Since its introduction by Gibson (1979) the concept of affordance has been discussed at length by a number of researchers. Most famous, perhaps is the disagreement between Gibson and Norman (1988) about whether affordances are inherent properties of objects or are only present when perceived by an organism. More recently, affordance has been drawn on in the educational arena, particularly with respect to multimodality (see Linder (2013) for a recent example). Here, Kress et al (2001) claim that different modes have different specialized affordances.
In this theoretical paper the concept of disciplinary affordance (Fredlund et al., 2012) is suggested as a useful analytical educational tool. The concept makes a radical break with the views of both Gibson and Norman in that rather than focusing on the perception of an individual, it focuses on the disciplinary community as a whole. Put simply, the disciplinary affordances of a given semiotic resource are determined by the functions that it is expected to fulfil for the discipline. As such, the question of whether these affordances are inherent or perceived becomes moot. Rather, the issue is what a semiotic resource affords to an individual and whether this matches the disciplinary affordance. The power of the term is that learning can now be framed as coming to perceive the disciplinary affordances of semiotic resources.
In this paper we will discuss the history of the term affordance, define the term disciplinary affordance and illustrate its usefulness in a number of educational settings.
Airey, J. (2009). Science, Language and Literacy. Case Studies of Learning in Swedish University Physics. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology 81. Uppsala Retrieved 2009-04-27, from http://publications.uu.se/theses/abstract.xsql?dbid=9547
Fredlund, T., Airey, J., & Linder, C. (2012). Exploring the role of physics representations: an illustrative example from students sharing knowledge about refraction. European Journal of Physics, 33, 657-666.
Gibson, J. J. (1979). The theory of affordances The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (pp. 127-143). Boston: Houghton Miffin.
Kress, G., Jewitt, C., Ogborn, J., & Tsatsarelis, C. (2001). Multimodal teaching and learning: The rhetorics of the science classroom. London: Continuum.
Linder, C. (2013). Disciplinary discourse, representation, and appresentation in the teaching and learning of science. European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 1(2), 43-49.
Norman, D. A. (1988). The psychology of everyday things. New York: Basic Books.
2014. 20- p.
The 5th International 360 Conference. Encompassing the multimodality of knowledge, May 8-10 2014, Aarhus University, Denmark