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Culture and the classroom

CADV 350
Learning Objectives
Briefly describe elements of Vygotskys theory that
help clarify cultural differences in the classroom
Briefly describe Rogoffs apprenticeship in thinking
model of learning
Briefly describe Schons Reflective Practitioner
Model of teaching
Describe cultural differences in regards to the
social organization of a typical classroom
Discuss socio-linguistic differences among
cultures in regards to the classroom
Discuss cultural differences in holistic vs.
analytical thought and need for context vs.
decontextualized thought
Etic vs. Emic
Etic is something that is true of most
cultures in general (all use language)
Emic is something that is specific to one
culture (different kinds of languages)
We will be focusing on etics in this
Focus on learning how to understand
cultural differences in general as
opposed to learning the specifics of a
certain culture.
Vytoskys SocioCultural Theory
Who was Vygotsky?
How did Vygotsky view learning?
Socio-cultural origins of mental
Learning as mediation and construction
The Zone of Proximal Development
Our thinking is not our thoughts alone.
Culture is in thinking.
Who was Vygotsky?
Russian did work in late 1920-1930 (RIght after the
Soviet Revolution; happened because there was a
problem with the government; Vygotsky was one of
the jewish minorities that was oppressed)
Died at 37 of tuberculosis
Interested in relationships among thought, language,
perception, memory and attention.
Culture central theme in theory (socio-cultural
Worked with diverse participants including those with
special needs.
Published over 180 works
His work was banned by Stalin from 1936-1956
Not read widely in the West until late 60's (got fed up
with Piaget's theory)
Learning (Vygotsky)
Main part of theory learning is
social first (socio-cultural origins of
mental functioning) *Comes all from
your experiences*
Learning as mediation and
construction (2-step process;
someone mediating the constructing -
the person that provides the means to
Zone of Proximal Development
Learning is social first
Every function in a childs cultural
development appears twice: first on the
social level, then on the psychological
level; first between people
(Interpsychological) then inside the child
That is all learning, even adult learning,
happens socially, then is internalized
children are ready to five and take
social exchanges; they are ready for it;
they constrain it)
Sociocultural origins of mental
Appropriation the process whereby children
actively constrain what they remember from social
exchanges (things that are important to them;
things that they can understand; have some
knowledge of it already).
Example: Story of my childrens activities when
they were younger.
Children are not simply taking in understanding
from someone else, they are actively and jointly
making meaning of it (some meaning overlap but
some does not because we all have different
Learning as mediation and
All learning is mediated by more experienced others (peers; any
given situation; mediation is constraining the situation)
Then constructed by the learner
Guided participation present a learning situation and
accommodate that situation to the needs of the learner (more
experience of the present situation; the more a child can
guide/accommodate the situation).
Scaffolding providing support for learning
Intersubjectivity shared focus or understanding (nature of the
interaction; during the process of guided participant; together,
different ideas, share the same understanding.
Play as form of learning play allows child to understand a
situation at their own level and to extend it (allows the child to
"scaffold" themselves at their own level; pretend play - practicing
something in a safe environment; solitary or group play).
Zone of Proximal Development
The distance between the actual
developmental level as determined through
independent problem solving and the level of
potential development as determined through
problem solving under adult guidance or in
collaboration with more capable peers,
(Byrnes, 2008, p.36).
One of Vygotsky's best know ideas but the least understood.
There is an actual level (bottom) and level with help (top)
The area between - where learning happens (ZPD constantly
Below the actual level is too easy; Above the level with help is too
hard. Teaching - between (cannot grasp and learn if its too hard; no
learning if its too easy)
Maximum learning happens at ZPD
Do with help and on your own
4 Steps in the ZPD (Tharp and
1. Performance assisted by others.
2. Performance assisted by self (self-directed
speech) *Helping yourself/telling yourself what to do from what you
learned -> eventually becomes fossilized*
3.Performance automatized or fossilized.
4. De-automatization leads to recursion back
through the ZPD (ex: reading/driving; know something
really well but having to be challenged ->driving in the
snow/rain; reading words from a different country; there
is alway deeper; never stops; always go back to ZPD;
thinking about things in different ways *newer/deeper*;
extending learning/knowledge; don't know the end of it;
raising the bar).
Following in Vygotskys footsteps
Rogoffs Apprenticeship in Thinking
Model (from our text)
Schons Reflective Practitioner Model
(from our text) *know the
Tharp and Gallimores work in
understanding cultural conflicts in the
classroom (from our reading) *white
middle class teacher (values) comes in
and teaches a class that do not comes
from the same background (different
Apprenticeship in thinking (when we are
learning; think of the everyday things that you learn; think of learning as
an apprenticeship)
A novice working closely with an expert (adult) in a joint problem-
solving activity (child working w/ an adult)
Novice is able to participate in skills beyond what s/he is capable of
Novice internalizes shared cognitive processes (how do you know
when its done? When to flip the pancakes?)
Adults provide guided participation: childrens efforts are structured by
adult and gradually responsibility for problem solving is transferred to
the child (gradually shifting the responsibility as the are learning).
Guided participation happens implicitly many times and usually in a
context of accomplishing something (passing onto the next generation)
What is taught then is culturally determined, whatever is important in
the the culture is transferred to the child via apprenticeship in thinking
model (apprenticeship process is cross-culture; what is taught is
different; pass things down to the child; give children real projects
rather than just practice-practice-practice)
Reflective Practice
(Do it own your own-in
Knowing-in-action: tacit knowledge
Reflection-in-action: metacognition in which
unexpected event and
Reflection on reflection-in-action: assisting
students in constructing new
Children are not taught, but coached
Cultural differences in the
(Do it own your own-in
Social Organization
Socio-linguistic differences
Cognitive orientation (holistic vs.
analytic thought)
Cultural differences in Social
What does a typical North American classroom
look like? (looking at teacher; visual aids; norm =
looking at the individual for learning)
In some cultures the norm is a more collaborative
learning environment (no competition; share
learning/knowledge; many countries norm)
Children have cultural value of working together
(cooperation) rather than competition.
Competition among individuals is NOT valued in
some cultures.
Group work is especially important for student
from these cultures.
Social Organization
Some cultural groups value
competition among groups as
opposed to individuals.
Judge of competition should be peers,
not a teacher.
E.g., playing the dozens in African
American culture.
Social norms for how you use
Participation Structures
Discourse (communication)
Structured, coherent sequence of
Classroom discourse: verbal
exchanges in the classroom.
IRE pattern
Initiate(teacher-asking a question),
Respond(student), Evaluate
Focus on the teacher
Wait Time
Wait time 1: time a teacher waits for
an answer after posing a question to
the class.
Wait time 2: time a teacher waits to
speak after a student is finished
How do you feel about wait time?
Why are these wait times important?
The ebb and flow of discussion
The speed and tempo
Important for knowing when and how to
jump into the conversation (like jump
Rhythm of discussions varies according
to culture.
Why do we need to consider this in our
Participation Structures
The implicit expectations for
participating in classroom discussions
vary according to culture.
Is it ok to initiate a discussion with the
Should a student only talk when spoken
Can a student challenge the teacher?
How long can you speak when you get
"the floor?"
Is interruption permitted?
Cultural differences in cognition
Holistic vs. Analytical Thought
Contextual vs. Decontextualized
(In reading)
In all cultures we do both holistic and
analytical thoughts. It's not that we
cannot do one, but we prefer/emphasis
one more than the other.
Holistic vs. Analytic thought
Holistic thought pieces derive meaning from the
whole (through the whole you learn the steps)
Analytic the whole is revealed through the
unfolding of sections(the steps; piano = learn the
scale before learning the music piece)
Both are used in all cultures, but usually only 1 is
Which is favored in the average North American
classroom? (Analytical - talk about all the parts)
Need for context
Traditionally schools have focused on
abstraction of principles and ideas
Many cultures and languages are
highly contextual
Learning that is rooted in real is more
highly valued than abstract
The abstract is not valued as highly
as what is REAL