Hearing voices: Collectividuals and agency in language classrooms

Scheduling Details
Presentation Date
Thu, September 06, 10:15 am
Final Time
11:15 am
Presentation Room
Presentation Format
Presenter Details
James P. Lantolf (The Pennsylvania State University; Xi’an JiaoTong University)
Little (2007) argues that “a theory of learner autonomy should tell us what it is necessary to do in order to develop autonomous language learners and users and at the same time provide us with criteria by which to evaluate our efforts.” This presentation attempts to respond to Little’s statement from the perspective of sociocultural theory as originally proposed in the writings of L. S. Vygotsky and his colleagues and later extended by contemporary neo-Vygotskyan researchers interested in how this theory not only informs but also guides educational praxis, especially with regard to languages beyond the first. The theory proposes that one is not born an individual but becomes one as a consequence of participating in social relations in which our goal-directed activity and thinking is guided by others, who at the same time provide the target or “ideal” toward which our development moves. Eventually, we appropriate the meanings and ways of talking that occur during these activities and in so doing achieve independent ability. However, there is always and everywhere residual presence of those whose voices and behaviors we collaborate with. Consequently, even in our independent activity and thinking we are not truly autonomous beings, but “collectividuals” (Stetsenko, 2017). A key element in development as independent collectividuals is dialogue in which we first interact with others and then interact with ourselves in I ~ You > I ~ Me conversations. This process, referred to in the theory as interiorization, results in our ability to carry out thinking independent of the physical presence of events and objects, or what for Gal’perin is mental activity. Gal’perin, an advocate of one version of SCT eventually proposed and tested an approach to formal education in which conceptual information and I ~ You / I ~ Me dialogue plays a central role. I will consider the major principles and concepts of the theory and how these are concretized in education as systematic development with particular attention given to the development of “autonomous” language ability in adult learners.
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