Student learning typically takes place in a range of situational contexts. In this paper we consider “sets of situations that have certain relevant aspects in common” (Marton, 2006, p. 503) where each aspect involved is qualitatively unique. We argue that in order for students to come to holistically experience the relevant disciplinary knowledge, they need to become familiar with enacting those relevant aspects (i.e. expressing them with semiotic resources, such as spoken and written language, equations and images.).
We suggest it is possible to construct idealized patterns of the aspects that a discipline deems to be relevant for a given field of knowledge – thus characterizing its typical situations and phenomena. We call such a pattern an “idealized pattern of disciplinary relevant aspects” (IPDRA). Each of the aspects that together constitute an IPDRA can be seen to be manifested in discourse in terms of particular configurations, partly prescribed by the “rules” governing the semiotic resource at hand (such as grammar for language). The discursive configurational patterns (cf. Lemke's, 1990, "thematic patterns"; and Tang et al.'s, 2011, "multimodal thematic patterns") that can be empirically found in student discourse can then be compared with the IPDRA to see whether the required aspects have been enacted.
The semiotic resources that are used in a scientific discipline are often highly specialized. Any given semiotic resource may therefore be more appropriate for expressing certain (combinations of) situational aspects (what we have called its “disciplinary affordances”, see Fredlund, Airey, & Linder, 2012). We argue it is the disciplinary affordances that determine which semiotic resources that can do which work in terms of representing the knowledge captured by an IPDRA. A pedagogical implication of this is that students need to become fluent in, and learn to choose, those semiotic resources that have the most appropriate disciplinary affordances for enacting a given IPDRA.
In this paper we demonstrate how different semiotic resources have different disciplinary affordances and thus how changing the semiotic resource can lead to the possibility to enact different aspects of disciplinary knowledge.
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. doi: 10.1088/0143-0807/33/3/657
Lemke, J. L. (1990). Talking Science. Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing.
Marton, F. (2006). Sameness and difference in transfer. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(4), 499-535.
Tang, K. S., Tan, S. C., & Yeo, J. (2011). Students' multimodal construction of the work-energy concept. International Journal of Science Education, 33(13), 1775-1804.
Semiotic resources; physics education; learning; disciplinary-relevant aspects; disciplinary affordance
IACS-2014. The First Conference of the International Association for Cognitive Semiotics.