Sociogenesis and cognition: The struggle between social and cognitive activities
The chapters in this book give us very rich descriptions and ways of understanding how learning occurs in classroom settings and learning environments more generally. An important question then becomes: in which ways do these descriptions contribute and add to our understanding of learning activities? More specifically, how do different types of interactions contribute to students’ participation and understanding of concepts and conceptual systems in domains like mathematics and science? The chapters also provide us with rich frames of interpretation of empirical data. We have been through a period of 20 years where different perspectives and metaphors for learning and knowledge construction have been discussed (e.g. Anderson, Reder & Simon 1996; Greeno, Smith & Moore 1993; Hutchins 1995; Lave 1988; Packer & Goicoechea 2000; Roth 2008; Vera & Simon 1993), where differences and incommensurability have played a major role in the discussion. We must take a step forward and explore what the different perspectives and metaphors can explain and in which ways these explanations could be connected and combined (e.g. Arnseth & Ludvigsen 2006). In this integrative chapter, I will discuss how the different chapters in this volume can contribute to a richer understanding of how students learn to participate in learning activities, as well as of students’ use and understanding of specific concepts in knowledge domains such as mathematics and science. In order to explore the relationship between the different chapters, both with regard to their frames of interpretation and empirical analysis, I need to establish a framework of interpretation that allows the possibility of moving between different levels of social and cognitive activities. In the socio-cultural stance toward learning, development and cognition, we can differentiate between different levels of descriptions and explanation (e.g. Saxe, this volume; Valsiner & van der Veer 2000; Wells 1999). In all the chapters, social interaction constitutes the empirical focus; this refers to how teachers and students engage with material artefacts and language as tools. The goal of this endeavour is to understand how students make use of specific concepts in a knowledge domain. These processes can be categorized as the microgenesis level of knowledge construction. This level of description represents the empirical level, where the phenomena we want to understand unfold and are played out.