About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 1267-1274
Publication year: 2010
ISBN: 978-84-614-2439-9
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain

EXAMINING SCIENCE CLASSROOMS THROUGH A SOCIOCULTURAL THEORY OF LEARNING: DOES THE COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE FRAMEWORK WORK?

O. Aguilar

Denison University (UNITED STATES)
Until recently, the dominant paradigm in science education research used cognitive learning theories to explain students’ individual cognitive processes apart from the “noise” of their everyday life (Kirshner & Whitson, 1998). However, over the past two decades, fields such as anthropology, sociology and education have also contributed to our understanding of learning through a sociocultural lens (Wenger, 1998), and education researchers have increasingly turned to sociocultural theories of learning in efforts to understand the science achievement of students often marginalized in the sciences and to re-examine our traditional concepts of learning (Brickhouse, 2001; Brickhouse & Potter, 2001; Lemke, 2001).

Sociocultural theories of learning have moved the focus from cognitive or conceptual changes in an individual acontextually to individual identity formation and transformation through participation and membership in various communities of practice. Wenger (1998) developed the community of practice framework as a mechanism to define and illustrate a sociocultural theory of learning (Greeno, 1998; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Lemke, 2001) through three dimensions: joint enterprise, mutual engagement and shared repertoire. A number of studies have used the community of practice framework to examine complexities within learning contexts, assuming communities of practice existed, (Ash, 2008; Barab & Duffy, 2000; Brickhouse & Potter, 2001; Hogan, 2002; Roth et al., 1999), but little has been done to argue how this framework, including these dimensions, might contribute to educational research.

This paper examines how Wenger’s community of practice framework is both applicable and useful for examining learning as a social process in two science classrooms. Visiting two science classrooms over the course of one school year, I used observations, focus group interviews, and individual interviews to examine how Wenger’s main dimensions, joint enterprise, mutual engagement, and shared repertoires, were manifested in both classrooms. I also used the same qualitative methods to examine how the dimensions helped to explain learning as participation, membership and identity formation within the classrooms. Additionally, I asked students to depict their classroom communities through drawings. I collected the data into cases and coded the data by hand using Wenger’s dimensions.

Findings from this study illustrated that examining Wenger’s dimensions from both emic and etic perspectives was consequential to identifying a community of practice and thus understanding learning as a social process. Learning could be understood as a social process when dimensions were developed within the contexts and identifiable by the participants. On the other hand, when dimensions were not agreed upon by participants and were unclear to both insiders and outsiders, the community of practice framework was neither applicable nor useful for understanding learning as a social process. Thus, an a priori assumption that communities of practice exist in educational settings is cautioned.
@InProceedings{AGUILAR2010EXA,
author = {Aguilar, O.},
title = {EXAMINING SCIENCE CLASSROOMS THROUGH A SOCIOCULTURAL THEORY OF LEARNING: DOES THE COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE FRAMEWORK WORK?},
series = {3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2010 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-614-2439-9},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Madrid, Spain},
month = {15-17 November, 2010},
year = {2010},
pages = {1267-1274}}
TY - CONF
AU - O. Aguilar
TI - EXAMINING SCIENCE CLASSROOMS THROUGH A SOCIOCULTURAL THEORY OF LEARNING: DOES THE COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE FRAMEWORK WORK?
SN - 978-84-614-2439-9/2340-1095
PY - 2010
Y1 - 15-17 November, 2010
CI - Madrid, Spain
JO - 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2010 Proceedings
SP - 1267
EP - 1274
ER -
O. Aguilar (2010) EXAMINING SCIENCE CLASSROOMS THROUGH A SOCIOCULTURAL THEORY OF LEARNING: DOES THE COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE FRAMEWORK WORK?, ICERI2010 Proceedings, pp. 1267-1274.
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