Re: negative ZPD?

From: Ruth A. Wiebe Berry (
Date: Tue Sep 21 2004 - 06:04:27 PDT


Your query brought to mind Abelson's theory of "unboundedness," that
is, extensions of beliefs to somewhat unpredictable domains. The
text and references below are taken from a paper I'm working on
(currently undergoing editorial review) dealing with teacher beliefs.
This doesn't specifically address anxiety or negative application of
a concept, but might address the "bleed across" issue.

"Statements were selected to meet the definition of one or more of
the following categories drawn by Nespor (1987) from Abelson's (1979)
theory regarding the makeup of belief systems. According to Nespor,
these four features, taken together, define a belief: (a) existential
presumptions: conditions, situations, or understandings teachers seem
to take for granted; (b) alternativity: idealized forms of practice
teachers seek to emulate; (c) affect: topics or ideas that elicit
emotional responses; and (d) episodic storage: stories teachers tell
about themselves or their classrooms.... Beliefs may have stable
"core applications" (Nespor, 1987, p. 321); in other words, a
perspective may consistently apply to particular situations (e.g.,
process writing). However, beliefs also possess the attribute of
"unboundedness" (Nespor, p. 321), that is, extensions to less
predictable areas (e.g., all teaching behavior). It may be argued
that while these teachers revealed specific orientations to their
writing instruction, these orientations also provided evidence of
systemic frames of reference which underlay all their teaching. Such
systemic frames have three functions: (a) delimiting what teachers
attend to, perhaps subconsciously; (b) selection of resources to
address a situation; and (c) selection of strategies to coordinate
resources (Nespor)."

Abelson, R. P. (1979). Differences between belief and knowledge
systems. Cognitive Science, 3, 355-366.
Nespor, J. (1987). The role of beliefs in the practice of teaching.
Journal of Curriculum Studies, 19, 317-328.

Ruth Berry
University at Buffalo

>I have been looking at the question of *fear* - radical uncertainty,
>ontological insecurity, "the culture of fear", "risk society" and so
>on - which underlies the success of right-wing populist politics,
>law-and-order campaigns, fear-of-terrorism, and so on.
>I was wondering if anyone has given consideration to the negative
>application of the concept of ZPD - whereby fears and anxieties
>which are developed in one domain of life, or for that matter any
>kind of delusion or pathological misconception, kind of bleed across
>to other domains of life.
>So for example, if one were to accept that there are things about
>the modern world which give people a rational basis for insecurity
>(prosperity, rapid change and restructure at work, the nuclear
>threat and unseen pollution, etc), then maybe there's some basis for
>thinking that people might be predisposed to insecurity about other
>things for which there is no basis (delusions of growing
>vulnerability to crime, fear of terrorists, danger from Jacob-Kreuz
>disease, and so on).
>Anyone know of anything about this? (obviously there are other
>approaches and other angles to the question of the politics of fear,
>risk society and so on, but I am just asking about negative ZPD)

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