Insights through interactivity: Learning as interactivity in the ecological niche of supervision in higher education

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This study investigates a specific type of learning (insight) in academic supervision from a distributed cognitive perspective. In the perspective of distributed cognition (Cowley et al 2011), learning relates to salient progress of a cognitive system through flexible adaptive behavior of the (learning) agents (Cowley & Vallée-Tourangeau, 2013; Clark, 2008). Human social agency (Giere, 2004) in learning contexts becomes a capacity to align one’s thoughts and actions with those of others to interpret aspects of one’s world and to act on and respond to those interpretations (Enfield, 2011). The processes of progress of a cognitive system, and the transformations of agency in relation to this, owe themselves to ‘interactivity’, i.e. sense-saturated embodied coordination that contributes to human actions. The concept of interactivity emphasizes a perspective on how human co-existence is intertwined with an ecological niche, which is deeply and irreversibly saturated with other (past and present) agents’ concepts and behaviors. The sense-saturated coordination enables “a new possibility of action forming in the process of transition from one act to another” (Järvilehto, 2009:116). Through the perspective of distributed cognition, this article will aim at showing, how the ecological results of supervisor-supervisee actions in terms of a specific type of learning, can be described through the concept of interactivity. The study relies on micro-analysis of recordings of master program supervision at two Danish universities. The analysis will be informed by an ecological methodology, based on the supervising system’s dynamic recruitment of semiotic resources (Clark, 2008), therein bodily movement, and articulatory modulations as gestural affordances (Streeck et al, 2011). The study reveals that ‘voicing’ indeed affords different forms of agency and thus plays a role as a capacity for managing autonomies and coordinating dynamics of various dimensions (De Jaegher, et al. 2016).
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Ideas in Psychology
Number of pages26
Publication statusSubmitted - 23. May 2019

Bibliographical note

Special issue: Learning as Interactivity, Growth, and Becoming: Explorations of Learners, Teachers & Learning Environments’


  • Interactivity
  • Ecology
  • Learning
  • Supervision
  • Higher education
  • Vocal gestures

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