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[Xmca-l] Re: Play and symbolic thought --
Great insights!! We are all searching for these answers for quite a while.
One of the most striking works on the crucial role of play in the physical and psychological development (and psychological would include symbolic processes) is the work of Fraser Brown and Sarah Webb on the children in Romanian orphanages.
In a nutshell, one can look at it as a cruel natural experiment in depriving children of adult interaction (but not food and shelter) -- leading to a total physical and mental retardation, to the point where 10 year olds physically look like 4 and mentally like one year olds (and not "normal" one year olds). A play activity of 2 hrs a day with these children over just a few moths resulted in a visible development of the children -- both physical and mental.
The article I am sending cannot present what I saw in the video documentation that Fraser Brown played in several meetings of the TASP -- however, this video is not public (Fraser will play it if invited to a conference, but will not make it available in any other way).
This, of course is not a definitive answer that play is directly connected to the development of symbolic processes, but it becomes very palpable that some kind of playful relationships and playful activities are involved in the development of "higher mental processes".
I also agree with a lot of what Dahlberg and Moss have to say about developmental orientation leading to a "deficit model" in the approach to children. And they are right when they provide evidence that even very little infants and toddlers use incredibly elaborated symbolically rich ways to create and represent imaginary, play worlds.
However, when it comes to "symbolic processes" I think that the issues are more complex. For instance, I think that the reaction against the the connection between play and symbolic processes, is based on rejecting a simplistic understanding of the symbolic "development" as a development of an ability to "subsitute" a meaning of an object - for another "meaning". (Vygotsky's well discussed case of a "horse"-stick). I say "simplistic" -- in the reference to S. Langer's and Cassirer's studies of symbols their relationships. The so called "referential function" of the symbols -- to "point to" or to "stand for" objects/actions etc -- is just the most rudimentary relationship of any "sign". In that sense, most of the mammals and even non-mammals develop understanding of simple "signs", that unequivocally refer to something that they stand for.
Even Vygotsky in his famous article "The role of play..." said that play is NOT a symbolic action. ("I believe that play is not symbolic action in the
proper sense of the term,..." Vygotsky, The Role of Play in Development, in Mind in Society, 1978, p. 94). In my dissertation "Metaphor beyond play" (that you can find on the Academia. com) I have tried to show in what sense play may "play" a role in the building of the symbolic approach to the world, self, and the other, as one of the conditions for starting a symbolic construction.
In other words, in my opinion "symbolic function" cannot be separated and isolated as an "unit of analysis" from the experiencing (perezhivanie) of the relational aspects (postupok) of the immediate local events.
What do you think?
On Oct 18, 2013, at 7:47 AM, Beth Ferholt <email@example.com> wrote:
> Thank you for all the interesting responses, both the ones in this chain
> and the many private responses we received -- we have been hard at work
> thinking and reading in response!
> We had not read all of the things that people sent, before -- Francine, can
> you send your dissertation? -- but we were familiar with much of it of it,
> also the work on play and narrative development, language development, and
> metaphor. BTW, we just heard Bert van Oers talk, a very interesting talk,
> and he mentioned near the start that the connection was inconclusive (a
> 2013 literature review – ).
> However, what made us reach out to XMCA was the following dilemma:
> The teachers at the preschool where we are working are generally suspicious
> of developmental theory. Gunilla Dahlberg and Peter Moss write some of the
> books they read in their training, and argue convincingly that
> developmental theory is very important to the discourse that supports a
> deficit model of the child. These teachers turn to Deluze before Piaget and
> they are also wary of Vygotsky -- through the looking glass compared to
> preschools in the US -- *and* these are the preschools that (because of
> their practice) we would most want to be in if we were young children, or
> would most want our kids and grandkids to be in, hand-down.
> In any case, many of these teachers have taken on the task of showing us
> that our idea that play leads to symbolic thought is not right. They show
> us all this amazing play -- and symbolic thought -- that one year olds are
> doing. They make films and take photographs and the give hour-long
> presentations to us : ).
> For instance, they showed us one year olds pretending a blade of grass was
> a key and "opening" a locked door and describing what they saw inside. They
> showed us one year olds using letters and numbers. In fact, my own just-two
> year old, who has been attending their preschool for almost a year, could
> identify letters and numbers months ago, and also seems to have an idea of
> what these symbols mean/ are for (although I have to think more about why I
> think this -- I DO think it is right, but why -- ). Many children in my
> child's class do this, he is certainly not "gifted" when it come to
> reading, so the point is that I had to see it in a child I knew really well
> to believe it ... and I did, and I do.
> So, we are stuck. We really are not ready to give up the relationship
> between play and symbolic thought. But we are confused by what we are
> seeing these very young children doing, and I suppose that when we wrote
> XMCA we were sort of hoping for some impossible and longitudinal experiment
> that showed that without play symbolic thought does not develop : ) . Of
> course we know from Gaskins and Goncu that this is probably not right? So
> perhaps an experiment that showed children incapable of symbolic thought,
> playing, and then all of a sudden -- presto – hmmm.
> Do people have further thoughts or questions for us? THey would be much
> appreciated. We don't want to leave the teachers without defending what we
> still think is so important about play, but maybe children are more capable
> of both pretend play and symbolic thought, when they are very, very young,
> than we thought after our years of teaching in other contexts (in which we
> were less supported in seeing the competent child -- really the competent
> toddler or even baby in this case) and than we though about after our
> reading of VYgotsky on play.
> Thanks to a few comments we ARE back to Wartovsky – It may be less about
> seeing a competent child in these schools, than about their emphasis on the
> arts? Or maybe it’s both?
> THank you all again for the help with this, Beth and Monica
> On Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 3:18 AM, larry smolucha <firstname.lastname@example.org>wrote:
>> Message from Francine Smolucha:
>> I would not hesitate to say that play is essential for
>> development(cognitive, social, emotional,and neurological).
>> Elena Bodrova and Deborah Leong's Tools of the Mind Preschool
>> Curriculumhas also provided supporting evidence that spans these four
>> domains.They have an ongoing study with the University of Chicago.While
>> their focus is on self-regulation which itself courses all four
>> domains,they also teach the preschool teachers how to teach the children to
>> use object substitutions in pretend play. There is much potential here for
>> a systematic study of the role of object substitutions in learning to use
>> symbol systems.
>>> Date: Thu, 19 Sep 2013 10:34:28 +0200
>>> From: email@example.com
>>> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Play and symbolic thought --
>>> We will look at your dissertation, from 1991, this is helpful. And yes,
>>> this is what we are thinking about. Your response makes me think more
>>> broadly about the challenge the teachers we are working with are posing
>>> our conception of the importance of play in child development ... I think
>>> we must be more clear about this before we can answer my question, above.
>>> I don't think we want to say play is essential, so then we need to ask
>>> we want to say it is hard to replace, or particularly efficient at what
>>> does -- The response will not be found in one experiment. Thank you!
>>> On Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 3:01 AM, larry smolucha <email@example.com
>>>> Message from Francine Smolucha:
>>>> According to Vygotsky, object substitutions in pretend play (such as
>>>> riding on a stick as if it were a horse) are the pivot for separating
>>>> meaning from object. The ability to make the gesture with a non-replica
>>>> object leads to more abstract symbols such as using pictorial
>>>> representation (such as stick people and stick animals in drawings, i.
>>>> line drawings) to words made out of alphabet letters and numerical
>>>> notations. I do not know of any one longitudinal study that documented
>>>> progression, but there are certainly studies thatfocused on specific
>>>> components. My doctoral dissertation University of Chicago
>>>> how objects changed their names and functions in pretend play (a
>>>> longitudinal study of toddlers aged 14- to 28- months.) Isn't that the
>>>> basic definition of a symbol - that one object can stand for another
>>>> (re-present another)???
>>>> Are you thinking of something along these lines?
>>>>> Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2013 12:31:41 +0200
>>>>> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
>>>>> To: email@example.com
>>>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Play and symbolic thought --
>>>>> We are wondering if there is anything actually showing that play
>>>>> the development of symbolic thought ... we do not have an idea what
>>>>> experiment could look like : ) ... anytime it was done is fine! Beth
>>>>> On Tue, Sep 17, 2013 at 7:18 PM, Hansen, Monica <
>>>>> firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>>>>> What specifically about Vygotsky's claims and the relationship
>>>>>> play and symbolic thought are you looking for research to
>>>> substantiate? Are
>>>>>> you looking for contemporary research? What kind of research? The
>>>>>> not always easy or direct because Vygotsky's thoughts encompassed
>>>>>> ideas within which a myriad of approaches to research on this topic
>>>> can be
>>>>>> framed and approached. At least this has been my experience in
>>>>>> down :)
>>>>>> --The other Monica
>>>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>>> From: email@example.com [mailto:
>>>>>> firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Beth Ferholt
>>>>>> Sent: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 10:06 AM
>>>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>>>> Cc: email@example.com
>>>>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Play and symbolic thought --
>>>>>> Monica and I have been talking about Vygotsky's work on the
>>>>>> between play and symbolic thought and been being challenged by
>>>>>> preschool teachers. Is there an experiment that shows Vygotsky was
>>>>>> in his claims about this relationship? We can't find any!
>>>>>> Beth Ferholt
>>>>>> Assistant Professor
>>>>>> School of Education
>>>>>> Brooklyn College, City University of New York
>>>>>> 2900 Bedford Avenue
>>>>>> Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889
>>>>>> Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
>>>>>> Phone: (718) 951-5205
>>>>>> Fax: (718) 951-4816
>>>>> Beth Ferholt
>>>>> Assistant Professor
>>>>> School of Education
>>>>> Brooklyn College, City University of New York
>>>>> 2900 Bedford Avenue
>>>>> Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889
>>>>> Email: email@example.com
>>>>> Phone: (718) 951-5205
>>>>> Fax: (718) 951-4816
>>> Beth Ferholt
>>> Assistant Professor
>>> School of Education
>>> Brooklyn College, City University of New York
>>> 2900 Bedford Avenue
>>> Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889
>>> Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
>>> Phone: (718) 951-5205
>>> Fax: (718) 951-4816
> Beth Ferholt
> Assistant Professor
> School of Education
> Brooklyn College, City University of New York
> 2900 Bedford Avenue
> Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889
> Email: email@example.com
> Phone: (718) 951-5205
> Fax: (718) 951-4816