Learning and development across the generations: a cultural-historical study of everyday family practices.

2017-01-31T05:14:43Z (GMT) by Hilary Monk
Intergenerational research in familial and non-familial contexts appears to be strongly influenced by the positivist traditions of sociology where top-down transmission models of intergenerational learning and development dominate thinking and research. This thesis uses an interpretivist approach framed in Vygotsky’s (1987) cultural-historical theory and contributes alternative perspectives and interpretations of intergenerational learning and development. The study explored the relations and transitions of values and beliefs within and between generations. The focus of the study was the process of intergenerational learning and development occurring within everyday family practices rather than the actual formed values or beliefs of the families. Three intergenerational families (grandparents, parents, and children aged between 3 and 6 years) from a sea-side suburb of a major capital city in Australia participated in the study. Data were generated over a period of 10 months through a multi-phased iterative process consisting of family dialogues, photographs, and video footage. The family dialogues were a type of semi-structured conversation where family members gathered together with the researcher to discuss family practices using the visual data they had generated. A digital camera was given to the families between dialogues to enable them to take photographs and short video clips of their everyday child-rearing practices for discussion. Analysis of the generated data occurred on three different levels; firstly at the common sense level, secondly at the situated practice level and thirdly at the thematic level (Hedegaard, 2008b). This interactive, dynamic process of analysis had as its focus the study’s unit of analysis which was everyday family practices. The inter-related cultural-historical concepts of mediation, motives, and participation were used in this research as theoretical tools and analytical categories; and as such, they opened up new ways of viewing the rich complexity of the everyday lives of participant families. This thesis argues that, when everyday family practices (for example mealtimes, shopping, and holidays) are viewed holistically through the cultural-historical concepts of mediation, motives, and participation, the intergenerational trajectories of continuation, interruption, and transformation become visible. In addition, the conceptual ‘glue’ that united the generations, trajectories and cultural-historical concepts were the dialectics of we-ness and between-ness. We-ness related to the shared meaning and values that occurred in and through family practices over time. Between-ness related to the relations connecting people, places, and things. It was not possible to consider we-ness without also considering between-ness; together they resulted in intergenerational family learning and development. Intergenerational we-ness and between-ness as dialectical cultural-historical concepts are important and significant findings generated from this study. They contribute new perspectives and interpretations of intergenerational learning and development and they open up new ways of viewing shared meaning and relations as collective and intergenerational concepts. The dialectical cultural-historical model of intergenerational learning and development presented in this thesis responds to the commonly held view of intergenerational transmission and offers an alternative contradictory conceptualization.