Trajectories of Persons and Practices: Sociohistoric Perspectives of Disciplinary Development. The Case Study of Terri Ulmer

Chapter 2 | Theoretical Perspectives and Methodological Approaches


In the previous chapter, we established that the development of disciplinary practice and identity have largely been understood and studied as the product of a learner’s deepening participation within a particular community’s activities. Pathways of disciplinary socialization have routinely been mapped as movement from the periphery toward the center of a particular disciplinary domain (e.g., Beaufort, 2004, 2007; Dias et al., 1999; Geisler, 1994; Haas, 1994; Poe, Lerner, & Craig, 2010). Such accounts implicitly suggest, and sometimes explicitly state, that people’s histories beyond the presumed borders of a focal disciplinary engagement are disconnected from and largely irrelevant to the production of disciplinary writing, learning, and socialization.

If mapping disciplinary development tightly within the assumed borders of a disciplinary space reduces and flattens literate action, then conceptually how might we understand learners’ disciplinary work in ways that also account for their histories with other literate activities? How might we situate an individual’s disciplinary development in relation to, rather than as separated from, the broader textual landscapes they traverse? How might we keep the complexity of learners’ richly literate lives alive in our analyses of their disciplinary writing, learning, and socialization? What kinds of theoretical perspectives might be useful in this regard?

Productively challenging narrow institutionally-bounded accounts of the relations among writing, social contexts, and learning requires no small amount of theoretical and methodological work. In this chapter, we elaborate on the theoretical lens and methodological approaches we have found useful for understanding how people and practices come to be and act in the world.

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