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Re: [xmca] The strange situation
Good point, Helen (and Andy). I was changing my mind as I was writing about obuchenie being first social, then individual. But I still would say that LSV actually tells us very little about what obuchenie looks like, or how it has the effects he attributes to it.
I will dig back into the archives, though, to see what people have said about this.
On Apr 14, 2010, at 7:10 PM, Helen Grimmett wrote:
> Interesting points Martin, but don't forget that Vygotsky used the term
> "obuchenie" which, despite its translation as 'instruction', is not at
> all the same as our usual English definition of instruction. When we
> think of obuchenie as the joint activity that students and teachers
> participate in together then it is not at all hard to think of
> 'instruction' as something that starts off as social and then becomes
> It is the failure of the English language (in not having a word that
> describes this joint activity of teachers and learners) that requires
> this extra leap of understanding Vygotsky's definition of instruction
> (or rather, obuchenie) before us English speakers can even try and
> understand Vygotsky.
> It will be interesting to see if your students are able to put aside
> their previous conceptions of instruction to reconceptualise it in this
> new way - or is it easier to introduce the 'new' concept of obuchenie?
> "But it is easier to assimilate a thousand facts in any new field than
> to assimilate a new point of view of a few already known facts."
> (Vygotsky, Vol 4 CW, p.1)
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Martin Packer <email@example.com>
> Date: Thursday, April 15, 2010 8:23 am
> Subject: Re: [xmca] The strange situation
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>> My last comments about chapter 6 of T&L sank without trace like a
>> small bead (or is it a large bead? I refer of course to p. 235).
>> But since all is quiet on the xmca front, I'll try tossing in
>> another pebble, and see if it skips or plunges once more to the
>> silent depths.
>> What strikes to me when the concept of the zoped is introduced in
>> chapter 6 is how very little it adds to what LSV has been
>> emphasizing throughout the book, namely that what the child first
>> does with others they later become able to accomplish themself. As
>> we know, LSV has gone so far as to call this the General Genetic
>> Law of Cultural Development. He has in addition put the same point
>> in Hegelian terms (or at least Hegelian-sounding terms): the
>> child's speech, for example, is first in-self, then for-others,
>> finally for-self. In chapter 5 he has made the same point more
>> specifically about concept development: the pseudoconcept is
>> important because it seems to be a true concept to an adult.
>> Phenotypically the child's pseudoconcept and the adult concept are
>> identical, but genotypically they are significantly different; as
>> Paula has pointed out, he calls this a wolf in sheep's clothing.
>> The importance of this surface (functional) similarity lies in the
>> consequence, LSV explains, that the adult responds to the child's
>> use of the pseudoconcept *as though* it were a concept, and as a
>> result the child is *as it were* using concepts. And as a result of
>> in effect using true concepts, the child becomes truly able to use
>> them. In fact, when LSV first introduces the zoned, on page 209, he
>> immediately "cite[s] the well known fact that with collaboration,
>> direction, or some kind of help the child is always able to more
>> and solve more difficult tasks than he can independently. What we
>> have here is only an example of this more general rule." He adds
>> that an explanation must go further than this, but he goes further
>> by developing his analysis of instruction. The zoped doesn't seem
>> to have, for him, much explanatory value. It is only a familiar
>> fact, an example of the more general rule that he stated as the
>> What is new in chapter 6, IMHO, is not the zoped. LSV has been
>> talking about zopeds all through the book even though he didn't use
>> the term. Nor is it the introduction of a new factor, instruction,
>> that occurs in the school classroom, for by the end of the chapter
>> LSV has stated clearly that instruction occurs in preschool too,
>> that in fact at every stage of development there is some kind of
>> instruction, each of them qualitatively different according to the
>> child's capabilities (and needs and interests) at that stage.
>> No, what is truly new in chapter 6, that is to say truly new when
>> the child goes to school (for this is LSV's focus in this chapter)
>> is surely the capacity for conscious awareness and voluntary
>> control. Really I'm just stating the obvious here, since he
>> actually calls them "neo-formations"! You can't get much more
>> obviously new than that. LSV has emphasized the importance of these
>> earlier in the book, but here they move to the fore. In chapter 5
>> he has said that true concepts become possible only when the child
>> (or actually the adolescent as he has it there, though he changes
>> his mind in chapter 6) is able to deliberately (voluntarily) direct
>> his attention to specific features of an object. This becomes
>> possible, LSV suggests in chapter 5, when the child "uses a word"
>> to control his attention.
>> In chapter 6 voluntary control is again emphasized as an important
>> part of the transition between what are now called everyday
>> concepts and scientific concepts, but the explanation has changed.
>> Now LSV suggests that "instruction" in school plays a central role
>> in bringing about tthe transition. To explain this, it helps to
>> consider his analysis of writing (or "written speech," he calls it,
>> rather quaintly). While oral language is automatic, preflexive,
>> situated and concrete, writing requires conscious awareness of the
>> rules of grammar and spelling, and voluntary control of their
>> application. Writing is abstracted both from the sounds of oral
>> speech and from the situation of communication.
>> It might seem, then, that before instruction in writing can begin,
>> the teacher should wait for the child to develop the capacity for
>> conscious awareness and voluntary control. But LSV insists that, on
>> the contrary, it is *in and through* instruction in (for example,
>> but not only) writing that the child develops these capacities.
>> Instruction and development are "knotted" in complex ways, he
>> proposes. They are neither identical, nor at they completely
>> separate. Of course this is what he has been saying about each of
>> the various pairs of processes or phenomena that he has dealt with
>> throughout the book. Most centrally, of course, he has argued that
>> thinking and speaking are neither identical nor completely
>> separate. In either of these cases, he was said repeatedly, there
>> would be no question of a "relationship" between the two terms, and
>> so nothing to study and nothing to write about. (Of course this
>> hasn't stopped the psychologists who he has critiqued from writing
>> a great deal, despite their inadequate conceptualizations!)
>> So here again we have a pair - development and instruction - which
>> LSV says are related but not identical. This raises the question of
>> whether this pair might be the central pair - thinking and speaking
>> - in disguise. And certainly in instruction we have at least the
>> teacher speaking, and probably the student too. And in development
>> we have thinking (though not alone). But I think the resemblance
>> stops there. When LSV considered speech, it was as something that
>> starts off as social and then becomes psychological. It is hard to
>> think of instruction in those terms. But let's not abandon that
>> proposal so quickly, for this consideration raises the important
>> question, what *is* instruction for LSV? We have a pretty good
>> sense of how he understands development, since indeed the whole
>> book has been telling us this. But in chapter 6 the term
>> "instruction" appears without a formal definition. In the same way
>> that we end chapter 5 without being entirely sure what a concept
>> is, I think we end chapter 6 without being sure what instruction is.
>> I've asked my students to try to figure this out. What I hope they
>> come up with is the notion that, whatever instruction is, it must
>> involve a transformation in which conscious awareness and voluntary
>> control are first in-self, then for-others, and finally for-self.
>> That's the only formulation that would make any sense, isn't it?
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