Speaker Series

Dr. Shirin Vossoughi, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Learning Sciences, School of Education & Social Policy, Northwestern University

Choreographies of Joint Activity Attuning to the Political, Ethical, and Aesthetic Dimensions of Embodied Learning
Friday, December 1, 2017 1:00PM to 2:30PM
LSRI 1535, 1240 W Harrison Street


Within the learning sciences, arguments for attending to the political and power-laden dimensions of learning are growing (Politics of Learning Writing Collective, 2017). Building from this perspective, this talk draws on a case-study of an after-school tinkering/making setting to elucidate the analytic and pedagogical yield of studying learning as a political, ethical and aesthetic process. More specifically, I present ethnographic and interactional data that elucidates the new ways of seeing and relating that emerged when researchers and educators “examined the obvious” (Erickson, 1984) and experimented with representations of learning. As participants co-analyzed field notes, photographs and video-recordings of hands-on scientific and artistic activities, they began to notice the coordination of children’s and adult’s hands, eyes and voices, and consider the subjective meanings these experiences held for participants. This newfound perception brought into relief the specific forms of embodied assistance that deepened or constrained students’ learning, social relations, and sense of agency and dignity, and gave life to a more intentional choreography of joint activity among educators. This talk focuses on tracing the genesis of “hands and eyes” (as it was referred to by participants) as a way of seeing, and sharing emergent insights from a longitudinal study of children’s trajectories in this setting. I conclude by describing the theoretical and pedagogical implications of this local axiological innovation (Bang, Faber, Gurneau, Marin & Soto, 2016).


Shirin Vossoughi is an assistant professor of Learning Sciences at Northwestern University, where she draws on ethnographic and interactional methods to study the social, cultural, historical, and political dimensions of learning. Vossoughi’s research centers on hybrid learning environments that blend formal and informal elements and support young people to engage in sophisticated forms of disciplinary thinking while questioning and expanding disciplinary boundaries. As the daughter of Iranian immigrants, she is also personally invested in the development and study of educational settings for youth from migrant, immigrant and diasporic backgrounds. Vossoughi is currently studying embodied learning in after-school tinkering programs that blend scientific inquiry, literacy, and the arts. She takes a collaborative approach to research, partnering with educators and students to study the conditions that foster educational dignity and possibility.