Vocabulary learning

It looks like I am beginning to gather data on this issue, and to help my international students.  Here is a great resource

When I taught science (1966, 1968-1972, 1973) it was my evaluation that I needed to help these students in two ways: (1) teach them the vocabulary of science – so at the end of my time at Kiama High School, I was starting to plaster the science lab walls with visuals: text/terms/vocabulary, and pictures of what these terms related to; (2) give them enough opportunity with the science gear to begin to build manual facility with the technical gear.

I am not sure what would be my number 2, now, but I fail to see what might dislodge my number one.

Whetten and Cameron have this to say about vocabulary: (p.64, 4th ed)

Individuals who have a high tolerance of ambiguity also tend to be cognitively complex. They tedn to pay attention to more information, interpret more cues, and possess more sense-making categories [vocabulary] than less complex individuals do.

Schon has this to say: The Reflective Turn: Case Studies in and on educational practice.  (p. 349), speaking of appropriate rigor inthe study of practice

With respect to the first condition, the ontology, or fundamental categories, of an underlying story determines the kinds of observations that must be made in order to disconfirm an explanation derived from that story.

 

Metaphor, some personal history

When I was a senior school student of English Literature (circa 1961/2), one insight stood out for me – irony, in Shelley’s Ozymandias.

As far as I can remember, that was the first time my perception of learning, in Eng Lit, went beyond ‘learning the facts’.

Yes, I had learnt that ‘metaphor’ is a form of speech, and is when one thing is claimed to be another, as in ‘The moon was a ghostly galleon …’; compared with simile which used ‘as’ or ‘like’ to preface the claim.

I have met up again with ‘metaphor’, and now much later.  Jack Mezirow speaks of metaphor being an indicator of the kind of reflective work/thinking that conveys the potential to move a person’s meaning perspective (what he calls ‘transformative’), or provides evidence of such a shift (p.219).

I have been used to the idea of ‘analogy’ and that kind of thinking being helpful for creative theorising since reading of Kekule’s snake, and the benzene ring (probably Asimov, probably about 1960).

Now I am understanding metaphor, and that kind of thinking, to be related to abduction, as distinct from deduction and induction.

The process of comparison, so vital to ‘research’ and working with ‘findings’, to manage lots of data, is part of this older understanding of how an educated person can use language, and so and more ‘creatively’.

In my thesis (1999-2005) I worked some more with Gregory Bateson’s idea of the meta- … meta-cognition, meta-communication, the second-level process of thinking about thinking, communicating about communication etc.

So what is the meta-4? (as per punning) … to help us think and to communicate our thinking …

How important is it? It seems to me that irony, paradox, truth hidden in the meaning of words, is something that will be with me all my life.  Whether  I can make something more of this understanding is another matter; let alone considering how I make something more of this …

Metaphor and meta-process – what’s a meta-4?

Before I grow much older, I want to try and capture where my thinking is at.

I am engaging with Werner Ulrich’s JRP article from 2006, again, and from the present turn in my hermeneutical spiral.

And Stephen Downes’ inputs about PLEs is paying off here too.

As I read Werner’s comments about the ‘discursive turn’, I am noting

it tends to divert the attention of researchers away from the need to develop new skills of critical argumentation beyond those of quantitative analysis and, at the same time, to revise their notion of professional competence accordingly[dla1] .


[dla1]Connects with my experience of ‘analysis’ eg from Dunn’s policy analysis experience – analysis is not the only way to address the complex; creative synthesis, eg via metaphor, is another (and if my understanding, of all language being metaphoric, holds water, then language is /has always been our next most primary tool for /of inquiry, ie before counting, which involves ‘naming’ quantities!); so I am agreeing with Ulrich on the discursive critique approach, amongst consenting and informed and competent peers, but also going another step to a meta- metaphor – the metaphor of metaphor.

I have also made abductive connections with the reference to Don Quixote and tilting at windmills.

Another point of connection is with

Popper’s empiricist framework of science theory [dla1] apparently did not allow him to consider–and take seriously–sources of critique other than those of experimental science.


[dla1]This is where I understand myself to be still at, as a first default …

I need to remember: no grand theories; and Model II and Model I can be held by the one person, and perhaps held in tension like most living paradoxes.

Is the next grand theory that of paradox?

And earlier still, I noted, and here is the Downes process coming into play,:

Popper agreed with Neurath that there is no such thing as a direct access to empirical phenomena that would not be mediated through theoretical expectations and interpretations[DLA1] .


[DLA1]Any word in language is a theoretical expectation and interpretation .. the map is not the territory.

Hence critique of ‘naming’.

Where did I read about that recently?  About a teacher of observation and students and fish .. and making them keep on observing … Not in the apologetics item.

Perhaps one of the Google Reader ones … no apparently

Perhaps one of Giorgio’s links … drawn a blank there too???

In bed I thought that perhaps checking my internet behaviour might point to a recent web page where this might be.  Today 21/2 I cannot check that because the desktop is ‘down’.  The during the night dreaming was involving staff at UoW FoE, both Sue’s, and confusion about my role there.  Now with the desktop down, and other responsibilities of documentation having first priority, the working on that dreaming idea has escaped me.

Found it this morning 21/2 by being patient with Anecdote from Reader. The reference is http://www.anecdote.com.au/archives/2010/02/keeping_richnes.html.

Mining the archives

As I draft, and mobilise my knowledge to build an argument, I need to refresh my memory of the written work of others, to effectively cite.  I have an impression that so-and-so said such-and-such, but don’t quite know exactly where  (ie committing verbatim text and chapter-and-verse to memory is not something well developed in my childhood, excepting by the accompaniment of music).  But I do have this memory-remnant, and in regularly revisited reading (eg of the three synoptic gospels, or of Paul’s letters to the churches) I have a greater remembrance of basic context, so I can  scan relatively quickly for it, and with concordances or electronic search engines these days I can use ‘key words’ to search efficiently and find.

But not all of the documents I have accessed are in a digital form, yet, and my processing of my reading includes integrating the material into my frame, with its selective attentivenesses, and involves some synthesising re-expression, so that when I go ‘back to the literature’ I cannot always find a sentence, or form of words, that captures the remnant memory impression of how I want to speak of the idea I want to reference.

Going back to the literature, however, and searching again, by reading afresh the detail that has been forgotten, can have its own rewards: sometimes, as today, while re-reading Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind, I see things in detail that I don’t remember having seen before.  The hermeneutical spiral and iterative process, that is ongoing for me, has prepared me so that I can read and understand the same words read before, in a different way now.

The process of developing a habit of capturing reflective thinking as I work with my practice issue has now built a large repository of similar data.  The task of drafting, and redrafting to be more concise, has given me some polished resources that can be revisited and sometimes it is there that the precise reference, including a page number, is found.

The process of slowing down my reading, of theoretical and technical writing, by transcribing the material that first caught my attention, which I have used since undergraduate days (1963-6) to assist my memory and understanding has been enhanced recently.  Since 1996, I have captured the transcribed material digitally, and since 1998 I have been consciously capturing my contemporaneous reflective thinking about that first read and transcribe, so that now I have another resource of digitised data to search via simple ‘find’ commands (or someday soon, when I have tidied up my archived files of redundant duplication, I might invoke Google to search my desktop).

So, today, while mining the archives, I have found:

To what extent I need to explore disciplines like semantics, linguistics, psychology, xxx, to be able to deal with the issues that arise in my practice, is open, and may depend on whether I can find a group of cooperative inquirers where these disciplinary resources are available, and I can engage with cooperative inquiry with them (May 2004 draft of thesis conclusion)

Ha! I knew it! add to “semantics and linguistics”,  ‘syntax’, and maybe even ‘TESOL’,  and you have some of  the issues that my current practice is throwing up … prepositions, vocabulary and categories and possible ontologies, developing abstractions, literacy, the context of writing,  etc

Language and thinking

At Facebook, I shared the following ‘what’s on my mind’:

I am thinking much more about English language, and its implications for how well we can think, and whether another language would help me think better …

That spawned 15 comments between myself and two others, an email offline, and a wall post from one of the two participants, to the effect that

I have heard of the idea that once you start dreaming in a new language then you are on the way to becoming fluent.

which, in turn, registered 6 comments.

My email offliner shared the following link  http://bit.ly/4BvmCS which extended our conversation to  more public and research-based substance.

In summary, my pondering about language and thinking, and multilingual capacities has some merit.

Along the way, I shared some details from Dispute Resolution studies, about language and tonal patterns, and national differences, and the potential for misunderstanding, in multicultural contexts, from differences in tone, and assumptions about what certain registers might imply.  Arthur Koestler‘s Act of Creation, 1964, got an honourable mention, and I have since been reminded that another of the indicators of proficiency in a second language is when you understand the jokes, and better still when you can repeat the jokes, because you have attended to the words that carry the joke.

The conversation then shifted to emotional thinking/intelligence, and, in part, because I referred to Gardner’s multiple intelligences, and I responded with some of the material I have worked on here, previously.

Language and creativity

Now to explain, in part, the other post.

In amongst my list of curiosities about learning is what and how we learn before we have what becomes our native language.

For me, it is logical that we do learn before we have recognisable and expressible language skills, and because we do learn that skill: the ability to communicate in our native language.

Gardner, in his preface to Frames of Mind (1983), comments:

‘Constraints research has revealed that, by the end of early childhood, youngsters have developed powerful and already entrenched theories about their immediate world: the world of physical objects and forces; the world of living entities; the world of human beings, including their minds.  Surprisingly, and in contradiction to the claims of the great developmentalist Jean Piaget (Mussen and Kessen 1983), these naive ‘conceptions’ and ‘theories’ prove difficult to alter, despite years of schooling.  And so it often happens that the ‘mind of the five-year-old’ ends up unaffected by the experiences of school. … At first blush, this diagnosis would appear to sound a death knell for formal education.  It is hard enough to teach to one intelligence; what if there are seven?  It is hard enough to teache even when anything can be taught; what to do if there are distinct limits and strong constraints on human cognition and learning? (p.xxii-xxiii)

So we learn our native language.

And, now, I am engaged in helping people work in a language which is not their native language, with writing for thesis purposes.

In the end, a thesis is an argument substantiating a claim.  The writing involves a protocol of exposing the substance of the claim: the grounds, the warrants, the backing, the qualifications and the rebuttals (as Toulmin puts it).

As I understand it, one of the protocols of western/occidental argument construction [that moves beyond ‘information’ (‘conveying the facts’) to a synthesis (that, in my case, prefers some sort of explanatory theory)] involves defining categories, and includes constructing the bounds of new categories and categories of conceptualisations, and sometimes by what is called nominalisation – making nouns out of verbs, or abstractions, or higher levels of generalisation.

That is to say, as far as I can express it, how we think, in the so-called 21st century world, has a high degree of reliance on ‘literacy’ – how we manage and extend our learning of language.

But what if this process of thinking, which privileges the ‘big picture’, is unbalanced, and to the extent that it is unbalanced, is faulty?

Do people who learn in another culture, with another kind of language, who may, by that culture and language, privilege ‘attention to detail’, and have other ways of managing detail and synthesising from it, both think differently and have other ways of problem solving, and ways which might help us deal with the complexity of the change wrought in our environment from the hegemony that has permitted virtually unrestrained exploitation of natural resources?

If so, does training them to think and express themselves, in compliance to the western/occidental mode, risk destroying that alternative?

Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences ( 2nd ed.). London: HarperCollins.

Toulmin, S., Rieke, R., & Janik, A. (1984). An Introduction to Reasoning ( 2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan.

PLN Connectivity experience

Hmmph! I have been ‘lost’ from here so long that I couldn’t remember how to access the site to post … and now see that it has almost been 6 months silence .. from excess of immediate responsibilities, followed by necessary downtime.

I am back here because of some real person interchanges, face-to-face, followed by a ‘what’s on your mind’ post at Facebook that has been take up by three of my subscribing friends so far.

One subscribing friend has shared, privately, a link which had another link to a research report, and now I have something to work on for some time, about language development, and multilingualism, and cognitive activity and creativity.

It is the PLN connectivity that Steve Downes promised …