22 SES 08 D, Student Trajectories and Drop-Outs
The topic at stake in this paper is the role of writing in student learning. The close relationship between writing and learning has been accentuated by several scholars within the new literacy approach (e.g. Barton & Hamilton 1998, Barton, 2007; Barton, Hamilton, & Ivaniç, 2000). Student writing and learning are regarded as issues at the epistemological level and as identities rather than skills or student socialisation, and conceptualisations of literacy as social practices have been suggested (Ivanič 2004; Burgess & Ivanič 2010). This paper draws on these insights, but aims at digging deeper into the individual layers of literacy practises. The research question is: How can the role of writing in student`s personal trajectories of learning across different textual experiences be conceptualised?
The first component of the analytical framework is the concept of personal trajectories of learning (Dreier 1999). Learning trajectories is about a continuous motion, and actions of exploring, comparing and contrasting different experiences in relation to one another are particularly important resources in fostering this kind of movment (Dreier 2008; 1999). However, motions of meaning making depends on a language or other sort of representational system, such as social practices that studnts participate in during higeher education. A trajectory of learning is always socially formed and informed, but also important in meaning making at an individual, cognitive level (Linell, 2009; Vygotsky, 1987). The movement that goes on in students trajectories follows the shape of more stable institutional or disciplinary cultures.
The second core concept of the analytical framework is mediation (Vygotsky1987, Wertsch 1998). People do not act in a direct unmediated way in the social and physical world. Rather, our contact with the world is indirect or mediated by various types of tools or mediators. “There is no such thing as pure cognition that can be assessed per se” (Säljö, 1999, p. 85). Language has been described as the most important of all human artefacts (Linell, 2009; Leontèv, 1974). Language bring about a range of linguistic mediational tools and knowledge is objectified in these tools. When students take part in different activities of writing, like planning their assignments or taking part in a workshop or writing an assignment, they construct knowledge through interaction with different types of tools available in language (Linell 1998). Opportunities and affordances for meaning making are actions already there in linguistic resources and contexts, “but the situated actions select and fill in, “completing” meaning, or more precisely: completing it for current purposes” (Linell 2009, p. 58). Situated meanings are never constructed from scratch; resources for meaning making have largely been constructed over time, within sociocultural practices. The mediational resources are inscribed with meaning, but the situated actions select and fill in, “‘completing’ meaning, or more precisely: completing it for current purposes” (Linell, 2009, p. 58).
For the purpose of digging deeper into the complex cognitive processes that are involved in meaning making, I will include the concept of recontextualisation (Linell 2009). Tools mediate and reshape both the activity at a collective level as well as and the learning and thinking at a personal level (Vygotsky 1987). Learning, in this perspective, will rely very much on the degree to which students re-conceptualize the tools that they use and play with during education. The clusters of tools connected to writing that students “meet” at campus and in internship can be conceptualized as material representations of core values and ideas within the disciplines of the professions. Learning trajectories are thus stages of a progression that align with more stable institutional or professional networks, and that are stabilized by clusters of mediating tools.
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