Coming to See as the Phenomenon Reveals Itself

Why do we observe what can be recognized both as a repetition of a query and its increasing specification? We notice that there are repetitions precisely when an earlier offered query is not accepted by means of a reply; and when there is a reply, then the topic comes to be further developed. We witness here a dialectical situation. We cannot lay blame the failure of a missing reply on the students because we might equally say that the queries failed to be appropriate such as to solicit the sought-for replies immediately. There is a double learning problem, where the institutionally designated teacher needs to find out (i.e. learn) how to query so that the students can indeed reply, and the students need to find out what there is to be seen so that they can reply in the manner that the teacher will accept. Neither the teacher nor the students can “construct” the solution to the particular problem, for this would require that they already know the answer (see Chap. 8). But if the teacher knew what the issue was—i.e. why the students did not reply—he would not need to learn it. Instead he would articulate precisely that query that allowed students to take the next step required towards accomplishing the task. And if the students knew what they have to see, they would immediately reply rather than remain silent. To have any hope for solving this double contradiction, they must continue cooperating.

They have to produce the {teaching | learning} event such that each party will be able to come out of the event having learned or developed. It is their continued cooperation that leads to the emergence of a zone of proximal development. The last piece of the lesson fragment offered here may be glossed by saying that it achieves the sought-for perception, as per acknowledgment on the part of the participants.

Fragment 11.1d

In contrast to the preceding instances, there is now a step-by-step movement seen together with the insistent (as per intonation) call to look (turns 222, 224, 226, and 229). The calls are repeated even though there is a description offered early on (turn 223), which does describe what can be seen: The object is slowing down as it moves upward. At one point, a description is offered that the object will pick up speed again, but on the display, the skinny arrow still points upward. That offer is paired with a request to look, and, in this way, is rejected calling instead for looking and redescription. There is another description offered, “it picks up speed until it hits something,” but then there is a negation “no” followed by another description, “like there is no more speed left” (turn 230). This new description contradicts the earlier one; but it does correspond to the current state of the simulation on the computer display, where the object has arrived at the zenith (offprint in turn 230). At that time, there is an acceptance term “okay” followed by an invitation to state something that comes “now” (turn 231). This invitation is accepted, as seen in the repetition of the “now,” which is followed by a description of the anticipated movement, “it picks up speed again” (turn 233), in turn overlapped by another description, “it accelerates” (turn 234). These descriptions are positively evaluated and accepted by means of being repeated. However, they are also marked as insufficient by the contrastive conjunction “but,” which initiates the query for a particular way of describing the event, that is, to articulate what happens “in terms of ... ” (turn 236).

The exchange has finally arrived at a point that the original invitation (in Fragment 11.1a) apparently was seeking: a description of the movement of the object and the associated changes in the simple arrow—which the teacher knows to represent the object’s velocity. That is, there is not one phenomenon but two: a moving object and two arrows, one of which is at issue in the fragments presented here. In the course of the exchange, there are {query I reply} moves seeking and receiving the association of the object with the analogical situation of a ball thrown into the air. That association is not inherent. A possible reason is that the microworld can be seen as a horizontal surface onto which the participants look from above, even though the teacher has set up the events in the vertical direction. Prior to the teacher’s joining, the students have run simulations where the outline (force) arrow was pointing in different directions representing any form of push in horizontal direction acting on the object. The teacher, taking control of the mouse, arranged the force and velocity arrows in this particular up-down configuration. Whatever he might have thought, unavailable to the students as much as to the viewers of the video, the possibility to relate the up-down configuration to a vertical ball toss is taken up in the request to the students, who, when initially failing to make that connection, then are led to it in the repeated reframing of the query.

We may gloss the entire sequence as a search for (a) the reason for students not to see what the software developer and teacher intended them to see and (b) finding in the display whatever would satisfice the invitation to provide a description. Whatever the teacher might have thought in private, the last fragment can be glossed and accounted for by saying that a satisfactory description of the microworld event is provided, even if it is not yet connected to target scientific principles. More so, the underlying issue comes to be identified. This is so because replies are forthcoming precisely when the movement of the ball is slowed down to such an extent that there is sufficient time to solicit and provide descriptions. In fact, the motion is slowed down to such an extent that it allows for extended pauses in the talk required to produce the outcomes.

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