Reconstructing ‘disengagement”

I have been wanting to reconceive the identity of a group in a set of research data I am using for a paper on online engagement. I had originally described them as “disengaged” a term describing their behaviour in relation to their online activity. It seemed to me that it had implications for both their level of epistemic agency (particularly what they excercising their agency upon) and their identity within the community. It connected to their showing a lesser feeling of legitimacy; a sense they were not “insiders” in the math teaching community (and technology?? attitudes–to check).

Perhaps a more productive way to look at these participant’s behaviour is that they were not part on the early development of the community norms (usually for technology-related reasons), so the shared repertoire (to use Wenger’s term) of the community defined by the other’s in the group, had become a set of rules that these people were not comfortable with but did not feel free to change. There was not an encouragement to develop multiple spaces–at the time the researchers saw it as a unitary space for participants to develop an emergent sense of themselves as mathematicians and mathematics teachers–a place of possibility–but a singular place separated from the traditional community of mathematics teachers or mathematicians–a kind of ‘practice field” (Barab & Duffy, 2000).

Cousin & Deepwell (2005) comment “If moderation is experienced as surveillance, it will be hard for online participants to author a shared repertoire”, (p61).

Some people mentioned evaluation and the requirement of contribution as being such an external pressure–having these external impositions made it a location that was not theirs–I had seen this as resistance previously, but I was also assuming a concensus driven model (Hodgson & Reynolds, 2005) of collaboration. It is perhaps more helpful to see it as a case where there were in fact multiple communities that needed different amounts of time and experiences to think about what it meant to rethink mathematics, but who did not have a location in which to do this, apart from the dominant discourse.

One of the key pieces that was different about the disengaged group–perhaps I will call them the “constrained” group–was their epistemology around mathematics–they never changed their view that math was primarily an ability-based subject for which they had no real ability, and so there was no future for them in participating in a community from which they had defined themselves as excluded.

742 comments for “Reconstructing ‘disengagement”

Comments are closed.