FocusRole of language in enabling the co-creation of individual and cultural beings
- Knowledge is … scope of possible symbol-mediated interpretation
- Knowing is … co-created reality
- Learner is … a co-creator (individual in social or cultural context)
- Learning is … participating (in creating and recreating reality)
- Teaching is … N/A
SynopsisSymbolic Interactionism aims to offer insight into how culture is preserved through interactions among individuals. It posits that formal symbolic systems – and, in particular, language – are the sources and media of all meaning. Symbolic Interactionism is focused on how individuals interact to create and recreate symbolic worlds and, in turn, how those co-created symbolic worlds shape each individual’s actions and interpretations. Importantly, Symbolic Interactionism’s focus on co-created worlds is not a denial of a physical reality; however, the theory does entail that one’s experience of reality is conditioned by interpretations encoded in shared language.
CommentarySome critics have argued that Symbolic Interactionism is not one theory, but a framework comprising many theories. A closely related criticism is that Symbolic Interactionism is too broad, general, and unsystematic to be of much use.
Authors and/or Prominent InfluencesGeorge Herbert Mead; Charles Horton Cooley; Herbert Blumer
Status as a Theory of LearningSymbolic Interactionism is a theory of learning on both individual and collective levels, including an emphasis on their mutually specifying dynamics.
Status as a Theory of TeachingSymbolic Interactionism is not a scientific theory of teaching.
Status as a Scientific TheorySymbolic Interactionism is frequently criticized by researchers with empiricist leanings as too reliant on qualitative research methods and/or being untestable. In our analysis, given the clarity of around its foci and constructs and its substantial evidence base, Symbolic Interactionism meets our criteria of a scientific theory.
Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Symbolic Interactionism” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.
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