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University of Pennsylvania Ethnography Forum

March 3, 2001

Quotes shared by Jamie Myers (

So much of the responsibility currently falls to the mentor and intern because that is where the everyday activity is taking place. Until associates are involved in the activity of everyday instruction, they cannot be a full partner in the conversation or community. Their interactions and work with the interns will continue to be seen as external to the important work of the classroom. When associates have had the opportunity to participate in classroom activity and reflection it has also supported their thinking about pedagogy and literacy. It is unusual having this third person in the room also engage students in learning activity, meet to co-plan and co-assess student work, and share responses to professional readings. But, until collaboration with all three partners happens more, it is improbable that associates will move beyond being outsiders.

Jamie Myers 9/26/00

Gaining legitimacy is also a problem when masters prevent learning by acting in effect as pedagogical authoritarians, viewing apprentices as novices who "should be instructed" rather than as peripheral participants in a community engaged in its own reproduction. (p. 76)

Conditions that place newcomers in deeply adversarial relations with masters, bosses, or managers; in exhausting overinvolvement in work; or in involuntary servitude rather than participation distort, partially or completely, the prospects for learning in practice. (p. 64)

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991)

Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.

Activities, tasks, functions, and understandings do not exist in isolation; they are part of broader systems of relations in which they have meaning. These systems of relations arise out of and are reproduced and developed within social communities, which are in part systems of relations among persons. The person is defined by as well as defines these relations. Learning thus implies becoming a different person with respect to the possibilities enabled by these systems of relations. To ignore this aspect of learning is to overlook the fact that learning involves the construction of identities. (p. 53)

Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991)

Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.

We may be so enculturated to a particular form of interaction in classrooms that not only does movement towards an inquiry community seem impossible, the very formation of our inquiries serves to only enhance and reify the status quo. Perhaps our PDS inquiries so far this year have focused most on the teacher’s actions of control, the students’ actions in compliance or resistance, and the interactions in which events came off smoothly, predictably, dully, or excitedly. How often have we focused our inquiry on what is going on inside students’ heads? Why do they read and write? What do they do with literacy to marginalize or expand consciousness? What do they want to know more about and how could literacy facilitate that learning? How do the lessons and literacy practices we sponsor serve the construction of their identities, relationships and values in their lives within and beyond our classroom community?

Jamie Myers 2/12/01

Every literacy is learnt in a specific context in a particular way and the modes of learning, the soical relationships of student teacher are modes of socialization and acculturation. The student is learning cultural models of identity and personhood, not just how to decode script or to write a particular hand. If that is the case, then leaving the critical process until after they have learnt many of the genres of literacy used in that society is putting off, possibly for ever, the socialization into critical perspective (p. 140).

Street, B. (1995)

Social Literacies: Critical approaches to literacy development, ethnography, and education New York: Longman.

Constructing knowledge through active participation in a community of practice is an entirely different experience from consuming generalizations about some activity or object in the world. We are most accustomed to education based on the latter as we chunk learning into classes and years, facts and concepts, lectures and tests, skills and practice, and sequences and hierarchies of learning that fit an idealized human experience. I believe that we have all developed as teachers through our activity and community to far greater depths than we have through college classes or inservice sessions that are typically disconnected from our everyday classroom experience.

Jamie Myers 9/26/00

Some years ago I wrote some very insistent articles about the importance of discovery learning--learning on one's own, or as Piaget put it later (and I think better), learning by inventing. What I am proposing here is an extension of that idea, or better a completion. My model of the child in those days was very much in the tradition of the solo child mastering the world by representing it to himself in his own terms. In the intervening years I have come increasingly to recognize that most learning in most settings is a communal activity, a sharing of the culture. It is not just that the child must make his knowledge his own, but that he must make it his own in a community of those who share his sense of belonging to a culture. It is this that leads me to emphasize not only discovery and invention but the importance of negotiating and sharing--in a word, of joint culture creating as an object of schooling and as an appropriate step en route to becoming a member of the adult society in which one lives out one's life (p. 127).

Bruner, J. (1986)

Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Perhaps the central idea I’d like to share today is that adolescents live within this vauge, ambiguous, negotiated, media message filled world of meanings, but the school does little to prepare them for full participation in that world because the literacy practices of school rarely involve negotiation, intersubjectivity, ambiguity, inquiry, or intertextuality. We go at learning in lessons of one text at a time, all together repeating the single meaning on our papers to accumulate points for success. I am going to leave this claim unsupported today because I believe that we have all read a bevy of research over the last twenty years that provides empirical evidence to support the claim. I will just add that I do not believe that these literacy practices of textual reproduction are inauthentic. They are culturally valued for the identities, relationships, and values for knowledge that they construct in our competitive individualistic culture. However, while authentic, I find the values they produce very problematic in a democratic society because they reify divisions, even to the point of violence, based on class, race, gender, age, and now even political parties.

Jamie Myers 12/3/00

When preparation is made the controlling end, then the potentialities of the present are sacrificed to a suppositious future. When this happens, the actual preparation for the future is missed or distorted. The ideal of using the present simply to get ready for the future contradicts itself. It omits, and even shuts out, the very conditions by which a person can be prepared for his future. We always live at the time we live and not at some other time, and only by extracting at each present time the full meaning of each present experience are we prepared for doing the same thing in the future. This is the only preparation which in the long run amounts to anything. (p. 49)

Dewey, J. (1963)

Experience & Education New York, N.Y.: Macmillan Publishing Company