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Re: [xmca] Bruner on Vygotsky

I was very impressed by Dewey's article on the Reflex Arc.
Here's what I thought: http://home.mira.net/~andy/works/concepts-sources.htm#dewey


David Kellogg wrote:

Well, I may be the one who is out of his ZPD here! I stopped working with kids about six months ago--I am just working on textbooks now, and it's really not at all the same thing. But we had Bev Derewianka here in Korea a while back, and she gave a really GREAT presentation on using genre for teaching reading. I criticized her a little in the discussion, because I think that the way in which genre is being taught is very strongly FRAMED--it makes it quite hard to take skills developed in one writing genre and apply them to another, and it also makes writing seem much less like PLAY. But I now think this criticism was unfair. I think that from the child's point of view, the writing genre is really a kind of game, and a lot of games are very strongly framed in precisely this way. Chinese "Elephant" chess (xiangqi) will not help you play checkers or even Western-style chess. At the highest level, this isn't true, but that's not the level the kids play at. (I once played Elephant chess with a Danish grand master, and he stomped all over me--although I had to keep reminding him of what the pieces could and couldn't do!). I think the Hallidayan approach is much closer to looking at "cultural tools", and I think that Halliday has a much more Vygoskyan idea of language that Bruner does. (Halliday certainly does see consciousness as a social form of being, and I am not at all sure that is true of Bruner...see below!). Mike-- Again, I'm sure you know this a whole lot better than I do. But I am learning, as I sink deeper into bureaucratic life here, that it is a good idea to pick fights with people bigger than you--you learn a lot, and one of the things you learn is not to pick fights too often. Here's what I think. Dewey's attack on the reflex arc was an attack on its bittiness and its dualism only, not on its inapplicability to language. He thought the idea that the reflex arc has a clear beginning in sensation, a clear middle in thinking, and a clear end in action was wrong. He saw the mind as sensorimotor unity (hence the motor theory of consciousness, and functional psychology). Sensorimotor unity is not a good theory of language. For one thing, it's not a social theory or a cultural theory; it's purely individual and physiological. Actually, LSV and ARL point out (Chapter Three of Tool and Sign) that language has the effect of BREAKING UP this sensorimotor unity! It can do this because it is introducing into the reflex arc exactly what the motor theory of consciousness takes away: volition, which is derived, paradoxically, from socio-cultural necessity. The problem is that treating a response to a word as being similar to a response to a noise, as Dewey does, does exactly the same thing. Worse, it creates a view of language that is essentially identical to the one that Saussure developed: noises which are somehow decoded into concepts, and concepts which are somehow translated into noises. Making the process continuous and infinite in both directions doesn't really make it more accurate...or more developmental. David Kellogg Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

--- On Tue, 1/24/12, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Bruner on Vygotsky
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 7:54 PM

David--- I am reading along trying to understand the flow of the discussion
and I come up against your statement that

But Dewey believed in reflex arcs--that is, the good old Saussurean idea
that language was stimulus-concept-response.

I very heavily associate Dewey with his devastating attack on the
reflex-arc concept which seems to bear a lot of resemblence to
Vygotsky-Goethe-Hegel view that in the beginning is the deed.

Could you back up and set me on the right course?

Bill-- A shocker the Englemann is peddling DE. Just been reviewing its
origins in Toronto, lo these 50 years. Chilling.

On Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 2:36 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>wrote:


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

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"

I was told to read this for HW in an accelerated literacy course I
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
other methodologies I am aware of used in Australia. One is called
(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
gritty of raising the literacy level which involves a detailed analysis
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
so I hadn't really gone into the literacy side in this depth before.
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*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857

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