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[Xmca-l] Understanding "functions" within the "zone" of proximal development
Seth Chaiklin's article has me reflecting on the meaning of "functions".
The article's concluding comment is:
According to the analysis presented here, the zone of proximal development
refers to the maturing functions that are relevant to the next age period
and that enable performance in collaborative situations that could not be
achieved independently. These *functions* are not created in interaction,
rather interaction provides conditions for identifying their existence and
the extent to which they have developed."
I read this as indicating that the functions analyzed are "crystallized" or
"sedimented" forms that "objectively" exist as "generalized" structures.
Within "socially situated" settings individual persons will subjectively
move through a sequence of predictable "periods". Within modern social
situations "school" is a predictable social situation and it is the goal or
desire to develop "scientific concepts" in school settings.
Therefore functions described as "higher mental functions" exist in
particular historical social situations of development, not universally
applicable situations. To be more specific "scientific concepts function
within school situations of development. As Chaiklin writes:
"It is important to recognize that these periods are not reflecting a
biological necessity (because of genetic or other organic sources), even
though the development of higher psychological functions (e.g. ,
perception, voluntary memory, speech, thinking) are dependent on these
natural conditions. .... Similarly, none of the psychological functions are
'pure' in the sense of a biologically given module or faculty." [page 7]
In other words there exists an "objective" zone [a general zone] which
Chaiklin clarifies as a tripartite constellation of "present age",
"maturing function", and "next age" AS "the objective zone of proximal
development" [page 7] This zone is objective in the sense that it does not
refer to any individual child, but reflects [mirrors] the psychological
functions that need to be formed during a given age period of development
[and in particular the higher scientific or school concepts developed in
school situations.] In order to approach the more abstract concepts [which
are going "higher"] psychological functions need to develop first in order
to move to the next "period" or situation of concept development [verbal
Chaiklin then makes a clear statement of the characteristic of this
"The 'objective' zone is not defined a priori, but reflects the structural
relationships that are *historically-constructed and objectively
constituted* in the historical period in which the child lives. One can say
that the zone for a given age period is normative, in that it
the institutionalized demands and expectations that developed historically
in a particular societal *tradition of practice*. For example school age
children are expected to develop capabilities to reason with academic
(i.e., scientific) concepts. Individuals who do not develop this
*capability* can be said to *have* [LP - possess] a different intellectual
structure.... Reasoning with concepts is a specific manifestation of the
new-formations for this age ... " [page7]
In other words functions which develop are "new" formations which are
normative [ "crystallized" or "sedimented"].
The question that I am left with is the relation of these normative
functions existing within particular social situations of development when
the social situations that now exist become the object of deep questioning?
This type of reflection and speculation is entering the realm of "what
if". What if the "objective" zone of proximal development and its "new"
formations [crystallized, sedimented] itself becomes the "object" of
I hope my train of thought is coherent? Chaiklin's article brought clarity
to my understanding of "functions" as key concepts for understanding the
meaning and sense of ZPD.