, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 235–246 | Cite as

On enactivism and language: towards a methodology for studying talk in mathematics classrooms

  • Alf ColesEmail author
Original Article


This article is an early step in the development of a methodological approach to the study of language deriving from an enactivist theoretical stance. Language is seen as a co-ordination of co-ordinations of action. Meaning and intention cannot easily be interpreted from the actions and words of others; instead, careful attention can be placed in not going beyond what is observable within the text itself, for example by focusing on patterns in word use. Conversations are highly ritualised affairs and from an enactivist perspective these rituals can be read in terms of pattern. The notion of the ‘structural coupling’ of systems, which will inevitably have taken place in a classroom, means that the history and context of communication needs to be taken into account. The methodological perspective put forward in this article is exemplified with an analysis of two classroom incidents (involving different teachers) in which almost identical words are used by the teachers, but markedly different things happen next. The analysis reveals a complexity within the classroom that, although available to direct observation, only became apparent using an approach to studying language that took account of the context and history of communication in a recursive process of data collection and analysis.


Language Enactivism Mathematical learning Methodology 


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Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BristolBristolUK

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