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Drama and Learning  

Anton Franks

As ways of making meaning in drama strongly resemble the ways that meanings are made in everyday social life, forms of drama learn from everyday life and, at a societal level, people in everyday life learn from drama. Through history, from the emergence of drama in Western culture, the learning that results at a societal level from the interactions of everyday social life and drama have been noted by scholars. In contemporary culture, electronic and digitized forms of mediation and communication have diversified its content and massively expanded its audiences. Although there are reciprocal relations between everyday life and drama, aspects of everyday life are selected and shaped into the various cultural forms of drama. Processes of selection and shaping crystallize significant aspects of everyday social relations, allowing audiences of and participants in drama to learn and to reflect critically on particular facets of social life. In the 20th century, psychological theories of learning have been developed, taking note of the sociocultural relationships between drama, play, and learning. Learning in and through drama is seen as being socially organized, whole person learning that mobilizes and integrates the bodies and minds of learners. Making signs and meanings through various forms of drama, it is interactive, experiential learning that is semiotically mediated via physical activity. Alongside the various forms of drama that circulate in wider culture, sociocultural theories of learning have also influenced drama pedagogies in schools. In the later part of the 20th century and into the 21st century, drama practices have diversified and been applied as a means of learning in a range of community- and theater-based contexts outside of schooling. Practices in drama education and applied drama and theater, particularly since the late 20th century and into the early 21st century, have been increasingly supported by research employing a range of methods, qualitative, quantitative, and experimental.


Museum Education and the Epistemological Turn  

Irene Pérez López

Education has been part of museum identity since its inception. However, in the second half of the 20th century, the educational role gradually became the main goal: the museum has become a social institution whose educational nature legitimizes its social relevance and secures its survival in the 21st century. The spread of education to all areas of the museum, commonly called the “educational turn,” is the reason behind the conceptual change that is taking place in the postmodern museum, which has its origin in educational theory. In the last decades of the 20th century, the concept of learning as the transmission of information from an informed source to a passive receiver was replaced by the constructivist notion that learning is an active process dependent on the learner’s previous knowledge and experiences. At about the same time, critical pedagogy—as critical museology—brought a critical attitude within the museum, directed to identify structures of power and authority in order to give voice to traditionally excluded communities, and postmodernism added the idea of knowledge as something unstable and skepticism about the Western metanarratives of modernity. Constructivism, critical pedagogy, and postmodern theory contributed to the epistemological turn that the 21st-century museum faces. The change in learning theories and communication models in the postmodern museum, as a result of the epistemological turn, threatens the role of the institution as the only interpretive authority, by turning its message—previously considered a universal truth—into a point of view. The museum faces the challenge of becoming a meaning-making scenario where visitors can make connections and design their own learning experiences. The museum of the 21st century has forged a more egalitarian relationship with society.


Art-Informed Pedagogies in the Preparation of Teachers in the United States  

Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor and Lynn Sanders-Bustle

There are several interrelated themes in arts-informed pedagogies and teacher preparation: (1) the arts as tools to improve students’ academic achievement in other content areas such as math, science, social studies, language arts, and foreign language; (2) the arts as holistic and dynamic process for meaning-making; (3) the arts for teachers’ own professional identity and satisfaction (e.g., for teacher reflection, teacher retention, job satisfaction, and relationship-building); and (4) the arts for social change, social justice, and education advocacy work. There are a series of key questions and concerns regarding where, how, and why arts-informed teacher education practices are used, who uses them, and to what end.


Subjective Well-Being and Student Development  

Weiqiao Fan

Subjective well-being (SWB) emphasizes individuals’ emotional evaluation and cognitive appraisal of life quality, taking life satisfaction (LS) (both general and specific), positive affect (PA), and negative affect (NA) into consideration. Traditionally, SWB research has been conducted on adults; that on adolescents and young students has been limited. Moreover, SWB has generally been explored as an outcome variable related to people’s learning, work, relationships, and health. However, SWB should be considered a dynamic and agentic system that may promote an individual’s self-development as well as social development. Among student populations, SWB has been proven to affect academic achievement, health, and developmental variables such as personality, life quality, school engagement, and career development. Schools and higher educational environments are not only places in which young people acquire academic knowledge and capacities; they are also places in which students connect with others, develop their personalities, experience all facets of society, and construct their life meaning, sense of self-esteem, and career identity. Furthermore, from a developmental and constructive perspective, some empirical evidence supported the idea that SWB may be a pivotal variable affecting student development. Nevertheless, whether SWB can benefit development among young students is controversial, as is whether SWB is a predictor of individual development or a developmental outcome. Therefore, in examining the research beyond the relationship between SWB and health or academic achievement, studies on the contribution of SWB to student development must be reviewed.


World Language Education and the Pedagogical Imperative  

James P. Lantolf

L. S. Vygotsky proposed that human consciousness entails the dialectical interaction between memory, attention, perception, emotion and motivation, imagination, and rational thought, organized in large part through language, or more appropriately, communicative meaning-making activity. The development of consciousness occurs more or less spontaneously (i.e., unplanned) in everyday life activity and in more systematically organized and intentionally planned educational activity. An important component of the developmental process is the conceptual knowledge that cultures make available to their through various types of social relations. In everyday life, this knowledge is largely empirically based, while in formally organized educational development conceptual knowledge is highly systematic and much more readily recontextualizable than is everyday knowledge. Academic concepts are derived from rigorous research and as such reveal processes and components of material reality that are otherwise hidden from direct empirical observation by our senses. The responsibility of presenting and explaining academic concepts to students in educational activity is carried out by specially prepared individuals—teachers—who engage students in intentionally planned and (hopefully) rigorous interactions, mediated largely, though not exclusively, through language. According to the pedagogical imperative, as it relates to instruction in world languages, relevant high quality theoretical and conceptual knowledge must be made pedagogically viable; that is, understandable to both teachers and learners and it must be useable by learners to mediate their generation of meaning in practical communicative activities. The knowledge must be presented in a memorable way, usually in a holistic visual representation rather than traditional verbally based rules of thumb and learners must be guided through appropriate prompts, clues, and hints provided primarily by teachers, but at times also by peers, to internalize this knowledge so that it becomes functional in communicative practices. Finally, recognition must be given to the fact that development of any kind, including that provoked by educational practice, must not only take account of the participants (students and teachers) intellect, it must also profoundly consider the emotional aspects of the educational process as teachers and learners engage in the dialectic process captured by Vygotsky in the Russian term, obuchenie, or teaching–learning, whereby teachers and learners engage in a process of mutual mediation.


The Zone of Proximal Development and Diversity  

Alex Kostogriz and Nikolay Veresov

The concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) emerged in the cultural-historical theory of Vygotsky as a result of the broader quest for a new psychology and forms of education in the post-revolutionary Soviet Union. The project of unprecedented socioeconomic transformations created a political demand for education that would build intellectual, physical, and moral capabilities of the new generation of young people. Cultural-historical psychology, at that point in time, emerged as a result of such a demand, investigating the development of psychological functions and the role of education and upbringing in mediating this process. This meant an advancement of the study of mental activity as embedded in social and cultural practices where any intellectual function appears, first, on the social plane and then on the psychological plane of the child. The concept of the ZPD was formed as a result of this genetic law of psychological development that laid a methodological foundation of the new psychology. In terms of developing this foundation, Vygotsky was among the first psychologists to apply the principles of dialectics, searching for a fundamentally new approach to the analysis and explanation of psychological phenomena, especially their causal-dynamic nature. The concept of the ZPD is illustrative of Vygotsky’s dialectical method insofar as it represents the development of the child as a unity of contradictory relations between her actual level of development and the potential level that the child can achieve in collaboration with others. Initially, Vygotsky introduced the ZPD as a diagnostic principle of defining the child’s abilities to collaborate with others in order to determine the area of evolving and future intellectual functions, rather than evaluating the outcomes of the child’s past development. By prioritizing the role of collaboration in the development of intellectual functions, Vygotsky’s ZPD bridged the world of psychological development and the world of education. The ZPD, from this perspective, opens up the internal relation between development and education, with the process of education leading the development of intellectual functions. Education creates opportunities for children to build their future capabilities, wakening up, as it were, those processes that could not be possible without their participation in intersubjective encounters or dialogical classroom events. The ZPD, in a pedagogical sense, is a social space of learning and communication in which children can build their consciousness, understandings, self-regulation, and agency. Yet, this is also a space where children’s differences and particularities are most visible. Depending on how diversity is recognized, the process of education can either stimulate or repress intellectual development.