Young children accessing the learning of others: mediation through the ‘witnessing’ of others’ gestural interactions

Karl Wall



Children’s interactions in the classroom arguably underpin many of the learning events and activities they experience. These may involve their classroom teacher, teaching assistants, other adults (including, in the primary school, context, parents / carers), their peers or other children entering the room where they are working. The paper that follows, reflects on the nature of such interactions, focusing on gestural behaviours, observed as part of a programme of doctoral study. It explores the notion of how the ‘witnessing’ of others’ interactions may contribute to and inform the behaviour, understanding and learning of a child, as they work with their peers and a teacher on a grouped task. In so doing, it re-examines the notion of the more experienced other, associated with Vygotsky’s ideas on social interaction in a pedagogic context and draws on a range of disciplines for both practical and theoretical inspiration.

Abstract: Arising from a study of grouped 5-6 year olds’ gestural interactions, an extension to Vygotskian notions of mediation is proposed. This is developed through a consideration of ideas grounded in: cultural psychology, situated learning, distributed cognition , the analysis of ‘task affordances’.

The potential significance and role of a child’s ‘witnessing’ of the mediational interactions of others is discussed informed by data drawn from the author’s current research. The implications for teachers’ practice as a more ‘experienced other’, in such interactions, are briefly discussed.

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