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Re: [xmca] Bruner on Vygotsky
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- Subject: Re: [xmca] Bruner on Vygotsky
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- Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2012 20:43:46 +0930
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I'm a fan of the Accelerated Literacy (AL) approach under discussion here and have contributed to training teachers in the approach in the Northern Territory over a number of years, so I have an interest in this discussion and would like to chip in.
I've made some headings, because it seems the easiest way to deal with all the different things that have come up so far. So here goes (in no particular order)
On Accelerated Literacy and linguistics:
David, the Accelerated Literacy (AL) approach is indeed very much underpinned by a functional approach to language (it was developed in Australia after all, so it would be difficult to ignore all of the educational linguistics work that has gone on here over the past 4 decades or so). The approach involves using age-appropriate literate texts to
- create classroom conversations about complex ideas;
- use literate language;
- use the conversations to bring students into focusing on print, to work on decoding and to explore and the way words and clause complexes are structured in print;
- explore the inferential meanings and the impact that specific language choices have on the reader; and
- as models for student writing.
So functional grammar is an essential tool for helping us think about text and how it is structured, and in finding ways to make these structures explicit to students. The relationship between language and meaning, and how you use interesting stories to help you talk about that with children, has been an integral part of the thinking of everyone I know who's engaged seriously with using the AL approach.
On the AL and Reading Recovery (which somebody mentioned in a previous post):
AL has much in common with Reading Recovery. But where Reading Recovery was designed as a remedial approach, working one-on-one with children, and targeting children in the youngest school years, before their reading problems really set in, AL has been designed for working with whole classes, and with children of all ages. Part of the impetus for this has been that there are whole schools of kids in remote communities who practically can't read at all - so we need an approach that caters for classes of, say, 12 year olds who have Year 1 level literacy (and below).
Another difference is that we've found that with very low achieving kids from a very different cultural context we have work a lot harder to show them how to approach written text with a literate mindset. So we do a lot of work orienting kids to a text before they even start to read it - much like Marie Clay's 'book orientation' (in Reading Recovery), but we call it 'literate orientation'. The terminology is neither here nor there; the point is that the orientation needs to bring kids' attention to the purposes of the texts they are reading, the cultural setting of the text, the impact the text has on the reader, etc. The onus is on the teacher to do this kind of orientation in an engaging way, of course, but the AL approach incorporates some specific strategies that help teachers to do this.
On the Bruner chapter that Bill mentioned (Ch 5 "The Inspiration of Vygotsky" In "Actual Minds, Possible Worlds" http://wisdomandwit.files.wordpress.com/2007/11/zpd_bruner.pdf)
Larry mentioned some contestable points about this text. I don't have the theoretical background to enter into a discussion about Bruner's approach to language and concepts on this forum, but there are some other nice ideas in this particular chapter for teachers to grapple with in this particular chapter, notably the idea of 'vicarious consciousness', or 'consciousness of two'. This is a useful idea to help us frame our thinking about teaching, particularly in contexts where we've become enculturated into having very low expectations of the kids.
I think the question that's pertinent here is: 'how the more competent assist the young and the less competent to reach that higher ground' (p. 73), or how the competent adult can 'lend consciousness' to a child who does not ‘have’ it on his own? Bearing in mind that in Aboriginal education we're largely working with kids who have little or no sense of the broader, mostly tacit, purposes of schooling, this seems to me to be an important question for teachers to think about.
There are lots of things in the context of teaching literacy for which a teacher can lend consciousness, but perhaps the most important is the 'lending' of a 'literate' reading of a text, in situations where a child would otherwise have no way of knowing where to start with an interpretation of the text. So if for example we're reading a text by Roald Dahl in which Dahl has constructed an unequivocally unlikeable character, we can 'orient' the students to the text by telling them just how nasty this character is, and talk about the effect this has on the other characters and on our own feelings as readers, and then show the students how Dahl has achieved this through lexical and grammatical choices. (It's also good fun when you start to appreciate how horrible Dahl's characters really are, and good fun when you twig how he does it and have a go at doing it for yourself.) The AL approach is essentially just a teaching sequence that allows you to do this systematically.
Taking the children from a place where they don't appreciate the impact of the writing to a place where can produce some writing with a similar impact themselves involves the teacher doing some telling and some storytelling - this is, I think, the lending of consciousness - hence the relevance of Bruner.
Of course, one could potentially see this kind of teaching in lots of lessons which are not branded as 'Accelerated Literacy'. In fact, having this brand has worked against us in the Northern Territory, where the teaching culture is actively suspicious of 'the next new package' and much of the profession has not been interested in engaging with the kinds of things we've been trying to do. At the same time, packaging a set of strategies into an approach with a name (albeit a fairly irritating one) has better allowed us to systematise what we are doing, and to produce some consistent resources and training.
On the Direct Instruction approach being used in North Queensland
I haven't had direct involvement with this approach, but I believe it's a much more heavily scripted and prescriptive approach than AL. I'm not attracted to it, but colleagues from Queensland tell me it seems to be working well in the 3 or so schools that are using it. The catch is that at the moment those schools have enormous levels support from their American mentors, and that level of support is probably unsustainable over the long term and across more than a handful of schools.
Which brings me to the question of 'good programs' versus 'programs that can sustain upscaling in the remote context'. In remote schools in Australia there are chronically huge rates of teacher turnover, making it difficult to sustain any program over time without enormous energy and investment in (re)training teachers. And (re)convincing bureaucrats that we need to keep doing this (because the bureaucrats turn over as fast as the teachers). Despite my own enthusiasm for AL as a particular approach, I'm aware that it's an approach that requires teachers to think hard about what they're doing. I've seen lots of urban schools and some remote schools run great AL programs over the past few years, but much of the remote implementation has been somewhat mediocre, because it's demanding to implement, teachers need hands-on support at the beginning, and we haven't had the resources to support the schools properly. So I'm watching the Direct Instruction story carefully to see what happens.
On David Rose's approach to teaching literacy:
Jay mentioned this approach - it is called 'Reading to Learn, Learning to Read'. It has part of its genesis in common with AL, which grew out of Brian Gray's work at Traeger Park School in Alice Springs in the 1980s, and then from collaborative work with Wendy Cowey, David Rose and others from the 1990s. David uses different terminology from Brian, but the approaches are very similar, although David favours working with factual texts, while AL has focused largely on using narrative text, for a bunch of reasons I won't distract myself with right now. AL was previously called 'Scaffolding Literacy', so that name pops up from time to time too. All of the approaches are works in progress, so it's worth pointing out that there are many incarnations, depending on who learned what from whom, in what part of Australia, and when.
If you take Bill's suggestion and go to the NALP website, you can download some resources for free. Go to the support materials link
http://www.nalp.cdu.edu.au/supportmaterials.html and you can log in with user name: supportmaterials [one word]
and password: nalp
Please do have a look/use these materials if they interest you at all, as the Australian government did invest considerable money in helping us develop them - and then promptly stopped investing in helping us train and support teachers to use the approach (Bill, South Australia's been much luckier than the Northern Territory on that count, thanks in no small part to the amazing group of people you've got down there). So it's nice if people at least get to see the materials!
Thank you to Bill for raising this topic on this forum and for promoting discussion on approaches to literacy teaching and Aboriginal education.
On 26/01/2012, at 6:00 AM, mike cole wrote:
> I'll try to keep up here.
> David-- I am totally uninterested in a fight about Dewey and reflex arc. I
> got stopped by
> this statement:
> bittiness and its dualism only, not on its inapplicability to language.
> What is bittiness? Why is it only about dualism? Anyway, gotta go deal with
> my local
> bureaucracy which is run away nuts. Will follow up as life allows.
> On Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 5:29 AM, Andy Blunden <email@example.com> wrote:
>> I was very impressed by Dewey's article on the Reflex Arc.
>> Here's what I thought: http://home.mira.net/~andy/**
>> 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!).
>>> 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>> From: mike cole <email@example.com>
>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Bruner on Vygotsky
>>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>> Date: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 7:54 PM
>>> David--- I am reading along trying to understand the flow of the
>>> 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 <email@example.com>
>>>> Thanks for writing. I for one am very interested (in your accounts of
>>>> reading programmes in Australia) but also somewhat taken aback. No
>>>> 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.
>>>> remember being very impressed by this ten or fifteen years ago. Now I
>>>> 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
>>>> 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
>>>> 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.
>>>> wonder Bruner finds that Vygotsky's genius is not massive and glacial
>>>> 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
>>>> 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
>>>> 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
>>>> 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
>>>> 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
>>>> 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>>> From: Larry Purss <email@example.com>
>>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Bruner on Vygotsky
>>>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>>> Date: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 6:46 AM
>>>> Hi Bill
>>>> I appreciate you engaging with this topic. I would like to encourage you
>>>> go into some depth, bringing in Bruner's insights distinguishing
>>>> 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
>>>> consider the consequences of Vancouver buying a site licence for Lexia
>>>> distribute in Vancouver schools who want to participate
>>>> On Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 1:53 AM, Bill Kerr <email@example.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<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
>>>>> 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
>>>>> 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.
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>> xmca mailing list
>>> xmca mailing list
>> *Andy Blunden*
>> Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/**toc/hmca20/18/1<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<http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857>
>> xmca mailing list
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