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Guiding and scaffolding participation in learning: A sociocultural perspective

MacCallum, J.ORCID: 0000-0002-0212-3341 and Morcom, V.ORCID: 0000-0002-0944-1705 (2013) Guiding and scaffolding participation in learning: A sociocultural perspective. In: AARE 2013: Shaping Australian Educational Research, 1 - 5 December 2013, Adelaide, South Australia


In this paper we examine ways teachers guide and scaffold motivation in a primary school classroom. Motivation is conceptualised as negotiated participation. Three sociocultural concepts are used to examine motivational development: zone of proximal development (Goldstein, 1999; Vygotsky, 1978), canalisation and self-canalisation (Valsiner, 1997), and mastery and appropriation (Wertsch, 1998). When motivation is re-conceptualised in social terms and considered from the perspective of sociocultural developmental psychology, the complex interrelations of persons and contexts involved in motivational development and change become the focus of research rather than change in specific motivational variables. The larger project was a year-long ethnographic study in a year 3 classroom, and interviews the following year. Multiple data sources included classroom observation, interviews, sociometric surveys, school documents, and reflective accounts of the students, their parents and the co-researchers. Video recordings of classroom activities made it possible to revisit interaction and observe and analyse a particular student's participation and dialogue. The analyses for this paper focuses on two students, Tina and Trent. There are clear instances that when the teacher provided social guidance both students were working within their affective zone of proximal development. Tina was always keen to provide her opinion, but not always appropriately in relation to the functioning of the class community. The teacher's actions appeared to be supporting but also transforming Tina's self-canalisation of participation in that class. When Tina moved to another class in year 4 with different participation structures, Tina initially resisted her new teacher's canalisation of ways to participate. Tina had not only mastered the cultural tools of decision making in year 3 but she had appropriated them and made them her own. Trent's motivational journey is different. Accounts of his journey show that the broader scaffolding provided by the teacher through the daily social circle and weekly class meeting enabled him to master, but not appropriate, the practices of the classroom. In the following year, Trent did not resist the new teacher's canalisation of ways to participate in that classroom. The accounts of student motivation journeys show that development is not linear. Guidance of others contributes to canalising possibilities for development, while the individual also contributes to possibilities for development through self-canalisation processes. Thus students may master the cultural tools for participation in a particular context but not necessarily make those tools their own, with implications for their motivation and learning. Each of the sociocultural concepts helps to describe aspects of motivational development that illuminate different parts of the complex process. We discuss how these differences can enable closer examination of classroom interaction to support motivation and learning. The research contributes to our understanding of the role of social interactions and cultural practices in promoting and constraining students' motivational development.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
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