Rogoff on Participatory Appropriation

Last semester Dr. Gibbons suggested that I read Apprenticeship in Thinking by Barbara Rogoff as I was working on my metaphor of instruction as conversation. I read a bzillion things for that paper, but never got to the book!  Now Dr. Graham has found that Rogoff has written about “participatory appropriation” as a process of becoming. So tonight I read an article by Rogoff (and regretted not having read her book, which must be returned to the library tomorrow. I actually went online and found and bought a used copy!).

Rogoff makes a sociocultural argument about development, which she feels occurs in three interrelated planes: apprenticeship (corresponding to community processes), guided participation (interpersonal processes), and participatory appropriation (personal processes).

Let me briefly explain (or quote her in order to explain) these three concepts:

  • “In apprenticeship, newcomers to a community of practice advance their skill and understanding through participation with others in culturally organized activities…” (143). We read about apprenticeship in Yanchar’s Learning Theory course. I found the concept very interesting, and yet another reason for children to learn at the sides of their parents. However, it felt a little unfeasible to apply the concept to mass education. As Dr. Graham pointed out, efficiency will always matter in mass education; that is just the reality of it.
  • Rogoff applies the term “guided participation” to the interpersonal plane, wherein individuals and their social partners are mutually involved in communication and coordination in a sociocultureally structured collective activity (see p. 146). In this area, Rogoff wrote “‘participation’ in guided participation refers to observation, as well as hands-on involvement in an activity” (p. 142). This echoed Lyon et al.’s statement that hospice participants felt they participated even if only through observation.  I don’t feel like I fully understand how this is not apprenticeship, however.
  • By participatory appropriation, Rogoff refers to how individuals change through their engagement in an activity. She says that this “is a process of becoming, rather than acquisition” (p. 142, italics mine) and refers frequently to the “transformation” (p. 157, for instance) that occurs in this process. Seen through this lens, development is “a dynamic, active, mutual process involved in peoples’ participation” (p. 153).

One thing I like about Rogoff’s ideas is that she emphasizes the mutuality of the learning process.  Rogoff writes that “development [is] a dynamic, active, mutual process” (p. 153, italics mine). This is similar to what I was trying to get at through the concept of “shared energy” which I worked into my paper on instructional conversation.


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