ERIC Number: ED343132
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1992-Apr-20
Reference Count: N/A
Patterns of Discourse in Small Group Discussions of Literature.
Smagorinsky, Peter; Fly, Pamela K.
References to Lev Vygotsky have become fashionable in discussions of learning in the last few years. Drawing upon Vygotsky to explain small groups is speculative, as he never examined small groups. While the mechanics of small groups are important, they are only important if the overall culture of the classroom is supportive of students' effort to construct meaning independently. Research shows why small groups do not work for everyone. Four sophomore-level teachers from a large high school outside Chicago participated in a study. The teachers all taught short stories related to the theme of "coming of age." Small group discussions of the works lent support to Vygotsky's theories of the shaping power of culture on learning. The discussions reflected strongly the types of behavior fostered by the teachers in the whole class discussions. Teachers who provided a broad interpretive context for students did not appear to instill in students the ability to generate context for themselves. The teachers who were successful with small group discussions were those who prompted the students to generate conceptual context from their own experience. Accounting for the processes of small groups requires an understanding of the overall classroom culture. (Thirty-two references are attached.) (SG)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A