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Re: [xmca] Bruner on Vygotsky

Thanks for writing. I for one am very interested (in your accounts of reading programmes in Australia) but also somewhat taken aback. No mention of the work of Bev Derewianka, Frances Christie, Claire Painter, Jim Martin, Ruqaiya Hasan...Michael Halliday? What is going on down under?
I was also taken aback when I took your advice and revisited the Bruner. I remember being very impressed by this ten or fifteen years ago. Now I find it appalling.
For one thing, it's appallingly written. This is p. 72:
"Language is (in Vygotsky's sense as in Dewey's) a way of sorting out one's thoughts about things. Thought is a mode of organizing perception and action. But all of them, each in their way (sic), also reflects (sic) the tools and aids available in the culture for use in carrying out action."

I guess we are really talking about Vygotsky's and Dewey's allegedly "shared" sense of language (and not their shared sense of "is"). But Dewey believed in reflex arcs--that is, the good old Saussurean idea that language was stimulus-concept-response. Thinking and Speech is all about how the relationship between thinking and speech develops. It develops in many ways, but it never looks like this.
So Bruner says that Vygotsky and Dewey say that language (wherever it comes from) just organizes thought (wherever that came from). Thought organizes perception and action (and also, on the next page, reflects on itself). And action reflects the cultural tools for carrying out itself. No wonder Bruner finds that Vygotsky's genius is not massive and glacial like Piaget's, but only aphoristic and sketchy like Wittgenstein's!  
Bruner finds that there is a contradiction between Vygotsky's finding (actually that of Claparede and Piaget) that consciousness of a function arises AFTER unconscious mastery of it and his assertion that the only "good" learning is that which leads development. This assumes that learning is equal to conscious mastery of a function. But there are no grounds for that assumption, and there are two grounds for rejecting it.
First of all, learning refers to the process of mastery and not to its product. If learning is equal to conscious mastery, then learning is just, to use Bruner's phrase, a thought reflecting on itself.
Secondly, learning does not refer to development. It can lead development, it can also lead to riding a bicycle, swimming, and a better game of golf or lead nowhere it all. Learning can limp well behind development (which is what I see in a lot of foreign langauge classes here). You can, as Koffka says, learn a pfennig's worth and get a whole mark of developent, but you can also roll over, fall asleep and completely forget what you have learned (I do a lot of that in Russian class these days). 
Most of what Bruner is describing in his account of the Bruner, Ross and Wood experiment in the subsequent pages has nothing to do with the zone of proximal development: he is describing a zone of proximal learning, in which development is synonymous with lengthening Dewey's reflex arc by extending the distance between stimulus and response. 
The only thing I get out of this is that we should really have a good look at those cultural tools and try to sort out the sheep from the goats. That's just what the Halliday school was doing, with their idea of genre. What happened?
David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies..
--- On Tue, 1/24/12, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:

From: Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Bruner on Vygotsky
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 6:46 AM

Hi Bill

I appreciate you engaging with this topic. I would like to encourage you to
go into some depth, bringing in Bruner's insights distinguishing Piagetian
and Vygotskian approaches. The Vancouver school district is searching for
effective ways to support first nations students

Also, if anyone has any information, articles, or musings on a particular
computer reading program [from LEXIA].  It would help.me to reflect on and
consider  the consequences of Vancouver buying a site licence for Lexia to
distribute in Vancouver schools who want to participate


On Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 1:53 AM, Bill Kerr <billkerr@gmail.com> wrote:

> Ch 5 "The Inspiration of Vygotsky" In "Actual Minds, Possible Worlds"
> http://wisdomandwit.files.wordpress.com/2007/11/zpd_bruner.pdf
> I was told to read this for HW in an accelerated literacy course I recently
> attended. Accelerated Literacy is one of the methods used in teaching
> indigenous Australians and low socio-economic students. See
> http://www.nalp.cdu.edu.au/index.html for a bit more detail.  There are
> two
> other methodologies I am aware of used in Australia. One is called MULTILIT
> (Making Up Lost Time in Literacy) and the other is Zig Engelmann's Direct
> Instruction, used by Noel Pearson's group in Cape York.
> To understand Bruner's point properly I had to read pp. 72-77 carefully
> where he elaborates on the contradiction b/w children having to learn for
> themselves (a sort of Piagetian view) and the adult really teaching them
> across the ZPD rather than just broadcasting knowledge at them.
> After my 2 days training in AL (another 2 days due later in February) I
> think they have worked out how to do that in an "honest" way. ie. the nitty
> gritty of raising the literacy level which involves a detailed analysis of
> the text of good writers. They selected writers, text, various processes
> gone through, then shortish passages from those texts and then did the
> analysis of them in such a way that real skills were being transferred.
> This is very truncated. I can go into a bit more detail if requested.
> Altogether I found it an inspirational coming together of theory and
> practice. My background is in maths / science / IT teaching (and secondary)
> so I hadn't really gone into the literacy side in this depth before.
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