Contexts for writing : understanding the child's perspective
The integration of social theories into a cognitive explanation of the composing process enlarges our notion of context, calling attention to the historical, social and ideological forces that shape the making of knowledge in educational settings. These approaches suggest that context cues certain actions and that students gain entry into academic contexts if they learn the appropriate forms and discourse conventions. However, methodological approaches to teaching do not address how individuals construct meaning, use knowledge for their own purposes, or engage in reflective processes that influence how individuals will act in a socially-governed situation. Nor do they address the issue of how school-acquired knowledge may be transformed to enable individual students to take ownership of their writing. These concerns motivate the attempt to form a cognitive-social epistemic that acknowledges and explains the role of the individual in constructing meaning within culturally-organized activities in primary educational systems. Through questionnaires, interviews and classroom observations, and applying qualitative analytical procedures, the study discloses layers of complexity in a multi-level description of the ways context and cognition interact. At the general level, a comparative analysis of teachers' and pupils' rationales underlying given writing tasks produces converging references to the educational purposes for writing. At a deeper level, findings that writing possibilities and social possibilities are dynamically interlinked with the emergence of identity, suggest that learning is a constructive process of meaning-making which is uniquely manifested in diverse ways. Studies of classroom interaction determine the impact of strategies deployed within classroom communication to control the meaning-making process and make it possible to discuss the efficacies of peer-interaction in the classroom. A second strand of contextual-oriented research in a non-school setting, which incorporates the computer as a writing tool, reinforces the view that children are primarily social players negotiating roles and relationships by whatever mediational means are made available to them. In light of these results, the thesis acknowledges the complexity of a largely implicit cultural architecture for directing the context of action, and concludes that this structure will be explicated only by adopting an inclusive research strategy to encompass simultaneous acting influences.