Types of teaching analyzed by chronotopic relations

The purpose of this website to initiate a discussion about types of teaching as they relate to students' lives. I use the notion of chronotope introduced by Bakhtin (1994, Dialogic Imagination) to characterized the relations between teaching and students' lives. According to Bakhtin, chronotope refers to the unity of time ("chronos" in Greek), place ("tope" in Greek), and value system. I argue that teaching involves at least 3 chronotopes:

  1. didactic chronotope (time=instructional units and scale, place=academic curricula, value system=educational philosophy);
  2. local chronotope of here-and-now (time=physical time of school lesson, place=physical space of the classroom, value system=pedagogical regime);
  3. ontological chronotope (time=life time, place=world, value system=happiness).

I argue that the relationship between the chronotopes define teaching in many regards. But judge by yourself:

Decontextualized alienated teaching

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Definition: Covering disinterested and unrelated curricula

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Chronotopic relation: Didactic chronotope ignores and brackets all other chronotopes

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Learning authenticity: Very low

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Video example: Clip1 (2min) US 8th grade math lesson on angles (TIMSS)

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Analysis: The process becomes more of a guessing game than a problem solving process where the student actually interacts with and thinks about the problem. Students like workers on an assembly-line plant do not have access to the whole picture controlled by the teacher. When a teacher asks a student to fill in the blank, such as “a vertical angle is made up of what?” it is really impossible to know exactly what the teacher is asking, so students must guess (listing off all the characteristics of vertical angles) until they happen to come upon the right answer. While the answer seems to be obvious for those already know the material, it is not obvious when one doesn’t know what the teacher is looking for. Moreover, the question becomes, why ask obvious questions? I think it is most likely to try to get the students to be more interactive. But it ultimately fails, because this type of interaction, this guessing game, is boring and develops a pattern of short, thoughtless answers. Moreover, it can be embarrassing to answer obvious questions, particularly if a student happens to guess wrong. There are not attempts made to provide any rationale of why learning angles is important, for what, and for whom and how it can be related to the students’ lives.

Familiarized alienated teaching

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Definition: Use of contexts familiar to the students for teaching alienated curricula

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Chronotopic relation: Didactic chronotope exploits ontological chronotope without any reciprocal obligation

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Learning authenticity: Low

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Video example: Clip2 (3min) -- South African 4th grade math lesson on graphs

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Analysis: The teacher tries to use everyday concepts familiar to the students (e.g., color of eyes of black and white people, shoe sizes, number of children in the class) to illustrate math concepts (e.g., graph), however, essentially the teaching is still alienated from the students since the curricula do not help to comprehend or change the world around the students. Although the teacher applies the graph concept to familiar and even potentially relevant contexts (like comparisons of appearance of white and black people), the comparisons are purposeless. The students clearly can't see the "big picture" of why to use math graphs.

Personalized teaching

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Definition: Use of school curricula to help the students to improve and make sense of their everyday lives and communities’ practices

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Chronotopic relation: Didactic chronotope serves ontological chronotope

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Learning authenticity: High

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Video example: Clip3 (3min 20 sec) -- South African 7th grade lesson on economic needs

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Analysis: The students focus on their personal past experiences and use the academic curricula to make sense out of them (e.g., latter in the lesson they discuss if money or love are economic needs in their community). The students had heated discussions of whether love, or air, or money, or God, or education are economic needs or not. Listening to the children, I could learn about their communities and lives. For example, one issue that became especially hot for the children was whether living without earning money on welfare is moral or not. This focus on welfare came out of split among the children on those who argued that money are economic needs necessary for people's survival in modern society and those who argued that money are not necessary (there were those also who argued that money are means and not ends for survival and well-being). Although, the children participate in big ideas, their unique personalities and voices were developing through this participation.

Culturalized teaching

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Definition: Use school curricula as a mediator of communal relations

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Chronotopic relation: Didactic chronotope emerges out of the students’ participation in cultural-communal chronotope

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Learning authenticity: High

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Video example: Clip4 (2min) Japanese 8th grade math lesson on strengthening the border between two privately owned lands (TIMSS)

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Analysis: The students see math as means for solving culturally defined interpersonal problems. The issues of fairness, private property, and property dispute emphasized by the teacher through using the names of actual children in the classroom for marking the privately owned lands of two neighbors in the presented situation. Math and school curricula is showed to be useful for mediating interpersonal relations and solving property disputes in the community.

Practicalized teaching

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Definition: School curricula become owned practice for the students

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Chronotopic relation: Didactic chronotope is ontological and local chronotope

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Learning authenticity: High

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Video example: Clip5 (1 min 30 sec) Japanese 8th grade math lesson on changes a figure shape while keeping the same area (TIMSS)

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Analysis: The students are participants in math practice as self-sufficient activity. They see math practice on its own terms and not just a tool for something else. They start developing ownership for the activity as they see merits of the math problems in their own sake. Full ownership will become possible when the students start spontaneously develop their own math inquires and problems for their classroom math community.

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Observations, comments, issues

Hit Counter hits since July 31, 2003 by Eugene Matusov

Name: Brian
Interperations:
Date: Sunday, 21 September 2003
Time: 02:02:15 AM -0400

Observations

Hi. I go to a community college and I've always thought teaching everywhere should be like your high learning authenticity clips. No one is inspired to learn any thing that seems irrelevant. Many students are turned off of subjects like math for the rest of their lives simply because of their experiences in a few particular classes.