Beyond Micro and Macro: Trajectories of Learning and Identification in Science Class

Stanton Wortham (1), Joel Kuipers (2), Gail Viechnicki (2)

1: University of Pennsylvania, USA 2: George Washington University, USA

WS136: Trajectories of learning in/across contexts of learning

This paper describes how one student’s social identity emerges across a trajectory of events. This involves more than just the application of stable “macrosocial” models in discursive practice. It involves a more complex combination of widely circulating models, innovation within particular events, and the emergence of durable local expectations that are neither “macro” nor “micro.” The identity that is established within any speech event can turn out to be uncharacteristic or irrelevant across events. Individuals' identities emerge across trajectories of events, and we must trace this emergence over time. The paper illustrates this process with data from 13-year-old students in a science class across a two month curriculum unit. When students enter new lab groups their identities are often fluid. Over time, students and teachers generally come to identify a given student in predictable ways. The various trajectories of identification that an individual could have traveled normally get narrowed down, as signs of identity come to presuppose a consistent model. This paper traces the social identification of one student, showing how he developed a complex but robust identity across several weeks. The analysis first describes how the focal student was positioned in recognizable ways over a few minutes in one speech event. Then it traces the student’s emerging trajectory across many such events, showing how his identity solidifies, and in some respects becomes fluid again, as he is identified across events. The paper also shows how this solidification depends on conceptual and physical resources particular to science classrooms, including resources drawn from the curriculum.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
Trajectories of learning in/across contexts of learning
Friday, April 4, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 04