University of Limpopo (SOUTH AFRICA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 1180-1188
ISBN: 978-84-615-3324-4
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain
By Michael Joseph and Esther Ramani, University of Limpopo, South Africa

Our paper reports on work in progress relating to the issue of facilitating theoretical learning in Higher Education and focusses on an ongoing pedagogic experiment in making theory accessible to learners in the last six years.

The context for this research is a third-year module 'Language and Cognition' in a dual-medium degree that we teach at the university of Limpopo in South Africa. The module introduces students to Vygotksy's powerful ideas on the relation between language and cognition, especially concepts such as the cognitive function of private speech, the zone of proximal development, mediation and internalisation.

Axiomatic for us is that theoretical learning should be the goal of learning from the earliest years of formal education. However among Vygotskyian approaches to theoretical learning there appears to be an unresolved problem about the relation between everyday knowledge (EK) and scientific knowledge (SK). Some scholars (following Bernstein) merely stop at making the distinction between the two, and arguing for the importance for the latter as the goal of education dismissing overtly or covertly the role of EK. Others (such Brice-Heath and Moll, mainly from the anthropological disciplines) stress the role of EK as a way of expanding the knowledge pool of formal education. These approaches are unclear about the relationship between EK and SK as Vygotsky conceptualised it.

In our own pedagogic experimentation, we have rejected transmission/Behaviorist approaches for the obvious reason that they have been much discredited and that most of the current education especially in south Africa is based on such approaches. We argue for an activity-driven pedagogy to achieve theoretical learning as a goal and show in our paper how this can be done. Since our approach is similar to the classroom based experiment of Hedegaard we closely examine her data and interpretation with out own drawn from students' research.

Ouir activity approach (students researching the key concepts of Vygotsky) lies between two approaches: grounded theory, and scholarly reading approaches to theory and is offered as an alternative to them. There are however aspects of both grounded theory and scholarly reading present in our pedagogic practices because of the nuanced relationship between EK and SK in a constructivist approach based onVvygotsky's pedagogic ideas. This makes it necessary to show that our approach is not an eclectic combination of other paradigms but rather a synthesis of learner efforts dealt separately by other paradigms. We seek to show both theoretically and through pedagogic data that this synthesis of learner efforts is recognisable within the framework of EK and SK that we have developed.

Our pedagogic data is mainly the research that students have carried out into private speech and fantasy speech in young Sepedi-speaking children from the ages of 4 - 9 years in students' own local townships and villages. The research process enables students to deploy their everyday knowledge (EK of private speech and fantasy speech) to access the abstract ideas of Piaget and Vygotsky (SK) and to experi3ence both resonances and dissonances between some aspects of their EK with SK.
Theoretical learning, Vygotsky, activity theory, everyday knowledge, scientific knowledge.