Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses

Focus

Attending to the collective aspects of human knowledge, activity, and identity

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … actions and interpretations that have been collectively developed and sanctioned
  • Knowing is … situationally appropriate actions and interpretations
  • Learner is … a participant in a collective
  • Learning is … becoming a more expert participant
  • Teaching is … modeling (i.e., acting as a more-expert agent while involving learners in culturally relevant experiences)

Originated

1960s

Synopsis

Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses tend to operate from the assumption that collective knowing unfolds from and is enfolded in individual knowers. Consequently, most of these discourses attend the situated learner and/or the collective learning system – rather than the individual learner. Matters that figure prominently include context, participation, collaboration, ethics, democratic obligation, and tacit norms – often coupled to desires and efforts to prompt critical awareness. In the context of education, popular notions associated with Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses include:
  • Appropriation of Knowledge (1990s) – Drawing on both Embodiment Discourses and Embeddedness Discourses, Appropriation of Knowledge is seen to occur when the individual has selected aspects of cultural knowledge and adapted them in ways that are personally meaningful and useful.
  • Basic Personality – a sociocultural-focused (vs. individual-focused) construct that refers to the similar and distinct patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior among individuals brought up in the same culture – that is, subjected to the same child-rearing practices, immersed to the same cultural narratives, involved in the same patterns of social engagement, involved in the same institutions, etc.
  • Behavior Setting Theory (Roger Barker, 1940s) – a perspective that is concerned with the study of human behaviors in their natural settings, and one that is intended to explain small-scale social systems. A “behavior setting” is a cultural form – particularly any social environment – that is useful for making sense across the dynamic individual activity and the stable social structures.
  • Collective Conscience (Common Conscience) – the shared frame (comprising norms, values, beliefs, etc.) that enables a society or other significant collective to be cohesive [Note: Collective Conscience should not be confused with Collective Consciousness; see Crowd Psychology.)
  • Discourse Analysis – the study of the sociocultural structures/frames that afford context and meaning to discussions, narratives, and arguments. Such structures/frames are often both implicit and ubiquitous. Consequently, they can be very difficult to excavate and interrogate – as might be illustrated by, for example, Ubiquitous Metaphors of Learning.
  • Discourse Theories (Discourse Studies) (diffuse authorship, but Michel Foucault figures prominently; 1970s) – a cluster of theories and domains that share interests in better understanding communication, meaning, and the constitutive role of language in social, political, and cultural contexts. Most Discourse Theories address matters of power (i.e., discourses are shaped by power structures and, reciprocally, can serve either to maintain or interrupt those structures), knowledge (discourses arise in and legitimize understandings of truth and reality), and subjectivity (discourses are necessary for the creation, maintenance, and negotiation of identities and positionings). Most Discourse Theories align with the sensibilities of Post-Structuralism.
    • Big “D” Discourse (James Paul Gee, 1990s) – a notion that reaches across ways of knowing, doing, and being – which are seen to arise in and reflect integrations of language, (inter)activity, beliefs, tools, and artifacts
    • Little “d” discourse (Small “d” discourse) (James Paul Gee, 1990s) – the analysis of specific uses of language
    • Discourse Analysis – the study of the sociocultural structures/frames that afford context and meaning to discussions, narratives, and arguments. Such structures/frames are often both implicit and ubiquitous. Consequently, they can be very difficult to excavate and interrogate – as might be illustrated by, for example, Ubiquitous Metaphors of Learning.
    • Discourse Community (Martin Nystrand, 1980s) – a hazily defined notion that can be applied to any group of people who share some sort of orienting convictions (e.g., public goals, ideology, shared history, or religious belief) and who are able to communicate about those convictions
    • Universe of Discourse – what can be said, heard, and understood in a Discourse Community, and how it can be expressed. The notion is often attached to matters of Power (see Activist Discourses), with the suggestion that elites often control the Universe of Discourse.
  • Discursive Psychology (Jonathan Potter, Margaret Wetherell, 1980s) – the study of the roles of communication (verbal, gestural, written, etc.) in the construal of events and other aspects of subjective and social realities
  • Dynamic Social Impact Theory (Bibb Latané, 1990s) – an elaboration of Social Impact Theory (see below) that attends to the creation and moulding of culture by local social influences. Four elements serve as the theory’s main foci: clustering (regional differences); correlation (emergent associations); consolidation (reductions in difference); continuing diversity.
  • Enculturation – coming to embody the tacit and explicit dimensions of a culture through informal and formal encounters
  • Externalisms – accounts of thought, mind, and/or consciousness that assert that those phenomena do not fully happen or reside in the brain, but that also (and, in some discourses, principally) involve what occurs and exists beyond one’s skin (Note: should not be confused with Externalisms of Motivation Theories.)
  • Object-Based LearningObject-Based Learning is oriented by the conviction that a physical artifact can serve as a window into its context. That is, an object can afford insights into traditions, sensibilities, assumptions, and norms – and thus serve to focus multi-perspectival discussions, in-depth investigations, creative expression, and critical self-reflection.
  • Participatory Epistemology (Participatory Theory) – Variously defined, most versions of Participatory Epistemology cluster around rejections of such dichotomies as subject/object, internal/external, and human/nonhuman as they assert that meaning arises through participation in the world.
  • Participatory Learning – a loosely defined phrase that, depending on context, aligns with Discourses on Individual Learning in Group Settings or Discourses on Learning Collectives. Most often, Participatory Learning is engaged as a discourse to inform teaching.
  • Postformalism (Joe Kincheloe, 1990s) – a theory designed to reject Correspondence Discourses while embracing (but blurring boundaries across) Embodiment Discourses and Embeddedness Discourses, while particular emphasis placed on Activist Discourses.
  • Shared Cognition (Socially Shared Cognition) (John Seely Brown, Allan Collins, Paul Duguid, 1980s) – a descriptive phrase used to span a range of phenomenon involving mutual influence among participants. In more provocative formulations, Shared Cognition is presented as a mode of collective thinking, as individuals come together into grander cognitive systems. In less provocative formulations, Shared Cognition is aligned with Distributed Cognition, Situated Cognition, and/or collaborative engagement.
  • Social Impact Theory (Bibb Latané, 1980s) – a theory intended to gauge “social impact,” which is understood in terms of the influences that people have on one another. A multiplicative model is suggested that combines such factors as persuasiveness, expertise, attractiveness, proximity of personalities, and number of persons engaged.
  • Social Psychology (Charles Cooley, 1910s) – a domain that studies of one’s thinking, feeling, and acting are affected by the “presence” of others, whether that presences is real or imagined. Types of Social Psychology include:
    • Consistency Theory (Self-Consistency Theory) (Fritz Heider, 1970s) – a cluster of Social Psychology theories that share the conviction that one is motivated primarily by desire for consistency across one’s mental abilities – and thus will act in ways to maximize the relationship between performance and self-image
    • Psychological Social Psychology (Gordon Allport, 1950s) – a branch of Social Psychology that emphasizes psychological processes
    • Sociological Social Psychology (Gordon Allport, 1950s) – a branch of Social Psychology that places more emphasis on the influence of the collective and the context on the individual than the individual’s influence on larger systems
  • Social Representations (Serge Moscovici, 1960s) – values, ideas, beliefs and metaphors that establish social order, orient participants, and enable communications amongst groups and communities. Social Representations must be understood as codes for social exchange.
  • Taken-as-Shared (Paul Cobb, 1990s) – a descriptor applied to different knowers’ understandings of the same notion. Taken-as-Shared is used to highlight that different individuals cannot have identical understandings – because each person’s knowing is rooted in unique sets of personal experiences. Even so, knowers tend to act as though their understandings are fully compatible – that is, those understandings are typically taken as shared.

Commentary

Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses began to press into the field of education in the 1960s, spurred by social movements and academic discussions that foregrounded the collective (and often oppressive) character of knowledge. That historical moment represented a sharp turn in cultural sensibilities around the production and perpetuation of “truth,” as it was made evident that most cultural knowledge was not inscribed in the universe. Rather, it was principally a matter of social accord. The cultural enterprise of formal education was thus implicated in the project of perpetuating such knowledge, and this realization was key in prompting a shift away from seeing schooling in terms of preparing children for adult lives toward seeing schooling as an ethical obligation to involve learners as active participants in (vs. passive recipients of) cultural knowledge.

Subdiscourses:

  • Appropriation of Knowledge
  • Basic Personality
  • Behavior Setting Theory
  • Big “D” Discourse
  • Collective Conscience (Common Conscience)
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Discourse Community
  • Discourse Theories (Discourse Studies)
  • Discursive Psychology
  • Dynamic Social Impact Theory
  • Enculturation
  • Externalisms
  • Little “d” discourse (Small “d” discourse)
  • Object-Based Learning
  • Participatory Epistemology (Participatory Theory)
  • Postformalism
  • Psychological Social Psychology
  • Shared Cognition (Socially Shared Cognition)
  • Social Impact Theory
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Representations
  • Sociological Social Psychology
  • Taken-as-Shared
  • Universe of Discourse

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Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2022). “Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.


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