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On becoming an authentic learner: semiotic activity in the early grades

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A Vygotskian perspective assumes that authentic learning must be conceived of as a process of meaning construction having both personal and cultural relevance. From this point of view authentic learning is a psychological capacity formed during a student's school career. This development involves becoming a legitimate participant in the cultural activity called learning. This paper explores some developmental roots of this learning activity in 4- to 7-year-old children's play. From our theoretical perspective we contend that the activity of dealing reflectively with interrelationships between signs and meanings (i.e. semiotic activity) might be one psychological precursor of constructive learning activity. We ask: Can young children perform the required semiotic activity during play? Is the activity meaningful for them? What are the implications of our findings for curriculum and for curriculum theory? We analysed different video-recordings of young children engaged in play in small groups in classroom settings. Results suggest that young children can be engaged meaningfully in semiotic activities during play, provided some assistance is given by a teacher or peers. We take these results as indications of the authenticity of these activities for young children. For curriculum it might mean that early promotion of semiotic activity should be taken as a basis for developing authentic learning.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 1999

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