The Heuristic function of language
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AbstractPURPOSE The power of talk and writing to initiate, shape, refine and extend ideas is only beginning to be understood. This study explored the heuristic functioning of language with the aim of recognizing some of the elements of the process and their relationship. THE STUDY The spoken and written discourse of four adolescent girls engaged in group discussion and individual writing in response to a structured situation was examined and anlyzed. The situation, combining a topical issue -the status of women throughout history -with an art form, had the potential for discovery of both ideas and language. Within this context talk was recorded during five audiotaped sessions, and one video-taped session, and writing was collected in journals, and written projects. Particular attention was focused on the girls' personal constructs of reality, their concepts of self as writer and talker, their attitudes, and their relationships with one another as they formulated intention to deal with the situation. FINDINGS The cognitive and affective operate contiguously throughout the formulation of intention, and throughout the development of our construct systems as we act, react and interact with the world both nonverbally and through language to communicate and to discover. Interlocutors moved easily between participant and spectator role, using a variety of exploratory patterns. Requisite to these patterns were prior knowledge, emotional response, and intention formulation. Writing was found to operate for discovery as well as for communi-cation especially in spectator role. It was influenced by talk and previous writing, and it influenced ensuing talk. When writing functioned heuristically, it was used seriously, and playfully to get in touch with feeling, to imaginatively explore possibilities, to reflect, and to organize ideas. In addition, emotional commitment to intention, formal operational thinking, and pleasure in manipulating language was found. Nonverbals used by interlocutors were found to contribute significantly to understanding. The dimensions of the heuristic function of language include: intention; personal construct systems; indwelling and tacit knowledge; and, cognitive and affective memory, which interact within the context apprehended by the individual. IMPLICATIONS Expressive talk and writing are important learning tools because they can function heuristically. As teachers, we must provide opportunities for students to talk and write to discover, as well as to communicate. In addition, because the cognitive and the affective operate contiguously, both must be considered in our educational planning.
Bibliography: p. 155-161.