chapter  4
16 Pages

Toward a trialogical approach to learning


The purpose of the present chapter is to examine a novel approach to learning, which we call trialogical inquiry. We will start this chapter by contrasting three metaphors of learning; the knowledge-acquisition metaphor, the participation metaphor, and the knowledge-creation metaphor (Paavola, Lipponen & Hakkarainen 2004; Paavola & Hakkarainen 2005; Hakkarainen, Palonen, Paavola & Lehtinen 2004). Anna Sfard (1998; see also Lave & Wenger 1991; Wenger 1998) has differentiated between two central metaphors of learning, the knowledge-acquisition metaphor and the participation metaphor. The division is very profound and considers there to be two fundamentally different approaches to learning. As we interpret them, the former emphasizes individual mental processes and the latter examines transmission of cultural knowledge and competence, from one generation to the next. We have proposed that in order to overcome the dichotomy between these approaches, a recognition of a third metaphor of learning is needed that addresses learning related to deliberate advancement of knowledge and transformation of social practices. Creating a theoretical framework that assists in conceptualizing, empirically studying, and facilitating knowledgecreating learning in education and workplaces is the focus of an integrated European Knowledge-Practices Laboratory ( project. The knowledge-acquisition metaphor examines knowledge as a property or characteristic of an individual mind. An individual is the basic unit of knowing, and learning is a process in which information is transferred to the individual agent. The acquisition metaphor may be based on the traditional assumption of the direct transmission of knowledge to the student, or, as Sfard (1998) herself emphasizes, the active and ‘constructive’ (but individual) process. This metaphor leads to an examination of learning from the perspective of a student’s internal information processing and emphasizes the role of within-mind knowledge structures (e.g., schemata) in learning. Some versions of the knowledge-acquisition metaphor are based on the ‘folk’ psychological, metaphoric assumption that a person’s mind is a container for knowledge, and learning is a process which fills this vessel, furnishing it with information (compare Bereiter 2002). This metaphor grew out of studying highly controlled tasks that often focused on memory, problem solving in toy domains, and simple aspects of language (e.g., word and sentence recall).