Finding One's Way by the Dawning of Patterned Relationships


  • Erik Boström



This study employs Harold Garfinkel's and Karl Deutsch's notion that information is used in and as patterned relationships between events as a guide for following how students and teachers work out their emerging focus over nine months of doing school science projects in an upper secondary school. Excerpts are taken from seminar and tutoring talks, and sequentially related to their writing up of texts to be used in their upcoming reports. The students fill in constitutive blanks with more information through inferences from the teachers' partial instructions, methodically present as questions for the purpose of enabling the students to go on. These patterned relationships between events, things the students are supposed to do in a specific order, in trying to locate these things within what Garfinkel calls a system of expectations, both organize and produce their work of making and describing the coherence of these "ordinary things to do" in a figurational contexture. In trying to work out the sense of the teachers' reproducible descriptions in their own instructed actions, the students use patterning between events as a resource for achieving common understanding. It can be heard by the students that the teacher's descriptions involve their attention to certain aspects in order to fill in detail for the description provided, as may be necessary for the practical purposes, for which an understanding of the description may be attempted. At the same time, there is a reflexive elaboration of the meaning of the teacher's original descriptors, as a result of the contextual filling in now effected. This kind of reflexive redetermination of meaning, done through the interplay of patterned relationships and anticipatory properties that define possible events, as inferred and used by the students is information in Garfinkel's sociological approach, or rather, what information as reflexive re-ordering of the sequential coherence of their events is made by and used for. Gradually, the relations and meanings dawns upon them and the students achieve a responsive understanding of an interactionally shared local gestalt contexture, which finally gets objectivised together with the teacher as "it is falling into place". This paper depicts the terms in which students assemble their work into a coherent whole by developing familiarity with details.