Parents and toddlers: Teaching and learning at home
Parents and toddlers: Teaching and learning at home

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Parents and toddlers: Teaching and learning at home

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.

Download this video clip.Video player: Lego with Mum
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Transcript: Lego with Mum

Joe
I can’t how to do it
Megan
The hat, put the hat on – try like that –is that it?
Joe
No. That can’t fit on it
Megan
I think the red one goes on here Joe
Joe
What does it go?
Megan
Yeah, yeah
Joe
What do that go ... Does it go there
Megan
I think it goes under the man
Joe
Does it go there?
Megan
No, I think the man has to come off, the man and the wheel have to come off ... whoops ...
Joe
What does it go
Megan
No that was right, put put put the red one back on ... and the other red one
Joe
What way that go, there?
Megan
Yeah
Joe
What do that go
Megan
Well, what do you think?
Joe
What about there?
Megan
OK. Push really hard, that’s it
Joe
I can’t do this lego
Megan
I push hard for you ... it is hard isn’t it?
Joe
What about that one ... oh oh oh
[Sings]
Megan
Where’s the wheel gone, where did you put the wheel?
Joe
There, what do the driver go? There
don’t go there?
Megan
Um probably about there. Ah I dropped it. That’s it, shall I push it hard for you, yes it’s hard isn’t it, it’s ’cause it’s new, there you are
Joe
It go there? What’s that?
Megan
What’s that?
Joe
Yeah, what are we making?
Megan
It will be this won’t it, it will be the engine
End transcript: Lego with Mum
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Download this video clip.Video player: Lego with Brother
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Transcript: Lego with Brother

Owen
Need the part Joe’s got and the wheels
Megan
If you give Joe the yellow bits Owen, because he knows how to put those on the wheels I think, no no
Owen
I’ll put these on ...
Joe
[Shouts] Let’s go and make that
Megan
You want to make that, can you find the wheels then Joe
Owen
Joe find four wheels ... need to put this
one on
Joe
I want how to do it ...
Owen
Put one wheel on
Joe
Oh, I can’t how to do this lego
Owen
Um something’s fallen ... on the floor
Megan
Pick it up then Owen in a minute it’s near you, then put that on, pick it up first, put that on the table, got a wheel then Joe ... Owen look what about this ...
Owen
Oh look ...
Joe
Where that ... do that go?
Megan
Where does that wheel go?
Joe
Yeah
Megan
Ask Owen
Joe
Where do that go?
Owen
It goes on here Joe, can I have it please, thank you. Joe can you pass it to Owen, good boy
Joe
And then there’s a engine
Owen
Not yet, not yet Joe
Joe
I need a engine
Owen
Joe we don’t need it yet. Joe can you give Owen the engine please?
Joe
You have to share ...
Megan
Owen
Owen
Yeah, that’s me ... yeah
Megan
Which bit are you doing? Right
Owen
Done the front bit
Joe
What about ...
Megan
Give Joe chance to push some on because he might ... to do it ...
Joe
What about
Joe
What about that digger?
Owen
Joe
Joe
Yes
Owen
Can you do this for Owen ... push that there, push it down ... Is there anything else Mum, because not everything is here
Megan
What are you looking for?
Owen
That bit
Megan
Is it on the floor? Here it is I’ve got it
Owen
Thank you
Megan
Where’s the man Joe
Joe
It’s there
Megan
Put him together, where’s his legs
Owen
There’s his hat
Joe
I can’t find ...
End transcript: Lego with Brother
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Building a tower

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Building a tower
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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.

Toddlers' guided participation with their caregivers in cultural activity (PDF, 25 pages, 0.7 MB) [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Download this video clip.Video player: An interview with Professor Barbara Rogoff
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Transcript: An interview with Professor Barbara Rogoff

BARBARA ROGOFF
The research involved visiting families in ah, different communities, 14 families in each of the two communities that we've got on video tape here, and visiting their homes, sitting around and chatting with the families for a little while and then as the babies got comfortable, they were 12-24 month olds. After a while we brought out novel objects and asked the mothers to help them operate these objects.
Some of them were toys things like a nesting doll, a jumping jack toy that you pull the strings on, an embroidery hoop and we told the mothers that these were objects that were rather difficult for toddlers to manage and asked them to help the toddlers when they needed it.
One girl wants a jumping jack and I hand it to her mother because we always did. Oh look at that says the mother in a kind of mock excitement to attract the child's attention. I'll play that for you again.. . kind of motivating the child to get involved in the handling the object the way the mother wants.
In the middle class European American community in Salt Lake City Utah many of the parents organise lessons for the children and they oriented the children to the task they used mock excitement to get the children interested, they praised the children for doing things the way the parents wanted them done and they focused the children on little lessons like vocabulary lessons labelling things or little naming routines like identifying body parts on a toy or on themselves.
The start of this the baby says "hat" and the mother goes into a language lesson.
... tape playing ...
The mother started it off by saying "what is that Sarah?" and the baby answers "hat".
... tape playing ...
The mother prompted it, the child labelled the hat, they went on to label other body parts the father pitched in to make sure that the child got the right label for the right thing.
"Show me the noseJsJa ys the mother and the baby gets tired of the game. All of this was not a request for information the mother didn't need to know what the names of things were it wasn't a real request for information it was just a game to see if the baby could identify the parts.
... tape playing ...
Those are lessons that the European American middle class care givers seem to regard as important for the children's learning.
They were out of the context of the children's on going activities they were focused on teaching and learning themselves.
A contrast occurs in the Myan community in Guatemala where I've done research where there's very few of those lessons but there's interaction between care givers and children in which talk is used to accomplish on going efforts and in which the care givers are very responsively supporting the toddlers efforts to learn, they often provide a little orientation to whatever the activity is and then follow the, the child's lead.
They're not getting so much of the face to face language lesson, instruction but they, they're embedded in language perhaps more constantly than are the Salt Lake City children. The Salt Lake City children have language directed at them specialised language in many cases it's intended as a lesson.
So in the Myan setting there's not this specialised conversation about words but there's a lot of use of words in doing things together.
In the Myan community there was also a very skilled use of non verbal communication. In the US Middle class American community non verbal communication was also important but it was not nearly as prevently or commonly used as in the Myan community.
The child has an extra object in her hands now and the mothers going to tell her to get rid of it. She touches the object and then she touches the back of the child's hand telling the child to give the object to me so that she has her hands free to handle the new, the jumping jack toy. Let's watch that one again.
... rewind tape ... -
Mother wants the babies hands free, touches the toy, touches her arm and the baby understands clearly and hands it over to me.
End transcript: An interview with Professor Barbara Rogoff
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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)

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