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[Xmca-l] Re: book of possible interest
David, et al --
As someone who has written was I'm sure some people will call a "teach yourself activity theory for dummies" book, I guess I'd better read Helen Grimmet's book and see what all the fuss is about.
I have my own response to people (like the student MIke in Huw's message) who complain about the names of theories. Lots of people do -- "activity theory" made the profs at U of Illinois snigger because they thought "activity" was like "recreation" as in "after-school activities." "Activity theory" makes more people snigger than any of the others. Cultural-historical Activity theory also is a problem, and so is "CHAT".
What I tell people is that a) these terms are mostly translations or else cognates of words from other languages, and b) that's what they are actually called, whether you like it or not; if you are going to look it up on the internet you have to use the name that other people use for it, period. Helen Grimmet backs down when faced with the student's complaint. I would say, "Look, I didn't make it up -- deal with it."
I actually think that if you can't explain something to a regular person using familiar, common-sense words, you don't understand it well enough. If that's "spoon-feeding," then so be it. I think that spoon-feeding really means a little bit at a time. What's the problem with that? A little bit, over a long time, and if you know what you're doing, you can explain anything.
On Jul 9, 2014, at 7:53 PM, Huw Lloyd wrote:
> Just to be clear, the error I was referring to was the attribution of a
> theory (as an adjective) to the material thing (learning). It would be
> like saying, I am going to make a Newtonian cup of coffee in the morning
> and a quantum mechanical cup of coffee in the afternoon.
> I suppose colourful language serves the purpose of deliberate vagueness.
> It's hard to be trendy and have a precise point.
> I fear we are soon approaching the "teach yourself activity theory for
> dummies" book someday soon. From my understanding, the theory itself
> repudiates such a thing -- one cannot spoon feed theory -- but I don't
> think that will stop folk trying.
> I see no problem (or contradiction) in top down approaches. Solving a
> problem in general is a powerful approach to many problems. For many
> problems the concrete details are amenable to design and configuration, one
> can often choose tools to suit the proposed solution rather than
> vice-versa. But from an educational perspective, I see no alternative
> than starting with the individual, ofcourse one can have general strategies
> in doing so -- waiting to be asked before giving an explanation etc.
> Nice chatting.
> On 9 July 2014 22:46, David Kellogg <email@example.com> wrote:
>> Helen has written a remarkable, important book. I gather it's part of her
>> Ph.D. thesis, but it doesn't really read like a Ph.D. thesis. It reads like
>> a teacher-trainer (or "professional development consultant", or whatever we
>> are supposed to call them) with a problem who eventually, with a little
>> help from the classics of cultural historical psychology and a lot of help
>> from a co-teacher (who has a somewhat bookish, inert but nevertheless
>> respectful and open acquaintance with those classics) achieves a very open
>> but nevertheless very workable solution.
>> So the bit I quoted represents the problem, or rather, two problems. On the
>> one hand, Helen is trying to do something new: she wants to bring new CHAT
>> concepts to bear on extant classroom activities and modify them in ways
>> that she is confident will work. On the other, Helen is working with some
>> pretty experienced (and even somewhat brutalized) teachers: they have seen
>> "Professional Development" fads come and go, collected their free lunches
>> and go on doing things the old way.
>> Helen achieves her solution from the bottom up. Eventually, she does find a
>> teacher who can teacher her a lot and who, even though Helen herself
>> is uniquely gifted, with not only the theoretical background we all share,
>> but also considerable first hand experience as a teacher and a parent, can
>> nevertheless be taught in turn. But as you can see from the extract, she's
>> extremely open, even to savage, unfair, and somewhat obtuse criticisms.
>> Mike's critique of "cultural historical" is not that it is an
>> epistemological error or a typological one, or that it puts the product
>> "culture" before the process "history". It's not even that it suggests that
>> on the odd day Piagetian activities might be taking place, which, by the
>> way, is probably true, since these teachers were mostly trained during the
>> "reign" of Piaget in the sixties and seventies.
>> No, Mike's complaint is really, if you will pardon the expression, a wank
>> of a complaint. He is just complaining that the name is uncool; it doesn't
>> sound like the popular teachers would like it; the name won't go with an
>> embossed moose like "Abercrombie and Fitch" or "community of
>> learners" does. I think we have to accept that responsive, sensitive
>> teachers inevitably end up internalizing some of the worst aspects of
>> adolescent thinking, and this is an example. I might even say it's a
>> bullshit complaint. It's crap, etc. (But this is one of those
>> language situations where redundancy does not suggest development.)
>> I guess if I encountered a bullshit complaint like that I would complain a
>> little about "community of learners". I think that "community of
>> learners" is essentially a way of saying "socio-psychological": it's
>> relevant to everyday teaching, but it doesn't tell us much about how the
>> "socio" got there, whereas "cultural-historical" does. I might even ask if
>> Mike is going to try to teach physics, chemistry, biology, or history to
>> kids without some way of saying "physico-chemical" or "chemico-biological",
>> or "biologico-social". If not, then I don't see anything wrong with
>> teaching language, including the language of teaching, as something
>> "socio-semiotic" or "historico-cultural". But then, I never was one of the
>> cool kids.
>> My problem is this. I too would like to write a book now. I have two in
>> mind, and they are both practical books about teacher training,
>> similar in their targets to Helen's book, which is why I am studying it
>> carefully. But I find that the books that I have in mind are really "about
>> something" in a way that Helen's book is not. I don't mean that Helen's
>> book has no object of study: like the title says, the object of study is
>> teacher development. What I mean is that the teaching has no clear object
>> of teaching: it's not specifically about teaching math or literacy or
>> anything else but about teaching in general. The books I have in mind are
>> really about teaching literacy (I think I want to try to teach WRITING
>> before READING) and teaching science (I think I want to try a "hands off"
>> approach that emphasizes word meanings instead of laboratory experiments).
>> And I am finding that I when I do this the result is not at all the kind of
>> "bottom up" thing that Helen does; it's very top down.
>> David Kellogg
>> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
>> On 9 July 2014 07:33, Huw Lloyd <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>> Colourful. The complaint seems perfectly valid though: a typological
>>> epistemological error all in one conflated term. It suggests that on the
>>> odd hours of the day there are Piagetian activities taking place. Was
>>> part of the point of the chapter?
>>> On 8 July 2014 21:40, David Kellogg <email@example.com> wrote:
>>>> I'm actually in the middle of Chapter Three right now. What I can tell
>>>> is that Helen's first two chapters are a kind of "Who's Who" at xmca,
>>>> Helen reading the great classics (in the wrong order) and talking to
>>>> Greg, and others on this list. But beyond the litte shout-outs to xmca,
>>>> Chapter Three, you find interesting problems like this. Helen is
>>>> a "Professional Learning ZPD". This an acronymy within an acronym (an
>>>> "acro-acronym-nym", like the group I used to belong to in New York and
>>>> Paris, called "ACT-UP"), and in general Helen seems to have some
>>>> with names. On pp. 58-59, she writes.
>>>> "In PLZ 4 I wrote the title 'Features of cultural Historical Learning
>>>> Activities' across a piece of butcher's paper and asked the grou to
>>>> brainstorm features of activities that would be consistent with
>>>> historical theory. After a few suggestions, Mike suddenly interrupted
>>>> MIKE: Can I ask, Helen, why such a wank of a name?
>>>> HELEN: Cultural-historical?
>>>> MIKE: Yeah, what a bullshit name.
>>>> DEB: What should it be Mike?
>>>> MIKE: What does it mean to anyone? Is that relevant to anyone that
>>>> name? Cultural-historical learning. What does that mean?
>>>> HELEN: Well....
>>>> MIKE: It's crap.
>>>> HELEN: Well, I don't think that you, that's the name of teh theoyr,
>>>> Cultural historical theory, but I think in terms of schools using teh
>>>> theory they talk about Communities of Learners.
>>>> MIKE: Yeah, but why don't they call it that?
>>>> HELEN: OK, so (I start crossing out "cultural historical" and changing
>>>> to "Communities of Learners")
>>>> MIKE: That name is like calliing the ultra net site for teachers
>>>> space'. It has no relevance to the name whatsoever, and to use
>>>> of cultural historical learning--sounds like a load of crap. It
>>>> doesn't have any relevance ot what it means. If you said to me cultural
>>>> historical learning, I go ....
>>>> BETH: I actually thought it meant talking about he past (general
>>>> MIKE: That's what it implies, the past and how you used to teach.
>>>> HELEN: I suppose I'm just trying to familiarize you with the term
>>>> MIKE: If you call it community of learners then it's something that's
>>>> Helen then makes the (cultural-historical) point that words have a
>>>> but they are not necessarily YOUR history--for Helen, "cultural
>>>> calls up a whole series of quite precise concepts, while "Community of
>>>> Learners" is kind of vague and undefined. But for the teachers (who
>>>> must say, not exactly reticent about sharing, and do not limit
>>>> to sharing their expertise) what you get is old times.
>>>> It's funny that they ignore the word culture. I always thought that
>>>> "cultural historical" is a little bit of the cart before the horse....
>>>> David Kellogg
>>>> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
>>>> On 8 July 2014 21:40, Peter Smagorinsky <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>>>>> The Practice of Teachers' Professional Development
>>>>> A Cultural-Historical Approach
>>>>> Helen Grimmett (Monash University, Australia)
>>>>> This book uses Vygotsky's cultural-historical theory to provide a
>>>>> theorisation of teachers' professional development as a practice. A
>>>>> practice can be described as the socially structured actions set up
>>>>> produce a product or service aimed at meeting a collective human
>>>>> this case, collaborative, interventionist work with teachers in ...
>>>>> here for a free preview and full description<