Intersubjectivity and groupwork in school mathematics: examining year 7 students’ interactions from a perspective of communicative action

Kent, Geoffrey (2013) Intersubjectivity and groupwork in school mathematics: examining year 7 students’ interactions from a perspective of communicative action. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis explores how small group interactions around problem-solving in secondary
school mathematics can be understood using a theoretical framework of Communicative
Action inspired by Habermasian Critical Theory. How does cognition express itself
socially? What are the technical features of communicative acts that afford access to the
development of mutual understanding?

A case study approach was used to investigate episodes of interactive speech acts.
Participants included three Year 7 mathematics teachers and 87 students in 3 different
English secondary schools, who were engaged in adopting aspects of a ‘Complex
Instruction’ pedagogical approach to design and coordinate problem-solving groupwork.
Tasks were collaboratively designed with the participating teachers, followed by participant
observation of the lessons, and post-lesson interviews with the teachers. Small group
interactions were recorded using Flip cameras at each table that captured audio and video
of student interactions around the tasks, and whole class video was also recorded. Initial
analysis of small group interactions led to the development of codes and models focused
on understanding interactions from an intersubjective perspective informed by Habermas’
Theory of Communicative Action. These models and codes were then iteratively used to
generate and refine analytical statements and working hypotheses from further
interrogation of the data. The pragmatic focus of this study is on the content of episodes of
utterances. These episodes are part of the intersubjective level at which teaching and
learning take place. The findings from this analysis add to the field by developing a
technical and critical treatment of evidence of intersubjectivity in mathematics education.
Understanding the intersection of meaningful communication, action, and practices at the
small group level is argued to provide novel insights into practice and design for problemsolving groupwork in mathematics education.

The contributions of this thesis include the development of an Intersubjective Framework
for Analysis of small group interactions, evidence that this framework can be productively
used to identify ways in which the development of collaborative understanding expresses
itself at the small group level, how it breaks down and how it can be supported.
Methodologically this work makes a claim to knowledge in the development of
microanalyses of situated cognition informed by Habermasian social theory. This work
explores the merits and limitations of the communicative perspective in understanding
small group interactions in mathematics problem-solving situations. A central claim is that
Habermas’ sociological approach can be used productively to investigate small group
interactions in mathematics classrooms.

Theoretically this work makes a claim to knowledge in the development of a novel set of
codes and models that can be used to analyse evidence of intersubjectivity through analysis of episodes of utterances in situ. This analytical framework is used to argue that small group interactions can be understood productively from a theoretical perspective of Communicative Action. These contributions suggest that insights from a perspective of
Communicative Action can give educators critical pragmatic insights into curriculum design, structuring groupwork and associated pedagogy, and communicative (as opposed to
instrumental or strategic) intervention in the support of intersubjective understanding.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1025 Teaching (Principles and practice)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary education. High schools
Q Science > QA Mathematics
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2013 05:15
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2015 11:52

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