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Learning and teaching are fundamentally cultural processes. Culture is the constellations of practices that communities have historically developed and dynamically shaped in order to accomplish the purposes they value, including the tools they use, the social networks with which they are connected, the ways they organize joint activity, and their ways of conceptualizing and engaging with the world. This chapter reviews research on the cultural nature of learning, including studies of (1) learning in and out of schools; (2) relationships between everyday and academic knowledge and discourse; (3) classroom-based design research that explores linkages between students’ diverse repertoires of practice and those of the academic disciplines being taught. This review addresses multiple dimensions of learning including cognition, discourse, affect, motivation, and identity. The research has implications for several issues in the learning sciences: How does learning interact with community practices? How can we connect these community practices to academic disciplinary practices? How can we use our understanding of community practices to support deeper learning?
In this chapter, we argue that learning and teaching are fundamentally cultural processes (Cole, 1996; Erickson, 2002; Lee, Spencer, & Harpalani, 2003; Rogoff, 2003). The learning sciences have not yet adequately addressed the ways that culture is integral to learning. By “culture,” we mean the constellations of practices historically developed and dynamically shaped by communities in order to accomplish the purposes they value. Such practices are constituted by the tools they use, the social networks with which they are connected, the ways they organize joint activity, the discourses they use and value (i.e., specific ways of conceptualizing, representing, evaluating and engaging with the world). On this view, learning and development can be seen as the acquisition throughout the life course of diverse repertoires of overlapping, complementary, or even conflicting cultural practices.
Through participation in varied communities of practice, individuals appropriate, over time, varied repertoires of cultural practices. As youth make their rounds through the varied settings of their everyday lives – from home to school, mathematics class to English literature class, basketball team to workplace or church youth group – they encounter, engage, and negotiate various situated repertoires of practices. Each repertoire represents a particular point of view on the world, characterized by its own objects, meanings, purposes, symbols, and values (Bakhtin, 1981; Gee, 1990). Navigation among these repertoires can be problematic at any time in any place for any human being.
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