3.2 Guided participation – a cultural perspective
So far, we've looked at some of the key concepts of a socio-cultural approach to teaching and learning, and explored various ways of analysing the interaction sequences on the video. While scaffolding and the ZPD, levels of control and contingency have provided a powerful framework for research in this area, Hoogstedder et al. draw attention to the possibility that the styles of interaction reported from empirical research, and illustrated in the video, reflect particular cultural practices in the specific contexts studied. So laboratory studies (as described by David Wood, Cultural Worlds of Early Childhood, pp. 157–77) that specifically ask parents to help their children complete a puzzle encourage those parents to engage in certain kinds of dyadic, goal-oriented exchange. In home settings (as studied by Hoogstedder et al.) where the goals and timescale of the interaction are less constrained, mothers and their children are observed to engage in more negotiation and to use a wider repertoire of interactive styles according to their purposes. Even within the relatively restricted contexts filmed for the video, you can see Joe engaging in qualitatively different levels of involvement in the activity and using different communication modes according to who he is with and what he is doing.
Video 4: People in Joe's day
Watch Videos 1, 2 and 4. Compare Joe with Mum, with Owen and with Hannah and note the different styles of interaction he employs.
Transcript: Lego with Mum
Transcript: Lego with Brother
Building a tower
Following up this idea, examine the proposal that the general skill of knowing how to act collaboratively in a teaching-learning exchange is a cultural universal, but that specific forms of that exchange may be context specific. Consider the implication of this proposal for research, in terms of the extent to which there may be dangers in generalising from interactive styles observed in particular contexts, or in particular cultural settings. This applies as much to your own project work as to the larger scale studies included in the module.
One researcher who has been particularly sensitive to these issues is Barbara Rogoff. While the research carried out by her team has been strongly influenced by ideas about the ZPD and scaffolding, they have been critical of the narrow framework of assumptions about education, teaching and learning within which Vygotskian ideas have been developed:
Ironically, the sociohistorical school's formulation of the relation between individual, social, and cultural processes is not only its strength but its weakness. Despite the theory's emphasis on context and society, it nonetheless maintained assumptions regarding the contexts and societal approaches that are most valuable. Vygotsky focused on the sort of language and analysis that characterize academic learning, consistent with the agenda of his nation at the time …
(Cultural Worlds of Early Childhood, p. 228)
Rogoff (1990) has proposed the concept of ‘guided participation’ as a more inclusive framework for examining the way children are initiated into cognitive and social skills. It is more inclusive in two respects: it acknowledges variations not only in communicative styles and role relationships between learners and teachers but also in the purposes of learning and goals of development:
The developmental endpoint that has traditionally anchored cognitive developmental theories – skill in academic activities such as formal operational reasoning and scientific, mathematical, and literate practices – is one valuable goal of development, but one that is tied to its contexts and culture, as is any other goal or endpoint of development valued by a community.
Each community's valued skills constitute the local goals of development … In the final analysis, it is not possible to determine whether the goals or practices of one society are more adaptive than those of another, as judgments of adaptation cannot be separated from values.
(Rogoff, 1990, p. 12)
In the next reading Rogoff et al. refer to the initial findings from a major cross-cultural study in Guatemala, India, Turkey and the USA (data reported as a monograph, Rogoff, Mistry, Göncü and Mosier, 1993). The main focus of the reading is a comparison of just two early childhood contexts – parents and children in Mayan communities (Guatemala) and in Salt Lake City (USA). Towards the end of the reading Rogoff et al. offer two brief, contrasting case studies of mothers with their 20-month-olds, playing with a nesting doll (like a Russian doll).
Reading 5 and video
Read Chapter 13 of Cultural Worlds of Early Childhood, ‘Toddlers' guided participation with their caregivers in cultural activity’, by Barbara Rogoff, Christine Mosier, Jayanthi Mistry and Artin Göncü, attached below.
When you reach the relevant sections of the reading, look at Video 5, ‘An interview with Professor Barbara Rogoff’. Using video sequences of parents and children she collected for this study, Professor Rogoff draws our attention to differences between the interactional, and instructional styles of American and Mayan mothers.
Transcript: An interview with Professor Barbara Rogoff
Rogoff et al. argue that the process of guided participation is universal, but that there are important cultural variations related to the goals of development and the nature of involvement between children and adults. They highlight the contrasting experiences of developing skills and competencies in the two developmental niches (Mayan and Salt Lake City communities), drawing particular attention to the extent to which children observe and participate in ongoing adult activities, the extent to which adults adopt didactic and playful modes, and the use of language.
Their main conclusions from the larger study (Rogoff et al., 1993) are that in contexts where children participate in adults’ social and work activities, children showed intrinsic motivation to identify with adult activity, and learned mainly through observation and modelling of skills. The caregiver's role was to support their activity. By contrast, in communities in which children are generally segregated from adult work activities, caregivers took more responsibility for managing children's activities and encouraging their motivation. In these communities Rogoff observed adults engaging in more explicit instruction, with more verbal communication as well as more playful activity:
In communities where they are segregated from adult activities, children's learning may be organized by adults’ teaching of lessons and provision of motivational management out of the context of adult practice; in communities in which children are integrated in adult settings, learning can occur through active observation and participation by the children with responsive assistance from caregivers.
(Rogoff etal., 1993, p. 151)