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 Fredlund et al 2015 for a recent example). Here, Kress et al (2001) have claimed that different modes have different specialized affordances. In this paper the interrelated concepts of disciplinary affordance and pedagogical affordance are discussed. Both concepts make a radical break with the views of both Gibson and Norman in that rather than focusing on the perception of an individual, they refer to the disciplinary community as a whole. Disciplinary affordance is "the agreed meaning making functions that a semiotic resource fulfils for a disciplinary community". Similarly, pedagogical affordance is "the aptness of a semiotic resource for the teaching and learning of some particular educational content" (Airey 2015). As such, the question of whether these affordances are inherent or perceived becomes moot. Rather, the issue is the process through which students can come to see semiotic resources in a way that corresponds to the disciplinary affordance accepted within the discipline. The power of the term, then, is that learning can now be framed as coming to perceive the disciplinary affordances of semiotic resources. In this paper I will briefly discuss the history of the term affordance, define the terms disciplinary affordance and pedagogical affordance and illustrate their 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
Airey, J. (2011b). The Disciplinary Literacy Discussion Matrix: A Heuristic Tool for Initiating Collaboration in Higher Education. Across the disciplines, 8(3), unpaginated. Retrieved from http://wac.colostate.edu/atd/clil/airey.cfm
Airey, J. (2013). Disciplinary Literacy. In E. Lundqvist, L. Östman, & R. Säljö (Eds.), Scientific literacy – teori och praktik
(pp. 41-58): Gleerups.
Airey, J. (2014) Representations in Undergraduate Physics. Docent lecture, Ångström Laboratory, 9th June 2014 From http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-226598
Airey, J. (2016). Undergraduate Teaching with Multiple Semiotic Resources: Disciplinary Affordance vs Pedagogical Affordance. Paper presented at 8icom. University of Cape Town, Cape Town.
Airey, J., & Eriksson, U. (2014). A semiotic analysis of the disciplinary affordances of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram in astronomy. Paper presented at the The 5th International 360 conference: Encompassing the multimodality of knowledge, Aarhus, Denmark.
Airey, J., Eriksson, U., Fredlund, T., and Linder, C. (2014). "The concept of disciplinary affordance "The 5th International 360 conference: Encompassing the multimodality of knowledge. City: Aarhus University: Aarhus, Denmark, pp. 20.
Airey, J., & Linder, C. (2009). "A disciplinary discourse perspective on university science learning: Achieving fluency in a critical constellation of modes." Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(1), 27-49.
Airey, J. & Linder, C. (2015) Social Semiotics in Physics Education: Leveraging critical constellations of disciplinary representations ESERA 2015 From http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn%3Anbn%3Ase%3Auu%3Adiva-260209
Airey, J. & Linder, C. (in press) Social Semiotics in University Physics Education: Multiple Representations in Physics Education Springer.
Eriksson, U., Linder, C., Airey, J., & Redfors, A. (2014). Who needs 3D when the Universe is flat? Science Education, 98(3), 412-442.
Eriksson, U., Linder, C., Airey, J., & Redfors, A. (2014). Introducing the anatomy of disciplinary discernment: an example from astronomy. European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 2(3), 167‐182.
Fredlund 2015 Using a Social Semiotic Perspective to Inform the Teaching and Learning of Physics. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.
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.
Fredlund, T, Airey, J, & Linder, C. (2015a). Enhancing the possibilities for learning: Variation of disciplinary-relevant aspects in physics representations. European Journal of Physics.
Fredlund, T. & Linder, C., & Airey, J. (2015b). Towards addressing transient learning challenges in undergraduate physics: an example from electrostatics. European Journal of Physics. 36 055002.
Fredlund, T. & Linder, C., & Airey, J. (2015c). A social semiotic approach to identifying critical aspects. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies 2015 4:3 , 302-316.
Fredlund, T., Linder, C., Airey, J., & Linder, A. (2014). Unpacking physics representations: Towards an appreciation of disciplinary affordance. Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res., 10(020128).
Gibson, J. J. (1979). The theory of affordances The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (pp. 127-143). Boston: Houghton Miffin.
Halliday, M. A. K. (1978). Language as a social semiotic. London: Arnold.
Hodge, R. & Kress, G. (1988). Social Semiotics. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Linder, A., Airey, J., Mayaba, N., & Webb, P. (2014). Fostering Disciplinary Literacy? South African Physics Lecturers’ Educational Responses to their Students’ Lack of Representational Competence. African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 18(3), 242-252. doi:10.1080/10288457.2014.953294
Lo, M. L. (2012). Variation theory and the improvement of teaching and learning (Vol. 323). Gothenburg: Göteborgs Universitet.
Marton, F. (2015). Necessary conditions of learning. New York: Routledge.
Marton, F., & Booth, S. (1997). Learning and awareness. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Norman, D. A. (1988). The psychology of everyday things. New York: Basic Books.
Mavers, D. Glossary of multimodal terms Retrieved 6 May, 2014, from http://multimodalityglossary.wordpress.com/affordance/
Thibault, P. (1991). Social semiotics as praxis. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
van Leeuwen, T. (2005). Introducing social semiotics. London: Routledge.
Wu, H-K, & Puntambekar, S. (2012). Pedagogical Affordances of Multiple External Representations in Scientific Processes. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 21(6), 754-767.