Cultural intervention in embodied discovery: Investigating the teaching/learning process through the microgenetic lens of dual eye-tracking technology

Colloquium | April 23 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 2515 Tolman Hall

 Anna Shvarts, Faculty of Psychology, Lomonosov Moscow State University

 Graduate School of Education

The presentation will draw on contemporary investigations of joint attention and joint action to offer a  conceptual bridge between two prominent approaches in educational research: Vygtosky’s cultural-historical view of teaching/learning processes; and dynamic systems theory of development. My thesis is grounded in empirical findings from microgenetic analyses of student–tutor collaboration on an interactive embodied activity for parabolas.

The data corpus consists of integrated multimodal data: dual eye-tracking (DUET)—computer reconstructions of the participants’ synchronous dynamical gazes—superimposed onto videography of the virtual objects and supplemented by contemporaneous vocalized and gestural utterance. These data occasioned for the researchers opportunities to witness that while tutor and student engage together in goal-oriented enactment of cultural practice, such as performing a mathematical task, their perceptual attention becomes co-oriented upon the activity’s operational point, and their actions merge in intersubjective anticipation. Thus, two intrasubjective perception–action systems self-organize as a single complex dynamical intersubjective system of student–tutor interaction. This co-actment includes episodes of: (1) coordination, when the tutor experiences the student’s process of task exploration;  (2) discoordination, when the tutor attends to the visual material in a specific mathematical way that is as yet inaccessible for the student; and (3) cultural intervention, when the tutor iteratively attempts to re-frame the student’s attention towards the cultural meaning. In the second stage of the activity, mathematical notation is introduced and these markers enable the student to gradually depart from the intersubjective system toward independent, if still unstable, domain competence.

I will end by revisiting from the dynamical system theoretical perspective some “classical” socio-cultural constructs, including scaffolding, ZPD, and interiorization.

Dr. Shvarts is a Senior Researcher in the Faculty of Psychology at Lomonosov Moscow State University, where she investigates the genesis of cultural thinking and perception using a variety of methodologies, including twins studies, semi-structured interviews with blind and visually impaired students, classroom teaching experiments, and laboratory cognitive experiments. In her recent work, Dr. Shvarts has been developing dual-eye-tracking instruments for the micro-analysis of tutor–student collaboration. She has also led the pedagogical department of a commercial online educational platform ( that currently has more than a million subscribers in Russia and beyond.

Dr. Shvarts is the Principal Investigator recipient of a Russian Foundation for Basic Research grant, "The study of student–teacher joint attention micro-dynamics by dual eye-tracking methods." Recently, she contributed a chapter to the ICME-13 Monograph "Signs of Signification: Semiotics in Mathematics Education Research” (2018; Co-Editors Presmeg, Radform, Roth, & Kadunz).