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Enriching ‘learning activity’ with ‘epistemic practices’ – enhancing students’ epistemic agency and authority

Enriching ‘learning activity’ with ‘epistemic practices’ – enhancing students’ epistemic agency... Enriching ‘learning activity’ with ‘epistemic practices’ enhancing students’ epistemic agency and authority 1 2 Inger Eriksson * and Viveca Lindberg Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Education & Stockholm Teaching and Learning Study, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; School of Education and Communication, Jo ¨ nko ¨ ping University, Jo ¨ nko ¨ ping, Sweden This article is an unchanged, re-published version of: Inger Eriksson & Viveca Lindberg, ‘Enriching learning activities with epistemic practices  enhancing students’ epistemic agency and authority’, with Maja Elmgren, Maria Folke-Fichtelius, Stina Hallse ´n, Henrik Roma ´ n (2016), Att ta utbildningens komplexitet pa ˚ allvar. En va ¨ nskrift till Eva Forsberg, Uppsala Universitet: Uppsala Studies in Education 138. Keywords: learning activity; epistemic practice; agency; cognitive authority; teaching-learning; democracy deficit *Correspondence to: Inger Eriksson, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Education & Stockholm Teaching and Learning Study, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden, Email: inger.eriksson@hsd.su.se n this article, we explore how the characteristics of (facts, concepts, models and things), and epistemic objects epistemic practices, a concept introduced by Karin are treated as incomplete  they are ‘open, question- IKnorr Cetina (1999, 2001, 2005, 2007), as used in generating and complex’ (Knorr Cetina, 2001, p. 190). educational settings, could be challenging and/or enrich- Another way of expressing this is to distinguish between ing learning activity, a concept developed within the types of relationships to objects: in everyday notions of cultural historical activity theoretical (CHAT) tradition objects, we tend to take them for granted and their meaning (Davydov, 1986/2008; Repkin, 2003). We first outline as self-evident. When an object becomes an epistemic object, the core aspects of Knorr Cetina’s concept in brief, as a the relationship to the object is what changes. A conclusion point of departure. Second, we review how the concept from Knorr Cetina’s concepts is that a change in the relation epistemic practice has been used in educational contexts to an object results in a change in actions and, as a (predominantly science education) and third, we present consequence of these changes in actions, make a significant basic principles of as well as criticism against learning difference between habitual and epistemic practices. As Knorr Cetina’s empirical work is related to research activity. In the final part of the chapter, we suggest some and our interest in this chapter relates to teaching/learning, complements to learning activity, based on the review of we have reviewed internationally published research in epistemic practices in educational settings, in order to order to explore how the concept of epistemic practice has address the criticism directed towards learning activity. been used in educational settings in relation to teaching in Epistemic practices are considered to be included in compulsory school. A common understanding of school is epistemic cultures, ‘the cultures of knowledge settings’ that it is a place where knowledge is reproduced, that the (Knorr Cetina, 2005, p. 65), which are linked to and form production of knowledge takes place somewhere else but the basis of a broader contemporary concept, the knowledge not in school. With such an understanding of education, society. Epistemic practices as a concept are primarily related activities in school would, according to Knorr Cetina’s to knowledge as the frame of meaning within which people categories, be labelled as habitual practices. However, Eva ‘enact their lives’ (Knorr Cetina, 2007, p. 364). Knowledge is Forsberg (2010, p. 205 our translation) remarks that thereby present in what people do, how they do it, what they do, what tools they use and how they communicate in and With the knowledge society, educational issues about their doing, that is, knowledge is built into activities. and phenomena have come to the fore. Society is Knowledge is thus constituted in people’s actions. Further- permeated by expectations imposed on its citizens, more, Knorr Cetina distinguishes between epistemic and professionals, experts and researchers to actively habitual practices. Epistemic practices are mainly charac- terised by knowledge production and learning, whereas This dichotomy may give the impression of a hierarchy. However, the concept habitual refers to aspects that make it possible to distinguish a practice as a habitual practices are characterised by routine (doing and practice, that is, recurring patterns of actions, etc., in Knorr Cetina’s words: tradition). In epistemic practices, the object(s) that the ‘Current conceptions of practice emphasize the habitual and rule-governed researchers work with are not static objects in the world features of practice’ (2001, p. 175). Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy 2016.# 2016 Inger Eriksson and Viveca Lindberg. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative 1 Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and to remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially, provided the original work is properly cited and states its license. Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 (page number not for citation purpose) Inger Eriksson and Viveca Lindberg participate in the development, appropriation and as experiments, texts, objects, valid interpretations, use of knowledge in all sectors and all activities. and theoretical frameworks, among other cultural elements’ (p. 137), which in turn contributes to a This calls for approaches to education that challenge more nuanced picture of epistemic activities. traditional ways of understanding teaching. Ingrid Carlgren . The need for interaction in science teaching and its (2015) is one of the representatives for such approaches, significance for students learning particular ways of relating  among others  to Knorr Cetina’s work. She talking science. Teachers can also contribute to suggests teachers’ work to be regarded as an epistemic mediating different ways (more or less valid for the work: ‘Knowledge is the teacher’s raw material (that is to science community) of talking science, depending on be transformed to content of teaching) as well as the result whether the students see themselves as future of this work (students’ knowing)’ (p. 16 our translation). scientists or school students. According to Kelly, Crawford, and Green (2001, p. 137), . The necessity of students’ agency, that is, their ‘epistemic activities as such are central to education’. In the interaction in classrooms, and ‘the ways that students following sections, we begin by mapping the work related to interpret and discriminate the multiple voices of epistemic practices/activities by educational researchers in science heard in science settings’ (p. 138). order to explore how epistemic practices have been char- acterised in the educational context. In the following section In all three kinds of interaction, ‘facts are constructed; of the chapter, we turn to the cultural historical research that membership is inscribed; social relationships are established developed the concept of learning activity (Davydov, 1986/ and challenged; a way of talking is established; and 2008; Repkin, 2003), a concept we found to be close to that discourse practices are developed and displayed’ (Kelly of epistemic practices. After describing the characteristics of et al., 2001, p. 138). Based on Kelly et al., one conclusion is learning activity, we compare the two concepts focusing on that whether the focus in interaction is on science research possible similarities, complementarities and contradictions. or science classrooms, they both contribute to establishing cultural practices. Further, whether or not the interaction is Epistemic practices in teaching part of an epistemic practice or not is not necessarily a Epistemic practice as a concept is less common in relation to question of research or school, but rather the type of research related to school students; however, those who do activity, where interaction is constitutive, that is established. use it relate it to the school subject of science. Through a series In a later article, Kelly (2008) discusses four research of searches in the database ProQuest Social Sciences, we directions related to research on the discursive practices of identified four researchers who fulfilled the criterion for science teaching. These are access and equity to science, the inclusion that we had defined, that is, the concept epistemic practical epistemologies of everyday school science, activity practice was addressed in the article and not merely theory and learning, and multiple literacies. He emphasises mentioned. All four researchers, whether writing alone or that studies within each of these perspectives have contrib- with colleagues, addressed epistemic practices in relation to uted to the understanding of the aspects of what constitutes science education. The researchers we identified were (in social practices, for example, how these support or limit alphabetical order) Mark Enfield, Gregory Kelly, William A. (groups of) students’ participation, that ‘[t]he instantiation of Sandoval, and David Stroupe. We searched further in the epistemic practices in schools relies on interpretation of sci- databases using their names as authors. Of these, Kelly and entific knowledge and practices by social and symbolic medi- Stroupe specifically relate to Karen Knorr Cetina’s work and ators whose views may vary from those of both their students the concept of epistemic practice where the object is as well as scientist’ (Kelly, 2008, p. 334). Further, activity constitutive for the practice. theory is regarded a future research approach in (science) From the work of Gregory Kelly and his colleagues, learning as such approaches ‘consider social epistemology, we have chosen two articles, which emphasise important language, and participation as prominent theoretical con- aspects of science education in relation to epistemic structs for the interpretation of potential learning events’ practice. The first article discusses aspects of interaction (Kelly, 2008, p. 335). These two  the dialogic perspective on that must be fulfilled in order for teaching to qualify as meaning making and the teacher’s contribution as a mediator epistemic practice (Kelly et al., 2001): of meaning through introduction, framing, shaping and evaluating dialogue  are regarded as central if students are to . The significance of interaction in scientific practice, become increasingly more competent participators. that is, the actors display ‘what members of a In his article, Stroupe (2014) frames ‘classrooms as a particular community interactionally acknowledge science practice community’ (p. 489) in focusing power and The first search was made in 2013 and the final one in June 2015. The epistemic agency in relation ‘to learning science-as-practice’ keywords used were (epistemic practice) in combination with school. Most of (p. 489). However, he finds that conservative forms of the hits were related to epistemic without connection to practice. The keyword instruction do not qualify as such classrooms, whereas ‘school’ also resulted in articles related to higher education such as School of Medicine. what he calls ambitious teaching provides opportunities 2 Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 (page number not for citation purpose) Enriching learning activities with epistemic practices for students to learn science-as-practice. In these class- . seeing knowledge as an object of inquiry; . understanding various forms of scientific knowl- rooms, instruction is characterised by four dimensions that edge; newcomers learn in context: a conceptual, a social, an . understanding the reciprocal nature of theory and epistemic and a material dimension. According to Stroupe, data and understanding representations within in- teachers that enact ambitious instruction ‘in which stu- terpretive frameworks; and dents learn science-as-practice, help reframe students’ roles . understanding criteria for evaluation of knowledge from knowledge recipients to epistemic agents  indivi- claims. duals or groups who take, or are granted, responsibility for shaping the disciplinary knowledge and practice of a Such goals challenge contemporary teaching practices. community’ (p. 492, italics in original text). One aspect Sandoval et al. suggest the following design principles for of the dimensions that Stroupe finds crucial for ambitious teachers as guidance for enhancing this type of (scientific) instruction is the negotiation between participants about learning: what knowledge counts or, in other words, that what he calls cognitive authority is a question of negotiation where . provide epistemic forms for students’ expression of individuals’ experiences can influence practice over time. their thinking; The main focus in Stroupe’s study is the agency made . give distinct forms of knowledge distinct representa- available to students in classrooms characterised by tions; ambitious instruction. For this, Stroupe analysed class- . design representations that can be coordinated and room communication in relation to two aspects: first, who linked; and knows, that is, whether the discussions were private or . ensure representations prompt and support epis- collective; and second, who in the classrooms had cognitive temic (not just conceptual) practices and commu- authority, that is, whose arguments qualified as knowl- nicate evaluation criteria and connect them to edge. Stroupe also found that in classrooms characterised representations. by ambitious instruction, teachers involved students in negotiations where their arguments were given cognitive Obvious in these suggested design principles is that the authority. In conservative classrooms, cognitive authority only one-to-one connection to goals for students’ learning was related to teachers only. He also found that in relates to evaluation criteria. Typical for the other suggestions classrooms, where teachers created what he calls a public is that epistemic forms in Sandoval’s texts partly seems to practice with their students, ‘teachers and students together relate to what rather could be considered as actions in engaged in the conceptual, epistemic, social, and material a practice. Furthermore, Sandoval and his colleagues aspects of science work. Over time, the classroom commu- (Kawasaki, DeLiema, & Sandoval, 2014) emphasise the nity advanced their collective understanding of science’ need for acknowledging that the social contexts students (p. 507). In classrooms characterised by what Stroupe calls engage in may be both epistemic, in terms of school science, private discussions, the communication between teacher and non-epistemic (e.g. media and home). This movement is and student is conceived of as individual and thereby regarded a constraint as resources such as tools and materials nothing that other students needed to engage in. are influenced by demands and rules, as well as social Sandoval and his colleagues seem to have their basis in relations from a variety of epistemic as well as non-epistemic the tradition of conceptual change and elaborate their studies based on design experiments. They distinguish settings and these may vary between context. Still, Sandoval between epistemic understanding and epistemic practice. and his colleagues in their work (Ruy & Sandoval, 2012; Epistemic understanding refers to a set of ideas that Sandoval, Sodian, Koerber, & Wong, 2014) appear to make students should ‘understand and be able to appropriate clear distinctions between science as epistemic practice and as they engage in or think about science’ (Sandoval, the kind of practices made available to children in schools: Bell, Coleman, Enyedym, & Suthers, 2000, p. 3), whereas assertions that children are little scientists or that epistemic practices are defined as the cognitive and science is the refinement of everyday thinking discursive activities students are expected to ‘engage in to notwithstanding, thinking as a scientist and think- develop their epistemic understanding’ (Sandoval et al., ing scientifically are not the same thing. /.../ The 2000, p. 2). An epistemic practice in the view of Sandoval metaphor of the child as scientist acknowledges that et al. is characterised by explicit articulation and evalua- the seeds of scientific reasoning lie in what appear to tion of the individual’s knowledge, coordination of theory be fundamental human capacities for cognition but and evidence, making sense of patterns of data and developing representational fluency and holding claims Examples of what Sandoval means by forms of knowledge can be found in an article from 2005 ‘Besides theories, laws, and hypotheses, models are an accountable to evidence and criteria. The character of important form of scientific knowledge. There are also rhetorical forms, such epistemic understanding is described as a set of goals for as explanations, predictions, and arguments that rely on these other students’ learning: epistemological forms to advance specific claims’ (p. 641). Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 3 (page number not for citation purpose) Inger Eriksson and Viveca Lindberg obscures two very different aspects of the social model but also the differences as compared with traditional nature of scientific thinking. First, scientists do their habitual (science) teaching practices (Knorr Cetina, 2001). thinking within highly developed communities de- As compared with how Knorr Cetina has used the concept, signed for the purpose, including well-developed we can see that while her main emphasis is on the object and social infrastructures, technological machinery, and its characteristics (incomplete, relational and negotiable), expertise. To call this sociotechnical infrastructure a this is an issue that has received less attention in articles refinement of everyday thinking grossly underesti- relating to epistemic practices in science education. On mates its role and value in the production of scienti- the contrary, the emphasis on student agency in research fic knowledge and could hardly explain the success related to school settings is paid less attention in Knorr of science as a cultural institution. (Sandoval et al., Cetina’s work  perhaps as research settings assume equal 2014, p. 140) agency for all participants. Enfield, Smith, and Grueber (2008) use the concept of epistemic practices for referring to the kind of thinking and Learning activity a CHAT approach reasoning about phenomena that reflect the socially shared The texts analysed above show an explicit interest in practices of science. Furthermore, scientific or investigative epistemic practices in (science) teaching. We will now proceed to learning activity that has its historical roots (epistemic) work is characterised by its motives concerned in the tradition of CHAT  based on, among others, with ‘finding connections among experiences, patterns,and Vygotskij (1934/1986) and Leont’ev (1975/1978). models or theories’ (Enfield et al., 2008, p. 612, italics in The concept learning activity was primarily developed by original). One point of departure in their work is that the Russian researchers Daniil Elkonin and Vasily Davydov traditional science teaching seems to provide students with at the Psychological Institute of Russian Academy of experiences of ‘science as separate facts, definitions, se- Education, Moscow. The researchers collaborated with quences, and diagrams’, whereas ‘scientists make sense of teachers in School No. 91 in Moscow. Elkonin and the world by finding connections among experiences, Davydov conceptualised and expanded Vygotskij’s theore- patterns, and models or theories’ (p. 612). Experiences are tical work into a mathematical programme  often called defined as ‘individuals’ interactions with the systems and the Davydov Programme (or Curriculum) that is framed by phenomena of the world that scientists call observations or the tradition of developmental teaching that conceptualises data’ (p. 612). Their article focuses on elementary science both the curriculum and the didactical principles of curricular material developed for enhancing science teach- teachinglearning activity (Obshenie in Russian) (Schmittau, ing and learning that is having an impact on teachers’ 2004, 2005). One key feature of learning activity is to make enactment as well as students’ experiences. It is worth noting it possible for students to, in collaboration with other that the understanding of epistemic practice that Enfield students and teachers, participate with agency in a content- et al. (2008) present is related to specific actions. Thus, the rich learning environment where historically developed concept is used in plural ‘a set of epistemic practices’, where knowledge can be reconstructed (Chaiklin, 2002; Davydov, ‘Asking questions represents an epistemic practice consis- 1986/2008; Repkin, 2003; Rubtsov, 2013). tent with the formal epistemology of science’ (p. 612). In Learning activity is regarded as a special form of Knorr Cetina’s work, asking questions would rather be activity. However, learning activity cannot, in any simple actions related to a practice but not a practice in itself. Like manner, be compared with the different types of activities Sandoval, the basic assumptions in Enfield et al. are related that are commonly the focus of activity theory, for to socially constructed for an elaboration of conceptual example, work activity (Repkin, 2003). In an activity change, see Vosniadou and Skopeliti (2014). theoretical perspective, an activity is motive driven, In summary, one important aspect of the characteristics object related and tool mediated. The object relatedness of (science) education in school that has been related to the demands and activates goal-directed actions that are concept of epistemic practice is the emphasis on students’ operatively sign and tool conditioned (Leont’ev, 1975/ agency and authority over what counts as knowledge in the 1978). In order to separate one activity from another, (science) classroom. In other words, when students become Leont’ev argued that the dominating motive and the involved in scientific work, be it experimental or argumen- related object need to be discerned. It is by the motive- tative, their agency is part of the classroom practice, as it infused object (object/motive) that one activity can be would be in a professional context. So even though school separated from another, even if the actions and tools used science has a reproductive responsibility, this responsibility are seemingly similar. If the object/motive changes or is replaced, the activity also changes or is replaced by a new is not limited to content in its narrow meaning. Instead, the one. Being part of an activity ideally requires that the forms of scientific knowledge production are also a significant part of the curriculum when epistemic practices Learning activity can be regarded as a didactical concept within the CHAT are aspired to. In a way, part of the research related to tradition. We use the concept didactic as a theoretical approach to issues epistemic practices in school settings has not only mapped related to teaching/learning practices and curriculum theories related to the characteristics of the habitual practice that serves as a epistemic practices. 4 Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 (page number not for citation purpose) Enriching learning activities with epistemic practices individual appropriates the dominating object/motive. In much effort into choosing math tasks that relate to contemporary activities, there is seldom only one object/ students’ everyday experiences and interests. The math- motive  most activities are multi-motive-driven and thus ematical content is, so to say, contextualised in topics that are also realised through combinations of objects/motives students are assumed to find interesting, fun or familiar. that may create tensions and contradictions in the ongoing Thereby, the same mathematical exercises can be con- activity. When a learning activity is in focus, the issue textualised differently: into motors or nutrition (Murphy, of object/motive is even more complicated. In a culturally 1995,2008). Motivation is often believed to be enhanced and historically developed work activity, the object/ through the framing of the task in relation to students’ motive is always connected with production in some way everyday interests. Taking a learning activity perspective, (Engestro ¨ m, 1999). In an educational setting, however, this type of motive is not regarded as a true motive and students are seldom invited into a full, ongoing, productive will not enable students to establish a learning activity. work activity where artefacts, services or knowledge are Thus, central to a learning activity is choosing a produced. Students are not expected to appropriate problem that is complex as well as culturally and (or develop) the motive of the productive work activity historically relevant  problems that contain the knowl- represented in education but rather to develop a motive edge the students need to develop. One of the examples for learning, where the object/motive is always learning- Davydov (1986/2008) has used in constructing the specific knowledge developed in other settings. What programme concerns the historically developed societal distinguishes a productive work activity from a learning need for measuring and the corresponding tools for activity is thus the object/motive. In a learning activity, measurement. In a learning activity, the teacher usually there may be a product as a result (an essay from language proposes the problem in a direct or indirect manner: lessons, a wooden bowl from sloyd, a solution or a formula ‘How can we compare two volumes in different containers from mathematics, etc.), as there would be in a work if they are in different cities?’ The teacher cannot merely activity. But even if the product could be the same, the present the problem and tell the students to try to solve it. objects are different: in a learning activity, the object/ In order for the students to establish a learning activity, motive has to be learning something still unknown from they need to develop an object/motive, a want as a source the students’ perspective and the students are to be viewed for identifying a goal that in a first step will require as agents in the process of knowledge (re)production. them to transform the problem into a learning task and From a learning activity perspective, it is only by develop- thereafter to search for tools and strategies that can help ing their object/motive for learning that the students can them solve the problem in joint actions (Davydov, 1986/ put their efforts into, what from a production perspective 2008; Rubtsov, 1989, 2013; Zuckerman, 2004). The could be seemingly unimportant, details or aspects (cf problem must therefore appeal to the students as mean- Davydov, 1986/2008). ingful. Further, each problem needs to be shaped Thus, students need to develop an object/motive for so that the students discern that the tools and solutions learning where the result can be described as a transfor- they are familiar with are restricted. When working with mation of their actual knowing to a knowing that is more the learning task, the students need to analyse the problem complex and specified but also broader and theoretically from different perspectives in order to identify what they more advanced. However, from an activity theoretical already know  often by testing previously developed perspective, it is not possible to develop an object/motive methods and tools. Thus, if the students collectively if it is disconnected from a personally experienced need or find the problem relevant or intriguing, they will try to a want. Even if students come to school with an idea of seek alternative tools and procedures, or as Repkin (2003, learning, such a general motive will not give their actions p. 27) puts it ‘a problem in the sense that the available any direction. Consequently creating an educational modes of actions are unsuitable and there are no others. setting, a specially designed learning task, in which In other words, new modes of actions are needed’. In students can experience or develop a need (often by this way, problems can create a situation that Vygotskij using problems that provoke or intrigue them) for new (1934/1963) refers to as giving students the opportunity and specific knowledge is therefore an extremely qualified to work in a zone of proximal development. When the task for teachers. A learning activity can be planned for, problem is defined, they can start finding new ways to but there are no guarantees it will occur  it occurs only if solve the problem. The final step in a learning activity the students experience or develop a need and a motive to is related to reflection and evaluation. In the process of establish and participate in an activity. Differences in task performance in mathematical tests were taken as a point Mathematics teaching an example of learning of departure for an interview study where children were asked to comment on tasks where gender differences were statistically significant. The study showed, activity among other things, that differences in performance were related to different In many Swedish schools, mathematics teachers are experiences, in which case the context of a mathematic problem created gender concerned with students’ lack of motivation and put differences in performance, not the mathematical content. Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 5 (page number not for citation purpose) Inger Eriksson and Viveca Lindberg reflection, the students have to simultaneously identify perhaps the only researcher that directs his critique their own and others’ goals and means and acknowledge towards Davydov’s learning activity as a school-based other students’ perspectives. Here the teacher is expected programme. He especially criticises the authoritative to encourage the students to argue for their solutions, aspects of this programme related to who it is that defines, initially without assessing them. Zuckerman (2004) ela- and what is defined as, knowledge. Referring to perspec- borates the process of reflection by pointing out three tives of situated cognition, multicultural and feminist aspects that highlight that reflection is not an individual theories, Matusov (2001, p. 235) argues that Davydov’s endeavour. The students’ need: Programme is to be regarded as ‘modernist, scientist (i.e. privileging scientific knowledge over all over types of (a) to consider the goals, motives, methods, and knowledge)’. Another aspect that Matusov criticises is the means of one’s own and other people’s actions and thoughts; the mental facet of this ability is sometimes dialectics, which is an important cornerstone of Davydov’s called metacognition; (b) to take other people’s point theory. He says, ‘It is a very sophisticated but still of view; view things from perspectives other than monological approach. It tries to reduce messy networks one’s own; and (c) to understand oneself; study one’s of hybrids of artefacts, practices and communities (Latour, own strong points and limitations in order to find 1987) to one essential contradiction’ (Matusov, 2001, the ways to excel or to accept one’s shortcomings. p. 235). Matusov argues that the way Davydov’s theory Introspection is one part of this remarkable human is developed means it will result in a democracy deficit, as faculty; the power for self-changing and transcending the knowing which students are expected to develop is one’s limitations is another component of the human ability for reflection. (Zuckerman, 2004, p. 10) predetermined. Student agency has thereby not, according to Matusov, been considered in Davydov’s theory. The discussion will not end until the students have In order to better understand Matusov’s criticism, we reached a conclusion they find correct or functional need to look at the work Matusov and his colleagues (Zuckerman, 2004). The result of this type of work is the (Matusov, von Dyuke, & Han, 2012) have been doing students’ development of theoretical generalisations based in relation to the concept of ontological communities on their actions (Davydov, 1986/2008; Kinard & Kozulin, of learners (CoL). In the perspective of ontological CoL, 2008; Schmittau, 2004,2005; Sophian, 2007; Zuckerman, a learning activity has to be developed as situated, 2005, 2011). problem related and collective. In an educational situa- The tradition developed by Davydov and those build- tion, the teacher cannot (as is the case in traditional ing on his work strongly emphasise the development education and in non-ontological CoL) take the position of a curriculum that ensures that students (re-)develop as the only knowledgeable person and thus position the theoretical tool, or the sign-mediated thinking that is characteristic for a specific subject. Therefore, clearly students as learners. With references to Bakhtin, Matusov advocates for an ontological CoL where learning activity identified and historically developed subject domains for is polyphonic and ‘in which all participants are actively these specific programmes have been analysed, designed, tested and revised over time. involved in developing emergent endpoints as a result Learning activity is developed to enhance students’ of dialogic learning’ (Matusov et al., 2012). There has theoretical thinking. Theoretical thinking is to be under- to be a possible mutual space for surprise and curiosity. stood in relation to empirical thinking, where empirical The goal for ontological CoL teaching thinking is the result of everyday experiences and concrete is not to ‘produce knowledge’ (McAuley, 2001), to operations while theoretical thinking in a Vygotskian ‘achieve a collective consensus’ (Coleman, Rivkin, & perspective requires that ‘core principles’ or ‘conceptual Brown, 1997), or to build up ‘a shared understanding’ relations’ constituting a specific knowing or phenomenon (Varelas et al., 1999), but rather to help the students are discerned and understood through learning actions in to develop their own voices. (Matusov et al., 2012, a content-rich practice (Chaiklin, 2002; Davydov, 1986/ p. 58) 2008; Schmittau, 2004). If the students can find a specific core principle of a concept and its conceptual relations a symbol, a model or a tool  then they can exemplify When developing the theory and methodology of expansive learning, and find concrete instances of the theoretical knowledge Engestrom to a large extent used Davydov’s learning activity. According to Engestrom and Sannino (2010, p. 5), Davydov’s concept of learning activity is embedded in culturally diverse, tool-mediated activities. developed further. In the theory of expansive learning in order ‘to deal with This process is described as ascending from the abstract the challenges of learning outside the school and the classroom’. Engestro ¨ m to the concrete (Davydov, 1986/2008). and Sannino’s (2010, p. 7) interpretation of Davydov’s theory is to a great degree in line with Matusov’s when saying it is ‘oriented at learning activity within the confines of a classroom where the curricular contents are Learning activity and its criticism determined ahead of time by more knowledgeable adults’. Expansive learning However, the Davydov tradition has also been criticised is oriented towards a new and expanded activity where what to learn is not within the CHAT tradition. Eugene Matusov (2001) is possible to decide upon in advance. 6 Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 (page number not for citation purpose) Enriching learning activities with epistemic practices Learning activity as epistemic practice entire class. Students’ responses cannot be fully antici- Following Knorr Cetina’s definition of epistemic practices pated, so the object for teachers is to establish and further as practices where knowledge production is the main enable students’ learning activity. That is, both students object, Matusov’s criticism of the Davydov Programme and the teacher must work together in order to realise a is worth considering. Ontological CoL, as described sustainable learning activity  or, in Carlgrens (2015, p. 16) by Matusov et al. (2012), are perhaps more in line with words: ‘In collaboration with each group of students the Knorr Cetina’s concept of epistemic practices since neither teacher (re)discovers and (re)creates the epistemic achieve- the teacher nor the students can, in advance, decide what ments of humanity’. Learning activity, if constituted, can learning, in a narrow sense, should be accomplished. be regarded as a mediating object for the students and The object is thus both shaped and worked on by both the teacher (Leont’ev, 1975/1978). Thus, we argue that students and the teacher in a collaboration characterised learning activity can be regarded or developed as a school- by equity and mutual agency. Designing a learning activity based epistemic practice that enables students to become that realises a polyphonic ontological CoL may address knowledgeable participants in culturally developed epis- many of today’s educational issues related to how to temic cultures. prepare students for a diverse and complex knowledge Concluding remarks society (Apple, 2012). However, this may also result in a While learning activity has a tradition that goes back to the practice where the cultural heritage (epistemic cultures) 1950s but is still not widely spread outside Russia, research represented by different school subjects will not become related to epistemic practice is an emerging field of interest available to all students. Students that are not fully in educational science, and so far has been used only in introduced to different societal subject-specific practices science education. We found that both seem to address (as science or mathematics) can be deprived of the ability similar kinds of issues regarding teaching/learning. to participate in practices that are of societal value. From Both address the situated nature of knowledge and our point of view, this may also result in a democracy knowing and thereby also what qualifies as knowing, and deficit but of a different kind to the one Matusov a teaching that strives to establish epistemic practices that acknowledged. Further, Matusov’s argument that student can become meaningful for students. Both are dependent agency has not been considered by Davydov can also be on descriptions of the habitual  the recurring character- discussed. Their agency to decide the overarching goals istic patterns of situated knowledge production  in order are restricted but their agency in relation to the constitu- to establish a classroom practice with the potential of tion of the learning activity is, to a greater extent, required. expanding student learning from working with facts and The Davydov Programme student agency procedures to producing knowledge. epistemic practice A primary difference identified between research related In a programme such as that of Davydov, the teacher to epistemic practices in education and learning activity knows what to accomplish  what type of knowledge research is that the latter aims at challenging and devel- the students have to develop, whereas this knowing is new oping the students’ object/motive in order to enable them to the students. In this way, the classroom practice can to establish a content-specific learning activity, while those be interpreted as epistemic for the students. That is, from working with epistemic practices have focused the practice the students’ perspective, the knowledge (re)production of science and what it can offer as didactic principles. they are involved in can be understood as knowledge We have identified tensions both within research related production. This practice presents genuine problems for to epistemic practices and between research related the students and if an object/motive is developed in the to epistemic practices and learning activity. First, among group, the students may have the opportunity to act with researchers that have elaborated on the concept of agency to establish a learning activity in order to solve the epistemic practices in education we found two different problem (Davydov, Slobodchikov, & Tsuckerman, 2003). uses of practice. Sandoval and Enfield and their respective For the teachers, however, the teaching practice, in relation colleagues refer to epistemic practices as related to isolated to the content or topic covered in some aspects, can be actions, while Kelly and his colleagues and Stroupe described as neither uncertain nor provoking. But this come closer to Knorr Cetina’s definition of epistemic does not necessarily mean that teachers following practices. Second, concerning learning activity within the Davydov’s Programme act within a habitual practice. CHAT tradition, the tensions concern teacher’s authority Since a learning activity never can be planned in detail, in relation to what is known and the construction of the teacher is dependent on the students’ responses for knowledge versus students’ voices and agency. Third, the decisions on how to proceed. Such decisions are based concept of epistemic practices originates from research, on the situated analysis of students’ various responses  an where knowledge production is the object of the activity, analysis that has to take into account both individual whereas learning activity relates to school  mostly related learning trajectories and the learning trajectory of the with the re-production of knowledge produced elsewhere. Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 7 (page number not for citation purpose) Inger Eriksson and Viveca Lindberg R. Miettinen, & R.-L. Punama ¨ ki (Eds.), Perspectives on activity However, research is not an epistemic practice in every theory (pp. 377406). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. aspect; everyday work also has habitual aspects. Similarly, Engestrom, Y., & Sannino, A.L. (2010). Studies of expansive learning: teaching/learning does not necessarily have to be predo- Foundations, findings and future challenges. Educational minantly habitual. Epistemic teaching practices, as Research Review, 5(1), 124. an overarching concept, has the possibility to capture Forsberg, E. (2010). Kunskapssamha ¨ llet och Utopia Pedagogicum. In I. Eriksson, V. Lindberg, & E. Osterlind (Eds.), Uppdrag some specific elements and embrace different teaching undervisning  kunskap och la ¨ rande (pp. 195201). Lund: traditions that all try to break with a tradition where Studentlitteratur. the teacher has the ‘cognitive authority’ as described by Kawasaki, J.N., DeLiema, D.J., & Sandoval, W.A. (2014). Stroupe (2014). The way Kelly and Stroupe use epistemic The influence of non-epistemic features of settings on epistemic cognition. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and practices, highlights aspects such as students’ (epistemic) Technology Education, 14(2), 207221. agency, negotiation, multiple voices, interaction or com- Kelly, G.J. (2008). Learning science: Discursive practices. 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Rigorous mathematical the principle of learning activity could be elaborated thinking: Conceptual formation in the mathematics classroom. more in line with today’s knowledge society, embracing Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. multi-voiced democratic ideas. Knorr Cetina, K. (1999). Epistemic cultures: How the sciences make If developing education (or schooling) into subject- knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Knorr Cetina, K. (2001). Objectual practice. In T.R. Schatzki, K. specific epistemic practices is considered interesting en- Knorr Cetina, & E. von Savigny (Eds.), The practice turn in ough to pursue, the tasks used for teaching/learning could contemporary theory (pp. 175188). New York: Routledge. be tooled in such a way that they open up for new types Knorr Cetina, K. (2005). Knowledge cultures. In M. Jacobs & N. of actions and interaction. 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Utchebnaya zadacha kak tochka rosta Stetsenko, A., & Arievitch, I. (2002). Teaching, learning, and poiskovoy activnosty [Learning task as a growth point of the development: A post-Vygotskian perspective. In G. Wells search activity]. Moscow: Academia. & G. Claxton (Eds.), Learning for life in the 21st century: Zuckerman, G. (2011). Developmental education: A genetic Sociocultural perspectives on the future of education (pp. 8496). modeling experiment. Journal of Russian and East European Oxford, UK: Blackwell. Psychology, 4(6), 4563. Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 9 (page number not for citation purpose) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy Taylor & Francis

Enriching ‘learning activity’ with ‘epistemic practices’ – enhancing students’ epistemic agency and authority

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Abstract

Enriching ‘learning activity’ with ‘epistemic practices’ enhancing students’ epistemic agency and authority 1 2 Inger Eriksson * and Viveca Lindberg Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Education & Stockholm Teaching and Learning Study, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; School of Education and Communication, Jo ¨ nko ¨ ping University, Jo ¨ nko ¨ ping, Sweden This article is an unchanged, re-published version of: Inger Eriksson & Viveca Lindberg, ‘Enriching learning activities with epistemic practices  enhancing students’ epistemic agency and authority’, with Maja Elmgren, Maria Folke-Fichtelius, Stina Hallse ´n, Henrik Roma ´ n (2016), Att ta utbildningens komplexitet pa ˚ allvar. En va ¨ nskrift till Eva Forsberg, Uppsala Universitet: Uppsala Studies in Education 138. Keywords: learning activity; epistemic practice; agency; cognitive authority; teaching-learning; democracy deficit *Correspondence to: Inger Eriksson, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Education & Stockholm Teaching and Learning Study, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden, Email: inger.eriksson@hsd.su.se n this article, we explore how the characteristics of (facts, concepts, models and things), and epistemic objects epistemic practices, a concept introduced by Karin are treated as incomplete  they are ‘open, question- IKnorr Cetina (1999, 2001, 2005, 2007), as used in generating and complex’ (Knorr Cetina, 2001, p. 190). educational settings, could be challenging and/or enrich- Another way of expressing this is to distinguish between ing learning activity, a concept developed within the types of relationships to objects: in everyday notions of cultural historical activity theoretical (CHAT) tradition objects, we tend to take them for granted and their meaning (Davydov, 1986/2008; Repkin, 2003). We first outline as self-evident. When an object becomes an epistemic object, the core aspects of Knorr Cetina’s concept in brief, as a the relationship to the object is what changes. A conclusion point of departure. Second, we review how the concept from Knorr Cetina’s concepts is that a change in the relation epistemic practice has been used in educational contexts to an object results in a change in actions and, as a (predominantly science education) and third, we present consequence of these changes in actions, make a significant basic principles of as well as criticism against learning difference between habitual and epistemic practices. As Knorr Cetina’s empirical work is related to research activity. In the final part of the chapter, we suggest some and our interest in this chapter relates to teaching/learning, complements to learning activity, based on the review of we have reviewed internationally published research in epistemic practices in educational settings, in order to order to explore how the concept of epistemic practice has address the criticism directed towards learning activity. been used in educational settings in relation to teaching in Epistemic practices are considered to be included in compulsory school. A common understanding of school is epistemic cultures, ‘the cultures of knowledge settings’ that it is a place where knowledge is reproduced, that the (Knorr Cetina, 2005, p. 65), which are linked to and form production of knowledge takes place somewhere else but the basis of a broader contemporary concept, the knowledge not in school. With such an understanding of education, society. Epistemic practices as a concept are primarily related activities in school would, according to Knorr Cetina’s to knowledge as the frame of meaning within which people categories, be labelled as habitual practices. However, Eva ‘enact their lives’ (Knorr Cetina, 2007, p. 364). Knowledge is Forsberg (2010, p. 205 our translation) remarks that thereby present in what people do, how they do it, what they do, what tools they use and how they communicate in and With the knowledge society, educational issues about their doing, that is, knowledge is built into activities. and phenomena have come to the fore. Society is Knowledge is thus constituted in people’s actions. Further- permeated by expectations imposed on its citizens, more, Knorr Cetina distinguishes between epistemic and professionals, experts and researchers to actively habitual practices. Epistemic practices are mainly charac- terised by knowledge production and learning, whereas This dichotomy may give the impression of a hierarchy. However, the concept habitual refers to aspects that make it possible to distinguish a practice as a habitual practices are characterised by routine (doing and practice, that is, recurring patterns of actions, etc., in Knorr Cetina’s words: tradition). In epistemic practices, the object(s) that the ‘Current conceptions of practice emphasize the habitual and rule-governed researchers work with are not static objects in the world features of practice’ (2001, p. 175). Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy 2016.# 2016 Inger Eriksson and Viveca Lindberg. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative 1 Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and to remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially, provided the original work is properly cited and states its license. Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 (page number not for citation purpose) Inger Eriksson and Viveca Lindberg participate in the development, appropriation and as experiments, texts, objects, valid interpretations, use of knowledge in all sectors and all activities. and theoretical frameworks, among other cultural elements’ (p. 137), which in turn contributes to a This calls for approaches to education that challenge more nuanced picture of epistemic activities. traditional ways of understanding teaching. Ingrid Carlgren . The need for interaction in science teaching and its (2015) is one of the representatives for such approaches, significance for students learning particular ways of relating  among others  to Knorr Cetina’s work. She talking science. Teachers can also contribute to suggests teachers’ work to be regarded as an epistemic mediating different ways (more or less valid for the work: ‘Knowledge is the teacher’s raw material (that is to science community) of talking science, depending on be transformed to content of teaching) as well as the result whether the students see themselves as future of this work (students’ knowing)’ (p. 16 our translation). scientists or school students. According to Kelly, Crawford, and Green (2001, p. 137), . The necessity of students’ agency, that is, their ‘epistemic activities as such are central to education’. In the interaction in classrooms, and ‘the ways that students following sections, we begin by mapping the work related to interpret and discriminate the multiple voices of epistemic practices/activities by educational researchers in science heard in science settings’ (p. 138). order to explore how epistemic practices have been char- acterised in the educational context. In the following section In all three kinds of interaction, ‘facts are constructed; of the chapter, we turn to the cultural historical research that membership is inscribed; social relationships are established developed the concept of learning activity (Davydov, 1986/ and challenged; a way of talking is established; and 2008; Repkin, 2003), a concept we found to be close to that discourse practices are developed and displayed’ (Kelly of epistemic practices. After describing the characteristics of et al., 2001, p. 138). Based on Kelly et al., one conclusion is learning activity, we compare the two concepts focusing on that whether the focus in interaction is on science research possible similarities, complementarities and contradictions. or science classrooms, they both contribute to establishing cultural practices. Further, whether or not the interaction is Epistemic practices in teaching part of an epistemic practice or not is not necessarily a Epistemic practice as a concept is less common in relation to question of research or school, but rather the type of research related to school students; however, those who do activity, where interaction is constitutive, that is established. use it relate it to the school subject of science. Through a series In a later article, Kelly (2008) discusses four research of searches in the database ProQuest Social Sciences, we directions related to research on the discursive practices of identified four researchers who fulfilled the criterion for science teaching. These are access and equity to science, the inclusion that we had defined, that is, the concept epistemic practical epistemologies of everyday school science, activity practice was addressed in the article and not merely theory and learning, and multiple literacies. He emphasises mentioned. All four researchers, whether writing alone or that studies within each of these perspectives have contrib- with colleagues, addressed epistemic practices in relation to uted to the understanding of the aspects of what constitutes science education. The researchers we identified were (in social practices, for example, how these support or limit alphabetical order) Mark Enfield, Gregory Kelly, William A. (groups of) students’ participation, that ‘[t]he instantiation of Sandoval, and David Stroupe. We searched further in the epistemic practices in schools relies on interpretation of sci- databases using their names as authors. Of these, Kelly and entific knowledge and practices by social and symbolic medi- Stroupe specifically relate to Karen Knorr Cetina’s work and ators whose views may vary from those of both their students the concept of epistemic practice where the object is as well as scientist’ (Kelly, 2008, p. 334). Further, activity constitutive for the practice. theory is regarded a future research approach in (science) From the work of Gregory Kelly and his colleagues, learning as such approaches ‘consider social epistemology, we have chosen two articles, which emphasise important language, and participation as prominent theoretical con- aspects of science education in relation to epistemic structs for the interpretation of potential learning events’ practice. The first article discusses aspects of interaction (Kelly, 2008, p. 335). These two  the dialogic perspective on that must be fulfilled in order for teaching to qualify as meaning making and the teacher’s contribution as a mediator epistemic practice (Kelly et al., 2001): of meaning through introduction, framing, shaping and evaluating dialogue  are regarded as central if students are to . The significance of interaction in scientific practice, become increasingly more competent participators. that is, the actors display ‘what members of a In his article, Stroupe (2014) frames ‘classrooms as a particular community interactionally acknowledge science practice community’ (p. 489) in focusing power and The first search was made in 2013 and the final one in June 2015. The epistemic agency in relation ‘to learning science-as-practice’ keywords used were (epistemic practice) in combination with school. Most of (p. 489). However, he finds that conservative forms of the hits were related to epistemic without connection to practice. The keyword instruction do not qualify as such classrooms, whereas ‘school’ also resulted in articles related to higher education such as School of Medicine. what he calls ambitious teaching provides opportunities 2 Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 (page number not for citation purpose) Enriching learning activities with epistemic practices for students to learn science-as-practice. In these class- . seeing knowledge as an object of inquiry; . understanding various forms of scientific knowl- rooms, instruction is characterised by four dimensions that edge; newcomers learn in context: a conceptual, a social, an . understanding the reciprocal nature of theory and epistemic and a material dimension. According to Stroupe, data and understanding representations within in- teachers that enact ambitious instruction ‘in which stu- terpretive frameworks; and dents learn science-as-practice, help reframe students’ roles . understanding criteria for evaluation of knowledge from knowledge recipients to epistemic agents  indivi- claims. duals or groups who take, or are granted, responsibility for shaping the disciplinary knowledge and practice of a Such goals challenge contemporary teaching practices. community’ (p. 492, italics in original text). One aspect Sandoval et al. suggest the following design principles for of the dimensions that Stroupe finds crucial for ambitious teachers as guidance for enhancing this type of (scientific) instruction is the negotiation between participants about learning: what knowledge counts or, in other words, that what he calls cognitive authority is a question of negotiation where . provide epistemic forms for students’ expression of individuals’ experiences can influence practice over time. their thinking; The main focus in Stroupe’s study is the agency made . give distinct forms of knowledge distinct representa- available to students in classrooms characterised by tions; ambitious instruction. For this, Stroupe analysed class- . design representations that can be coordinated and room communication in relation to two aspects: first, who linked; and knows, that is, whether the discussions were private or . ensure representations prompt and support epis- collective; and second, who in the classrooms had cognitive temic (not just conceptual) practices and commu- authority, that is, whose arguments qualified as knowl- nicate evaluation criteria and connect them to edge. Stroupe also found that in classrooms characterised representations. by ambitious instruction, teachers involved students in negotiations where their arguments were given cognitive Obvious in these suggested design principles is that the authority. In conservative classrooms, cognitive authority only one-to-one connection to goals for students’ learning was related to teachers only. He also found that in relates to evaluation criteria. Typical for the other suggestions classrooms, where teachers created what he calls a public is that epistemic forms in Sandoval’s texts partly seems to practice with their students, ‘teachers and students together relate to what rather could be considered as actions in engaged in the conceptual, epistemic, social, and material a practice. Furthermore, Sandoval and his colleagues aspects of science work. Over time, the classroom commu- (Kawasaki, DeLiema, & Sandoval, 2014) emphasise the nity advanced their collective understanding of science’ need for acknowledging that the social contexts students (p. 507). In classrooms characterised by what Stroupe calls engage in may be both epistemic, in terms of school science, private discussions, the communication between teacher and non-epistemic (e.g. media and home). This movement is and student is conceived of as individual and thereby regarded a constraint as resources such as tools and materials nothing that other students needed to engage in. are influenced by demands and rules, as well as social Sandoval and his colleagues seem to have their basis in relations from a variety of epistemic as well as non-epistemic the tradition of conceptual change and elaborate their studies based on design experiments. They distinguish settings and these may vary between context. Still, Sandoval between epistemic understanding and epistemic practice. and his colleagues in their work (Ruy & Sandoval, 2012; Epistemic understanding refers to a set of ideas that Sandoval, Sodian, Koerber, & Wong, 2014) appear to make students should ‘understand and be able to appropriate clear distinctions between science as epistemic practice and as they engage in or think about science’ (Sandoval, the kind of practices made available to children in schools: Bell, Coleman, Enyedym, & Suthers, 2000, p. 3), whereas assertions that children are little scientists or that epistemic practices are defined as the cognitive and science is the refinement of everyday thinking discursive activities students are expected to ‘engage in to notwithstanding, thinking as a scientist and think- develop their epistemic understanding’ (Sandoval et al., ing scientifically are not the same thing. /.../ The 2000, p. 2). An epistemic practice in the view of Sandoval metaphor of the child as scientist acknowledges that et al. is characterised by explicit articulation and evalua- the seeds of scientific reasoning lie in what appear to tion of the individual’s knowledge, coordination of theory be fundamental human capacities for cognition but and evidence, making sense of patterns of data and developing representational fluency and holding claims Examples of what Sandoval means by forms of knowledge can be found in an article from 2005 ‘Besides theories, laws, and hypotheses, models are an accountable to evidence and criteria. The character of important form of scientific knowledge. There are also rhetorical forms, such epistemic understanding is described as a set of goals for as explanations, predictions, and arguments that rely on these other students’ learning: epistemological forms to advance specific claims’ (p. 641). Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 3 (page number not for citation purpose) Inger Eriksson and Viveca Lindberg obscures two very different aspects of the social model but also the differences as compared with traditional nature of scientific thinking. First, scientists do their habitual (science) teaching practices (Knorr Cetina, 2001). thinking within highly developed communities de- As compared with how Knorr Cetina has used the concept, signed for the purpose, including well-developed we can see that while her main emphasis is on the object and social infrastructures, technological machinery, and its characteristics (incomplete, relational and negotiable), expertise. To call this sociotechnical infrastructure a this is an issue that has received less attention in articles refinement of everyday thinking grossly underesti- relating to epistemic practices in science education. On mates its role and value in the production of scienti- the contrary, the emphasis on student agency in research fic knowledge and could hardly explain the success related to school settings is paid less attention in Knorr of science as a cultural institution. (Sandoval et al., Cetina’s work  perhaps as research settings assume equal 2014, p. 140) agency for all participants. Enfield, Smith, and Grueber (2008) use the concept of epistemic practices for referring to the kind of thinking and Learning activity a CHAT approach reasoning about phenomena that reflect the socially shared The texts analysed above show an explicit interest in practices of science. Furthermore, scientific or investigative epistemic practices in (science) teaching. We will now proceed to learning activity that has its historical roots (epistemic) work is characterised by its motives concerned in the tradition of CHAT  based on, among others, with ‘finding connections among experiences, patterns,and Vygotskij (1934/1986) and Leont’ev (1975/1978). models or theories’ (Enfield et al., 2008, p. 612, italics in The concept learning activity was primarily developed by original). One point of departure in their work is that the Russian researchers Daniil Elkonin and Vasily Davydov traditional science teaching seems to provide students with at the Psychological Institute of Russian Academy of experiences of ‘science as separate facts, definitions, se- Education, Moscow. The researchers collaborated with quences, and diagrams’, whereas ‘scientists make sense of teachers in School No. 91 in Moscow. Elkonin and the world by finding connections among experiences, Davydov conceptualised and expanded Vygotskij’s theore- patterns, and models or theories’ (p. 612). Experiences are tical work into a mathematical programme  often called defined as ‘individuals’ interactions with the systems and the Davydov Programme (or Curriculum) that is framed by phenomena of the world that scientists call observations or the tradition of developmental teaching that conceptualises data’ (p. 612). Their article focuses on elementary science both the curriculum and the didactical principles of curricular material developed for enhancing science teach- teachinglearning activity (Obshenie in Russian) (Schmittau, ing and learning that is having an impact on teachers’ 2004, 2005). One key feature of learning activity is to make enactment as well as students’ experiences. It is worth noting it possible for students to, in collaboration with other that the understanding of epistemic practice that Enfield students and teachers, participate with agency in a content- et al. (2008) present is related to specific actions. Thus, the rich learning environment where historically developed concept is used in plural ‘a set of epistemic practices’, where knowledge can be reconstructed (Chaiklin, 2002; Davydov, ‘Asking questions represents an epistemic practice consis- 1986/2008; Repkin, 2003; Rubtsov, 2013). tent with the formal epistemology of science’ (p. 612). In Learning activity is regarded as a special form of Knorr Cetina’s work, asking questions would rather be activity. However, learning activity cannot, in any simple actions related to a practice but not a practice in itself. Like manner, be compared with the different types of activities Sandoval, the basic assumptions in Enfield et al. are related that are commonly the focus of activity theory, for to socially constructed for an elaboration of conceptual example, work activity (Repkin, 2003). In an activity change, see Vosniadou and Skopeliti (2014). theoretical perspective, an activity is motive driven, In summary, one important aspect of the characteristics object related and tool mediated. The object relatedness of (science) education in school that has been related to the demands and activates goal-directed actions that are concept of epistemic practice is the emphasis on students’ operatively sign and tool conditioned (Leont’ev, 1975/ agency and authority over what counts as knowledge in the 1978). In order to separate one activity from another, (science) classroom. In other words, when students become Leont’ev argued that the dominating motive and the involved in scientific work, be it experimental or argumen- related object need to be discerned. It is by the motive- tative, their agency is part of the classroom practice, as it infused object (object/motive) that one activity can be would be in a professional context. So even though school separated from another, even if the actions and tools used science has a reproductive responsibility, this responsibility are seemingly similar. If the object/motive changes or is replaced, the activity also changes or is replaced by a new is not limited to content in its narrow meaning. Instead, the one. Being part of an activity ideally requires that the forms of scientific knowledge production are also a significant part of the curriculum when epistemic practices Learning activity can be regarded as a didactical concept within the CHAT are aspired to. In a way, part of the research related to tradition. We use the concept didactic as a theoretical approach to issues epistemic practices in school settings has not only mapped related to teaching/learning practices and curriculum theories related to the characteristics of the habitual practice that serves as a epistemic practices. 4 Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 (page number not for citation purpose) Enriching learning activities with epistemic practices individual appropriates the dominating object/motive. In much effort into choosing math tasks that relate to contemporary activities, there is seldom only one object/ students’ everyday experiences and interests. The math- motive  most activities are multi-motive-driven and thus ematical content is, so to say, contextualised in topics that are also realised through combinations of objects/motives students are assumed to find interesting, fun or familiar. that may create tensions and contradictions in the ongoing Thereby, the same mathematical exercises can be con- activity. When a learning activity is in focus, the issue textualised differently: into motors or nutrition (Murphy, of object/motive is even more complicated. In a culturally 1995,2008). Motivation is often believed to be enhanced and historically developed work activity, the object/ through the framing of the task in relation to students’ motive is always connected with production in some way everyday interests. Taking a learning activity perspective, (Engestro ¨ m, 1999). In an educational setting, however, this type of motive is not regarded as a true motive and students are seldom invited into a full, ongoing, productive will not enable students to establish a learning activity. work activity where artefacts, services or knowledge are Thus, central to a learning activity is choosing a produced. Students are not expected to appropriate problem that is complex as well as culturally and (or develop) the motive of the productive work activity historically relevant  problems that contain the knowl- represented in education but rather to develop a motive edge the students need to develop. One of the examples for learning, where the object/motive is always learning- Davydov (1986/2008) has used in constructing the specific knowledge developed in other settings. What programme concerns the historically developed societal distinguishes a productive work activity from a learning need for measuring and the corresponding tools for activity is thus the object/motive. In a learning activity, measurement. In a learning activity, the teacher usually there may be a product as a result (an essay from language proposes the problem in a direct or indirect manner: lessons, a wooden bowl from sloyd, a solution or a formula ‘How can we compare two volumes in different containers from mathematics, etc.), as there would be in a work if they are in different cities?’ The teacher cannot merely activity. But even if the product could be the same, the present the problem and tell the students to try to solve it. objects are different: in a learning activity, the object/ In order for the students to establish a learning activity, motive has to be learning something still unknown from they need to develop an object/motive, a want as a source the students’ perspective and the students are to be viewed for identifying a goal that in a first step will require as agents in the process of knowledge (re)production. them to transform the problem into a learning task and From a learning activity perspective, it is only by develop- thereafter to search for tools and strategies that can help ing their object/motive for learning that the students can them solve the problem in joint actions (Davydov, 1986/ put their efforts into, what from a production perspective 2008; Rubtsov, 1989, 2013; Zuckerman, 2004). The could be seemingly unimportant, details or aspects (cf problem must therefore appeal to the students as mean- Davydov, 1986/2008). ingful. Further, each problem needs to be shaped Thus, students need to develop an object/motive for so that the students discern that the tools and solutions learning where the result can be described as a transfor- they are familiar with are restricted. When working with mation of their actual knowing to a knowing that is more the learning task, the students need to analyse the problem complex and specified but also broader and theoretically from different perspectives in order to identify what they more advanced. However, from an activity theoretical already know  often by testing previously developed perspective, it is not possible to develop an object/motive methods and tools. Thus, if the students collectively if it is disconnected from a personally experienced need or find the problem relevant or intriguing, they will try to a want. Even if students come to school with an idea of seek alternative tools and procedures, or as Repkin (2003, learning, such a general motive will not give their actions p. 27) puts it ‘a problem in the sense that the available any direction. Consequently creating an educational modes of actions are unsuitable and there are no others. setting, a specially designed learning task, in which In other words, new modes of actions are needed’. In students can experience or develop a need (often by this way, problems can create a situation that Vygotskij using problems that provoke or intrigue them) for new (1934/1963) refers to as giving students the opportunity and specific knowledge is therefore an extremely qualified to work in a zone of proximal development. When the task for teachers. A learning activity can be planned for, problem is defined, they can start finding new ways to but there are no guarantees it will occur  it occurs only if solve the problem. The final step in a learning activity the students experience or develop a need and a motive to is related to reflection and evaluation. In the process of establish and participate in an activity. Differences in task performance in mathematical tests were taken as a point Mathematics teaching an example of learning of departure for an interview study where children were asked to comment on tasks where gender differences were statistically significant. The study showed, activity among other things, that differences in performance were related to different In many Swedish schools, mathematics teachers are experiences, in which case the context of a mathematic problem created gender concerned with students’ lack of motivation and put differences in performance, not the mathematical content. Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 5 (page number not for citation purpose) Inger Eriksson and Viveca Lindberg reflection, the students have to simultaneously identify perhaps the only researcher that directs his critique their own and others’ goals and means and acknowledge towards Davydov’s learning activity as a school-based other students’ perspectives. Here the teacher is expected programme. He especially criticises the authoritative to encourage the students to argue for their solutions, aspects of this programme related to who it is that defines, initially without assessing them. Zuckerman (2004) ela- and what is defined as, knowledge. Referring to perspec- borates the process of reflection by pointing out three tives of situated cognition, multicultural and feminist aspects that highlight that reflection is not an individual theories, Matusov (2001, p. 235) argues that Davydov’s endeavour. The students’ need: Programme is to be regarded as ‘modernist, scientist (i.e. privileging scientific knowledge over all over types of (a) to consider the goals, motives, methods, and knowledge)’. Another aspect that Matusov criticises is the means of one’s own and other people’s actions and thoughts; the mental facet of this ability is sometimes dialectics, which is an important cornerstone of Davydov’s called metacognition; (b) to take other people’s point theory. He says, ‘It is a very sophisticated but still of view; view things from perspectives other than monological approach. It tries to reduce messy networks one’s own; and (c) to understand oneself; study one’s of hybrids of artefacts, practices and communities (Latour, own strong points and limitations in order to find 1987) to one essential contradiction’ (Matusov, 2001, the ways to excel or to accept one’s shortcomings. p. 235). Matusov argues that the way Davydov’s theory Introspection is one part of this remarkable human is developed means it will result in a democracy deficit, as faculty; the power for self-changing and transcending the knowing which students are expected to develop is one’s limitations is another component of the human ability for reflection. (Zuckerman, 2004, p. 10) predetermined. Student agency has thereby not, according to Matusov, been considered in Davydov’s theory. The discussion will not end until the students have In order to better understand Matusov’s criticism, we reached a conclusion they find correct or functional need to look at the work Matusov and his colleagues (Zuckerman, 2004). The result of this type of work is the (Matusov, von Dyuke, & Han, 2012) have been doing students’ development of theoretical generalisations based in relation to the concept of ontological communities on their actions (Davydov, 1986/2008; Kinard & Kozulin, of learners (CoL). In the perspective of ontological CoL, 2008; Schmittau, 2004,2005; Sophian, 2007; Zuckerman, a learning activity has to be developed as situated, 2005, 2011). problem related and collective. In an educational situa- The tradition developed by Davydov and those build- tion, the teacher cannot (as is the case in traditional ing on his work strongly emphasise the development education and in non-ontological CoL) take the position of a curriculum that ensures that students (re-)develop as the only knowledgeable person and thus position the theoretical tool, or the sign-mediated thinking that is characteristic for a specific subject. Therefore, clearly students as learners. With references to Bakhtin, Matusov advocates for an ontological CoL where learning activity identified and historically developed subject domains for is polyphonic and ‘in which all participants are actively these specific programmes have been analysed, designed, tested and revised over time. involved in developing emergent endpoints as a result Learning activity is developed to enhance students’ of dialogic learning’ (Matusov et al., 2012). There has theoretical thinking. Theoretical thinking is to be under- to be a possible mutual space for surprise and curiosity. stood in relation to empirical thinking, where empirical The goal for ontological CoL teaching thinking is the result of everyday experiences and concrete is not to ‘produce knowledge’ (McAuley, 2001), to operations while theoretical thinking in a Vygotskian ‘achieve a collective consensus’ (Coleman, Rivkin, & perspective requires that ‘core principles’ or ‘conceptual Brown, 1997), or to build up ‘a shared understanding’ relations’ constituting a specific knowing or phenomenon (Varelas et al., 1999), but rather to help the students are discerned and understood through learning actions in to develop their own voices. (Matusov et al., 2012, a content-rich practice (Chaiklin, 2002; Davydov, 1986/ p. 58) 2008; Schmittau, 2004). If the students can find a specific core principle of a concept and its conceptual relations a symbol, a model or a tool  then they can exemplify When developing the theory and methodology of expansive learning, and find concrete instances of the theoretical knowledge Engestrom to a large extent used Davydov’s learning activity. According to Engestrom and Sannino (2010, p. 5), Davydov’s concept of learning activity is embedded in culturally diverse, tool-mediated activities. developed further. In the theory of expansive learning in order ‘to deal with This process is described as ascending from the abstract the challenges of learning outside the school and the classroom’. Engestro ¨ m to the concrete (Davydov, 1986/2008). and Sannino’s (2010, p. 7) interpretation of Davydov’s theory is to a great degree in line with Matusov’s when saying it is ‘oriented at learning activity within the confines of a classroom where the curricular contents are Learning activity and its criticism determined ahead of time by more knowledgeable adults’. Expansive learning However, the Davydov tradition has also been criticised is oriented towards a new and expanded activity where what to learn is not within the CHAT tradition. Eugene Matusov (2001) is possible to decide upon in advance. 6 Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 (page number not for citation purpose) Enriching learning activities with epistemic practices Learning activity as epistemic practice entire class. Students’ responses cannot be fully antici- Following Knorr Cetina’s definition of epistemic practices pated, so the object for teachers is to establish and further as practices where knowledge production is the main enable students’ learning activity. That is, both students object, Matusov’s criticism of the Davydov Programme and the teacher must work together in order to realise a is worth considering. Ontological CoL, as described sustainable learning activity  or, in Carlgrens (2015, p. 16) by Matusov et al. (2012), are perhaps more in line with words: ‘In collaboration with each group of students the Knorr Cetina’s concept of epistemic practices since neither teacher (re)discovers and (re)creates the epistemic achieve- the teacher nor the students can, in advance, decide what ments of humanity’. Learning activity, if constituted, can learning, in a narrow sense, should be accomplished. be regarded as a mediating object for the students and The object is thus both shaped and worked on by both the teacher (Leont’ev, 1975/1978). Thus, we argue that students and the teacher in a collaboration characterised learning activity can be regarded or developed as a school- by equity and mutual agency. Designing a learning activity based epistemic practice that enables students to become that realises a polyphonic ontological CoL may address knowledgeable participants in culturally developed epis- many of today’s educational issues related to how to temic cultures. prepare students for a diverse and complex knowledge Concluding remarks society (Apple, 2012). However, this may also result in a While learning activity has a tradition that goes back to the practice where the cultural heritage (epistemic cultures) 1950s but is still not widely spread outside Russia, research represented by different school subjects will not become related to epistemic practice is an emerging field of interest available to all students. Students that are not fully in educational science, and so far has been used only in introduced to different societal subject-specific practices science education. We found that both seem to address (as science or mathematics) can be deprived of the ability similar kinds of issues regarding teaching/learning. to participate in practices that are of societal value. From Both address the situated nature of knowledge and our point of view, this may also result in a democracy knowing and thereby also what qualifies as knowing, and deficit but of a different kind to the one Matusov a teaching that strives to establish epistemic practices that acknowledged. Further, Matusov’s argument that student can become meaningful for students. Both are dependent agency has not been considered by Davydov can also be on descriptions of the habitual  the recurring character- discussed. Their agency to decide the overarching goals istic patterns of situated knowledge production  in order are restricted but their agency in relation to the constitu- to establish a classroom practice with the potential of tion of the learning activity is, to a greater extent, required. expanding student learning from working with facts and The Davydov Programme student agency procedures to producing knowledge. epistemic practice A primary difference identified between research related In a programme such as that of Davydov, the teacher to epistemic practices in education and learning activity knows what to accomplish  what type of knowledge research is that the latter aims at challenging and devel- the students have to develop, whereas this knowing is new oping the students’ object/motive in order to enable them to the students. In this way, the classroom practice can to establish a content-specific learning activity, while those be interpreted as epistemic for the students. That is, from working with epistemic practices have focused the practice the students’ perspective, the knowledge (re)production of science and what it can offer as didactic principles. they are involved in can be understood as knowledge We have identified tensions both within research related production. This practice presents genuine problems for to epistemic practices and between research related the students and if an object/motive is developed in the to epistemic practices and learning activity. First, among group, the students may have the opportunity to act with researchers that have elaborated on the concept of agency to establish a learning activity in order to solve the epistemic practices in education we found two different problem (Davydov, Slobodchikov, & Tsuckerman, 2003). uses of practice. Sandoval and Enfield and their respective For the teachers, however, the teaching practice, in relation colleagues refer to epistemic practices as related to isolated to the content or topic covered in some aspects, can be actions, while Kelly and his colleagues and Stroupe described as neither uncertain nor provoking. But this come closer to Knorr Cetina’s definition of epistemic does not necessarily mean that teachers following practices. Second, concerning learning activity within the Davydov’s Programme act within a habitual practice. CHAT tradition, the tensions concern teacher’s authority Since a learning activity never can be planned in detail, in relation to what is known and the construction of the teacher is dependent on the students’ responses for knowledge versus students’ voices and agency. Third, the decisions on how to proceed. Such decisions are based concept of epistemic practices originates from research, on the situated analysis of students’ various responses  an where knowledge production is the object of the activity, analysis that has to take into account both individual whereas learning activity relates to school  mostly related learning trajectories and the learning trajectory of the with the re-production of knowledge produced elsewhere. Citation: NordSTEP 2016, 2: 32432 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.32432 7 (page number not for citation purpose) Inger Eriksson and Viveca Lindberg R. Miettinen, & R.-L. Punama ¨ ki (Eds.), Perspectives on activity However, research is not an epistemic practice in every theory (pp. 377406). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. aspect; everyday work also has habitual aspects. Similarly, Engestrom, Y., & Sannino, A.L. (2010). Studies of expansive learning: teaching/learning does not necessarily have to be predo- Foundations, findings and future challenges. 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Journal

Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational PolicyTaylor & Francis

Published: Jan 1, 2016

Keywords: learning activity; epistemic practice; agency; cognitive authority; teaching-learning; democracy deficit

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