Cognitive ethnography


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This monograph describes cognitive ethnography as a method of choice for game studies, multimedia learning, professional development, leisure studies, and activities where context is important. Cognitive ethnography is efficacious for these activities as it assumes that human cognition adapts to its natural surroundings (Hutchins, 2010; 1995) with emphasis on analysis of activities as they happen in context; how they are represented; and how they are distributed and experienced in space. Along with this, the methodology is described for increasing construct validity (Cook and Campbell, 1979; Campbell & Stanley, 1966) and the creation of a nomological network Cronbach & Meehl (1955). This description of the methodology is contextualized with a study examining the literate practices of reluctant middle school readers playing video games (Dubbels, 2008). The study utilizes variables from empirical laboratory research on discourse processing (Zwann, Langston, & Graesser, 1996) to analyze the narrative discourse of a video game as a socio-cognitive practice (Gee, 2007; Gee, Hull, & Lankshear, 1996).

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  • In its traditional form, ethnography often involves the researcher living in the community of study, learning the language, doing what members of the community do—learning to see the world as it is seen by the natives in their cultural context, Fetterman (1998).Cognitive ethnography follows the same protocol, but its purpose is to understand cognitive process and context—examining them together, thus, eliminating the false dichotomy between psychology and anthropology.Observational techniques such as ethnography and cognitive ethnography attempt to describe and look at relations and interaction situated in the spaces where they are native. There are a number of advantages to both laboratory observation and in the wild as presented in Figure 1.
  • As mentioned, Cognitive Ethnography can be used as an attempt to provide evidence of construct validity. This approach, developed by Cronbach & Meehl (1955), posits that a researcher should provide a theoretical framework for what is being measured, an empirical framework for how it is to be measured, and specification of the linkage between these two frameworks. The idea is to link the conceptual/theoretical with the observable and examine the extent to which a construct, such as comprehension, behaves as it was expected to within a set of related constructs. One should attempt to demonstrate convergent validity by showing that measures that are theoretically supposed to be highly interrelated are, in practice, highly interrelated, and, that measures that shouldn’t be related to each other in fact are not.This approach, the Nomological network is intended to increase construct validity, and external validity, as will be used in the example, the generalization from one study context, such as the laboratory, to another context, i.e., people, places, times. When we claim construct validity, we are essentially claiming that our observed pattern — how things operate in reality — corresponds with our theoretical pattern — how we think the world works. To do this, it is important to move outside of laboratory settings to observe the complex ways in which individuals and groups adapt to naturally occurring, culturally constituted activities. By extending theory building with different approaches to research questions, and move from contexts observed in the wild, then refined in the laboratory, and then used as a lens in field observation.
  • For children, play is imagination in action, however, for adolescents and school-age children imagination is play without action.Play may be a portal to working to develop skills, knowledge, and competencyPlay groups provide authentic shared experience without the need for Freudian meltdownsThis also begins to create group membership and experience to talk aboutWhat this means is that school-age are capable of building a mental representation. They can build micro-worlds through mental representation and imagination, to replicate, fabricate, exaggerate and minimize what they know of the world. This behavior is also important for academic work in school. Children must be capable of making mental representations from printed text, as well as verbal instruction. Play has a pivotal role in a child’s development, and can be leveraged for academic growth.
  • And most importantly, the five dimensions of the situation model. I hypothesized that if students could make a robust situation model, that they would have greater facility with decoding text and propositional levels in compensation.
  • There is an advantage to this
  • For Vygotsky, the uses of objects like toys are important for the creation and extension of the imagination. Vygotsky categorized these objects as pivots. The pivot is central to Vygotsky, because conceptual development is derived from action and interaction with objects in the environment. Remember,play is imagination in action, however, for adolescents and school-age children imagination is play without action
  • It was important to connect what I was learning in discourse processing in psycholinguistics to what I was doing in the classroom, as well as for the state standardized tests. I was given permission by my principal to attend the Minnesota DoE workgroup on the new Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment. My work on the test made me wonder about the way we were preparing for tests and the DoE’s expectation that if teachers teach to the standards, this would translate into better test scores. I was very troubled by this disconnection in expectation about practice, as well as the principles for the test design; such as lexile scores and Bloom’s taxonomy. The apparent lack of validity was troubling.Rather than asking any more questions, I decided that I would integrate what I was learning about reading comprehension in my graduate courses and see how they worked to drive instruction.
  • I did this because I was simply frustrated with what I was being told by my TAPP mentors and the “reading specialist”. That I needed to understand Bloom’s Taxonomy and Lexile scores. This did not add up. I was invited by the DoE to work on the panels for the MCA2, and my principal was generous enough to let me participate. It was here that I was told that teaching the standards would prepare the students, but their brochure for teachers was basically lost in translation.
  • What I wanted to do was to have a transfer of power. I modified the fluency rubric my district used for CBM– content based measures. My approach was an attempt to coach comprehension and strategic reading by emphasizing the event indexing model.
  • Walkthroughs of the game were used to look at decision making through navigation of the game.A Walkthrough, according to Dubbels (in Beach, Anson, Breuch, & Swiss eds, 2009), is a document that describes how to proceed through a level or particular game challenge. Walkthroughs are created by the game developer or players and often include video, audio, text, and static images—offering strategies, maps through levels, the locations of objects, and important and subtle elements of the game.In order to have a thorough understanding of possible the goals, actions, and behaviors available in the game, a number of walkthroughs were analyzed along with the game controls, and maps for optimal play
  • Rather than doing what was always done, I created a curriculum that emphasized linguistic comprehension.In 2005-06, I was recognized for doing interesting things with games in the classroom. This TV report was one of the many media outlets that did stories on my middle school students and their study of video games as narratives. What I did in this unit on games was to emphasize linguistic comprehension and then leverage it with print literacy.
  • Working hard at play and becoming playful at work – this taps into cognition as time-pressured and situated as cognitive and cultural. The thresholds also serve an instructional role in that they are used to create boundaries and goals.
  • Cognitive ethnography

    1. 1. Cognitive Ethnography forSocially Distributed Cognitive Systems Brock Dubbels The Center for Cognitive Sciences The University of Minnesota
    2. 2. Cognitive Ethnography
    3. 3. MethodologyAs a methodological approach, cognitive ethnography assumes that cognition isdistributed through rules, roles, language, relationships and coordinatedactivities, and can be embodied in artifacts and objects (Dubbels, 2008).
    4. 4. developed by Cronbach & Meehl (1955)
    5. 5. The pattern for a nomological network fits a deductive/ inductive framework: •Deductive: theory, hypothesis, observation, and confirmation •Inductive: observation, pattern, tentative hypothesis,
    6. 6. EXAMPLE Can the literate practice of gaming be used to facilitate greater success with printed text?
    7. 7. Will a top down approach to instruction outperform a bottom approachin developing academic knowledge of comprehension in reading?HYPOTHESIS
    8. 8. Games Club for ReadersRead Aloud Play Aloud Dubbels, B.R. (2008) Video games, reading, and transmedial comprehension. In R. E. Ferdig (Ed.), Reference. Information Science Handbook of research on effective electronic gaming in education. Dubbels, B.R. & Rummell, A. (2008) Observations on the exploration of comprehension as transmedial. National Reading Conference.
    9. 9. Why games for learning?• Games, by their very nature, assess, measure, and evaluate.• Games serve as an example of an informative assessment (Wiliam & Thompson, 2006).
    10. 10. Informative Assessment– An informative assessment guides and facilitates learning as part of the assessment through feedback and interaction. The act of playing the game provides feedback on performance—the assessment is the learning intervention. No external measures are added on for assessment.– Research findings from over 4,000 studies indicate that informative assessment has the most significant impact on achievement (Wiliam, 2007). • But, you still need to know what you are assessing, measuring, and evaluating. • Assessing inside and out of the game.
    11. 11. Learning and schema building are iterative Interaction seems essential in learning, the more feedback the learner receives on a behavior, attitude, or performance, the more likely they are to become aware of it and either refine or change the behavior with the information provided in the feedback (Ferster & Skinner, 1957; Baer & Wolf, 1970; Vygotsky, 1976). Taken side by side, games are designed in much the same way we conceptualize learning through as we view Vygostky’s zone of proximal development (Tharp & Gallimore, 1988, p. 35) next to game designer Daniel Cook ( last visited 6/10/09,
    12. 12. Play and learning
    13. 13. Microworlds Measured for Comprehension, & Problem SolvingThese dimensions and descriptors offer significance in that they are predicatedupon sensorimotor experience for creating and recalling memory andrepresentation (Fischer & Zwaan, 2008).
    14. 14. Embodiment and Motor ResonanceThe brain is for action Sensory Organs• Perceptual, affect, and motor- action areas of the brain are important in making meaning from discourse as elements of memory production;• Areas in the brain that control motor, perceptual, and affect are activated both tacitly and explicitly as a metacognitive processes as mental simulations of discourse—or vicarious experience through text. – Glenberg (1999), Zwann (2002)
    15. 15. Comprehension and Representation• Adults who build coherent representations also better understand, remember, and make connections between different parts of a text (Johnson-Laird, 1983; Kintsch & van Dijk, 1978; van den Broek, 1994).• Situation model construction consists of the same general processes across media (e.g., Gernsbacher et al., 1990; Magliano et al., 2001)
    16. 16. Mental Representation & Expertise• Domain expertise may interact with verbal ability; and retrieval structures vary according to the domain of expertise. – Schneider and Körkel (1989); Fincher-Kiefer, Post, Greene & Voss, 1988; Yekovich, Walker, Ogle & Thompson in 1990• Thus if you know about dinosaurs, one may have more highly developed categories of memory and thus schema with which to retrieve and integrate new information. – Chi and Koeske, (1983),
    17. 17. Children
    18. 18. Conceptual Space Analysis
    19. 19. Comprehension AnalysisEvent Indexing Situation Model
    20. 20. Causal network analysisEpaminondas Story Epaminondas Story Van den Broek,P., Kendou, P., Kremer, K., Lynch, J. Butler, J., White, M., and Pugzles Lorch, E. (2005, p. 112-13)
    21. 21. How do we build a comprehension model?Comprehension Model Literary Elements• A spatial-temporal framework • Character/ Characterization – spatial locations, time frames • diction• Entities • Plot – people, objects, ideas, • Setting• Properties of entities • Point of View – color, emotions, goals, shape, et • Theme c. • Tone• Relational information • Voice – spatial, temporal, causal, owners hip, kinship, social, etc. • Word choice
    22. 22. Comprehension measures for reflect aloud using the event indexing model --Studen Boo Fl D Pro Sit Plo Set Char Them PO Tone W Voice/ Genr Authot k ec p t e V C Diction e r o d e Scoring 4 3 2 1 0 Defined Meaning in Mentioned Cued/ Cued/ Absent context Explained Recognize Recognize Detailed Term term Description Explained
    23. 23. Modified fluency with play and agency1 I have chosen a challenging book. I read with hesitation with emphasis on single words—I am trying to learn them in isolation from one another. The "flow" in my reading is a little clunky like a telegraph with word-by-word reading.2 I just read with two to three word phrasing. My reading seems very hesitant, like I might be unsure, with considerable pausing. I am blending and decoding the words. I am naming the words rather than letting them flow.3 I am pausing for ending punctuation, but am not making inflection changes from sentence to sentence. I read in phrases but I am lacking in tone necessary in fluent understandable reading.4 Most of the time, I have, "flow" and phrasing. It is like telling a story to my friends, with vocal intonation and prosody that indicates awareness of punctuation for pausing and breath, and appropriate inflection (i.e., happy voice). I should be doing Shakespeare! My performance is characterized by reading that generally "flows."My voice5 changes to reflect meaning changes in the passage. My inflections are consistently appropriate, and my reading is fluent and smooth, generally easy to listen to and understood. Adapted from Table 1. from Marston, Mansfield, cited in (pg. 81 Heineman, in Fountas and Pinnell, 1996) by Dubbels (2005).
    24. 24. Conceptual Space Analysis
    25. 25. Causal network analysisEpaminondas Story Epaminondas Story Van den Broek,P., Kendou, P., Kremer, K., Lynch, J. Butler, J., White, M., and Pugzles Lorch, E. (2005, p. 112-13)
    26. 26. Building comprehension processAge/ time Learning to Read Basic reading skills Comprehension Skills Decoding Reading Comprehension Grade 4 Reading to Learn Figure 1. Kintsch & Kintsch in Paris & Stahl (2006)
    27. 27. Elements of comprehension• Attention• Prior Knowledge • Content, Structure, Genre, Categories, Concepts• Situation Model – spatial locations, time frames, people, objects, ideas, color, emotions, goals, shape, spatial, temporal, causal, ownership, kins hip, social, etc.• Composition of Comprehension as an active, compositive, compensatory process• Higher order process can bootstrap lower order process like decoding.• Good readers make predictions and read to verify.• The presence of support through visual and discourse modes increased the likelihood that participants would generate a specific prediction. Furthermore, the likelihood of generating a given prediction increased with multiple sources of visual and discourse modes of support. The more support, the more predictions.• Comprehension is transmedial, higher order narrative categories aid in chunking and providing boot- strapping.• It is easier to build on a pre-existing foundation of prior knowledge than it is to work from scratch.
    28. 28. How do we build a comprehension model?Comprehension Model Literary Elements• A spatial-temporal framework • Character/ Characterization – spatial locations, time frames • diction• Entities • Plot – people, objects, ideas, • Setting• Properties of entities • Point of View – color, emotions, goals, shape, et • Theme c. • Tone• Relational information • Voice – spatial, temporal, causal, owners hip, kinship, social, etc. • Word choice
    29. 29. Feedback and interaction were central to the work of Lev Vygotsky, asThe Zone of Proximal depicted here in Figure 1. (Tharp &Development Gallimore, 1988, p. 35).
    30. 30. Invoking play Probability Branching Rules Roles & IdentityImagery &visualization
    31. 31. Design Deliver content Student LearningContent Play MotivateFrame & Engage Apply & Reflect
    32. 32. Towards top sight
    33. 33. Built like a game
    34. 34. Non-traditional Narrative for Assessment
    35. 35. Why are they important?• Because a decision tree is also a diagram of the formal space of possibility in a game.• Games represent the same design elements as research and curriculum design.
    36. 36. How about Chutes and ladders? Describe the game play mechanics
    37. 37. What are the elements of this game?What makes the play emergent?Is it non-linear?Games as a metaphor for instructional design
    38. 38. Physical & Social Space Analysis
    39. 39. Video games as Learning Tools BackgroundDeveloped a curriculum for teachers after using them with success atNortheast Middle School
    40. 40. 40 38Comparison of student 35performanceThe categories for 05-06 performance 30was based upon the Minnesota BasicSkills Test 25 24The 06-07 scores were based upon the 21 Grade 7 (05-MCA2 06) 20 16 Grade 8 (05-All students were taught by one 15 06)teacher each year. Grade 8 (06-I taught the 06-07 year using a much 10 07)harder test with an emphasis ongames and play. 5Specifically: Games unit, multimediaunits, sketch up, Etc. 0 Exceed Meets Partial Does not
    41. 41. Building comprehension processAge/ time Learning to Read Basic reading skills Comprehension Skills Decoding Reading Comprehension Grade 4 Reading to Learn Figure 1. Kintsch & Kintsch in Paris & Stahl (2006)
    42. 42. Matching Skills to Instructional Design
    43. 43. Educate me • Participants design a board game to identify outcomes and the context, route, and obstacles to getting there.
    44. 44. Rubric
    45. 45. DesignRhythm & Flow • High interest • Role Playing • Performance • Technology • RFOL • Writing • Video • Music
    46. 46. How about Math andScience?Scientific Habits of mindApplied curriculumModelingSimulationSTEM
    47. 47. The final races
    48. 48. Dance Dance Education Because kids won’t let an education get in the way of their learningBrock DubbelsThe Center for Cognitive SciencesThe University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
    49. 49. Extrinsic MotivationIdentity informs Continuummotivation andengagement External regulation Introjected regulation Identified regulation•External regulation: doing somethingfor the sake of achieving a reward oravoiding a punishment.•Introjected regulation: partialinternalization of extrinsic motives.•Identified regulation: doing an activitybecause the individual identifies withthe values and accepts it as his own. Dubbels (2009) Dance Dance Education and Rites of Passage ---Lessons learned about the importance of play in sustaining engagement from a high school “girl gamer” based upon socio- and cultural-cognitive analysis for designing instructional environments to elicit and sustain engagement through identity construction. IJGCMS.
    50. 50. Four Principles for Engagement by Design Play as a Subjunctive Mood Desirable Activities Spaces Desirable GroupsDubbels (2009) Dance Dance Education and Rites of Passage. IJGCMS.
    51. 51. Once again, ThresholdsFormerly, communities created rites of passage – where communitystatus and identity were earned and bestowed.