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Re: [xmca] Might we pause to consider? Imitation and the Zoped

Zoped is not a concept that I use, but from what I have read in Vygotsky, he is saying more than "teach kids things they can do with help." After all, he refers to: "the well known fact that with collaboration, direction, or some kind of help the child is always able to do more and solve more difficult tasks that he can independently". Consider the following excerpt from:


   "We show the child how such a problem must be solved and watch to
   see if he can do the problem by /imitating/ the demonstration. Or we
   begin to solve the problem and ask the child to finish it. Or we
   propose that the child solve the problem that is beyond his mental
   age by cooperating with another, more developed child or, finally,
   we explain to the child the principle of solving the problem, ask
   leading questions, analyze the problem for him, etc. In brief, we
   ask the child to solve problems that are beyond the limits of his
   mental age with /some kind of cooperation/ and determine how far the
   potential for intellectual cooperation can be stretched for the
   given child and how far it goes beyond his mental age."

Firstly, I do see that "imitation" is one of the methods in the teacher's box of tricks, though there are of course many. But Vygotsky says:

   "we extend the meaning of the term, applying the word “imitation” to
   all kinds of activity of a certain type carried out by the child not
   independently, but in cooperation with adults or with another child.
   Everything that the child /cannot do independently/, but which he
   can be taught or which he /can do/ with direction or cooperation or
   with the help of leading questions, we will include in the sphere of

It seems to me that this is a very expansive definition of "imitation" and I doubt that anyone else would understand "imitation" with such a wide scope. LSV seems to be using it as a kind of shorthand. By definition, "sphere of imitation" = zoped.

I have tended to relate the idea of zoped to the idea of stages outlined in Chaper 6 of Thinking and Speech, LSV says:


   "It could be argued that if written speech requires volition,
   abstraction, and other functions that have not yet matured in the
   school child, we need to delay instruction until these functions
   begin to mature. Practical experience demonstrates, however, that
   instruction in writing is among the most important subjects in the
   child’s early school career and that it elicits the development of
   functions that have not yet matured."

So I always thought that the /uniquely Vygotskyan/ application of the idea of zoped was tied to concepts of leading activity and stages of development, and the choice of what to assist the child in learning would be determined in the light of this idea, using the zoped to track where the child is at in terms of these leading activities.

Is that right?


Carol Macdonald wrote:
I am teaching a little Gr 2 girl math.  Here is South Africa, they teach
children to count up (e.g. 3,6,9,12,15 etc. and then when they have to learn
their times tables, there is the extra burden of saying "one times three is
three, two threes are 6" etc. I help Kalista, by taking the load off and
saying the "times" part and she inserts the answers, and then gradually
transfer the saying the "times" part to her. Then she has to automate this.
I believe I might be working in her ZPD, helping and gradually transferring
the responsibility to her.
PS Teachers don't do this--they just send the times tables home for
homework, for parents to teach and listen to.
PPS I love that story "I know the tune, but I still have to learn the
words..." Hugh Hawes puts it in his 1979 book.
On 28 December 2010 06:13, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

Hi David, Andy and Peter -- I have been in airports and other family homes
for a while which makes time to participate in the conversation for a
I was wondering if you might find it interesting to pause a bit and expand
on the issue of the inter-relationship between imitation and the zoped.
is why.

First of all, each of these terms is used in a variety of ways in academic
discourse, and I am not always clear what people are gesturing at when
they use either term. I think it would be helpful to figure out if
senses of  "imitation" are in any way related to different understandings
the term "zone of proximal development."

Here is another example to add to David's language learning one. It
learning arithmetic in a Liberian rural school in the 1960's. It is
published somewhere in an early report of our work on mathematics learning
acurately, but this is what I recall.

Observing in the schools, my colleague, John Gay, heard the children
intoning their times tables (think here of the intonation, as in David's
example, la da da da da ; la da da da da,,,,,,,,,,,, The children speak
little or no English, and Liberian English is, to American ears, rather
songy. John asked a child what he was doing. "Singing, was the answer. I
know the tune I do not know the words." These same children, when I helped
them with their homework, would complain that the teacher was unfair. He
gave examples like 2+2=4 and 3+6=9 but on the test he put 5+3=? and 6+4=?
How are we supposed to know that if he didn't teach it to us." We would
ordinarily refer to this as "rote" learning.

In the context of this discussion, it might be thought of as forms of
imitation in instruction.

My hope would be that by pausing to dig more deeply into this combination
concepts, we might learn a lot about where we are slip sliding around
without even noticing it.

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*Andy Blunden*
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