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RE: [xmca] Re: microgenesis?


My encounters with microgenesis was through Wertsch's work on puzzles, and
some less well known research at Berkeley by Michael Bamberg and some of his
fellow students who worked with Sue Ervin-Tripp. In bothe of these contexts
you could follow in careful steps the process of appropriation from parents
to learners of problem-solving. Saw the method tracing the children making
their own what was shown to them clarified the steps of acquisition. This
contrasts sharply with Helen Keller's famous comment about words where we
see retrospectively the results of a major generalization. A microgenetic
study does not necessarily involve a major generalization, development does.
Is this too simplistic?


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Sunday, October 14, 2012 3:48 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: 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


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.
> mike
> 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.
>     Andy
>     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?).
>>     -greg
>>     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?
>>         Andy
>>         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?
>>             mike
>>             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."
>>             http://lchc.ucsd.edu/People/NEWTECHN.pdf
>>             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
>>             thinking
>>                 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
>>             (gradual)
>>                 phases of development. This is quite a different
>>             relationship.
>>                 The analogy I would see for something which couold be
>>             called
>>                 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
>>             evolution).
>>                 What do you think?
>>                 Andy
>>         __________________________________________
>>         _____
>>         xmca mailing list
>>         xmca@weber.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>>         http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
>>     -- 
>>     Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
>>     883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
>>     Department of Anthropology
>>     Brigham Young University
>>     Provo, UT 84602
>>     http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
>     -- 
>     *Andy Blunden*
>     Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
>     <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/>
>     Book: http://www.brill.nl/concepts
>     __________________________________________
>     _____
>     xmca mailing list
>     xmca@weber.ucsd.edu <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>     http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca

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

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