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[Xmca-l] Re: Understanding "functions" within the "zone" of proximal development
Message from Francine Smolucha:
Seth Chaiklin in redefining Vygotsky's terminology (functions and zone of proximal
development), creates a developmental model that is very static. Vygotsky, however,
is very clear in describing a dynamic model of how elementary psychological functions
develop into consciously directed higher psychological functions through the internalization
of speech. This is very different from Chaiklin defining higher psychological (or mental)
functions as higher level concepts involving more abstract thinking, such as scientific
concepts - this is more like an cultural model of Piagetian concrete and formal operational
I think you hit the mark when you said that Chaiklin's developmental model produces
crystallized and sedimented psychological functions that are preordained by a particular
culture. [This is different from Piaget's structuralist theory in which reasoning with scientific concepts naturally emerges at certain ages]. By making the term 'higher' simply refer to
the higher skill level designated by a particular culture - it all becomes culturally relative.
Vygotsky introduced something very different. The dynamics of consciously directing
one's own thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors allows for creativity.
Vygotsky also said that consciously directed higher mental functions (such as imagination
and analytic thinking) can be used in collaboration as psychological systems.
This is exactly what contemporary neuroscience has found in its brain-imaging
studies (fMRI) of the prefrontal neocortex.
My husband (Larry Smolucha) and I are writing a chapter titled "Neuropsychological
Systems of Cultural Creativity" for the 2nd edition of Vygotsky and Creativity.
Cathrene, Vera, and Ana suggested to their acquisitions editor that Larry and I expand
that chapter into a book. (So yes indeed, I can cite my sources including Vygotsky's
works in Russian or contemporary neuroscience.)
> Date: Tue, 24 Feb 2015 21:08:35 -0800
> From: email@example.com
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: [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
> objective zone:
> "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
> *reflects *[LP-mirrors]
> 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.