traditionally it has enjoyed the financial support of the government and has also enjoyed an autonomous existence. In South Africa, since the demise of apartheid, the education policy terrain has shifted remarkably fast and policies have required that universities respond to a national plan for higher education that commits universities to become cost- effective, massified institutions opening access to all who were historically excluded due to apartheid’s policies of educational exclusion.
Universities in the higher education sector as a whole are required to generate strategies that broaden access routes for disadvantaged groups and at the same time consider curriculum strategies that ensure success and inclusivity to such groups after access. In addition to these daunting challenges, the higher education sector has experienced a decrease in government funding and an increase in government control. Student-led protest around the cost of higher education has also introduced a new kind of pressure point on universities.
These shifts are in sharp contrast to the more elite traditional model of higher education in South Africa, which has been mostly residential institutions focusing on full-time study, with lectures, seminars, and laboratory demonstrations as the dominant forms of pedagogy. This model is also based on sets of internal rules designed to support staff to spearhead the knowledge-production processes. They function best under stable environments and tend to meander and falter when the foundations for stability are threatened.
Crain Soudien and Yusuf Sayed
After 1994, the South African government put in place an ambitious policy framework to transform the system of teacher education to promote equitable quality education for all. This framework has resulted in the merging and integration of all teacher training colleges into the university sector and ended the racially based apartheid system of teacher training. This ambitious policy program, however, is not underpinned by a robust implementation strategy that sufficiently tackles the country’s historic and structural inequities. What is required, it is argued here, is a transformation teacher education strategy that gives concrete expression to the intent of the post-apartheid teacher education policy framework ensuring that high-quality teachers are trained for the schools serving the most marginalized and disadvantaged learners.
Kristiina Brunila, Elina Ikävalko, Tuuli Kurki, Ameera Masoud, Katariina Mertanen, Anna Mikkola, and Kalle Mäkelä
The ethos of vulnerability plays a central role in shaping cross-sectoral youth transition policies and their implementations. Despite good intentions, the ethos of vulnerability emphasizes personal accountability and stigmatization. This is the situation in Finland, where young people tend to be recognized through the prism of inherent vulnerability, with a parallel notion of the self that is damaged and fragile. This “turn inward” to the self does not necessarily help to see problems as societal but as individual, which may perpetuate systematic inequalities.
Sara Vogel and Ofelia García
Translanguaging is a theoretical lens that offers a different view of bilingualism and multilingualism. The theory posits that rather than possessing two or more autonomous language systems, as has been traditionally thought, bilinguals, multilinguals, and indeed, all users of language, select and deploy particular features from a unitary linguistic repertoire to make meaning and to negotiate particular communicative contexts. Translanguaging also represents an approach to language pedagogy that affirms and leverages students’ diverse and dynamic language practices in teaching and learning.
Translanguaging theory builds on scholarly work that has demonstrated how colonial and modernist-era language ideologies created and maintained linguistic, cultural, and racial hierarchies in society. It challenges prevailing theories of bilingualism/multilingualism and bilingual development in order to disrupt the hierarchies that have delegitimized the language practices of those who are minoritized.
Translanguaging concepts have been deepened, built upon, or clarified as scholars have compared and contrasted them with competing and complementary theories of bilingualism. Scholars debate aspects of the theory’s definition and epistemological foundations. There are also continued debates between scholars who have largely embraced translanguaging and those who resist the theory’s premises or have accepted them only partially.
The use of translanguaging in education has created the most interest, and yet the most disagreement. Many educators working on issues of language education—the development of additional languages for all, as well as minoritized languages—have embraced translanguaging theory and pedagogy. Other educators are weary of the work on translanguaging. Some claim that translanguaging pedagogy pays too much attention to the students’ bilingualism; others worry that it could threaten the diglossic arrangements and language separation traditionally posited as necessary for language maintenance and development.
Translanguaging as a sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic theory has much to offer to our understandings of the languaging of bilinguals because it privileges bilingual performances and not just monolingual ones. As a pedagogical practice, translanguaging leverages the fluid languaging of learners in ways that deepen their engagement and comprehension of complex content and texts. In addition, translanguaging pedagogy develops both of the named languages that are the object of bilingual instruction precisely because it considers them in a horizontal continua as part of the learners’ linguistic repertoire, rather than as separate compartments in a hierarchical relationship.
Carla España, Luz Yadira Herrera, and Ofelia García
Teacher education programs to prepare those who teach language-minoritized students many times continue to uphold modernist conceptions of language and bilingualism. Translanguaging disrupts the logic that nation-states have constructed around named languages, focusing instead on the language practices of people. Translanguaging theory is changing perceptions of bilingualism and multilingualism as well as the design of language education programs for language-minoritized students. And yet, teachers of language-minoritized students are educated in programs that hold on to traditional views of language, bilingualism, and language education. In the best cases, these teachers are prepared in specialized teacher education programs that credential teachers of a second language or bilingual teachers. In the worst cases, these teachers get no specialized preparation on bilingualism at all. But whether teachers are prepared as “general education” teachers, teachers of a “second language,” or “bilingual” teachers, programs to educate them most often hold on to traditional views about language and bilingualism; they then impart those views to future teachers who design instruction accordingly.
Teacher education programs need to help teacher candidates understand their own language practices and see themselves as translanguaging beings. Teacher candidates also need to understand how the students’ translanguaging is a way of making knowledge and how to design lessons that leverage the translanguaging of students and communities to democratize schooling. It is imperative that teacher preparation programs implement a new theory of bilingualism, one that rejects the compartmentalization of languages and the stigmatization of the language practices of language-minoritized students. Providing teacher candidates with the tools to reflect on their experiences and on how raciolinguistic ideologies cut across institutions can help them not only understand but also find ways not to internalize oppressive notions of self, language practices, and teaching.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Although much curriculum work continues to take place within national borders (often informed by governmental policies and priorities), accelerating processes of economic and cultural globalization, together with an increase in various types of cross-border movements of people, resources, ideas, and images, are blurring nation-state boundaries and destabilizing national authority in curriculum decision-making.
Typically, transnational work is understood as acting across national borders with a view to optimizing the interrelationships between local, national, regional, and global spheres of curriculum formation and change. This is distinguished from international collaboration (actions taken by conventional nation-states) and supranational work, which includes initiatives and interventions by broader global institutions and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, UNESCO, OECD, and so on. The involvement of supranational institutions such as the World Bank and IMF has tended to support curriculum policies derived from neoliberal economic perspectives, which focus on the measurable production of human capital. Transnational curriculum work encourages critical examination of the impact of globalization in relation to national and international debates on such matters as human rights; social justice; democratization; national, ethnic, and religious identities; issues of gender and racial justice; the concerns of indigenous peoples; and poverty and social exclusion. Transnational curriculum work is also a response to the discourses of standardization and homogenization of curriculum thinking that characterize modern nation-states.
G. Sue Kasun and Patricia Sánchez
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Transnationalism describes the ways in which ties between two or more nations are maintained; these maintenance ties abound in countless social practices that are, at times, situated within rigid governing structures. Transnationalism not only implies physical movement across borders, commonly referred to as “immigration,” but also emotional ties across borders. It also includes distinct ways of knowing that are informed by social media, loved ones, and cultural practices that span borders, including in education.
The transnational social spaces in which youth are raised are often filled with deep understandings of geopolitical contexts that weave together multiple national perspectives, personal navigation of physical borders (both with and without authorized documentation), and complex social networks in more than one country sustained through ever-changing media applications. However, these knowledges often remain unengaged in and under-acknowledged by schools.
Globalization has increased the practices of transnationalism and is a process often dominated by people with vested power interests who overtake the voices and interests of the masses most affected by shifts in power. Anti-immigrant sentiment and isolationism are fairly recent shifts in power that have swayed the impacts of globalization. Transnational practices are not so much limited but rather impacted as to where they shift people’s imaginations about what is possible. For instance, transnationals may consider moving to additional countries and returning to original sending countries in ways they may not have previously considered, all the while maintaining increasingly dense networks that cross multiple national borders.
The disciplines of sociology and anthropology have informed much of the research on transnationalism, though from different standpoints. Sociology has taken a more literal sense of transnationalism, focusing narrowly on physical bodies’ movements back-and-forth over borders. Anthropologists have more robustly engaged the emotional and psychological aspects of transnationalism as it impacts the groups generally described as “immigrants.” Unfortunately, most of the research related to transnational children and education has been under the larger framework of assimilation. The lamentable result is that the focus on how immigrants assimilate misses the opportunity to interpret (and perhaps misinterprets) a larger set of accompanying phenomena alongside the immigration act itself.
For education, transnational experiences can help students develop a sense of identity, which helps them achieve in the school settings of both receiving and sending countries, should they have to return. Similarly, transnationalism complicates and makes notions of citizenship more robust. Immigrant students are always potentially engaged transnationals during their settlement processes—the possibility always exists that they will remain actively connected to their home countries and even potentially return for visits or permanently. Educational research has more recently examined how transnationalism helps create and can deepen literacy practices, especially digital literacies.
Numerous education scholars have called for educators to draw upon students’ transnational lives in the curriculum. This can help to prepare all students for an increasingly globalized world. This does not suggest a “learning styles” approach where transnational students are considered a monolithic group in need of a repertoire of instructional strategies to meet the group’s needs. Instead, educators need to create the space where students’ transnational experiences and perceptions are allowed to be aired, understood, and built upon in schools. In education, the commonly stated goal is for the classroom to function as a “community of learners.” If, in fact, educators aspire to build true communities, transnational students’ lives should no longer remain hidden from the view of their peers and teachers.
Carmel Hobbs, Dane Paulsen, and Jeff Thomas
Complex trauma experienced in childhood has detrimental impacts on the brain, learning and socio-moral development, the effects of which can last long into adulthood. A growing body of research emphasizes how all school teachers, regardless of the educational context, should expect to have students in their classroom who are affected by complex trauma. Teachers therefore require an understanding of how trauma affects their students, and a skillset that allows them to support and respond effectively to these students. However, multiple studies have found that teachers feel that they have not received sufficient training, and subsequently feel inadequately equipped to meet the needs of trauma-affected students in their classrooms. Although many Initial Teacher Education programs incorporate some curriculum on child maltreatment, this is typically focused on identifying and reporting child abuse, as opposed to how sustained and severe maltreatment can lead to complex trauma, which affects learning, and social development in students. Increasing understanding of how trauma affects the brain, and the implications this has for young people in school has continued to grow since the 1990s. This has contributed to a growing trend of multidisciplinary teams combining education and wellbeing models in schools to cater to the most vulnerable students in their respective communities.
Students who have experienced trauma may appear to be deliberately misbehaving in the classroom, disengaged or disinterested in learning, and can struggle to develop skills that strengthen positive relationships with school staff and other students. Unsurprisingly, exposure to trauma impacts a young person’s academic performance, attendance, and likelihood of completion. It is clear that schools are important settings where the effects of trauma have a substantial impact on the lives of students, particularly when the effects of trauma are misunderstood. Nevertheless, schools have the potential to be one of the most powerful places for buffering the negative impacts of complex childhood trauma through their capacity to provide opportunities for all students to experience positive, trusting relationships, be cared for, and experience predictability, consistency and safety.
A trauma-informed approach in school settings involves understanding how trauma affects students and provides a framework for responding to students rather than blaming them for their behavior. Trauma-informed practice is not an intervention, and it does not have an end point. It is a process, and a holistic way of working that involves understanding and attending to the specific needs of individuals with trauma-affected childhoods. Central to all trauma-informed approaches is the importance of strong, trusting, consistent and predictable relationships between an adult and a trauma-affected child. It is within this space that opportunities to repair dysregulated stress responses, and disruptive attachment styles can take place.
John N. Hawkins
The demographic, historical, cultural, and political-economic complexity of the vast Asia Pacific Region poses a great challenge to making sense of the region’s higher education (HE) trends. Yet, several of these trends are indeed enduring and comparable. The interplay of these trends and developments continually shape the architecture of higher education in the region. A sampling of these trends focuses on one of the basic frames of higher education, namely that of increasing access, equity, and capacity. This, in turn, has led to the tension between massification on the one hand, and issues of quality assurance on the other. While national development is often the primary goal of tertiary education, regionalism has increasingly challenged these more parochial concerns. Within the region, student and faculty mobility, migration, and internationalization have emerged with greater force within the sometimes confusing context of globalization. At the upper end of the HE spectrum, the pressure of seeking to achieve excellence in research and innovation has resulted in another predicament, leading to what might be called an accelerated academy. These forces and factors, among others, are influencing the pathway of HE in the Asia Pacific region as we move into the 21st century.
There is a growing awareness of the crucial role that trust plays in every aspect of a school’s functioning and especially to student outcomes. To trust another person or group is to be at ease, without anxiety or worry, in a situation of interdependence in which valued outcomes depend upon the participation and contribution of others. The trustor can rest assured that their expectations will be fulfilled based on confidence in the other party’s benevolence, honesty, openness, reliability, and competence. As citizens across the globe have become increasingly distrustful of their institutions and leaders, the trend away from trust creates a special challenge for schools because trust is so fundamental to their core mission of educating students. The philosopher Annette Baier observed that we tend to notice trust as we notice air, only when it becomes scarce or polluted. These days, it seems evident that trust in our society as a whole has indeed been disrupted and is in scarce supply. As contemporary society has grown more complex, as changing economic realities, changing demographics, and changing expectations in society have made life less predictable, we are beginning to notice trust much more. There are a number of things that make cultivating and maintaining trust in schools challenging. These include the effects of social media, and other new forms of information and the propensity for the news of potential threats to one’s well-being, as well as the well-being of one’s children and community to spread farther and faster than positive news.
Trust matters in schools and in our world because we cannot single-handedly either create or sustain many of the things we most cherish. Parents send their children to schools, trusting that they will be safe from harm, as well as guided and taught in keeping with our highest hopes for them. Schools are also invested with a significant share of a community’s collective resources in the form of tax dollars, school buildings, and local employment opportunities. In addition, schools are charged with keeping and promoting a society’s shared values and ideals. They foster and protect the collective ideals of respect, tolerance, and democracy, as well as the vision of equity of opportunity. Indeed, the future of a society rests with the quality of its schools. It is evident, then, why trust has become such a pressing issue for schools in these challenging and turbulent times.
Brigitte Smit and Mapula Mabusela
Relational leadership and responsible leadership are important subjects in the literature, and more attention can be paid to these leadership practices in educational leadership. Most educational leadership studies focus on distributed, instructional, teacher, and transformational leadership using mostly quantitative research. The aim is to explore and describe relational and responsible leadership in the context of educational leadership. Qualitative research methodology such as narrative inquiry is not often used for inquiries into educational leadership studies. Moreover, the scholarship on narrative inquiry as a relational methodology for relational and responsible educational leadership is scant, and there is a need to broaden the discussion to include appropriate the concepts of relational leadership and responsible leadership for educational leadership in a context of relational narrative inquiry. Relational and responsible leadership theories can be appropriated through a relational research methodology using narrative inquiry. These scholarly lenses may add value to school leadership research and to school leaders who wish to transform and change leadership practices, specifically in diverse school communities with challenging and problematic educational landscapes.
Urban charter schools are public schools located in major metropolitan areas with high population densities. The majority of urban charter school students identify as Black or Latinx and often live in under-resourced communities. Urban charter schools are touted as high-quality educational options in the school choice market, yet debates about the merits of charter schools versus traditional public schools yield mixed results that substantiate arguments on both sides of the political aisle.
However, even high-performing urban charter schools have a bad reputation as mechanisms of school segregation and cogs in the school-to-prison pipeline. Higher than average test scores and graduation and college enrollment rates do little to mollify those who complain about severe discipline, racial segregation, unqualified teachers, teacher attrition, rigid scheduling, and a narrow curriculum. Urban charter schools’ emphasis on standardized testing and college preparation may overlook the culturally relevant educational experiences that low-income, racially diverse students need to compete with their wealthier, White peers.
As such, education reformers have offered a myriad of suggestions to improve urban charter schools. Most prominently is the need to racially and economically desegregate urban charter schools to enhance the social and material resources that supplement students’ learning. This includes increasing teacher diversity, which research demonstrates minimizes the frequency of suspensions and expulsions of racial minority students. Urban charter school teachers should also be knowledgeable about the sociocultural landscape of the community in which their school exists so that they understand how students’ out of school lives affect their learning processes. Finally, curricular revisions are necessary to support students’ post-high school goals beyond college enrollment. Enacting such reforms would facilitate equitable, rather than equal, learning opportunities that may help narrow racial and economic achievement gaps in the United States.
In the United States, policymakers have exhibited a resilient confidence in the idea that reforming urban schools is the essential key to improving the life chances of children, especially African American and Latino youth. Since the mid-1960s in particular, this resonant belief, as articulated in different forms by politicians, interest groups, local communities, and the broader public, has served as motivational impetus for small- and large-scale school change efforts. Despite such apparent unanimity regarding the importance of city schools, disputes have emerged over the proper structural and systemic alterations necessary to improve education. Often at issue has been the notion of just who should and will control change efforts. Moreover, vexing tensions have also characterized the enacted reform initiatives. For instance, urban school policies created by distant, delocalized outsiders have routinely engendered unanticipated local effects and fierce community resistance. In addition, particular urban school reforms have manifested simultaneously as means for encouraging social justice for marginalized youth and as mechanisms for generating financial returns for educational vendors. Regardless of such tensions, faith in urban school reform has persisted, thanks to exemplary city schools and programs that have helped students thrive academically. For many reformers, such success stories demonstrate that viable routes toward enabling academic achievement for more children living in urban areas do indeed exist.
Namita Ranganathan and Toolika Wadhwa
Evaluation studies typically comprise research endeavors that are undertaken to investigate and gauge the effectiveness of a program, an institution, or individuals working in educational contexts, such as teachers, students, administrators, and other stakeholders in education. Usually, research studies in this genre use empirical methods to evaluate educational practices and systems. Alternatively, they may take up theoretical reflections on new policies, programs, and systems. An evaluation study requires a rigorous design and method of assessment to focus on the specific context and set of issues that it targets. In general, research studies that attempt to evaluate a program, an individual, or an institution place emphasis on checking their efficacy. They do not seek to find explanations that have led to the level of efficacy that the variables under study may have achieved. Thus, quite often, they are contested as not being full-fledged research.
Evaluation studies use a variety of methods. The choice of method depends on the area of study as well as the research questions. An evaluation study may thus fall within the qualitative or quantitative paradigms. Often, a mixed method approach is used. The purpose of the study plays a significant role in deciding the method of inquiry and analysis. Establishing the probability, plausibility, and adequacy of the program can be some of the main aims of evaluation studies. This implies as well that the programs, institutions, or individuals under study would have an impact on the course and direction of future programs and practices. An evaluation study is thus of vital importance to ensure that appropriate decisions can be made about efficacy, transferability to different contexts, and difficulties and challenges to be faced in subsequent applications.
Evaluation studies in India have been done in a vast range of areas that include program evaluation, impact studies, evaluations of specific interventions, performance outcome assessments, and the like. Some examples of studies undertaken by the government and the development sector in this regard are the following: assessment of interventions for adolescence education; impact studies of interventions, programs, and policies launched for education of minorities, including girls; and evaluation of performance outcomes stemming from programs for education of the marginalized.
The key challenges in evaluation studies are to gather accurate data in order to establish reliable outcomes, to establish clear relationships between the outcomes and the interventions being studied, and to safeguard against researcher bias.
Cleo Mees and Tom Murray
Visual and screen-based research practices have a long history in social-science, humanities, education, and creative-arts based disciplines as methods of qualitative research. While approaches may vary substantially across visual anthropology, sociology, history, media, or cultural studies, in each case visual research technologies, processes, and materials are employed to elicit knowledge that may elude purely textual discursive forms. As a growing body of visual and screen-based research has made previously-latent aspects of the world explicit, there has been a concomitant appreciation that visual practices are multisensory and must also be situated within a broader exploration of embodied knowledge and multisensory (beyond the visual) research practice. As audio-visual projects such as Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel's Leviathan (2013), Rithy Panh's S-21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine (2003), and Margaret Loescher’s Cameras at the Addy (2003) all demonstrate, screen-based research practices are both modes of, and routes to, knowledge. These projects also demonstrate ways in which screen-based visual research may differ from research exclusively delivered in written form, most specifically in their capacity to document and audio-visually represent intersubjective, embodied, affective, and dynamic relationships between researchers and the subjects of their research. Increasingly, as a range of fields reveal that the incorporative body works as an integrated “perceptive field” as it processes sensory stimuli, visual and screen-based research practices will fulfil an important role in facilitating scholarly access to intuitive, affective, embodied, and analytical comprehension.
Visual literacy was originally defined as a set of visual competencies or cognitive skills and strategies one needs to make sense of visual images. These visual competencies were seen as universal cognitive abilities that were used for understanding visual images regardless of the contexts of production, reception, and dissemination. More contemporary definitions suggest visual literacy is a contextualized, social practice as much as an individualized, cognitively based set of competencies. Visual literacy is more aptly defined as a process of generating meanings in transaction with multimodal ensembles that include written text, visual images, and design elements from a variety of perspectives to meet the requirements of particular social contexts.
Theories of visual literacy and associated research and pedagogy draw from a wide range of disciplines including art history, semiotics, media and cultural studies, communication studies, visual ethnography and anthropology, social semiotics, new literacies studies, cognitive psychology, and critical theory. Understanding the various theories, research methodologies, and pedagogical approaches to visual literacy requires an investigation into how the various paradigm shifts that have occurred in the social sciences have affected this field of study. Cognitive, linguistic, sociocultural, multimodal, and postmodern “turns” in the social sciences each bring different theories, perspectives, and approaches to the field of visual literacy. Visual literacy now incorporates sociocultural, semiotic, critical, and multimodal perspectives to understand the meaning potential of the visual and verbal ensembles encountered in social environments.
Russian followers of Vygotsky have elaborated his theoretical ideas into an innovative theory of development. In this theory, children’s development is viewed as the major outcome of adult mediation: adults engage children in the age-specific joint activity (the so-called leading activity) and, in the context of this activity, promote the development in children of a new motive, and teach them new tools of thinking, problem solving, and self-regulation. As a result, children outgrow their current leading activity and transition to the new leading activity, which is specific to their next age period. Vygotskians have described the following leading activities of children in industrialized societies:
- First year of life: emotional interactions with caregivers.
- Second and third years of life: object-centered joint activity with caregivers.
- Three- to six-year-olds: sociodramatic play.
- The period of middle childhood: learning at school.
- The period of adolescence: interactions with peers.
Vygotskian developmental theory has found strong empirical support in the studies of contemporary researchers. Its major strength relates to the fact that it integrates in a meaningful way motivational, cognitive, and social factors as resulting in children’s engagement in the age-specific leading activity. This theory also provides an explanation of the mechanism of children’s transition from one developmental stage to the next stage, which many alternative theories of development fail to do. Some of the Vygotskians’ notions, however, weaken their analysis and can be disputed (this relates, for example, to a disregard by Vygotskians of the role of physiological maturation in children’s development).
Ana Luiza Bustamante Smolka, Ana Lucia Horta Nogueira, Débora Dainez, and Adriana Lia Friszman de Laplane
Vygotsky’s approach to human development is profoundly intertwined with his methodological inquiry. This inquiry is related to his persistent quest for framing and understanding the problem of consciousness. His untiring search for a plausible explanation of the material basis of specifically human psychological functions pervades his theoretical, practical, and empirical work in the fields of psychology and education. Throughout this search, sociogenesis and semiotic mediation, at first investigative hypotheses, become explanatory principles. Excerpts from his seminal texts allow us to follow the elaboration of epistemological assumptions that anchor his process of theorization and evidence the interrelationships between object of study, explanatory principle, and unit of analysis in studies of cultural development. One of his major concerns had to do with the ways of teaching and the ways of studying teaching relations, as well as the results or effects of such relations. To talk about Vygotsky’s theoretical elaborations is, hence, to talk about method—of inquiring, of studying, of teaching. From the beginning through to the end of his theoretical endeavor, we find a deep concern about what it means to be human, what are the means to be human. Repercussions and contributions of Vygotsky’s approach to research in education, as well as their ethical and political implications, must be highlighted. His way of conceiving method escapes from rigidity, not from rigor, pointing to an instigating flexibility which approximates his efforts to the efforts of many contemporary authors in different fields.