Beyond the Binary of Adult Versus Child Centered Learning: Pedagogies of Joint Activity in the Context of Making

Shirin Vossoughi*, Natalie R. Davis, Ava Jackson, Ruben Echevarria, Arturo Muñoz, Meg Escudé

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


This paper argues that the terms through which we interpret and work to develop expansive pedagogical practices are overly constrained by the binary of adult-centered versus child-centered education. Analyzing ethnographic data developed over three years in a making/tinkering afterschool program serving Black, Latinx, and Asian American students (K-5), we explicate and imagine beyond this binary by (1) analyzing key forms of pedagogical talk, listening, and embodied assistance that supported generative forms of learning and relationality and defied categorization as either adult- or child-centered; and (2) theorizing joint activity as a pedagogical practice by historicizing and unmooring the work of critical education from the perpetual negation of Western, adult-centered models, thereby creating distinct grounds for specifying the role of direct assistance and its salience for questions of educational dignity and justice. Taken together, we argue for a more complex view of when and how direct teaching can support meaningful learning, and further delineate the relationships between such teaching and a broader ethos of joint, intergenerational activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-241
Number of pages31
JournalCognition and Instruction
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021


  • Educational dignity
  • learning
  • making and tinkering
  • pedagogy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychology(all)


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