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I will not trace the full history of CHAT here, but will refer to the work of Yrjö Engström and the Center for Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research at the University of Helsinki (http://www.edu.helsinki.fi/activity/) in mapping out three generations of CHAT work. First is (Vygotsky, 1978) work which led to the early conceptions of CHAT which connected individual subjects with learning objects through means of mediating tools, including language, in order to understand the cognitive processes of individual learners. The second generation of CHAT theory (Figure 1) complicated that model significantly by including other mediating elements in the learning process, including the learner’s community, the rules developed for work within that community, and the roles and responsibilities assigned to its members. This expansion allows us to look at learning processes in social settings and to take into consideration the complex learning environments in families, communities and schools Figure 1.1: 2nd Generation CHAT (from http://www.edu.helsinki.fi/activity/pages/chatanddwr/chat/) This second generation model of CHAT affords a rich field in which to consider the location and nature of language policy mechanisms in learning environments.
The model highlights the complex interaction that surrounds language ideologies and provides a way of thinking about how they compete with each other through social structures. In addition, we can examine both overt and covert outcomes for language use and learning as they affect both individuals and communities, and determine the development of specific participant roles and responsibilities. The same can be said for the rules of language use and learning developed by the individual subjects and communities. Finally, we can consider the roles played by material tools, including those traditionally considered in educational settings, such as texts, tests, curricular models and plans, and various forms of technology, but also space and its configuration and use (built environment) as it is allocated to the activities of the individual and community4. These tools or instruments also act as covert mechanisms of language policy, particularly in school settings where teachers must adapt their activities to the space allotted their classes.
Third generation CHAT provides a way of understanding networks of activity systems, connecting one activity system to another as they relate to potentially shared goals or outcomes or as different but connected communities work toward a shared object (Figure 2). This model allows language policy researchers to compare language mechanisms across a variety of activity systems for possible conflict or consistency in language ideologies and practices. It facilitates identifying the location of the overt or “imagined” language policy of a community, and any rifts between overt and covert policy mechanisms in a program occupied by different communities engaging in a variety of activities.
Figure 1.2: Third Generation CHAT (from http://www.
edu.helsinki.fi/activity/pages/chatanddwr/chat/) The CHAT model seems particularly well-suited to study language policy mechanisms in a TWI program, not only because of the ways that activity theory has been applied to language socialization and literacy learning in school environments, but See (Sterponi, 2007) for a discussion of the importance of built environment in the clandestine literacy practices of elementary school students.
because it accommodates the social and structural complexity of a typical TWI program.
Language policy mechanisms are located in and utilized by a wide variety of social groupings within such a program, from the school board as it makes decisions about the size, location, and funding of a program, to each classroom teacher from kindergarten to the exit grade, to the parent association as it supports, questions or influences the decisions of teachers and administrators, to the cultural and linguistic communities that send their children to study in it, to the students themselves who decide which languages they will use in their social interactions in the classroom and playground. CHAT provides a means of isolating various social groupings and the individual subjects in it to consider how they are actively involved in enacting both overt and covert language policy.
Language policy reform and expansive learning.
Finally, third generation CHAT and (Engestrom, 1987) development of the concept of expansive learning provide a useful model for considering the process of resolving conflicts that arise as a result of variation in de facto language policies within a TWI program. (Engestrom et al., 1999) presents expansive learning as “a historically new type of learning which emerges as practitioners struggle through developmental transformations in their activity systems, moving across collective zones of proximal development” (p. 3). While large-scale cycles of expansive learning take place over the course of years, and therefore may be difficult to observe as they take place, (Engestrom,
2001) has also used the theory to examine medium and small scale cycles of expansive learning in working team settings. In his study of the systems of children’s health care in Helsinki, Engestrom (2001) sets out specific principles for using activity theory to understand the process of expansive learning. First, the primary unit of analysis for studying this process is “a collective, artifact-mediated and object-oriented activity system, seen in its network relations to other activity systems” (p. 136). The second principle emphasizes the “multi-voicedness of activity systems,” which necessarily involves “multiple points of view, traditions and interests” (p. 136). Thirdly, activity systems are historical in nature, and expansive learning necessarily involves studying the “local history of the activity and its objects” (p. 136). Principle four is the “central role of contradictions as sources of change and development.” However, contradictions are not the same as mere conflicts or problems: “Contradictions are historically accumulating structural tensions within and between activity systems,” that is the “double bind potentially embedded in everyday actions” (p. 137). Finally, the fifth principle predicts the possibility of expansive learning or transformation in activity systems.
Though the process may take a long time, when contradictions in activity systems arise and become intensified, some individuals within the activity system may begin to question and make changes. This initial process can lead to a collective zone of proximal development, a “collective envisioning and a deliberate collective change effort” (p. 137).
Change takes the form of a re-conceptualization of the object and motive of the activity system, so that participants adopt and accept a more expansive view of the possibilities for the activity than in earlier times. This model implies a movement toward new ways of accomplishing activities, new insights into the objects and reasons for those objects, toward collaborative reconsideration of all the activity systems involved, including all the elements of those activity systems.
The application of expansive learning to educational reform efforts seems clear, and provides a means of considering, even during a reform process itself, what activity systems are implicated in a reform effort, who the subjects are, what objects they share (or believe they share), what objects they have that create contradictions, how community alignments, rules, tools, division of labor, may contribute to or interfere with expansive learning. I will use this theory of expansive learning and its process to analyze the Midville Spanish Immersion middle school Program Review/reform effort, and will suggest locations in the process where and reasons why expansive learning may be thwarted.
“Spheres of Human Activity,” Language Domains and Speech Genres in Activity Systems In using CHAT as a way of theorizing how we might observe and understand language policy mechanisms in operation in an activity system focusing on language learning and use, I will further propose that we must examine the role that language itself (as a Tool in the activity system [Vygotsky, 1979]) becomes a mechanism of language policy. As Garrett (2005) points out, a particular language used for specific purposes, can become a tool of social resistance for a group of people in situations of language shift and loss. He emphasizes that through using language in particular ways, we convey ideas about “what language is good for,” that is, what activities a particular language is associated with. Specific spoken genres (Bakhtin, 1986) pertain to certain language domains, or “spheres of human activity.” While it is beyond the scope of this study to suggest any taxonomy of speech genres that pertain to specific language domains or spheres, Bakhtin (1986) did propose that any development of categories of primary and secondary speech genres would depend upon our understanding of their connection to specific “spheres of human activity.” Further, Bakhtin argues that we are “given these speech genres in almost the same way that we are given our native language, which we master fluently long before we begin to study grammar” (1986: 78), that is through participating in “spheres of human activity.” While Bakhtin was not using “activity” in the same way as Vygotsky (and CHAT theorists), it is not difficult to see ways in which we can connect “spheres of human activity” to the CHAT triangle, and therefore, see speech genres as both the Object of participation in an activity, as well as Tools for accomplishing the activity.
The most obvious connection between “spheres of human activity” and the TWI language learning and use environment would be found in the various language domains obtained through the academic content areas in a TWI classrooms5. These academic language domains carry with them specific ways of using language, specific vocabulary, These content areas provide a network of pre-existing, relatively discrete categories of activities related to language use, while the many social language use domains in a classroom would be more difficult to identify and categorize, though they might be recognized through the speech genres themselves. See Bakhtin (1986) for some of the difficulties in establishing a taxonomy of speech genres.
related to specific socially validated activities. (Gee, 2003) calls these social groupings and the practices that belong to them “semiotic domains,” pointing to the various ways we read, think and learn differently according to the situations characteristic of these domains. A TWI classroom involves a wide variety of semiotic domains connected to academic “spheres of human activity,” including those pertaining to science(s), mathematics, the arts (plastic, musical, dramatic), social studies (including history), language arts (literacy, language awareness). In each of these domains, students learn ways of thinking and speaking, as well as a variety of “secondary genres,” in the form of types or genres of written work, reports, lab write-ups, personal and persuasive essays, short stories and poetry, multimodal writing, presentational writing. They begin to master these genres before they fully understand their function within the domains they belong to. However, they are involved in reproducing those genres that carry the most value and power in specific domains.
As Gee’s (2003) discussion of semiotic domains implies an ideological (rather than autonomous) model of both language and literacy (Street, 1985) in which language is used in ways consistent with the values of the people who inhabit the semiotic domain, (Bakhtin, 1981) argues that as speech genres come into contact with each other, they reveal the tensions that exist between the centripetal and centrifugal forces that vie for control over a language. Centripetal forces are those which “serve to unify and centralize the verbal-ideological world,” emphasizing the importance of “correct language” that will ensure the “victory of one reigning language” (pp. 270-1). Centrifugal forces, in contrast, are located in “the fleeting language of a day, an epoch, a social group, a genre, a school and so forth,” and represent language as it is used in “the authentic environment of an utterance” (p. 272). In other words, centripetal or centralizing forces of language emphasize a static, autonomous, “correct” view of language, while centrifugal or decentralizing forces emphasize language in its actual context, as used by individuals and groups. In Chapters 3 and 4, I will focus on these emphases within the context of the TWI 5th grade classroom and the high school Spanish Language AP classroom, and their respective culminating experiences.
The centripetal, centralized view of language, I argue, results in a static representation of a language, one that is represented in World Language classes by the version of the world language presented in a textbook. (Engestrom, 1991) examines the problem that (Resnick, 1987) raises with regards to learning in school environments.
The process of schooling seems to encourage the idea that the “game of school” is to learn symbolic rules of various kinds, that there is not supposed to be much continuity between what one knows outside school and what one learns in school.
There is growing evidence, then, that not only may schooling not contribute in a direct and obvious way to performance outside school, but also that knowledge acquired outside school is not always used to support in-school learning.
Schooling is coming to look increasingly isolated from the rest of what we do (p.