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[Xmca-l] ZPD and DST!



I think the Roth article I would recommend isn't the editorial, but rather
this one:

Roth, W-M. 2007. On Mediation: Towards a Cultural Historical Understanding.
Theory and Psychology 17 (5): 655-680.

There's a lot I disagree with in this paper (e.g. I disagree with the idea
that if mediation "explains" everything then it explains nothing--it is
like saying that if perception applies to all visible phenomena then it
applies to none of them). But here's why I prefer it to Saeed's paper:

a) Roth gets to concrete examples from direct experience almost immediately
(fish feeding, on p. 656). This gives me something to go back to when I get
lost in abstraction, and I need it.

b) Instead of using Theory A to illuminate Theory B, Roth goes back into
the historical origins of Theory A and discovers, immanently, Theory B, C,
etc.. This has two advantages: it avoids chalk-and-cheese eclecticism, and
it helps me understand how Theory A was formed in the first place. With
Saeed's paper, I find myself missing: 1) an account of the CRITICAL
DISTINCTIONS between the two theories, 2) an explanation of how each MAKES
UP for what the other lacks, and 3) some argument for long term
COMPATABILITY, some explication of why the emulsion will not re-separate,
like vinegar and oil.

c) For Vygotsky--no, for mediation more generally--the key problem is
volition, free will, choice. Vygotsky once said that the most interesting
problem in the whole of psychology, bar none, is what a human being would
really do in the situation of Buridan's donkey (that is a situation of
volition, of free will, of choice where the outcomes were either apparently
equal or equally unknown). This isn't true of DST, which has, as Saeed
admits, an "emergentist" account of volition (to put it uncharitably,
handwaving and magic). At the very least, choice is late emerging in a DST
account, and that makes, for example, the child's early and
successful acquisition of speech very hard to explain.

That said, Saeed--I DID appreciate the part on p. 86 where you remind us
that learning and development are distinct but linked. As Wolff-Michael
says, the point has been made before, but I think that we've got to keep
saying this, until people really see that mixing up "microgenesis" and
ontogenesis is, in our own time, the same kind of error that mixing up
ontogenesis and phylogenesis was in Vygotsky's. If I read one more article
which invokes the ZPD for some trivial incident of learning, I'm getting a
tattoo that says: "Look here, mate, just because it didn't kill ya doesn't
mean it made ya any stronger".

David Kellogg
Macquarie University