Embodied Pathways and Ethical Trails: Studying Learning in and through Relational Histories

Shirin Vossoughi*, Ava Jackson, Suzanne Chen, Wendy Roldan, Meg Escudé

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Studies of embodied cognition offer powerful accounts of the semiotic resources people use as they think together within different domains. Yet this research does not typically foreground the history of relationships within focal interactions—a history we have found to be consequential to the ways embodied actions unfold. Through ethnographic and interactional analysis of the assistance students received in a tinkering afterschool program and the forms of assistance they enacted over time, we show how children supported one another using embodied movements that were embedded in relational histories and imbued with pedagogical and ethical values. We substantiate these findings by introducing the range of embodied movements identified within the setting, followed by a detailed analysis of three cases spanning distinct time-scales (5 minutes, 1 week, 3 years). The cases help establish the construct of embodied pathways, which we define as courses of possible action involving participants’ bodies and voices that model particular relations. We argue that the experience of receiving embodied assistance creates resources for mediation in the future, as seen in subsequent acts of guidance and solidarity across children. More broadly, we argue for greater attention to how people learn to be in relation within research on embodied learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-223
Number of pages41
JournalJournal of the Learning Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 14 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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