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Re: [xmca] Re: microgenesis?

Mike, I have attached a modified version of the document about "Question Asking Reading." Two pages which were out of order have been replaced in order and I have embedded OCR so it should be searchable. Perhaps you could replace NEWTECHN.pdf <http://lchc.ucsd.edu/People/NEWTECHN.pdf> on the server with this one?

Now, my hat off to the authors of this paper. I am sure others on this list knew about *Question Asking Reading*, but I was not one of them. You define reading as "/expanding/ the ability to mediate one's interactions with the environment by interpreting text." You recognise that a child already has an ability to "read the world" and is probably already proficient in mediating their reading of the world by interacting with adults, so learning to read is constructed upon this base. This is clearly drawing on Vygotsky (credit to Piaget as well), and taking reading as a specific kind of collaborative process rather than just a technical process of decoding. You call on Luria's idea of "combined motor method" to introduce an approach to combining diagnostic tasks with teaching tasks. And you call on A N Leontyev to solve the crucial problem of the child's motivation for learning to read.

(As an aside I much enjoyed the observation of how prominent it was for the children to engage in discussion about the relation between "growing up" and learning to read. My one and only experience of teaching a child to read hinged around this discussion. We were living in a very remote location in the UK and her older brother was old enough to attend the mixed-age primary school, but Sam was too young. This hyperactive, very physical child suddenly focused on reading with startling intensity and learnt to read fluently inside of a week. ... despite our explanations about the legal age of public school attendance. But very soon the school willingly bent a rule or two and admitted her. :) )

Now I grant that my contributions to this thread have not gone within a mile of the issues raised in this paper. But my interests and experience are in social transformation, not teaching and learning in elementary schools. But I am willing to listen and learn.

A point of clarification on my side.

ZPD. I have heard it said that ZPD is relevant only to the critical phases of development. I have also heard that ZPD was not a discovery of Vygotsky. For my part, I don't see any reason why this simple idea is not applicable to any learning situation. And likwise if you want to introduce the concept of "development" into qualitative achievements in the lytical phase of development under the heading of "microgenesis" to distinguish it from the whole process of growing into an adult citizen through a series of distinct social roles, I see no problem with this. ... Only provided we understand that if a child soldier who learns one day how to torture a prisoner, which they were formerly reluctant to do, this is "development" in a different sense, because it creates only a barrier to becoming a citizen of a community governed by democratic norms. But it would remain "microgenesis" if considered in cultural isolation. What makes every step along the road of learning to read in countries like ours /development/ is that (as you discussed with the kids) being able to read is a /sine qua non/ of being a grown up in our world. Torturing your peers is not.

In your message of almost 24 hours ago you said:

   "If what you write is correct, what does the word DEVELOPMENT mean
   in the concept of a zone of proximal DEVELOPMENT? ... classroom
   lessons are clusters of events that take place in microgenetic time
   WITHIN ontogenetic lythic periods.Where does that leave us?"

I am perfectly prepared to live with a lot of polysemy with a word like "development" when one moves from context to context. Provided only we don't claim that there is /no qualitative distinction/ between the little developments that add up to development during a lytic phase, and the change in social position of a child which is constituted by successful completion of both lytic and critical phases of development. In that sense there is development and development. If that is how you are deploying the word "microgenesis," then fine. I just don't see any real disagreement.


mike cole wrote:
Hi Andy--

I made it home through a ton of LA traffic alive, which, microgenetically feels good whatever the larger significance.

When you write "I personally regard it as a matter or "mere words" whether "child X at last managing to recognize the difference between d and b today," for example, is described as a development" it is clear that you and I are not close enough to the same topic for me to know how to make progress.
It also appears that no more than four of the some 700 people on xmca
give a damn about this topic, so lets go offline about it, cc'ing Greg, and David,
if he has patience to hang with us.


On Sat, Oct 13, 2012 at 8:44 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

    Yeah, whoever translated Vygotsky's "Problem of Age" is
    responsible. It just means /gradual/. So in a process of
    development, you have alternating critical and lytical phases, as
    in stepwise processes.


    Greg Thompson wrote:
    Apologies for the intrusion, but I had a quick point of
    clarification, for the uninitiated, what is meant by "lytic"?
    (all I could come up with pertained to "lysis" or the breaking
    down of cells - which would seem to suggest a different sense of
    "development" - a breaking down so that things can be
    reintegrated. Is that the idea?).

    On Sat, Oct 13, 2012 at 9:15 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net
    <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>> wrote:

        I don't know where Americans being dolts comes into it, Mike.
        Some of my best friends are Americans. :) But let's move on
        from that.

        The point, as I see it, is trying to extract from what we can
        reaonsably understand Vygotsky to be  saying, something which
        we believe could be correct and significant. To do this I
        think we have to understand the concept of "development"
        always in a particular context. A truism for anyone here I
        think. What it means to me is that I cannot just ask: what
        transformations in psychological functioning constitutes
        "development"? The necessary, relevant context is what role
        in what cultural and historical community is the person to
        play, in the short term and in the longer term. So the
        question of what constitutes development is age-specific,
        culturally specific and future-oriented.

        (Of course, the world changes, and what was development
        yesterday may become oppressive and detestable tomorrow and
        vice versa, but let's abstract from cultural and historical
        change for the moment.)

        >From the standpoint of natural science what I have posed is
        an absurdity and incompatible with basic tenets of science
        ... because I have made development dependent on events and
        relations in the future. In my opinion, that is just as it
        should be: kids go to school "for a purpose" - although what
        we mean by "purpose" in this context (the child's? the
        parents'? the state's? in retrospect? under advice?
        sponatneous?). But again, let's just put the problems arising
        from the idea of human actions being part of object-oriented
        activities to the side for the moment.

        So you ask: "what does the word DEVELOPMENT mean in the
        concept of a zone of proximal DEVELOPMENT?"

        I have to ask /which/ zone of proximal development, which
        crisis or lytic period are we talking about. Now I guess we
        can manage to give a general answer to the question: general
        questions require general answers. What "development" means
        is relative to which ZPD you are talking about. On the other
        hand, the presence of the ZPD itself depends on the
        development being posed. Achievment of a specific new mode of
        action with those around you, transforming your relations and
        your identity and your actions in the social situation
        depends on the expectations of those around you, according to
        broader cultural expectations and possibilities.

        A teacher or other "helper" interested in fostering
        development (if they can be presumed to reflect general,
        broader cultural expectations) has in mind what new
        functioning will be a necessary step towards the child
        becoming an autonomous citizen of the community.

        As Vygotsky insists, this poses for the child and her
        "helper" two different kinds of situation: either /lytical/
        development or /critical/ development. Lytical development is
        gradual and prepares the basis for developmental leap. To
        argue whether the gradual progress made in strengthening the
        relevant psychologhical functions in this phase is or is not
        development is in my opinion /just words/. Gradual
        accumulation of strength in those activities which the child
        is basically able to do, but maybe not very confidentally and
        well is a necessary preparation for transcending their
        age-role and entering into a phase of critical development in
        which they have a chance of successfully coming out the other
        side. It is by completion of the critical phase of
        development - the leap - which transforms the child's
        identity and role, that "/the development" is realised/. All
        the preparation in the world proves to be not development if
        it is not realised in facilitating the critical transformation.

        So, excuse me please for however imperfectly rehearsing
        egg-sucking for grandma's erudition.

        I personally regard it as a matter or "mere words" whether
        "child  X at last managing to recognise the difference
        between d and b today," for example, is described as a
        development. In the context of course it is; it is a step.
        You want to call that a "microgenetic development"?
        Personally I don't have a problem with that. David may, but
        paraphrasing Oscar Wilde: "Microgenesis is not one of my
        words."  But if the child at last managed to repeat the
        Gospel According to St Luke by rote, and you wanted to
        describe this as a microgenetic development, I would want to
        hear the developmental plan that made that claim coherent.

        Where if anywhere does this leave us?

        My apologies for using so many words to say so little.
        Just trying to be clear and careful.

        mike cole wrote:

            Hi Andy--

            Well to begin with, thanks for keeping the discussion
            alive. I am away from home without books or control of my
            time, so I want to ask a question that may highlight what
            is central to my queries here.

            If what you write is correct, what does the word
            DEVELOPMENT mean in the concept of a zone of proximal
            DEVELOPMENT? Its all fine and dandy to point out what
            dolts Americans are for not understanding that learning
            leads DEVELOPMENT in classroom instruction, that but
            classroom lessons are clusters of events that take place
            in microgenetic time WITHIN ontogenetic lythic periods.

            Where does that leave us?


            PS- the url below lays out in some detail where the idea
            of acquisition of reading as a cultural-historical
            developmental process. Old and never published. But at
            least we might refine what is indexed by the phrase
            "learning to read."


            On Thu, Oct 11, 2012 at 7:32 PM, Andy Blunden
            <ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>
            <mailto:ablunden@mira.net <mailto:ablunden@mira.net>>> wrote:

                So this thread does not die ...
                You said, Mike, "So I am seeing the same solution to
                about the ontogeny/microgenesis relationships by
            analogy with the
                phylogeny/cultural-history relation."

                I don't see the analogy there. Phylogeny and
            ethnogeny are two
                (overlapping and mutually determining) processes with
            two very
                distinct material bases, viz., genes and artefacts.
            But learning
                to read/write and development of abstract thinking
            (and other
                leading activities in a developmental ZPD) is not
            such a relation,
                it is a relation between critical phases and lytic
                phases of development. This is quite a different

                The analogy I would see for something which couold be
                microgenesis would be the /situation/: a concept develops
                momentrily in a person and their actions in a
            situation. The
                situation is not a factor in phylo- or ethnogensis,
            it essentially
                belongs to the very short time scale, and its
            material basis is
                activity. I grant that no-one might use
            "microgenesis" in that way
                and no-one may be doing research into that process
            these days. I
                don't know. But the situation is a distinct material
            basis for
                development and one on which Vygotsky did a great
            deal of work. On
                the other hand, I think /all/ processes of
            development have both
                critical and lytical phases (c.f. Gould's punctuated

                What do you think?


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    883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
    Department of Anthropology
    Brigham Young University
    Provo, UT 84602

-- ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    *Andy Blunden*
    Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
    Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts

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*Andy Blunden*
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts

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