Signs of Learning, Signs of Failure, and the Struggle for Recognition

3.1 Farther reaches of theoretical and methodological explorations
Paper in a Symposium (Symp)
20 minutes
Contemporary educational institutions are, as Kress (2012) has noted, in an unsettled state brought about by broken linkages among school, society, and economy. “The social,” he argues, “is marked by multiplicity, diversity, fragmentation, fluidity, provisionality, by far-reaching changes in distributions and assignation of power, which affect the agency and the potentials of individuals” (Kress, 2012, p. 120). This has opened up a need for a reconsideration of learning, and in particular for understanding how new ways of recognizing what he calls recognition of “signs of learning” might enter into the reconfiguration of educational practices and institutions. This paper explores what we are calling students’ “struggles for recognition” through the examination of different forms of recognition work in a changing educational context—that of engineering education in the United States. We identify several different ways in which students’ learning activities are interpreted by themselves and by instructors, and examine how these interpretations are situated with respect to “centers” (Blommaert, 2005; Latour, 1987) that make them consequential, for example by identifying students as “learning” or as “failing.” We suggest that new signs of learning, which foreground learners’ agency and might produce new ways of orienting to and entering into the broader social world, exist in tension with institutionalized tools of recognition that are privileged in the centering process.
University of Colorado at Boulder

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