two days ago, met my 老师 for a little chat. and we came upon the topic of knowledge creation (k/c) in learning of CL — how does it look like?
assuming we were to use knowledge building (kb) pedagogy (Scardamalia & Bereaver, 2006) as the guide, ‘idea improvement’ would be a basic tenet. so what does idea improvement look like in CL? what is an idea in CL to begin with?
老师 recalled in the past, CL teachers in his 802 class have had problem reconciling CL and idea improvement. this is an observation, and to me, it’s also a phenomenon. what is the reason behind this phenomenon? we have to perhaps understand what is CL teaching and/or learning to CL teachers? just four days earlier, we were having lunch with a very senior and experienced CL teacher, and he said “有不少华文老师觉得怎样才能学好华文？” the answer is Beethoven the musician (背多分).
Beethoven (背多分) to me reflects CL teachers’ personal epistemology. sadly, it’s tended towards the naive end. what do you 背? naturally, it’s existing knowledge. existing knowledge by who? experts, authority, 前辈，etc. if knowledge created by experts have a higher value, this indicates ‘experts’ exist (cf. omniscient authority). if an authority exists, what is the chance of CL teachers expecting students, who are just beginning to learn and are generally having low CL proficiencies, be creating knowledge? not to mention 尊师重道、长幼有序 is inherent in Confucius’ teachings. one is expected to respect the authority, and accept the 千年累计流传下来的知识。 背，才会有多分。背得越多，得分越多。Hail Beethoven!
following my interpretation of these CL teachers’ personal epistemology, an ‘idea’ would be knowledge that’s been passed down from some authority. would there be a need to improve such an idea? it’s effectively asking these teachers to question the music Beethoven has written 🙂
if we were to encounter another group of CL teachers who possess more sophisticated epistemic beliefs, what would an ‘idea’ be in CL per se? perhaps we can look at what can be created, or are created in language classroom/lessons? yes, literary-related creations, e.g. written compositions, essays, poems, novels, etc. these are creations at a 篇-level. if it’s too ‘big’, we can always reduce the scope and create 段、句、词、字 instead for learners at different levels. assuming each of these could be an ‘idea’, what would idea improvement look like? what would kb discourse be about? yes, i would think it would be about these building blocks in their respective creations, individual or group work. why do student (or group) A choose to use this adjective in his/her sentence? why do student B think that student A’s choice could be improved; justify why, and the ‘improved’ choice? such idea improvement talk can occur at all levels – 字、词、句、段、篇, and related linguistics ideas would inevitably be brought in during the discourse (for e.g. 修辞、语义、段落、篇章结构). if the creation is oral instead of written, ideas of 语音、语速、语调 could be added.
so, perhaps if a CL teacher were to ask me “is knowledge creation possible in CL learning/teaching?” i would probably say “let’s examine your personal epistemology(‘s sophistication) first” 🙂
acknowledgement: Photo by woodleywonderworks