Meaning making in special needs pedagogy: a theoretical study of Vygotsky's framework ideas and their impact on cognitive and social constructivist research on meaning making.
The master thesis focuses on the examination of the framework ideas on meaning making in Vygotsky’s holistic theory of child’s development and the analysis of the evolution of these ideas within the cognitivist and the social constructivist approaches. The thesis embarks on the understanding of how later research converges with Vygotsky’s ideas, how Vygotsky’s original ideas can be clarified, explained and operationalized with the help of the cognitivist and the social constructivist approaches and whether this new knowledge can serve the basis for development and application of meaning making in special needs pedagogy. The thesis is a theoretical study - a systematic review of relevant literature on a selected topic. The relevant literature on the topic of meaning making for the purposes of the present thesis encompasses Vygotsky’s original works inter alia in Russian, Lakoff and Johnson’s study of cognitive metaphor within the cognitivist approach to meaning making and Bruner’s research on folk psychology and narrative within the social constructivist approach. A theoretical study of the topic seems appropriate because a fragmented use of meaning making in pedagogy does not allow a comprehensive empirical study. Besides, a theoretical thesis permits a statement of open questions allowing exploring the topic from different perspectives. Findings indicate that, firstly, there are a few framework ideas in Vygotsky’s theory that are important for the application of meaning making in special needs pedagogy. Inter alia, these are the following ideas: the changing relations between mental functions in child psychological systems, verbal thinking, private speech and inner speech, instrumentalism, appearance of everyday (spontaneous) concepts, the role of imitative modelling and personal mental-emotional experience in child’s meaning making within the zone of proximal development. Secondly, Vygotsky’s ideas on meaning making are sustained, explained and operationalized in Lakoff and Johnson’s theory of metaphorical thinking and cognitive metaphors and in Bruner’s theory of folk psychology and narrative structuring of reality. The three theories converge in the main point: language, thinking and socially meaningful activity are strongly interconnected in child’s meaning making. Thirdly, Lakoff and Johnson’s and Bruner’s theories provide special needs pedagogues with the knowledge of how cognitive metaphors (e.g. in psychoeducation) and folk theories and narratives (e.g. in the form of social stories with autistic children) can contribute to adjusting child’s meaning making for the purposes of the future lives of children with developmental peculiarities.
ForlagUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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