Unit of analysis is a methodological staple in the constitution of any learning theory, determining how different frameworks lead to different kinds of empirical observation. In this regard, emerging ecological—sociocultural and situative—approaches have been distinguished from more classical frameworks in that their units of analysis are said to expand beyond the individual to include their social contexts or environments. However, elaborations on unit of analysis are scarce and often build upon a formalistic distinction between the “individual” and the “social,” where differences among frameworks tend to be oversimplified and dichotomised. To contribute remediating this situation, in this study we shift attention into the logics of explanation that underlie different formulations, and distinguish between formal and ecological logics. Grounding our discussion on analyses derived from a participant ethnography at an arts-based school, we discuss how, whereas formal logic tends to focus on objects and their relations, ecological logic—consistent with dialectical logic—allows defining units of analysis that capture those developmental characteristics proper of (individual, social) life.
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