The ‘Context' Pole

The ‘Context' Pole

Jean-Claude Bertin (University of Havre, France) and Patrick Gravé (University of Havre, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-707-7.ch008

Abstract

Experimental evidence suggests that the context in which learning environments operate plays such a significant part that it becomes necessary to regard it as just another pole in the didactic ergonomics model. Indeed, as any of the other poles we have described so far, it imposes constraints upon the various actors of the teaching/learning situation and is made to evolve as a result of its interactions with the rest of the system. Several questions are therefore raised: what is exactly meant by ‘context’? How can it be defined? How can its evolution be understood when confronted to technological, pedagogic, or social innovations? In the first step, we will consider how to define context in a systemic and sociological perspective. In order to make the nature of this pole more explicit, we will resort to organizational sociology which will help us analyze the structural and functional aspects of the specific system formed by distance language learning environments.
Chapter Preview
Top

Objectives Of The Chapter

This chapter will try to answer the following questions:

  • How can ‘context’ be defined and taken into account in the case of distance language learning?

  • How can ascertain that all the components of this pole can be made to work coherently?

Experimental evidence suggests that the context in which learning environments operate plays such a significant part that it becomes necessary to regard it as just another pole in the didactic ergonomics model. Indeed, as any of the other poles we have described so far, it imposes constraints upon the various actors of the teaching/learning situation and is made to evolve as a result of its interactions with the rest of the system.

Several questions are therefore raised: what is exactly meant by ‘context’? How can it be defined? How can its evolution be understood when confronted to technological, pedagogic, or social innovations?

In the first step, we will consider how to define context in a systemic and sociological perspective. In order to make the nature of this pole more explicit, we will resort to organizational sociology which will help us analyze the structural and functional aspects of the specific system formed by distance language learning environments.

In the second step, we will focus on the conditions of change and innovation in contexts and review the various paradigms and results in psycho-sociology and education sciences related to change, innovation and the role of active minorities.

Then, we will examine the conditions for innovation to take place and the means to support it through its various actors so as to understand how social change takes place.

Finally, considering that theory is inseparable from practice, we will present a final synthesis of the various paths that can be taken to reconcile them. In our case, this means suggesting a supporting framework combining research and action, theoretical models and directions for action: this leads to an action-research training scheme whose function consists in the mutual evaluation and regulation of researchers and practitioners.

Top

Defining Context

Introduction

The first obvious remark should be: there is no such thing as the context. Indeed, the main characteristic of any context is that it is unique, even if one can observe regularities from one context to the other. Provocative as the previous lines may seem, the first question is how to define context.

To try and answer this question, it seems important to us to insist on the complexity of context(s) analysis. Any attempt at describing a complex organizational reality by decomposing it into separate constituent parts would necessarily be reductive, hence our choice to avoid such an analytical approach by opting for a systemic vision. Defining context seems to us to mean analyzing the organization system in which distance language learning environments are set.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset