Summary of the sixth day, Saturday, July 5, 2014 by Irina and Esther
Since most participants were up till late the night before drinking beers and wine and watching the quarter finals between Brazil and Columbia, we thought the day might start somewhat belatedly. However, inspired by the Brazilian victory, all participants were wide awake to listen to an extraordinary opening lecture by Alexander Suvorov. Titled “Tiflo-surdo-pedagogy: the progeny of cultural historical approach”, it was a symphony of tactical communication translation and meaning-making using multiple semiotic resources. Himself deaf-blind, Suvorov, gave a profound insight into both the challenges of learning faced by children with ‘disabilities’ and the forms of mediated support that enable them to realize their full humanity.
The lecture was followed by three Ph. D presentations, which in one way or another, explored the use of anthropological/ethnographic qualitative research in understanding complex social phenomena. Svetlana Strokova is investigating family identity, the feeling of belonging to a family group defined as a social identity. Reviewing several definitions of family from the scholarly literature, she emphasized the changing nature of family and presented a taxonomy for identifying the different components of family identity. Tina Wilchen Christensen is investigating the processes of extremists detaching from their group affiliations with the help of coaches to begin living a different life and the struggles they face in this re-adjustment. Anna Mia Steno is studying the causes of male dropouts from vocational education programmes and their difficulties in shaping and realizing their emerging aspirations. She spoke of the value of immersion in the lives of her research subjects, including living in their dormitories and participating fully in their everyday lives.
After lunch, Professor Sueli Fidalgo from Brazil, gave a lecture on new directions in Applied Linguistics representing a critical perspective on the professional development of teachers. She referred to the work of a teacher development group where teachers and teacher educators used critical collaborative reflections to revise and develop their classroom practice. Dr Olga Rubtsova focused on English as a language of academic communication, challenges and perspectives gave a report on a recent conference held in Russia on the discourse and practices of English as a language of international scientific communication. She outlined cultural differences in presenting scientific research in Russian and Western European scientific journals and called for collaboration on supporting the publication of articles in English through academic development programs.
The last set of presentations for the day was by the team from South Africa, Ken Ngcoza, Esther Ramani and Michael Joseph, who aimed to show how cultural historical approaches are used in both curriculum development and research. Giving a background of curricular policy changes in South Africa, Ken reported on the cultural practice of making traditional beer and using this to teach scientific concepts. Esther’s presentation was on the relation between every day and scientific knowledge in the teaching of Vygotskian concepts and Michael presented a cultural-historical analysis of a traditional rural game called Masekitlane.
The day also witnessed a fair share of debates especially on the orientations of ethnography as a methodology and the value of using concepts in their original formulations. Different positions were take up on these debates without a clear resolution but we hope that spaces have opened for such engagements.