Sociocultural Video Analysis Theory Summary Research Paper

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One student comments at the end of the video that the most difficult part of the experiment was setting it up, and that the project mostly proceeded by trial and error. Although trial and error is an important mode of learning, it should not necessarily be the primary one. Perhaps if student learning had better incorporated the "artifacts" of scientific equipment, students would have been better able to focus their work and determine which tools and strategies would have been effective in advance (John-Steiner and Mahn, 1996, p. 199). To combat this, part of the lesson could have been redesigned to include information on the various equipment students could employ, and, for future work, could include a review of this information at the end of the experiment.

Another strategy that could be used to help solidify learning in this community of practice would be to ask the student pairs to report to each other their methods and their findings. This would further engage students in the crucial "reflective activity" necessary for "joint productive activity [in] the zpd" (Ash and Levitt, 2003, p. 22). Having to compare experiences and discuss their findings (and their interpretations of their findings) would better help them "internalize complex cognitive processes, such as effective reading comprehension and argumentation skills" (Ormron, 2011, p. 45). The teacher could help mediate these discussions by having students write and circulate brief responses to the experiment, thereby asking them to structure and interpret their experiences in intelligible ways.

The first lesson redesign could be accomplished by having the student pairs briefly examine the instruments at their disposal and predicting which would be best for doing what, and then having them compare their initial thoughts on these objects with what they discovered from the experiment. This could
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be both a formative and a dynamic assessment, focusing, at the first step, on what students already know, then shifting the emphasis to examining how students learned and assimilated their experiences into knowledge. The second redesign would be primarily formative because it would help the teacher "reflect on their own skills of teaching through inquiry" and then aid student interpretations of their learning (Ash and Levitt, 2003, p. 12). Examining how students understood the project and their work could help the teacher refine and modify her own goals for student learning.

Conclusion

Overall, the video provides a fascinating a look at sociocultural theory in practice. The teacher's continuous involvement in the student learning process, the collaborative community she established through student teamwork, and her encouragement of students to reflect on what they have done and are doing exemplifies Vygotsky's principles of education. Although the assumption that teamwork via student pairs would self-correct misdirected inquiry was challenged, the teacher responded swiftly and admirably in rescaffolding those students' project -- an excellent example of how combined formative and dynamic assessments, when used properly, can help not just the majority but all of the students in a class. This video shows why Vygotsky's sociocultural theory, with its emphasis on the zone of proximal development, offers such a robust and remarkable view of learning. Both the students and the teacher had to adapt to one another's expectations, confusions, and results, and, as the final interviews in the video show, everyone was the better for it.

References

Annenberg Media -- Investigating Crickets. (1999). Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://www.learner.org/vod/vod_window.html?pid=1413

Ash, D. And Levitt, K. "Working Within the Zone of Proximal Development: Formative Assessment as Professional Development." Journal of Science Teacher Education, 14(1): 1-313, 2003.

John-Steiner, V., and Mahn, H. "Sociocultural Approaches to Learning and Development: A Vygotskian…

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References

Annenberg Media -- Investigating Crickets. (1999). Retrieved February 27, 2011, from http://www.learner.org/vod/vod_window.html?pid=1413

Ash, D. And Levitt, K. "Working Within the Zone of Proximal Development: Formative Assessment as Professional Development." Journal of Science Teacher Education, 14(1): 1-313, 2003.

John-Steiner, V., and Mahn, H. "Sociocultural Approaches to Learning and Development: A Vygotskian Framework." Educational Psychologist. 31(3/4): 191-206. 1996.

Ormrod, J.E. (2011). Educational psychology: Developing learners (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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