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Metaphors in learning

Anna Sfard – Two Metaphors

Acquisition metaphor vs participation metaphor
All our concepts and beliefs have their roots in a limited number of fundamental ideas that cross disciplinary boundaries and carried from one domain to another by the language that we use.

Essential live with both – each has something to offer the other can’t provide.

My thoughts
•    How Sfard defines the acquisition and participation metaphors

Acquisition metaphor (AM)

•    ‘the act of gaining knowledge – Collins English dictionary – human learning is seen as an acquisition of something.
•    Since Piaget and Vygotski – growth of knowledge in process of learning has been analyzed in terms of concept development.
•    Concepts – basic understanding of knowledge that can be accumulated gradually refined and combined to form even richer cognitive structures.
•    Can talk about learner as a person who constructs meaning.
•    Knowledge acquisition and concept development – human mind – container to be filled with certain materials – learner becomes owner of these materials.
•    Gaining ownership over some kind of self – sustained entity.
•    There are many types of entities that may be acquired in the process of learning – key words generated by acquisition metaphor , knowledge and concept.
•    Making entities your own – reception and acquisition
•    The idea of learning as gaining possession over some commodity has persisted in a wide spectrum of frameworks.
•    Differing methods concept development
o    Passive reception of knowledge
o    Actively constructed by the learner
o    Development of concepts – acquisition metaphor

Participation Metaphor

•    The terms that imply the existence of some permanent entities have been replaced by the noun ‘knowing’, which indicates ‘action’ – the talk about ‘states’ has been replaced by attention to activities.
•    Permanence of having gives way to constant flux of ‘doing’.
•    While the concept of acquisition implies that there is a clear end point to the process of learning the new terminology leaves no room for halting signals.
•    To put it differently – learning a subject is how conceived of as a process of becoming a member of a certain community.
•    Ability to communicate in language of that community, and act according to its particular norms.

•    How she distinguishes between them

o    PM – learning as part of a greater whole
o    PM – bonds between individual and others
o    AM – individual mind
o    AM – inward movement of the object known as knowledge

•    The significance of Table 1 and the difference between questions of what learning is versus how learning happens.

It depends upon the type of learning, the table shows that to learn form the PM point of view there needs to be some external contact – with participation, and discussion, with the AM view there is the idea that learning something individually and just taking knowledge in allows for acquisition of that learning.

Note that Sfard sees social theories of learning drawing on both acquisitive as well as participatory models of learning

•    When you’ve read through the extract, use the AM and PM metaphors to reflect on the way you use (or have used in the past) technologies for learning in a formal context in comparison with an informal one. Select two contrasting examples from these learning experiences and simply note down what you learned and how you learned it.

•    Formal learning – mandatory e-learning – I have used an online learning environment to access an elearning course, I am participating in this to achieve cpd and so have followed the course to gain the certificate.
•    Informal – learning a new authoring tool, e.g. storyline – I am learning to use storyline, I have been to the learning technologies exhibition and see it demonstrated and then have looked at  book on the tool and now I am having a go and so learning to use the tool by doing.

•    Now look at the words you used in your responses. Notice whether you’ve talked about:
o    knowing more – didn’t mention knowing more just learning more
o    gaining something – I talked about gaining a certificate
o    being able to do something – yes I talked about learning to use storyline by doing
o    participating in new activities or a new group – talked about participating in the elearning
o    having new ideas or new possibilities for yourself – feeling differently about something. – didn’t talk about this as yet, perhaps this will come once I am more proficient at the tool.

Doubtless you used several of these phrasings, so your learning might have been quite varied or rich in significance.

•    Do all these instances refer to learning in terms of either acquisition or participation or a combination of both?
I think they were a mixture of both as even working on my own I am acquiring knowledge and participating.

•    Did you find instances that do not seem to fit exactly with either acquisition or participation?
No I think they fit in with either.

•    Is your learning process more oriented to you as an individual or to you within a social context?
At present more as an individual, with the examples I used, though this course will change that as I am participating in the learning on line and individually.


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