Preference for Task-Based-Learning.
In pursuit of a coherent theory to support our belief in cognitive growth through activity based pursuits within communities of inquiry, we have embraced social constructivism and its offspring ‘Activity Theory’.
Our belief in the value of a social/historical understanding of constructed learning has led to a further and deeper exploration of the nascent origins of these lines of thought.
For the logic of theory to be substantiated in science it is best to resort to original science at the root of subsequent iterations. Our adopted theory that substantiates our belief in the virtues of task-based but authentically situated and authentically motivated learning is originally rooted in the science of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and his theories on evolution and natural selection, further elaborated upon and socially applied by Marx, Engels, Vygotsky, Luria, Leont’ev, Bakhtin, Bruner, Minski, Wertch and Engestrom.
Soon after Charles Darwin published his findings and conclusions, Karl Marx (1818-1883), reportedly after reading Darwin, saw parallels with his own ideas on human, social existence and the development of awareness and cognitive development, and on how social and cognitive development determined consciousness.
“ It is not the consciousness that determines their social being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” (Marx in Erich Fromm, 1961)
Friedrich Engels (1845), a collaborator and close confidant to Marx, saw a connection between the depraved social conditions of mass poverty, unemployment and mass exploitation as a breeding ground for a consciousness ripe for a new social dogma that would empower the masses and that needed to replace existing extreme capitalism that benefited only few.
In Engels’s articles on The Condition of the Working Class in England in late May 1845 Engels wrote , “A class which bears all the disadvantages of the social order without enjoying its advantages … Who can demand that such a class respect this social order?“
Lev Vygotsky (Transl. Ed. 1978) in studying Marx, realised that a lack of constructive social engagement was a condition for stunted cognitive growth and that positive and purposeful engagement in society with its material and social/cultural history, created the needed conditions to evolve society to a higher plane in a continually adjusted level of being. However, he realised that poverty had its own reality which needed remedial adjustments and solutions.
Aleksander Luria (Transl. Ed. 1976) built on Vygotsky’s theories to experimentally determine that complex thinking and the resulting consciousness and cognitive ability was a condition that arose out of an opportunity for complex involvement with tools, objects and society.
Aleksej Leontyev (Germ. Ed. 2012) is considered the father of ‘Activity Theory’. According to Activity Theory terminology, activity mediates the interaction between subjects (agents) and objects (things). The basic principles of Activity Theory presented below, clarify different components of this system; the objects involved in human activities, the forms of mediation, the structure of activity, etc.. The principle of “object-orientedness” is one of the most important principles of Activity Theory. It describes the specific Activity Theory point of view on the nature of objects with which human agents interact. Activity Theory is based on the materialistic philosophy of Marxism, which assumes that human beings live in an objective reality which determines and shapes the nature of their subjective values. For a more in-depth explanation see: http://www.ulfblanke.com/downloads/activity_theory/kaptelinin-basics.pdf
Mikhail Bakhtin (Transl. Ed. 1986) reflected on how the semiotic value of the word in context impacted cognitive constructs and the personal sense of reality and that context determines this value.
Marvin Minsky (1985) in his book ‘The Society of Mind’, presents a captivating exploration of intelligence. He sees the mind as a society that arises out of ever-smaller agents that are themselves mindless. He sees the mind as a construct that requires context to be meaningful.
Jerome Bruner (1990), similarly to Vygotsky, has developed a thesis that the role of culturally developed narrative thinking in our conception of ourselves and the social world in which we live, powerfully influences our understanding of society and the world. He explores the central role of “folk psychology” not only in determining human interaction but also in providing a basis for the social institutions that constrain it.
James Wertsch (1991) outlines an approach to mental functioning that stresses its inherent cultural, historical, and institutional context. A critical aspect of this approach is the cultural tools or “mediational means” that shape both social and individual processes. In considering how these mediational means–in particular, language–emerge in social history and the role they play in organising the settings in which human beings are socialised, Wertsch achieves fresh insights into essential areas of human mental functioning that are typically unexplored or misunderstood.
Although Wertsch’s discussion draws on the work of a variety of scholars in the social sciences and the humanities, the writings of two Soviet theorists, L. S. Vygotsky (1896-1934) and Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975), are of particular significance. Voices of the Mind (1991) breaks new ground in reviewing and integrating some of their major theoretical ideas and in demonstrating how these ideas can be extended to address a series of contemporary issues in psychology and related fields.
Yrojo Engestrom (2008) has studied teams at work in activity-theoretical studies of collaboration and situated learning at work, distributed cognition in groups and teams of practice.
- Bakhtin (1895-1975)