Connecting theories
: exploring networking strategies for the work of Bakhtin and Vygotsky through teacher and student perspectives on mathematical methods

  • Harriet R John

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


My thesis began as a practical problem addressing the undervaluing of informal mathematical language and methods used by low prior attaining students. I wanted to gather teacher and student perspectives on mathematical methods. I began by exploring the dialogic theory of Bakhtin but discovered a debate in the field about whether Bakhtin’s work could be used as an extension of Vygotsky’s dialectic theory. As a result, I used Radford’s connecting theories framework (2008) to shape an investigation which explores principles, methodology and research questions as points of connection between the theories of Vygotsky and Bakhtin. Linking the networking approaches of Prediger et al. (2008), to Radford’s connecting theories allowed me to analyse the work of other authors in the field and develop my own analytical framework based on Vygotsky and Bakhtin. I used this framework both to analyse transcriptions of teacher group discussion and student group discussion based around examples of student work, and to explore networking approaches. Initially, I used “comparing”/ “contrasting” approaches to extend my understanding of Bakhtin’s and Vygotsky’s theories before adopting a “combining” networking approach to further investigate the perspectives of students on mathematical methods. I used a dialectic approach to represent the significance of the curriculum in discussion around mathematical methods, and a dialogic approach to analyse the detail of how the context and socio-cultural background shapes impacts on discussion. I concluded that a connecting theories approach allowed for analysis of more data and a deeper level of analysis than using a single theory. Through connecting theories, I also investigated the possibility of analysing mathematical methods as utterances using Bakhtin’s work. I suggest that Bakhtin and Vygotsky’s theories can be effectively networked to provide analysis and suggest a number of future steps to either apply the networked theories to practical problems or further theoretical issues.
Date of Award6 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorLaurinda C Brown (Supervisor) & Alf T Coles (Supervisor)

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