Tuesday, February 5, 2013

L. Ortega (2011) SLA after the Social Turn

L. Ortega (2011) "SLA after the Social Turn" in Dwight Atkinson (ed) Alternative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition (Routledge) [Paperback, Kindle Edition ] (pp. 95-116)

P. 167

Q: Do you think SLA studies in your country have experienced a "social turn"? If not, why? (This ought to be a serious sociological question).

Q: Do you agree that alternative approaches to SLA have brought unique insights and epistemological diversity?

Q: What is the main contention of Sfard (1998) by which Ortega says she was inspired? See the abstract below.

On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One

Anna Sfard, teaches mathematics education as a member of the Faculty of Education

doi: 10.3102/0013189X027002004
EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER March 1998 vol. 27 no. 2 4-13

This article is a sequel to the conversation on learning initiated by the editors of Educational Researcher in volume 25, number 4. The author’s first aim is to elicit the metaphors for learning that guide our work as learners, teachers, and researchers. Two such metaphors are identified: the acquisition metaphor and the participation metaphor. Subsequently, their entailments are discussed and evaluated. Although some of the implications are deemed desirable and others are regarded as harmful, the article neither speaks against a particular metaphor nor tries to make a case for the other. Rather, these interpretations and applications of the metaphors undergo critical evaluation. In the end, the question of theoretical unification of the research on learning is addressed, wherein the purpose is to show how too great a devotion to one particular metaphor can lead to theoretical distortions and to undesirable practices.


P. 168

Q: See the contrasts below and discuss the differences between cognitivism and its alternatives.


Psychological - Socially oriented

In the mind of an individual - Socially distributed and have history

Individual accomplishment - Only possible through sociality

Abstractness (transferable) - Situatedness (embodiment and embeddedness)

Entities and objects - Actions and processes

P. 170

Q: What is a "straitjacket of dichotomous thinking"?

Q: What is "SCT's singular contribution," according to Ortega?

Q: What is "the unique insight of the sociocognitive approach," according to Ortega?  Read the leading paragraphs of "embodied cognition" in Wikipedia (obtained on Feb. 5, 2013. Note indicators deleted)

In philosophy, the embodied mind thesis holds that the nature of the human mind is largely determined by the form of the human body. Philosophers, psychologists, cognitive scientists, and artificial intelligence researchers who study embodied cognition and the embodied mind argue that all aspects of cognition are shaped by aspects of the body. The aspects of cognition include high level mental constructs (such as concepts and categories) and human performance on various cognitive tasks (such as reasoning or judgement). The aspects of the body include the motor system, the perceptual system, the body's interactions with the environment (situatedness) and the ontological assumptions about the world that are built into the body and the brain.

The embodied mind thesis is opposed to other theories of cognition such as cognitivism, computationalism, and Cartesian dualism. The idea has roots in Kant and 20th century continental philosophy (such as Merleau-Ponty). The modern version depends on insights drawn from recent research in psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, dynamical systems, artificial intelligence, robotics and neurobiology.

Embodied cognition is a topic of research in social and cognitive psychology, covering issues such as social interaction and decision-making. Embodied cognition reflects the argument that the motor system influences our cognition, just as the mind influences bodily actions. For example, when participants hold a pencil in their teeth engaging the muscles of a smile, they comprehend pleasant sentences faster than unpleasant ones. And it works in reverse: holding a pencil in their teeth to engage the muscles of a frown increases the time it takes to comprehend pleasant sentences.

George Lakoff (a cognitive scientist and linguist) and his collaborators (including Mark Johnson, Mark Turner, and Rafael E. Nunez) have written a series of books promoting and expanding the thesis based on discoveries in cognitive science, such as conceptual metaphor and image schema.

Robotics researchers such as Rodney Brooks, Hans Moravec and Rolf Pfeifer have argued that true artificial intelligence can only be achieved by machines that have sensory and motor skills and are connected to the world through a body. The insights of these robotics researchers have in turn inspired philosophers like Andy Clark and Horst Hendriks-Jansen.

Neuroscientists Gerald Edelman, Antonio Damasio and others have outlined the connection between the body, individual structures in the brain and aspects of the mind such as consciousness, emotion, self-awareness and will. Biology has also inspired Gregory Bateson, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Eleanor Rosch and Evan Thompson to develop a closely related version of the idea, which they call enactivism. The motor theory of speech perception proposed by Alvin Liberman and colleagues at the Haskins Laboratories argues that the identification of words is embodied in perception of the bodily movements by which spoken words are made.


P. 172

Q: What is "the most unique contribution of identity theory," according to Ortega?

P. 175

Q: What does the following sentence mean? "It is as alternatives to interactionist cognitivism, and not so much to linguistic cognitivism, that the approaches in this book can best be understood." (emphasis added)

P. 176

Q: What does the following sentence mean? "We have a choice in SLA studies among entrenchment, incommensurability, and epistemological diversity." (emphasis added) See Wikipedia's definition of (in)commensurability below. (obtained on Feb. 5, 2013)

Commensurability (contrast with incommensurability) is a concept in the philosophy of science. Scientific theories are described as commensurable if one can compare them to determine which is more accurate; if theories are incommensurable, there is no way in which one can compare them to each other in order to determine which is more accurate.


P. 178

Q: Do you agree or disagree with the conclusion by Ortega: "For me, the crisis caused by the social turn in SLA has led the field into the kind of fruitful epistemological diversity that affords unique opportunities to enrich our multilayered understanding of additional language learning."

Ortega, L. (2008) Understanding Second Language Acquisition Routledge.

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