A Pragmatist Approach to Meaning Making in Children’s Discussions About Gravity and the Shape of the Earth
During the past few decades, researchers from a cognitive science tradition and a sociocultural perspective on learning have discussed how to understand students’ conceptions of the earth. In this article, some of the questions discussed in this debate are elaborated in relation to meaning making in educational settings. The aim is to illustrate how an approach built on pragmatism and Wittgenstein’s works makes it possible to take the role of both situation and experiences into account within a sociocultural perspective on learning. In video-recordings of second and fourth–fifth graders working in pairs meaning making is studied using practical epistemology analysis, i.e., what children talk about as
relevant and what experiences they reactualize when answering questions. By analyzing the role of reactualization of experience, the role of reactualization and situation in making questions and problems intelligible, and the individuals’ encounters with artifacts and the consequences of this in meaning making, we elucidate why it is important to consider
meaning making in situ as an empirical question. It is concluded that the way questions are made intelligible will direct the meaning making and when using an artifact to answer questions, it is not the artifact in itself, but the specific use of the artifact that mediates action.