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domestication or ontological construction?

Martin J Packer

pp. 167-188

The sociocultural perspective on learning and development has met with some opposition, notably from those who find in it a lack of attention to the child's active construction in these processes. Since, so the claim goes, this active construction is a central tenet of constructivism – whether that of Piaget or of von Glasersfeld – what is needed is a 'synthesis' of constructivism with socioculturalism. Wertsch and Kazan offer such a synthesis, a 'socioculturally situated constructivism" in which children learn "within the confines' of adult expertise. In this Chapter I argue that this is not an adequate account of what occurs in the Fast Plants videos. Rather, what can be observed is an ontological construction which is invisible to constructivism. In the course of their interactions together the students actively transform a sheet of paper first into a graph and then into a distribution, a public artifact and a mathematical object, which has now been reproduced in this book. An object of knowledge has been constructed and reconstructed in complex trajectories of collective activity. In at least one group this occurred without expert guidance. Differences in the teachers' and the students' preferred forms of representation raise questions about the definition of a single use of an artifact as appropriate, and about the definition of schooling as domestication. Learning, I suggest, is not change in subjective knowledge structures, it is transformation of known objects and of knowing subjects. Although adult authority often plays a part, it would be a mistake to see schooling as merely the socialization of novices by experts.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4419-7582-9_10

Full citation:

Packer, M.J. (2011)., Schooling: domestication or ontological construction?, in T. Koschmann (ed.), Theories of learning and studies of instructional practice, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 167-188.

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