Communication in any discipline depends on the use of disciplinary-specific representations. In most cases, the information that each of these representations provides is not immediately available to disciplinary outsiders because it has been “packed”. For example, in language rankshift packs information that was initially expressed by one or more clauses into a single word. Such packing facilitates participation in new clauses, allowing new meanings to be made (cf. Halliday, 1998). It has been argued that similar rankshifts take place in other representational modes, e.g. mathematics (O'Halloran, 2008).
Whilst the packed nature of representations increases their disciplinary affordance (Fredlund et al., 2012), it simultaneously contributes to making their meaning impenetrable to a newcomer to the discipline. Moreover, from an educational point of view it has been shown that lecturers tend to underestimate the difficulties experienced by students in coming to appropriately experience disciplinary meaning that these representations signify (Northedge, 2002; Tobias, 1986).
In this presentation we problematize learning in terms of uncovering the disciplinary affordances of representations through a process of reverse rankshift. We first illustrate packing in a range of representational modes in physics. We then use examples of how physics representations can be subjected reverse rankshift in order to facilitate the appreciation of their disciplinary affordances.
Fredlund, T., Airey, J., & Linder, C. (2012). Exploring the role of physics representations: an illustrative example from students sharing knowledge about refraction. Eur. J. Phys., 33, 657-666.
Halliday, M. A. K. (1998). Things and relations : Regrammaticising experience as technical knowledge. In J. R. Martin & R. Veel (Eds.), Reading science : critical and functional perspectives on discourses of science (pp. 185-236). London: Routledge.
Northedge, A. (2002). Organizing Excursions Into Specialist Discourse Communities: A Sociocultural Account of University Teaching. In G. Wells & G. Claxton (Eds.), Learning for Life in the 21st Century (pp. 252-264). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
O'Halloran, K. L. (2008). Mathematical discourse : language, symbolism and visual images. London: Continuum International Publishing.
Tobias, S. (1986). Peer Perspectives: On the Teaching of Science. Change, 18(2), 36-41.
The 5th International 360 Conference. Encompassing the multi modality of knowledge, May 8-10 2014, Aarhus University, Denmark