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Re: [xmca] Piaget on Within-Stage Variability
I just finished retranslating Piaget's comments on from the French original in Francoise Seve's translation of Thinking and Speech (the original manuscript in Piaget' s hand was apprently LOST by MIT Press and parts of it had to be retranslated from the English).
One of the things you notice in reading this is that Piaget has a very strong tendency to concede things and then discount their importance (e.g. Yes, Vygotsky was right about the fate of self-directed "egocentric speech" but it doesn't really matter because by the time inner speech develops, intelligence has already emerged through other mechanisms).
It seems to me that this is another good example. Piaget concedes that there is an enormous amount of variability within stages (at least DOWNWARD variation, the centration of the child imposes a very clear limit on upward variation), but ir really doesn't matter because what we are looking at is performance errors; the child is simply unable to perform his competence, and this has no real effect on that underlying competence which depends on development.
Vygotsky turns this completely upside down. It is precisely this variability of performance that LEADS development. What happens is that not that the child UNDERPERFORMS some putative competence clearly limited by some supposed developmental glass ceiling. What happens is that the child OVERPERFORMS his mental structures thanks to various affordances in his environment, and the "intro-revolution" of those affordances is what creates new mental structures.
I just listened, over lunch, to Mike's talk on Zopeds (I kept waiting to hear exactly why he called it that, and all he said was that it's easier to say in English). At first, I was a little irked by the name (I prefer "Nemode", for Next Moment of Development!). I was also a little irked by the emphasis on dual stimulation. For me, the term "dual stimulation" suggests very early Vygotsky, reflexology, and the "second signal system" interpretation of speech.
But I can see that if we could just come up with some other name for it, "dual stimulation" is a really important concept. I think, in fact, it would help us DIFFERENTIATE variability within the various stages. Kim Yongho and I tried to do that in our article "Rules Out of Roles", which argued that WITHIN schoolwork it helps to differentiate between the "main activity" (which is for the most part neither conducive nor susceptible to development) and a "leading one" (which necessarily occupies a small fraction of the school day but which plays a leading role in development).
It seems to me, though, that we got it wrong. We assumed that because "rules" are more abstract form of dual stimulation, they must be developmentally higher. This appeared to be corraborated by the much poorer quality of the language we saw generated in the rule-based games compared to the role plays. The problem is that rules and roles are so thoroughly interpenetrated in any game that any statement like this is based on a rather arbitrary classification that has little psychological reality for the child.
So how do we go forward? The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that Paula's work on Chapter Five might be the key. But one has to consider each of the preconcepts described by Vygotsky not as products but as results of dual stimulation, or tool/sign bearing processes. Its as processes that we can really talk (as Vygotsky does in Chapter Six) of generalizing the generalizations instead of just throwing them away and starting over again like poor old Sisyphus.
In Chapter Five, LSV points out that there is a kind of link between each new psychological structure and some important activity in the child's daily life: the collection is clearly connected to activities like brushing teeth, putting on clothes, going to bed, while the chain complex is connected to games like tag where the loser becomes the "it" and generates new losers, and the diffuse complex suggests an imaginative tale--which means it is at a HIGHER level of development rather than a LOWER one as Kim and Kellogg 2007 argued.
Tonight I am teaching some grads about a new elementary school book written by a colleague across the hall. There are five characters:
Kobi (a Martian who speaks English)
Mike (a little Jewish boy, maybe Mike Cole with Leon Trotsky's hair)
Dami (a Korean girl)
Sally (a British girl with two pet hamsters)
Jisu (a Korean boy)
The idea is to have FIVE different activities with these characters corresponding to the different preconceptual structures of Chapter Five:
T: Listen and CIRCLE. I am Jinsu. I am Kobi. We are Jinsu and Mike. We are Kobi and Sally…etc. Who has more circles? More, more, more! Who has many? Who has most? Each circle is a HUNDRED won! What’s your score?
T: Listen and CIRCLE: I am a boy. I’m a girl. I’m a child. I’m a Korean. We are foreigners. We are humans. More, more, more! What's your score?
T: Listen and CIRCLE. The rainbow club has one of EACH kind of child. Who has the biggest rainbow club? More, more, more! What's your score?
CHAIN COMPLEX: This is based on the Korean "frying pan game". Each child says a name and then another name--that child is next. Make a mistake and you get hit in the head with an imaginary frying pan.
S1: I am Kobi!
S2: I am Dami.
S3: I am Sally.
S4: I am Jisu.
S1: I am Kobi. you are Sally.
S3: I am Sally. You are Jisu.
T: Listen and circle, adding ONE or MORE members, e.g.
S1: I am Jisu.
S2: I am a Korean. (Jisu and Dami)
S3: I am human. (Jisu, Dami, Sally, Mike)
You can see, though, that if you differentiate TOO much like this, you get exactly what Mike warns against in his talk: development is simply reduced to learning, specifically, to learning the particular conceptual structure that we find in the "dual stimulation" apparatus!
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Wed, 11/10/10, mike cole <email@example.com> wrote:
From: mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [xmca] Piaget on Within-Stage Variability
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity" <email@example.com>
Cc: "Patricia Greenfield" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Glick, Joseph" <email@example.com>, "Boris Meshcheryakov" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Jerome Bruner" <email@example.com>
Date: Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 5:33 PM
In the early-mid 1950's a remarkable group of scholars met in Geneva to
discuss issues of development. The entire book of discussions on child
development is too big to make a pdf of, but the discussion on stages and
mechanisms of change, involving Piaget, Margaret Mead, Lorenz, Grey
Walter, Tanner the growth guy, and others could be if there is sufficient
interest -- or perhaps Mead's paper.
This is the set of meetings sponsored by Macey Foundation which got Piaget
and Mead talking about culture and development and contributed a lot to the
large set of empirical studies in the late 1950's. In reading the discussion
as part of re-viewing the cross-cultural landscape, I came upon this
statement in the discussion about stages.
This is the same point that Bowlby raised when in his reply to my
essay he said 'I wonder if Piaget accepts the idea that, at all ages,
behaviour is regulated by cognitive processes of different degrees of
development-that in some of our actions we operate with a fullyfledged
intelligence and in others none at all, and that in respect
of anyone activity we may shift from one level to another?'
Well, I fully accept this idea. Our cognitive functions are certainly
not uniform for every period of the day. Although I am mainly engaged
in intellectual operations, I am for example at an operatory
level for only a small part of the day when I devote myself to my
work. The rest of the time I am dealing with empirical
trial and error. At the time when I drove a car and my engine went
wrong it was even empirical trial and error on a very low level, as
you can imagine. Every moment I am indulging in pre-operatory
intuition. At other times I go even lower and almost give way to
magical behaviour. If I am stopped by a red light when I am in a
hurry it is difficult for me not to link this up with other preoccupations
of the moment. In short, the intellectual level varies considerably,
exactly like the affective level, according to the different times of the
day, but for each behaviour pattern I think we shall find a certain
correspondence. For example, for a primitive emotion a very low
intellectual level, and for a lofty aesthetic or moral sentiment a high
intellectual level. We shall always have this correspondence between
the two aspects.*
How did it come about that this discussion was forgotten? I have never seen
Piaget quoted in this way in the English or Russian language translations.
My French is too lousy to have any idea about that. The closest I can come
to systematic investigation by Americans that follows this logic is in the
work of Kurt Fischer and his colleagues.
For me a big question is: How does this kind of variability get organized
along with the diachronic sequence of transformations laid out in Boris's
article in the Vygotsky Companion very interestingly elaborated upon by
David Kel? This question is related to my constantly worrying the issue of
what is meant by "social situation of development" (singular) for people who
think that higher psychological functions are organized according to the
activities they mediate as well as the properties of the mediational system?
PS- Still reading LSV's *Educational Psychology* and working up to David's
essay on the Psych of Art and its place in development of LSV's thinking.
That far behind!
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