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[xmca] Paradigms and Syntagms
Thanks, Carol! Ausubel IS my paradigm right at the moment, and that for three reasons.
Firstly of all, I'm reading a shelf of Piaget and I gather that Ausubel is pretty Piagetian at heart. Secondly, I am using some test preparation materials for the Korean Civil Service Exam for teachers to brush up on my Korean before my residency test, and Ausubel figures very large indeed. Thirdly, my colleague across the hall uses a lot of "KWL" (What I know, what I want to know, and what I have learned questionnaires) in her work on reading.
I am always skeptical of this material when I look at it. It seems to me that the third and fourth graders don't really KNOW what they know or what they want to know and can't very well say what they have learned either (particularly not in a foreign language). As for the fifth and sixth graders, they are often TOO conscious, and the first thing that occurs to them is to wonder what this weird teacher is trying to get at.
For example, here is some material from a KWL lesson on planets.
What I want to know:
Why Jupiter is biggest planet?
Why Pluto is smallet planet?
Venus is turn earth is turn how many
We can see that the first two questions are probably built on verbalism; after a "why" question modelled by the teacher, but the last one, about how many earth days there are in a Venusian day, reflects the real thinking (and the real wording) of the child.
So one of my grads took careful track of whether the kids preferred to ask questions or answer them, and what topics the children actually preferred to talk about in a "Look and Listen" game we devised for turning pictures into text and which characters they said were their favorites. We can see pretty clearly in the data that they much prefer to ask, that they ask about emotional processes or verbal ones rather than physical actions, and they like all the characters, but are especially interested in the teacher.
Then we gave them a questionnaire. They said they preferred to answer, they liked talking about action and TV and the boys preferred the boy characters and the girls preferred girls. So it looks to me like there is minimal self-consciousness and self-knowledge that is accessible by questionnaire, KWL or otherwise.
I also tend to agree with what Martin has said on the "larger game" aspect of the science concept; there is no question in my mind but that we can take everyday concepts right into the classroom and usually do, any more than I doubt that we can take academic concepts out into every day life.
We're working with materials on map reading, very similar to what you and Len Lanham developed in South Africa. The children have to navigate a local map around their school. They then are transported to Manhattan, and they learn the Cartesian grid, with "avenues" for Vygotsky's meridians and "streets" for his parallels. But when they write, they tend to make mistakes like these:
- N.Y.Library is to the west of Byrant Park. (correct answer : east of)
- Times Square is to the north east of Rockefeller Center .
(correct answer: to the southwest of Rockefeller center)
- Rockefeller Center is to the north-west of Carnegie Hall.
(correct answer: Carnegie Hall is to the northwest of Rockefeller Center)
Now, what exactly is the problem here? I think the problem is that previously they were doing local, pathfinding exercises, in which the task might have looked like this:
You are at NY Library. Go straight west to Bryant Park.
You are at Times Square. Go northeast to Rockefeller Centre.
It seems to me that these children are using subjective, relative, personal experience embedded deictics. But the task requires a GPS system, a cell phone, and objective perspective taking, the sort of thing that Lanham's "four friends" did when they climbed the mountain and saw their village as it appears from a helicopter rather than as it appears from the dusty road. They have the WORDS of the academic concepts (west, northeast, etc.) bu they are using the CONCEPTS and even the word order of the nonacademic ones.
Last night while I was cooking dinner there was a concert of Russian music--a quartet by Borodin followed by one by Shostakovich. The Borodin was romantic, and "talky"--you could hear one phrase from the viola "taken up" by the cello and then developed by the violins, as if they were having a conversation, all very much on the same meridian of concrete musical phrasing, the way conversations tend to stick to the same meridian of concrete everyday experience unless there is a pressing reason to do otherwise.
The Shostakovich was, of course, very different. It was much more interested in developing a HIERARCHY of ideas (phrases within phrases, and sequences within sequences). Even the tunes seemed to be largely concerned with "fitting in" rather than "following on", with developing the range of notes rather than developing a single idea. In literary terms, the Borodin was a romance, a single story, while the Shostakovich concatenated many stories into a great novel.
Paintings do this too, of course. We have paintings that are obviously "about" a particular story, and we have other paintings to have many different modes of experience superimposed. For example, Hogarth is basically a cartoonist, and many of his painting sequences can be read as cartoons (and were originally sold by subscription even before he painted them and subsequently etched for mass distribution as tales).
You can't really do that with modern paintings (e.g. Gerhard Richter); they are self consciously and deliberately about the materials AND about the way they are used AND about the subject matter AND about the idea of painting itself. This requires a paradigmatic and not a syntagmatic organization of the painting, and I think that's why so many people prefer the everyday concepts of Hogarth.
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Wed, 4/7/10, Carol Macdonald <email@example.com> wrote:
From: Carol Macdonald <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [xmca] The strange situation
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Date: Wednesday, April 7, 2010, 8:04 AM
Carol Macdonald writes to David K
My memory of Belyajev (sp) is that the teacher much point out what is
similar and different in the mother tongue and the foreign language to
facilitate learning. Ausubel (not in our paradigm) says that we should teach
our students what is the same and what is different in new concept and that
these two processes help build up scientific concepts although he does not
use these terms--these are *progressive differentiation *and *integrative
reconciliation.* Obviously this the teaching of SC.
[Ausubel,D Extracts from *Educational Psychology: a Cognitive View. 2nd
Edition, *1978 CBS College Publishing.]
On 7 April 2010 07:25, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> It has occurred to me more than once that LSV does not think the way that
> we mortals do. So for example I am convinced that the "mix up" on longitude
> and latitude is not really a mix up at all; LSV just thinks of the lines of
> latitude as being made of infinitely many points of longitude, and of course
> that is exactly what they are.
> Throughout thinking and speech there is always an implicit contrast between
> the communicative and the non-communicative (or, to use a word that bothers
> Martin, the reflective) functions of language. The latter arises from the
> former, but that is like saying that a man arises from a boy; after a
> certain point you cannot go home again, because the genetic difference has
> given rise to a very fundamental structural one.
> If we REALLY must look for Saussurean influences, we may find one here. The
> fundamental structural difference that arises is between a form of language
> which is basically SYNTAGMATIC, because the main relations are at the same
> level of generality, and one which is basically PARADIGMATIC, because the
> main relations cross levels of generality.
> It would be a terrible mistake to imagine that Vygotsky places one
> permanently in a position of domination or superiority over the other. The
> abstract is an imaginative iteration of the concrete, and the infinite
> possibilities that it encompasses are no more than possiblities unless they
> are made concrete.
> They are simply different, and interpenetrating, modes of thinking, like
> the parts of Seoul which are laid out in a grid and those which are laid out
> helter skelter like a village.
> The classroom and the playground are both part of the one and the same
> school, and the child who moves from one to the other does not require an
> act of transubstantiation to do so.
> You cannot go home again, but you can situate both in a much larger world
> and then make your home there. After all, every foreign language is also
> somebody's native language somewhere.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> --- On Tue, 4/6/10, Martin Packer <email@example.com> wrote:
> From: Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] The strange situation
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
> Date: Tuesday, April 6, 2010, 6:43 PM
> A little while ago David Kellogg suggested that when LSV refers to
> "scientific concepts" they "are simply the type of concepts that are found
> in classrooms." I replied that I thought LSV was hunting bigger game: he was
> trying to show how children develop the capacity to think scientifically.
> Now, after doing some more homework,I think that both David and I are
> correct. On my reading of chapter 6 of T&L, LSV would like to show that SC
> are not just a new way of talking (and thinking), but a deeper, more
> adequate way, one which grasps the essence of reality. What he does succeed
> in showing is that in many ways - perhaps every way - learning SC is like
> learning a new language. He presents this as an analogy and insists that it
> not be pressed too far. But the only difference that he identifies between
> SC and a new language is that instruction in a second language does not
> introduce a new system of meanings, while instruction in SC does. SC differ
> from EC (everyday concepts) he suggests, because the latter lack a system.
> But he is quite inconsistent here, at times saying that SC have a system and
> EC do not while at other times writing of "the system" of complexes. What he
> seems to settle on is that each of the "structures of generalization" (i.e,
> syncretic heaps, complex, preconcepts or pseudoconcepts, and scientific
> concepts) has its own distinct kind of system. It is worthwhile taking a
> look at this proposal in more detail.
> The way LSV suggests we think about what he calls the "system of
> generality" of each of the "stages" or "structures of generalization" is in
> terms of the metaphor of the globe, with its lines of longitude and latitude
> (p. 226). (As David pointed out last year, he seems to have the two terms
> backwards, so I'm going to try to avoid repeating this minor error.)
> LSV argues that each stage involves a different way of generalizing,
> different "relations of generality" that define a "system of generality,"
> and that in turn this makes possible different acts (or "operations") of
> thought in each stage. ("As the relationships of generality change with each
> new structure of generalization in the process of development, they elicit
> changes in all the operations of thinking accessible to the child" p. 228.)
> The system of generality as a whole is represented by the globe. We should
> think of concepts (and here LSV is using the term, confusingly, to refer to
> the kind of generalization specific to each structure) as organized on its
> surface, and so as characterized by two dimensions, longitude and latitude.
> Together, he writes, these two dimensions describe "both" the act of
> thinking and the way reality is grasped in the concept (p. 227). These two
> aspects - the act of thinking, and the way reality is grasped - are, he
> later, the "function" and "structure" of thinking at each stage (p. 234).
> These "relationships of generality" are "the two basic features that
> characterize the concept," and they define the specific relations of
> generality that hold among all the concepts of a particular stage.
> The phrasing here is somewhat ambiguous, at least in Minick's translation.
> Do the two coordinates, longitude and latitude, *correspond* to the act of
> thought and the grasp of reality respectively? Or do they "together" somehow
> "represent both" these two in a more indirect way? I have gone back and
> forth a couple of times, but having drawn on David's helpful combined and
> annotated translation, I think it is the former. North-South *is* "the act
> of thought." East-West *is* the way reality is grasped.
> For example, David gives us this from Meccaci: "In this way the longitude
> of the concept characterizes in the first place the nature of the act of
> thinking itself, of the very apprehension of the object in the concept from
> the point of view of the unity of the concrete and the abstract which is
> found in it. The latitude of a concept characterizes in the first place the
> relation of the concept with the object, the point of application of the
> concept to a determined point of reality."
> It needs to be said that the origins of these two aspects that define any
> concept are somewhat unclear, to me at least. I've called them "act of
> thought" and "grasp of reality," but LSV uses a variety of phrases, as this
> quote from Meccaci illustrates. The first is also "the operation of
> thinking," and "that through which" the concept grasps an object. The second
> is also the "point of application" of the concept to the object; how a
> concept "picks out a particular point of reality"; the way the object "is
> represented in the concept"; "the relationship of the concept to the
> object"; the "relationship between the concept and the object."
> However they are phrased, these two aspects seem to bear a striking
> resemblance to what Husserl called "noema" and "noesis" (from the Greek word
> for mind). Husserl proposed that any intentional act (e.g., an
> object-directed perception, or an act of thought) has two components. They
> define two poles of intentional consciousness, roughly speaking the object
> directed towards (noema) and the directing act (noesis). The object may be a
> physical object, a word, a mathematical entity, another act of
> consciousness, etc. Noesis gives sense (Sinn) to the noema (and there is a
> Fregean reading of Husserl). If this is a correct parallel, LSV is saying
> that thinking (which we know is always a generalization) is the application
> of a concept to a specific object (a "determined point of reality") so as to
> grasp it in a particular manner. As one moves North-South, the unity or
> balance of abstract and concrete in this grasp changes. As one moves
> East-West, the point of
> application shifts.
> At this point LSV sounds not only like Husserl, but also very like Piaget,
> and very like Kant, but I'm going to put aside for the time being the
> concerns that these similarities raise for me. I will point out, though,
> that LSV criticizes Piaget for being too focused on the structure of
> generalization and for assuming that the functions are unchanging. I am not
> sure this criticism applies to the later Piaget. Just as David predicts that
> some day we will find Vygotsky's marked up copy of Hegel's Phenomenology, I
> predict that one day we will find Piaget's marked up copy of Thought &
> Language. Piaget's later distinction between mental actions, concrete mental
> operations, and formal mental operations is surely a distinction among the
> functions of thought, of just the kind that in chapter 6 LSV insists we must
> look for.
> Let's return to the system(s) of generality. The concept's position in
> terms of the two coordinates on the surface of the globe is what LSV calls
> its "measure of generality." Its position on a North-South line represents
> the character of the "act of thinking," specifically the way such an act
> combines abstract and concrete. I am going to reverse David's reading and
> define the North pole as the abstract, since LSV usually writes of the
> abstract as above and the concrete below, and (apologies to Andy) we usually
> consider North to be above and South below. A concept at the South pole,
> then, is an unmediated, concrete, sensual grasping of an object which is
> undifferentiated from other objects. A concept at the North pole is the most
> general, abstract concept possible. In between (N-S), every concept contains
> both abstract and concrete aspects, in a unity. (We will see that this
> implies that as the child moves from one stage or structure of
> generalization to
> the next, from syncretic heaps to complexes to concepts, their globe
> becomes larger.) At the same time, the position on an East-West line
> reflects the fact that a concept can be applied to a wide variety of
> different points of reality.
> The metaphor is a fruitful one. LSV describes our consciousness of a
> concept as of a figure against a ground, where the ground is the whole globe
> (p. 227). He also suggests that thinking is movement around the surface of
> the globe: a series of acts of thought, and at the same time a series of
> graspings of reality. The possible paths of thought will be picked out on
> the ground that is this surface of the globe. Thought moves from one concept
> to an "equivalent" concept, or it moves North to a more abstract concept
> then back South to a more concrete one.
> >From one stage to another, however, the relationships of generality among
> concepts are qualitatively distinct, and so each stage must be represented
> by a globe in which the lines of longitude and latitude are defined
> differently. (Let's say they are drawn in different colors.) LSV goes into
> some detail about the kinds of relationship that characterize each stage,
> but I won't try to reconstruct that here.
> Furthermore, each stage builds on the previous one. Each involves a new
> kind of generalization, but this will be a generalization of the previous
> generalizations. This "self-movement" means there are "internal connections"
> among the stages (p. 229). The stages, LSV writes, should be seen as "a
> spiral based on a series of connected and ascending circles" (p. 229).
> Ascending towards what? Towards the abstract: each stage of generalization
> combines the abstract and the concrete, but there is more abstract, so to
> speak, available in the later stages than in the earlier ones. We should
> visualize the ontogenetic spiral as a globe that grows in size with each
> stage. The distance between North and South poles is greater with each
> stage, as the North pole ascends each time. (NB: I would love to say that
> the ascension is towards the concrete, but this seems to fly in the face of
> LSV's observation that infants grasp reality in a solely concrete and
> sensual manner.)
> So each stage has its system. Although SC have a system that is
> qualitatively different from the system of EC, it is *not* a "completely
> new" system of meanings, but a restructuring of what already exists. In just
> the same way, learning a second language involves a restructuring of ones
> native language. On the basis of chapter 6 we cannot rule out the
> possibility that instruction in science is no more than learning a new
> language. One that is more explicit and disciplined in its definitions, for
> sure, but at root no more than a new way of talking (and thinking). I think
> LSV wanted to go a step further.
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