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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Managing Intersubjectivity in the Context of a Museum Learning Environment

Hui Diane.

This study investigates the dynamics of intersubjectivity within the zone of proximal development. Its theoretical framework is based on three principal approaches to intersubjectivity (Wertsch, 1984, 1985; Rogoff, 1990; Rommeveit, 1979), with reference also to self-regulative speech (Vygotsky, 1986). Such a complex relationship remains to be fully investigated.

According to Vygotsky (1986), thought is shaped by speech. To extend this, Wertsch (1984) suggests that speech can create and condition an intersubjective situation definition, not just reflect its existence. This paper argues that, in solving problems, one could operate in such a way that retreating into self-regulative speech provides a separate line of strategic reasoning in the context of intersubjectivity. I further argue that co-operative learning participants approach, and temporarily retreat from, intersubjectivity on the social plane, thus providing a mechanism for managing such intersubjectivity.

Data were collected from groups interacting with a Dymaxion map exhibit in a museum located in a Midwest U.S. urban city. As part of a larger data constellation, focused microanalysis of discourse episodes illustrate the management of intersubjectivity during shared problem-solving activity.

This study finds clear evidence for managing variable forms of intersubjectivity, including retreat into self-regulative speech, in a successful problem-solving activity. This process involves the problem-solver moving away from, then back towards, intersubjectivity. The analysis examines the dynamic nature of intersubjectivity in a new light and clarifies the previously ambiguous postulation of different levels of growth within the zone of proximal development (Wertsch, 1984). This paper proposes important new implications for problem-solving in terms of both approach and procedure, as well as informing pedagogical instruction in problem-solving, for both formal and informal learning contexts.


Hui Diane  (United States)
Doctoral candidate
Department of Education
Washington University in St Louis

I am an experienced academic educational researcher, teaching practitioner and language examiner. I have been active in a variety of multidisciplinary educational research settings, spanning three cultures and three continents over the last ten years. My principle research interests have revolved around issues concerned with sociocultural and cognitive aspects of student learning, special needs education, and emergent learning with computer technologies in professional development.

  • Informal learning
  • Museum learning
  • Sociocultural and cognitive learning
  • Managing intersubjectivity
  • Adult-child problem-solving activity

(30 min Conference Paper, English)