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Re: [xmca] Re: microgenesis?

I believe you are correct, Andy, it is indeed a germ cell approach to the
acquisition of reading where "the whole task of reading" is present as an
interactional "force field" within the setting. Precisely for this reason
reading is not reduced to decoding, but no serious literacy scholar does.
The big trick as the matter is usually formulated is that you first get the
decoding right and then when it is automated or as it is automated, reading
as comprending/interpreting the world emerges. That is sort of the Jean
Chall approach, which should not be dismissed although I disagree with it;
she was a very experienced, smart, scholar. But the problem with treating
things in this level 1-level 2, lower-higher, order in organizing
acquistion is that you are missing the "structure of the whole" at the
beginning, reducing, too often, acquistion of reading to stimulus-response
learning -- which in the cases of acquiring English literacy can be a
challenge, ours being a mongrel language.

But all of this speaks to the question of what is meant by development in
this entire line of discourse. Generality of a conceptual change is
certainly an aspect of what is meant, along with generality of how one is
treated by others. But always and again, at what scale? In relation to what
other scales?

I am attaching an early Jim Wertsch paper that illustrates clearly the
puzzle experimental procedure and how he and colleagues wrote about
it early on. It is the kind of study Vera was referring to. I attach it as
a means of making it possible to establish joint reference for those among
us who are unfamiliar with the evidence being rererred to.


On Sun, Oct 14, 2012 at 7:50 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> **
> OK, I get what you want to discuss, Mike. I guess you posed the question
> in terms of learning vs development in response to criticism posed in those
> terms, but the whole controversy seems to function as a destraction
> (Freudian typing mistake), doesn't it? Given all the caveats I so heavily
> laboured in my contributions, there is really no problem with learning
> which is taking place within the ZPD being called "microgenesis." The
> momentary formation of an action which lies *outside *the ZPD is not
> developmental for the child, so the situation is "illusory" (to use a
> Hegelian term), so it makes sense to restrict the term "microgenesis" to
> formation of actions-within-a-situation which child-and-carers can and can
> only manage with the carers assisting the child, and the child cannot yet
> manage alone. It is certainly obvious that ontogenetic development cannot
> happen without such accomplishments.
> Going to your PS, David tells us that Vygotsky got the one-step-two-step
> quip from Koffka. It ties up with Vera's observation about "generalisation"
> of a new achievement, doesn't it. I guess that does not happen instantly.
> I would like to see you pursue the idea that Davydov's (and Vygotsky and
> Marx and Hegel and Goethe's) idea of "germ cell" contains the germ of the
> question you want answered here. I am a little torn by the proposition
> because, on the one hand, I am drawn back to learning-perspectives which
> have a whole subject matter in mind (e.g. comparing objects as the germ
> cell for mathematical reasoning) and a conception of the germ cell which is
> not just a reified object *or* an isolated action, but self-consciously
> references a *situation. *But those two takes on the idea don't really
> conflict, do they? That what was so impressive about the paper you shared:
> the team went to the whole situation to redefine the problem of reading,
> not just print, but "the world."
> I would like to hear your thoughts about this question. Wasn't the idea of
> reading being "*expanding* the ability to mediate one's interactions with
> the environment by interpreting text" the germ cell (if only it could be
> formulated as such) of Question Asking Reading? Isn't there a germ cell of
> microgenesis somewhere in there?
> Andy
> mike cole wrote:
> Thanks very much Andy and all who jumped in to indicate their interest.
> I will replace the file online at lchc website with Andy's improved
> version.
>  The re-admiration of "lytic" that Greg introduced is really thought
> provoking to me. It also puts me in mind of the meaning of culture that
> goes with biological research which urges us to think about the relation
> between culture and "medium." All useful.
>  With respect to the polysemy of "development" and "learning." In
> *The Construction Zone, *Denis Newman, Peg Griffen, and I struggled
> enough so that we often gave up and used "change" which of course
> elides the difficulties but does not solve them.
>  With respect to this learning/development discussion I think we are
> still struggling to get ourselves clear about whether the notion of
> "genetic domain" or "time scales" matters. In this discussion, at least, I
> have
> been struggling to get us to focus on short time intervals. Very often,
> as in Andy's earlier notes and in Helen's recent note with the helpful
> reminders about Marianne H's writing, the time scale is *ontogenetic -*
> years.
>  I am all for discussion of these time scales!! But the issue that Greg
> put
> on the table was about micro time scales (or I thought that was what the
> topic was).  From our discussion so far (I have not had a chance to read
> Huw's note carefully and have certainly forgotten other relevant
> contribution, so I may be overgeneralizing) I got the strong impression that
> it was being argued that at short time scales, the term development in any
> meaningful sense, does not apply.
>  So, being interested in notions like a zone of proximal development,
> which presumably applies to interactions on a time scale closer to minutes
> than lifetimes, I have tried to get a focus there.
>  I am arguing that if the term, development, is inappropriate at this
> briefer time scale, then there should be some very serious reconsideration
> of Vygotsky's use of the zone of proximal development, since development
> would be ruled out in all the examples he gives by virtue of the short time
> scale. So people who confuse a zone of proximal learning for a zone of
> proximal development have been right all along, just using misleading
> terminology.
>  mike
> PS-- And while we are at it, a reconsideration of LSV's idea that in a
> zoped "one step in learning" should produce "two steps in development" also
> seems in order. My intuition is that Davydov was trying to point us right
> at that problem, and that his germ cell approach to development was his way
> of trying to deal with the issue, but others could probably speak to that
> better than I.
>  *
> *
> On Sun, Oct 14, 2012 at 2:47 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
>> 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.
>> Andy
>> 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
>> __________________________________________
>> _____
>> xmca mailing list
>> 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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