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UCSD COMT 115 - The Fifth Dimension

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Chapter 2The chapters that follow present the intellectual formdations and organi-zational work that have gone into our research on building, evaluating,and sustaining a system of effective after-school activities. Chapter 2 pro-vides an overview of the general theoretical principles that guided ourwork. Brief descriptions follow in chapter 3 of each of the university-com-munity partnerships, their joint experimental after-school activities, andtheir history over the life of the project and slightly beyond. Chapter 4 dis-cusses the methodological challenges that confronted us, as they wouldany group of researchers who seek to design, evaluate, and sustain devel-opmentally rich after-school activities.Chapter 5 provides one set of responses to the challenges of evaluation.We summarize a series of experimental and quasi-experimental studies ofchanges in children's intellectual performance on a variety of specially de-signed and standardized tests conducted at a number of the consortiumsites where such evaluations were possible. Chapter 6 focuses on thechanges that occurred in interactions within a number of the local sys-tems; these changes provide a close-up look at the proximal dynamics ofchange that can be plausibly linked to "cognitive outcomes," as measuredby the psychological tests described in chapter 5.Chapter 7 presents our studies of the Fifth Dimension as a form of edu-cational activity for undergraduates in which theory and practice are wed-ded in a single course. This chapter provides, from a different perspective,usable methods for describing the changes that occur on the universityside of the university-community system.DC Links has spread well beyond the initiating group, and chapter 8documents this transformation of the original idea into a worldwide effortthat is no longer restricted to the after-school hours but has moved "backinto school" in many locales. In this discussion, we review the status of theinitial systems, providing a longer-term view of the factors that permitsustainability well beyond the expiration of external frmding from projectsponsors.Chapter 9 returns to first questions. What began as an almost eccentricinterest in after-school activities and their sustainability has now becomea major issue at the national, state, and local levels. Our hope is that ourexperience of more than a decade of research, combined with the rmusualdiversity of the individual settings we created, can help to inform both thedecisions of local commrmities that believe their children might benefitfrom after-school activities and policy debates about whether and whensuch efforts make a difference in the lives of children.As noted in chapter 1, the disciplinary backgrounds we brought tothe design of our local after-school systems varied considerably,but we all adhered to a core set of concepts that placed a premiumon the idea that individual development is a part of, and depends on, par-ticipation in a culturally organized social context viewed within its largersocio-ecological context. Within this family of theories, some theoristshave focused on analyzing institutionalized educational activities for chil-dren and determining which tools are most effective for deliberate instruc-tion, while others have approached learning as a natural by-product of thecollective activity of adults who are engaged in any valued cultural prac-tice. These different foci and theoretical concerns, not surprisingly, haveled researchers to employ different methods and to deploy somewhat dif-ferent concepts concerning processes of change.All researchers can agree, however, that educational activities and cul-tural practices need to be conceptualized as social systems with several el-ements: the interplay among persons as active subjects; their competing orcomplementary objectives; the tools (mediational artifacts) they deploy;the social rules they formulate and debate; the communities they form andinhabit; and the divisions of labor that govern the configurations of theirjoint actions (Engestrom, Miettinen, and Prmamaki 1999;Lave 1988;Leon-tiev 1981;Moll et al. 1992;Rogoff 2003). This general perspective informsthe design, implementation, and evaluation of all the systems we de-signed and implemented.A natural correlate of theorists' use of settings, contexts, social ecolo-gies, and practices as units of analysis is that instead of focusing on indi-vidual abilities and actions, they view human cognition, to use Jean Lave's(1988, 1) felicitous phrase, as "stretched over, not divided among, mind,body, activity, and culturally organized settings (including other actors)."This is not to say that we should never focus on individuals and individ-ual change, but rather that we should strive always to conduct such analy-sis in relation to features of the system of which they are a part (Rogoff2003).Jay Lemke(1997, 38)makes this relational view explicit when helinks activity, modes of participation, processes of learning, and individ-ual identities:A Bronfenbrenner-Style Picture0.£a Chil.d .andFigure 2.1 A t t S stemUnder raduate in a Fifth DimensiOn c IVIOur activity, our participation, our "cognition" is always bound up with theparticipation and activity of Others, be they persons, tools, symbols,processes, or things. How we participate, what practices we come to engagein, is a function of the whole community ecology .... As we participate, wechange, our identity-in-practice develops, for we are no longer autonomousPersons in this model, but Persons-in-Activity.Given our emphasis on the study of learning and development withinparticular settings, situations, and activities, it is only natural that ouranalysis of the similarities and differences between Fifth Dimension pro-grams should begin with the notion of context. However, we do so some-what cautiously because, as many scholars sympathetic to this perspectivehave noted, notions such as context, activity, setting, and situation areused in a variety of ways by contemporary social scientists, anyone ofwhich can lead to misunderstandings (Chaiklin and Lave1993;Durantiand Goodwin1992).Mindful of such potential for misunderstanding, weare as explicit as possible here about our use of these terms.Depending on the purposes at hand, we have found it useful to adopttwo somewhat different notions of context. The first is what we call a "so-cial-ecological" concept of context, ordinarily represented as a set of con-centric circles in which the focal activities

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