Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I just love Vygotsky's CHAT theory! Looking at case studies.....

As a Masters Student at the University of Johannesburg, I was introduced to Vygotsky's CHAT theory. My professor introduced me to the publication "Vygotsky's Neglected Legacy: Cultural-Historical Activity Theory, written by Wolff-Michael Roth at the University of Victoria and Yew-Jin Lee from the National Institute of Education in Singapore.

The aim of this publication was to give the reader an understanding of the CHAT theory and also to introduce CHAT to wider audiences. Two case studies were briefly discussed.

The first case study is about a teacher called Katherine. Katherine is a fifth grade teacher teaching in a rural school. Her learners are battling with the English language as well as certain Science concepts. She was doing a lesson on electrical circuits. Katherine made the mistake of not allowing learners to discover on their own. She did not use the model lesson plan that was provided for a number of reasons. Firstly she felt that she would not be able to finish the syllabus on time, once she gave the learners the freedom of self-discovery. Secondly, Katherine did not have the theoretical tools to assist her in her decision (Roth and Lee: 2007).

Although Katherine is a member of a historically situated community and the fact that she is aware that the constructivist approach would be much better, she relied on the direct teaching method. With exception of two learners, the others still do not understand the concept Katherine taught (Roth and Lee: 2007).

If Katherine was able to use the CHAT theory, she would have realised that practical activity would not only have increase her confidence and teaching ability, but the use of language as mediation tool during the constructivist approach would have helped those learners that did not grasp the basics (Roth and Lee 2007).

The second case study was about two co-teachers that introduced a newspaper article to a seventh grade class. This newspaper article called for a better understsnding of the ecosystem as a whole and also a included a plea for improving the sad state of the polluted Henderson Creek (Roth and Lee 2007).

The learners immediately brainstormed. What were they going to do to improve the health of the local watershed and the water carrying body of the Henderson Creek?

The most important aspect of this lesson was when the teacher asked learners if they were interested in the project and what they were going to do about it?

A very important aspect of the CHAT theory surfaced, and that was the process of mediation. Through teacher questions and intervention a group of learners started investigating stream profiles, another group took photographs and made sound recordings, samples of water were taken at different locations by one of the groups, plant life were also recorded by one of the other groups (Roth and Lee: 2007).

Parents, Biologists, local residents, friends and family became involved through the process of mediation. Learner involvement increased. Parents and learners were working together. Learners were asking more productive questions. 

Science apparatus, posters, diagrams and mounted display staions formed part of a communal display. Many visitors visited the display, and the newspaper recorded the event, and spread the news to the wider community.   

References:
Roth, W.M.& Lee, Y. 2007. Vygotsky's Neglected Legacy: Cultural -Historical Activity Theory. Review of Educational Research. June 2007, Vol.77, No2, pp 186-232.

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