Making Sense Through Participation
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In this chapter we discuss the issue of social differences in relation to learning. In theories on co-operative learning or collaborative learning social differences are treated as characteristics of individual learners. The focus on learning as a social process is primarily elaborated in terms of interaction between pupils and the combined construction of knowledge. Sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, Lave & Wenger), however, understands ‘social’ not only in terms of knowledge/meaning being constructed in interaction with others, but also in terms of the cultural practices/activities informing these interaction processes. Learning can be understood as increasing participating in communities of practice. As social differences are an intrinsic part of the culture in which students are learning to participate, these are also an inherent aspect of learning processes in schools. Students learn to participate in practices in different ways, depending on their social position, and thus develop distinguished cultural identities. In this chapter we elaborate on this tenet, using examples from various empirical research projects on learning in secondary education. We not only show how social differences in the cultural practices that underpin learning influence what is learned by whom, but also explore the consequences of this perspective for the pedagogical space of the school.