Pattern-recognition, intersubjectivity, and dialogic meaning-making in education

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Eugene Matusov


From a conventional monological view, meaning-making is located in a particular statement. In conventional schools, students are positioned to be enactors of ready-made knowledge and skills on teacher’s demand based on their pattern-recognition and production, rather than to be authors of their own education, learning, knowledge, and meaning. Pattern recognition involves the emergence of active production of diverse potential patterns that may or may not approximate well the targeted pattern (“sprouting”). The sprouting can be guided (“supervised”) by an expert or unguided, mediated or unmediated. These diverse potential patterns are sequentially evaluated about how likely each of them can be close to the targeted pattern. In each evaluation, the probabilistic confidence of some patterns grows while some other patterns decrease. In contrast, according to Bakhtin, meaning-making is defined as the relationship between a genuine, interested, information-seeking, question and serious response to it. From the Bakhtinian dialogic perspective, a statement does not have any meaning until it is viewed as a reply to some question in an internally persuasive discourse. A student’s meaning-making process starts with a genuine, interested, information-seeking, question raised by the student. At least, when a student cannot yet formulate this genuine question, they have to be pregnant with such a question, experiencing a certain puzzlement, uneasiness, curiosity, tension, and so on. Another aspect of dialogic meaning-making is interaddressivity. A student is interested in other people: 1) in what other people may think and how they feel about it; however these people define this it, and 2) in other people as such – in what they are doing, feeling, relating, and thinking about; in the relationship with these people; in the potential that these people may realize and offer; and so on.

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Author Biography

Eugene Matusov, School of Education University of Delaware, Newark, DE, United States

Eugene Matusov is a Professor of Education at the University of Delaware. He studied developmental psychology with Soviet researchers working in the Vygotskian paradigm and worked as a schoolteacher before immigrating to the United States. He uses sociocultural and Bakhtinian dialogic approaches to education. His recent books are Matusov, E. (2017). Nikolai N. Konstantinov’s authorial math pedagogy for people with wings, Matusov, E. & Brobst, J. (2013). Radical experiment in dialogic pedagogy in higher education and its Centauric failure: Chronotopic analysis, and Matusov, E. (2009). Journey into dialogic pedagogy


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