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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: January 2010

15 - Thinking with Others: The Social Dimension of Learning in Families and Schools


My primary research effort over the past 10 years has been devoted to quasi-ethnographic studies of verbal interactions in schools (Pontecorvo, 1992) and families (Ochs, Pontecorvo, & Fasulo, 1996). That research contributes to the issues raised in this volume by throwing light on conditions that can facilitate cognitive and social elaborations in children and adolescents during their complex socialization process in society.

This research interest began while I was studying curriculum implementation in innovative school settings with an interdisciplinary group of researchers. I was particularly struck by the collective development of reasoning through arguing and opposition, which could easily be observed when primary and secondary schoolchildren had the right to speak freely, as in a normal conversation (Pontecorvo, 1987). In social settings such as autonomous or teacher-guided groups, students were allowed and requested to say what they actually thought about a physical or biological phenomenon, a social event, a historical document, a literary text, an everyday issue, and so on: in other words, about something that was really questionable and problematic for them and that they wanted to understand thoroughly. As shown by scholars such as Barnes (1976; Barnes & Todd, 1977), it is possible to create the proper motivation to think and learn in children when interacting and speaking in a group within the context of primary or secondary schools.

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Pontecorvo, C., Castiglia, D., & Zucchermaglio, C. (1983). Discorso e ragionamento scientifico nelle discussioni in classe [Discourse and scientific reasoning in classroom discussions]. Scuola e Città, 34, 447–462
Pontecorvo, C., & Fasulo, A. (1997). Learning to argue in family-shared discourse: The reconstruction of past events. In L. B. Resnick, R. Saljo, C. Pontecorvo, & B. Burge (Eds.), Discourse, tools, and reasoning: Essays on situated cognition (pp. 406–442). New York: Springer-Verlag
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