Mind, Culture, and Activity Homepage

More About the MCA Journal

Notes to Contributors
Ordering Information
Editorial Board
Journal Abstracts

Notes to Contributors:

If your work has important implications for characterizing the way people use their minds and organize their lives, we would like to encourage you to submit an article for consideration. We are especially interested in articles that illuminate the relationship among the three categories that are on the masthead (mind, culture, and activity).

We consider two classes of articles: "substantial contributions" (20-30 pages) that present syntheses of theoretical and empirical research devoted to a significant topic and "thought pieces" (6-15) pages that present new ideas, methods, points of view, and challenging data. We also include book reviews and shorter book notes. Please keep in mind when you are preparing a manuscript that our readership is unusually broad (anthropologists, psychologists, linguists, sociologists, educators, and public policy people are all among our subscribers) and avoid jargon that is familiar only to researchers in one field.

All submissions will be blind reviewed. To facilitate the blind reviewing, a separate cover page with the title, author's name, affiliation, electronic mail address, telephone and fax numbers must accompany each manuscript. This information should not appear anywhere else on the manuscript.

Manuscripts should conform to the editorial standards of the American Psychological Association. The text should be either in Mac (MS-Word), IBM (MS-DOS), or ASCII format. All text, including indented matter, footnotes and references should be typed double- spaced on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper. They should be numbered serially and included at the end of the text before the references.

All submissions are to be made online at the following URL: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/mca. Please direct any inquiries directly to the editor-in-chief, Wolff-Michael Roth (mroth at uvic dot ca; wolffmichael dot roth at gmail dot com)

Ordering Information

Mind, Culture, and Activity (ISSN 1074-9039) is published four times a year (January, April, July, and October) by the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0092. Subscriptions are available on a calendar year basis only (January-December) through the Taylor & Francis Group.

Subscription Rates:
Institution Online Only - US ... $355.00
Institution Online Only - Foreign ... $355.00
Institution Print Only - US ... $375.00
Institution Print Only - Foreign ... $405.00
Individual Online/Print- US ... $45.00
Individual Online/Print- Foreign ... $75.00
Institution Online/Print - US ... $395.00
Institution Online/Print - Foreign ... $425.00

Please send subscription orders, information requests, and address changes to:
Journals Customer Service, Taylor & Francis Group
325 Chestnut Street, Suite 800
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(800) 354-1420, ext. 216

Journal Abstracts:


MCA Abstracts for Volume 16.1

Intuitive Expertise and Empowerment: The Long-Term Impact of Simulation Training on Changing Accountabilities in a Biotech Firm
Lia DiBello, Whit Missildine, And Marie Struttman

This paper describes a two-year study in which high levels of performance were achieved and sustained among so-called low-level workers in a biotech company. The purpose of the study—funded by National Science Foundation and Invitrogen Corporation—were to explore the effectiveness of an accelerated learning Operational Simulation (OpSim) training on workers in biological manufacturing. While greater responsibility is demanded of “front-line” workers in biotech, efforts at “empowerment” have not worked well in this context. In this particular OpSim, workers were facing a large and expensive backorder problem. The OpSim did not target or specify the skills or means for greater responsiveness; rather we emphasized only goals and challenged the groups to develop a solution. All groups failed on the first try, but exceeded desired outcomes on the second try and subsequently sustained these performance objectives. Implications for Naturalistic Decision Making, training, and empowerment are discussed.

Conceptualizing Learning Experiences: Contributions and Mediations of the Social, Personal, and Brute
Stephen Billett

This paper conceptualizes and elaborates what constitutes learning experiences. It does so from a perspective that centres on experiences as arising through relations between social and personal worlds, yet also acknowledges the mediation of brute facts (i.e., nature). The social contributions are twofold, yet quite distinct. First, there are immediate social experiences that are projected by the particular socially and culturally derived events (i.e., activities and interactions) that individuals encounter, often in circumstances shaped by socially situational and physical factors. Second, there are socio-personal legacies, comprising individuals’ cognitive experience, that arise through their ongoing engagements with social experiences throughout life histories. Although socially-derived, these legacies are person-dependent and may be personally idiosyncratic. Importantly, they shape how individuals construe and construct what they experience during, engage with, and learn from these events. Learning experiences, therefore, comprise a negotiation between the suggestions of social and physical world and individuals’ construal of what the world projects. These negotiations are also shaped and mediated by brute facts, such as maturation. Underpinning this conception of learning experiences are interdependencies between the social and personal contributions, which are negotiated in ways that are necessarily relational in terms of the exercise of personal agency and the suggestion of social and physical forms. It is through these negotiations that individuals’ change or learn and society’s norms and practices are remade and transformed. Given this duality, the activities and interactions that comprise learning experiences stand as important bases for understanding: (a) individual change or learning and (b) the ongoing process of remaking cultural practices. It also extends the concept of inter-psychological processes as being relational and needing to include the contributions and mediations of brute facts.

Participation Structures as a Mediational Means: Learning Balinese Gamelan in the United States through Intent Participation, Mediated Discourse, and Distributed Cognition
Andy Jocuns

Participation has presented a complex unit of analysis for interactional sociolinguistics. In this study I add another dimension to participation by considering recent theories related to sociocultural activity theory – mediated discourse analysis and distributed cognition. I argue that participation structures are a mediational means that enable students to augment their learning through maguru panggul, the traditional pedagogy of Balinese Gamelan music. Focusing on two participation structures that involve keen observation and listening-in, I also consider how intent participation is a part these participation structures and maguru panggul pedagogy. What emerges is an understanding of how participation structures used as mediational means can have an effect on the division of cognitive labor within a classroom.

Children’s Development from a Cultural-Historical Approach: Children’s Activity in Everyday Local Settings as Foundation for their Development
Mariane Hedegaard

A central dilemma in developmental psychology has been to combine general concepts with research of the individual child in all her complexity in everyday life activities. Psychologists such as Riegel, Bronfenbrenner, Burman, Morss, Hedegaard, and Walkerdine have criticized research approaches that study child development from a functional view. Sociologists and anthropologists, such as Corsaro, James, Jenks, Prout, and Qvotrup have instead argued for childhood studies as the alternative to developmental psychology. None of these approaches is alone sufficient; instead, it is important to formulate a theoretical approach of child and youth development that combines general psychological concepts with research of children and youth in concrete settings, such as home or school. The aim of this article is to argue that this will be possible by building on Vygotsky’s cultural-historical theories of the zone of proximal development and developmental crises. A theory of children’s development should include more directly than it has in the past the practice in children’s everyday institutions and the conditions the society give children for development and at the same time attempt to grasp the child’s perspective. A theory of children’s development has to be anchored in societal values, that is, what different institutions value as a good life. Examples from my research on children in Danish kindergartens and immigrant children in Danish schools will be used to exemplify the arguments.

The Hedgehog and the Fox: A Discussion of the Approaches to the Analysis of ICT Reforms in Teacher Education of Larry Cuban and Yrjö Engeström
Ingvill Rasmussen and Sten Ludvigsen

This article discusses how to analyze educational reforms in which ICT is used as a central catalyst to change practises. We explore the relationship between theoretical conceptualizations and empirical findings drawing on the work of Larry Cuban and Yrjö Engeström. We claim that reform research has traditionally been too preoccupied with looking for the intended changes. One problem with this “top–down” approach is that it conceals changes that happen at the micro-level. The result is that we are left with little understanding of how educational practises change in relation to ICT reform interventions at the interactional level. As an illustrative case, we draw on the analysis of a reform program that focused on the use of ICT in teacher education and show how this reform took place and examine what was interactionally accomplished across the institutions that took part.

MCA Abstracts for Volume 15, No. 3

Social Embodiment of Technical Devices: Eyeglasses Over the Centuries and According to Their Uses
Nicolas Veyrat, Eric Blanco, and Pascale Trompette

This paper is an attempt to prepare the ground for the analysis and theorization of the connection between the body and technical devices emerging from miniaturized wearable technologies. The research object is a secular and common “body object,” namely eyeglasses. The paper reviews the social history of this artifact and analyzes its patterns of use, showing how the distributed socio-technical networks of action containing these simple optical systems are constantly de-configured and reconfigured. In other words, the device is not simply subject to physical incorporation. The unstable balance between the artifact’s projection onto the surrounding space and its attachment to the physical body is analyzed through the heterogeneousness of bodies coming into play as the device is socially embodied. As the corporal frame and physical, distributed and social bodies overlap, the notion of “bodies object” emerges. This covers the artifact-related and social environment, the plural nature of which could be of great value to Research & Development teams helping them to diversify their representations of the user, as an agent acting in a variety of networks with a variety of bodies.
Keywords: embodiment, body boundaries, action theories, social history of techniques, eyeglasses, wearable devices.

From Talk to Action: Experiencing Interlocution in Developmental Interventions
Annalisa Sannino

This paper explores how to analyze and conceptualize the dynamics through which conversations in Change Laboratory research interventions lead to envisioning and implementing material changes in activities. Leont’ev’s concept of personal sense is used as a theoretical lens for tracing these dynamics and to provide a means to relate local conversations to overall transformation of professional practices. In addition, the paper tests the potential of Vasilyuk’s theory of experiencing and Trognon’s interlocutionary logic for analyzing Change Laboratory conversations from the point of view of how talk is experienced by the interlocutors. Experiencing is seen as a dialogical process which connects ongoing conversations and future-oriented actions, and through which interlocutors overcome critical situations. The analysis of Change Laboratory discussions in a Finnish middle school provides ground for looking at Change Laboratory as a research setting and a practice of intervention which can enrich our understanding of how change unfolds through discourse. The paper concludes that interventions such as Change Laboratory could benefit from identifying systematic procedures for facilitating experiencing and interlocution. Within the perspective of seeking such methodological procedures, the paper opens up a discussion on complementarities and possibilities of integration between the Change Laboratory and another interventionist approach called the Clinic of Activity.

Interweaving: Objects, Gestures, and Talk in Context
Christian Brassac, Pierre Fixmer, Lorenza Mondada, and Dominique Vinck

In a large French hospital, a group of professional experts (including physicians and software engineers) are working on the computerization of a blood-transfusion traceability device. By focusing on a particular moment in this slow process of design, we analyze their collaborative practices during a work session. The analysis takes a praxeological and interactionist approach and is inspired by discussions on the role of artifacts in social practices currently developed within various research frameworks in this field: activity theory, distributed cognition, conversation analysis, and actor-network theory. After a brief presentation of the place of objects and artifacts in these ways of approaching action and human cognition, we show how the collective activity analyzed here is generated by the interweaving of discursive, gestural, and artifactual resources.


MCA Abstracts for Volume 15, No. 2

Guest Editorial: Realizing Marx's Ontology of Difference

Wolff-Michael Roth

From Play to Art -- From Experience to Insight

Ana Marjanovi-Shane and Ljubica Beljanski-Risti

This paper investigates the role of play and play-like activities (imagination, art) in developing and using symbolic tools. We understand processes of development of symbolic tools as coordination between two types of relationships: the subject-object relationships and the subject-subject relationships. This coordination begins when a new, play-like frame of activity is introduced in the interaction. The imaginary frame of activity changes relationships between the participants. Furthermore, the imaginary activity frame may enter into interaction with the out-of-play activity frames ("reality" frames) Structures and relationships built within the imaginary frames are then used to shape the actual understanding of the world (subject-object relationship) as well as the interpersonal relationships and identities of the participants.

Introduction and further development of imaginary frames is a recursive process that takes place on different, but related time scales: from micro-development, through ontogenetic development to cultural development. Our project was designed to demonstrate some of the key moments that occur in the symbolic construction, in an "untangled" manner. To that effect, we designed a drama workshop to outline and illustrate processes which take place at the point of introduction of a new, imaginary frame and at the point when this imaginary frame begins to interact with the out-of-play frames. The aim of the workshop was to magnify each stage in construction of semiotic tools by "walking" professional researchers through a series of play-like activities.

From Resistance to Involvement: Examining Agency and Control in a Playworld Activity

Anna Pauliina Rainio

In the recent socio-cultural literature, it is possible to identify at least three ways of understanding the development of individual agency in social practices: (a) through transforming the object of activity and through self-change, (b) through responsible and intentional membership, and (c) through resistance and transformation of the dominant power relations. This article puts these different perspectives in a dialogical relation to each other and examines the development of individual agency in the context of schooling. The problem of promoting student agency is that while personal sense and motivation are crucial for learning and development, the need for control and order in classrooms often makes it hard for teachers to give space to them. To develop more meaningful educational practices, there is a need for a thorough understanding of the ways through which teachers and students deal with and momentarily overcome this contradiction in their classrooms and are able to enact or promote agency. The article introduces an empirical case study of Anton, a 7-year-old boy's participation in a joint narrative classroom practice. Anton's rientation and interest towards the narrative activity alters drastically during the spring, as does the teachers' understanding and attitude towards him. Moreover, in Anton's participation, all the three different formulations of agency presented above are visible and concurrently "in action." The article creates conceptual and analytical tools for examining the potential that narrative learning settings provide for supporting children's engagement and development in classrooms.

Keywords: Cultural-historical theory, student agency, resistance, narrative learning, play, participation

When Success Makes Me Fail: (De)constructing Failure and Success in a Conventional American Classroom

Renee DePalma

This paper examines the case of Laura, a 9-year-old Mexican immigrant who officially "failed to learn English" in an American school. It may be more accurate to say that schooling failed Laura, and in ways that went beyond language learning. This diagnosis of failure is criticized, along with the individualistic and essentialist assumptions about success and failure that support it. My analysis, based on a sociocultural notion of agency, suggests that Laura and her teachers uncritically shared an institutionally mediated agenda for school success, rooted in contradictory institutional demands and lack of access to each others' subjectivities. As a result, Laura unintentionally and ironically participated in her own failure construction.

Key words: school failure, institutional context, mediated agency

Women's Schooling and Other Ecocultural Shifts: A Longitudinal Study of Historical Change Among the Zinacantec Maya

Ashley E. Maynard and Patricia Greenfield

Women's schooling has been lauded as having a large, important impact on child socialization. While there may be positive effects of schooling, there may also be effects from concomitant cultural changes that come with modernization. In this paper we examine the findings that changes in textile production among the Zinacantec Maya over the past several decades have been coordinated with several cultural changes, including increased schooling for women, involvement in a growing commercial economy, and television. Understanding these various changes leads to a more nuanced picture of the effects of cultural change on women's activities. Our findings indicate that research on globalization and social change should consider multiple possible effects on cultural practices.

MCA Abstracts for Volume 15, No. 1

Is Vygotsky Relevant? Vygotsky's Marxist Psychology

Martin J. Packer

This paper explores the connections between Vygotsky's psychology and Marxism, and argues that his was a "Marxist psychology" in its "historical foundation": a specific conception of history. This conception of history is evident in Vygotsky's analysis and diagnosis of the crisis in psychology. The creation of a Marxist, general psychology was the historical task that was defined by this crisis, and his developmental psychology was the historical project of such a psychology. In his practice of the methodology of this general psychology, Vygotsky recounted "child history": the history of the genesis of mind. The conception of history evident in Crisis throws new light on Vygotsky's texts on child development: they tell a history of the objective tendencies of consciousness, of the dialectical processes of sublation, and of self-mastery. As Vygotsky interpreted the higher mental functions, they are manifestations of the child's ability to master him- or herself as a consequence of the "social moment" of consciousness. In fostering these functions, one shaped a human consciousness capable of free and deliberate choice.

Assessment Made Visible: Individual and Collective Practices

Andreas Lund

In this paper I argue that by connecting assessment to learning and instruction and by enacting assessment as a collective practice we can see new opportunities for learning. The concept of mediated action and the notion of a collective zone of proximal development are used to theorize assessment. Two cases are included to support and make empirically visible the conceptual argument. The first case involves student teachers who assess exam papers in an online environment. The second case involves peer-group assessment among learners in an upper secondary school. Through the conceptual argument and the supporting cases assessment emerges as a practice involving process as well as product and a practice in which learning, teaching, and assessment are mutually constitutive of learners' development. Finally, some implications for practice are discussed including some challenges related to the tension between individual and collective approaches.

Using Activity Theory to Understand Entrepreneurial Opportunity

Robin Holt

Entrepreneurship is often described as the ability to recognize and exploit opportunities. Identifying opportunities is intentional and idiosyncratic insofar as their being recognized as opportunities is a novel and conscious event (otherwise the entrepreneur would be doing nothing new). Yet opportunities also have to be recognized by others as ones that are worthy of being recognized and pursued; the opportunity is a socially embedded construct. Thus opportunity recognition and pursuit can be understood as the skilful integration of prevailing and emerging objects and relations of business activity typically articulated through collaborative enterprise. To expand on this view I use an activity theory perspective, which shows how the potentially transformative character of entrepreneurial opportunities insists within the historical and cultural reproduction of collective activities. I note, however, different emphases within current takes upon activity theory, notably between subjective perspectives and open-design perspectives. In discussing these theoretical differences using existing entrepreneurial studies, as well as selected data from a study of 90 entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom, I suggest a possible reconciliation. I conclude by suggesting that where activity theory promotes a rich and nuanced understanding of the socially embedded nature of entrepreneurial opportunities, entrepreneurial studies can also contribute to a nuanced development of activity theory insofar as the entrepreneurial object of activity (opportunity recognition and its pursuit through creating a business) has what I identify as an aesthetic as well as pragmatic logic.

MCA Abstracts for Volume 5, No. 1

Reappropriating Schema: Conceptions of Development From Bartlett to Bakhtin

Diane E. Beals

Bartlett posited the theory of schema as the organization and development of mind. His work pointed to the organismic (not mechanistic), active (not passive) nature of mind. Bartlett also emphasized the importance of social and cultural influences on schema, although he tended to view "social group" as a one- dimensional entity. Bakhtin, with his emphasis on mind as constructed socially through dialogue within multiple words and worlds, has provided a remedy to this problem. His view of appropriation, in which we take the words and utterances of others, reworking them for our own purposes, connects well with Bartlett's schema. Together, the two views provide a powerful portrait of the organization and development of mind as dynamic, organismic, and dialogic.

The Concept of Breakdown in Heidegger, Leont'ev, and Dewey and Its Implications for Education

Timothy Koschmann, Kari Kuutti and Larry Hickman

Heidegger, Leont'ev, and Dewey held surprisingly similar views on the role of breakdown or failure as a means of revealing the nature of the world around us. For Heidegger, the resources by which we conduct our day-to-day activities do not usually require our conscious awareness. If our ongoing activity is blocked, however, this "transparency of equipment" is dispelled forcing a more deliberate mode of action. Leont'ev's development of breakdown hinges on the analytic distinction he makes among Activities, Actions, and Operations. When the necessary conditions for an Operation are absent, the chain of Operations becomes transformed ("unfolded") back into a sequence of independent Actions. Dewey's notion of breakdown is related to his views on sensory excitation, stimulus and response, and the habit-formation function in the lives of complex organisms. Implications of these three models for learning and instruction are developed.

Unit of Analysis in Transit: From the Individual's Knowledge to the Ensemble Process

Nira Granott

Many researchers view development as evolving through interaction between the individual and the social environment. Successive units of analysis, previously suggested in the literature, gave increasing access to studying development from this perspective. However, a few conceptual and practical difficulties in the application of these units remain unresolved. This article suggests a different unit of analysis, the ensemble. The ensemble is the smallest group of individuals who directly interact with one another during developmental processes related to a specific activity-context. Like the musical ensemble, the developmental ensemble is characterized by the interdependence and interrelation between the development of its members. As a unit, the ensemble has several advantages. One, it accommodates the dynamic social constellations that form and change within social settings during unconstrained developmental processes. Two, the unit is objective and clearly identifiable. Three, the underlying structure and dynamics of ensemble processes indicate how development occurs through social interaction and can be compared across ages, activities, and cultures. Ensemble processes allow the dynamic systems approach to be used in the study of development, focusing on interactive systems and on their dynamic processes. These attributes of the ensemble are analyzed and demonstrated by findings of a study on collaborative problem solving.

Abstracts MCA Volume 5, No. 2

From Concept Attainment to Knowledge Formation

Ren van der Veer

In this paper Vygotsky's distinction between everyday and scientific concepts is outlined and its hidden assumptions are stated. It is argued that Vygotsky's distinction was plausibel and fruitful, but problematic in its details and its application in actual schooling. Vygotsky's legacy can be criticized on both theoretical and empirical grounds and Vygotskians are urged to continue this process.

The educational experience with the Tikuna: a look into the complexity of concept construction

Elvira Souza Lima

This paper presents a study on concept construction through diverse forms of semiotic mediation developed in the upper Amazon with Tikuna tribe lay teachers who are undergoing formal schooling order to get their teacher certification. This project explores process related cultural context development and focuses milieu as source different tools possibilities mediation. It analyzes processes human when relationship between individuals is altered by introduction new activity systems tools. effort articulate integrating drawings, culturally form used extensively entire community, written language introducing diagrams.

Making Explicit the Implicit: Classroom Explanations and Conversational Implicatures

Ellice Ann Forman and Jorge Larreamendy-Joerns

Vygotsky proposed that schools have an essential role to play in the socialization of scientific or academic concepts. The aim of this article is to expand and revise Vygotskys proposal, using Grices work on the informal logic underlying everyday conversations. We argue that both academic and everyday conversations rely on Grices Cooperative Principle and his maxims of quantity, quality, manner, and relation. These two types of conversations do differ, however, in terms of the degree and type of accountability to which the participants are subjected. For example, even among familiar interlocutors, mathematics explanations must exhibit informativeness, logical coherence, veridicality, relevance, and clarity. One teachers requesting and revoicing strategies (types of conversational metamessages) are examined to illustrate the contributions of a Gricean perspective to our understanding of the socialization of the mathematics register.

Situated Learning and Cognition: Theoretical Learning and Cognition

Mariane Hedegaard

The aim of this paper is to analyze how school childrens thinking and concept formation generated in classroom teaching can relate to daily life situations. Situated thinking and learning and theoretical thinking and learning will be discussed as learning forms that can accomplish this integration. According to Vygotsky, subject-matter concepts are transformed into personal concepts through childrens ability to use them in daily life. The relation between skill and content has to be presupposed in this transformation of subject- matter concepts into everyday concepts because everyday or daily life concepts are learned through and interwoven with practical activities in cooperation with other persons.

The analyses will be based on a distinction between (1) societal vs. personal knowledge, (2) subject-matter concepts and everyday concepts, (3) subject-matter methods and content, and (4) thinking as related to subject matter methods vs. concepts as related to subject-matter content.

The personal aspect of knowledge - everyday concepts are located within the life setting of a person, therefore the relation between subject-matter concepts and personal concepts is often much weaker for emigrant and refugees coming to a new country than for children with generations of ancestors in a society.

A project with Puerto Rican children will be sketched to discuss how classroom teaching can relate subject-matter knowledge of social science with childrens everyday concepts and thereby enhance the childrens theoretical concepts and thinking.

A Functional Systems Approach to Concept Development

Vera John-Steiner, Teresa M. Meehan and Holbrook Mahn

In Vygotskys description and analysis of everyday and scientific concepts, he used as an example the differing processes for acquiring a first and second language. In this paper, we also draw an analogy between the processes of acquiring a first and second language and acquiring everyday and scientific concepts. Our analysis, however, is grounded in a functional systems approach which allows us to conceptualize everyday and scientific concepts as an interconnected dynamic system rather than separate processes that are implied by dichotomous relationships.

The Fallacy of Decontextualization

Bert van Oers

The article argues against views of the development of abstract thinking that employ the notion of decontextualisation. Starting from an assumption that conceives of context as constitutive of meaning, it becomes clear that the notion of "decontextualisation" is a poor concept that provides little explanation for the developmental process towards meaningful abstract thinking. The article proposes a conceptualisation of the notion of context from an activity point of view and contends that the conscious process of (re)contextualising, i.e.,the continuous process of embedding contexts in contexts, can lead to an explanation of the development of meaningful abstract thinking. The process of continuous progressive recontextualising is described in the article on the basis of how young children expand their play activity towards embedded more abstract activities.

Scientific Concepts and Reflection

W.L. Wardekker

An interpretation of the idea of scientific concepts as the products of science which should supersede prior everyday knowledge of pupils is untenable and obscures the relation between learning, reflection, and morality. Instead, this article proposes to think of scientific (or scholarly) concepts as the products of reflection in a practice which include choices about the future development of that praxis and are in that sense of a moral nature. Teaching scholarly concepts should be genetically adequate, meaning that it should encourage pupils to reflect and interpret concepts as elements to be used in co-reconstruction of practices. In teaching, subject matter, identity formation, and the development of practices are interconnected.

MCA Abstracts Volume 5, No. 3

Thinking and Speech and Protocol Analysis

Peter Smagorinsky, University of Georgia

Some form of verbal reportthat is, a research participants concurrent or retrospective verbal account of thought processes during problem-solving activitieshas been used throughout this century as the data base from which psychologists have developed theories of human mentation. Newell and Simon (1972) and Ericsson and Simon (1980, 1993) have provided extensive justification for using one such method, protocol analysis, as a tool for investigating cognition from an information processing (IP) perspective. Their arguments have characterized protocol analysis as a methodology capable of providing evidence of the ways in which people attend to information stored in short term memory (STM) in order to solve problems, with the evidence providing them with the grounds from which to generate models of human cognitive processes. A different view of protocol analysis is available from the perspective of cultural- historical activity theory (CHAT) based on the work of Vygotsky (1987), Leontev (1981), and others, and its concern with the mediation of human development by culturally- and historically-grounded signs and tools. Because of its emphasis on culturally channeled development, a CHAT perspective views speech, including the speech that serves as evidence for cognition in psychological research, as a tool that potentially enables changes in consciousness. In this article I outline a CHAT perspective that accounts for protocol analysis along three key dimensions: (1) the relationship between thinking and speech from a representational standpoint, (2) the social role of speech in research methodology, and (3) the influence of speech on thinking during data collection. The purpose of this discussion is not to refute the IP perspective on protocol analysis but to illustrate how this method can be viewed through a CHAT lens and to identify alternative assumptions that must be made in order to use it from a CHAT perspective.

How to Study Thinking in Everyday Life: Contrasting Think-Aloud Protocols With Descriptions and Explanations of Thinking

K. Anders Ericsson (The Florida State University), Herbert A. Simon (Carnegie-Mellon University)

Submitted commentary on Peter Smagorinsky's paper "Thinking and Speech and Protocol Analysis" inMind, Culture, & Activity

In his paper Smagorinsky (this volume) describes how protocol analysis (Ericsson & Simon, 1980, 1984, 1993) can be applied to study thinking within the perspective of cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT). Smagorinskys main claim is that verbalization of thinking as speech is a process through which thinking reaches a new level of articulation (p. 29) and he explicitly questions the empirical evidence reviewed by us that it is possible under some circumstances to have subjects think aloud without altering the course of their thinking. A primary reason for his misunderstanding appears to be that Smagorinsky focused almost exclusively on our earlier publications that described our original theoretical proposals and thereby missed the numerous subsequent experiments explicitly testing them. In fact, Ericsson and Simon (1993) discusses over thirty additional studies that provide results consistent with our theoretical framework. In this commentary we briefly review the evidence that supports different types of verbalization activities and describe how our distinctions match the classic distinction between thinking as inner speech and as social speech and give explicit quotes by Vygotsky (1962) where he argues for very similar differences. Within our framework we can incorporate the circumstances where verbalization of thinking (thinking aloud) can be made without reactive effects and other circumstances where verbal descriptions and explanations of thinking serve as a tool that potentially enables changes in consciousness (Smagorinsky, this volume, p. 2).

Learning From Distributed Theories of Intelligence

Paul Cobb, Vanderbilt University

The analysis reported in this paper is grounded in the practice of classroom-based developmental or transformational research, and focuses on the distributed views of intelligence developed by Pea (1993) and by Hutchins (1995). The general areas of agreement with this theoretical perspective include both the non-dualist orientation and the critical role attributed to tool use. Against this background, I focus on two aspects of the distributed view that I and my colleagues have found necessary to modify for our purposes. The first concerns the legitimacy of taking the individual as the unit of analysis, and here I argue that the distributed view implicitly accepts key tenets of mainstream American psychologys characterization of the individual even as it explicitly rejects it. The second modification concerns distributed intelligences characterization of tool use. Drawing on a distinction made by Dewey, I argue that it is more useful for the purposes of instructional design to focus on activity that involves the tool as an instrument, rather than focusing on the tool itself.

MCA Abstracts Volume 5, No. 4

Historical Practices in School Through Photographical Reconstruction

Alessandra Fasulo, Hilda Girardet and Clotilde Pontecorvo

Small groups of 4th grade school children worked autonomously on the analysis of a photograph, guided by a set of questions ranging from particular issues to more general ones. Transcripts of the recordings show that childrens talk deals with key issues of historical methodology: reliability of the source, manipulations transforming findings into a source, generalizability from single cases, interpretation and comparison with present times. In addressing the latter point, children are also drawn to a prospective view of the present time, social organization, scientific progress and the like.The depth of the discussion was the result of the nature of the stimulus material, the group situation, and the structured format of the task.

Participation as Dis-Identification With/in a Community of Practice

Diane Celia Hodges

[Creative practice] can be the long and difficult remaking of an inherited (determined) practical consciousness: a process often described as development but in practice a struggle at the roots of the mind - not casting off an ideology, or learning phrases about it, but confronting a hegemony in the fibres of the self and in the hard practical substance of effective and continuing relationships.
(Raymond Williams, 1977, p. 212)

In this article, I re-visit Jean Lave & Etienne Wenger's (1991) analysis of participation in communities of practice (Situated learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation) in ways which more explicitly account for political aspects of participation and activity. Bringing a language of identity and difference into a sociocultural analysis makes more apparent the intersections of normative practice with difference. This work emerges from my efforts to understand the dynamics of my own participation in a teacher education curriculum, here seen as an apprenticeship program in Early Childhood Education.

This effort is usefully complicated by my inability to identify as a teacher upon completion of such an apprenticeship. This is to say that as I have worked to understand learning as participation and identification, I have been simultaneously unable to account for my own (non)participation and eventual dis-identification with teaching.

This anomalous disjuncture deserves scrutiny. Lave & Wenger have, of course, considered that "legitimate peripheral participation is . . . implicated in social structures involving relations of power;" (p.36) however, this paper tries to build further on that consideration by analyzing how political/historical inequities, and (hetero)normative relations effect what I am provisionally calling "non-participation."

Can Cultural Psychology Help Us Think About Diversity?

Michael Cole

Presentation delivered at the American Educational Research Association Meetings, San Diego, California, April 13-18, 1998

My purpose today is to explore implications of cultural psychology for guiding educational practice, especially educational practice in settings where the children come from many different home cultures, ethnicities, and social classes. You will note that I phrased my topic as a question. Many scholars, including myself, have raised questions about how classical cultural-psychological ideas handed down from early in this century need to be supplemented and modified to deal with diversity. I do not have a pat answer. But I am convinced that there is an urgent need for educational researchers to work with teachers to find a way to deal productively with the cultural diversity characteristic of many American classrooms. And, as professionals, my colleagues and I use one branch of cultural psychology that I call cultural-historical activity theory or CHAT, to organize new forms of educational activity for children. Organizing activities that make diversity a resource rather than a problem is always at the center of CHAT is a part of a large and diverse set of discourses in which psychologists, sociologists, linguists, anthropologist and others seek to formulate a theory of human nature that places culture at the center of its concerns. Inspired by the writings of Vygotsky and his colleagues, CHAT has come to be recognized as a broad, international, theoretical movement. It is but one of the family of approaches known as cultural psychology. In the remarks to follow, I do not do not pretend to speak for my cultural-psychological kin, who might approach the issue differently. But I hope that they would not disapprove of what I say.


Martin Packer Duquesne University, USA
Jorge Larreamendy Universidad de los Andes, Colombia.
Andy Blunden Independent Social Research Network, Australia

Editorial Board


Martin PackerDuquesne University, USA
Jorge LarreamendyUniversidad de los Andes, Colombia.
Andy BlundenIndependent Social Research Network, Australia

Editorial Board

Luisa Aires EnsinoUniversidade Aberta, Portugal
David BakhurstQueen’s University, Canada
Anna Luiza Bustamente SmolkaUniversidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil
Harry DanielsUniversity of Bath, UK
Ole DreierKøbenhavns Universitet, Denmark
Anne EdwardsOxford University, UK
Mabel EncinasUniversity of London, UK
Yrjö EngeströmHelsingin yliopisto, Finland
Marilyn FleerMonash University, Australia
Fernando Gonzalez ReyCentro Universitario de Brasilia, Brazil
Charles GoodwinUniversity of California, Los Angeles, USA
Kris GutierrezUniversity of California, Los Angeles, USA
Mariane HedegaardKøbenhavns Universitet, Denmark
Sandra JovchelovitchLondon School of Economics, UK
Victor KaptelininUmeå universitet, Sweden
Alex KozulinTel Aviv University, Israel
Katsuhiro YamazumiKansai Daigaku, Japan
Jean LaveUniversity of California, Berkeley, USA
Jay LemkeUniversity of California, San Diego, USA
Giuseppe MantovaniUniversitā degli Studi di Padova, Italy
Luis MollUniversity of Arizona, USA
Ann Marie PalincsarUniversity of Michigan, USA
Wolff-Michael RothUniversity of Victoria, Canada
Georg RückriemUniversität der Künste Berlin, Germany
Anthony SampsonUniversidad del Valle, Colombia
Anna StetsenkoCity University of New York, USA
Charles TolmanUniversity of Victoria, Canada
Jaan ValsinerClark University, USA
Olga VásquezUniversity of California, San Diego, USA

Emeritus Members

Amelia ÁlvarezUniversidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain
Kiyoshi AmanoChuo Daigaku, Japan
King BeachFlorida State University, USA
Alessandro DurantiUniversity of California, Los Angeles, USA
Edwin HutchinsUniversity of California, San Diego, USA
Vera John-SteinerUniversity of New Mexico, USA
Carol LeeNorthwestern University, USA
David MiddletonLoughborough University, UK
Terezinha NunesOxford Brookes University, UK
Carol PaddenUniversity of California, San Diego, USA
Anne Neely Perret-ClermontUniversité de Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Barbara RogoffUniversity of California, Santa Cruz, USA
Falk SeegerUniversität Bielfeld, Germany
Naoki UenoMusashi Institute of Technology, Japan
Gordon WellsUniversity of California, Santa Cruz, USA
James WertschWashington University, USA

Managing Editor

Michael ColeUniversity of California, San Diego, USA

Book Review Editors

Stanton WorthamUniversity of Pennsylvania, USA
Leslie HerrenkohlUniversity of Washington, USA

Editorial Coordinator

Tamara PowellUniversity of California, San Diego, USA




BabelFish Translation
Helps with simple translation tasks.
Works well at translating multi-lingual email messages.
World Keyboard
Extends your keyboard.
Russian, Chinese, and Spanish characters available.

Send questions or comments about this homepage to Brenda Macevicz at bmacevicz@ucsd.edu

Locations of visitors to this page

An archive of Historical Cluster Maps for MCA