Breaking the vicious circle of categorizing students in school

Jaakko Virkkunen, Denise Shelley Newnham, Paul Nleya, Ritva Engestroöm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (SciVal)


Teachers categorizing of students profoundly affects the educational process and can subvert open teacher-student communication and create a vicious circle of student's lack of support and academic failure. In this article we use data from a Change Laboratory intervention in a senior secondary school in order to study the possibilities of changing the way teachers construct students as objects of their work and overcoming this vicious circle. We analyze categorization as a form of thinking based on empirical generalization and conceptualize its opposite as a dialectical process of constructing individual students' specific potentials and learning problems as the object of teachers' work. For this the teachers' need new kinds of tools that mediate the teacher-student interaction in a way that supports teachers' and students' mutual learning and support. Previous studies have shown a number of steps that are necessary for such a remediation of the teacher-student interaction to take place. In this study, we test and elaborate these observations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-192
JournalLearning, Culture and Social Interaction
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


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