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[Xmca-l] Re: Units of analysis

Hi David

Alfredo and a number of potentially interested people are in Quebec City or
on their way there to attend ISCAR.

On Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 10:15 AM David Dirlam <modesofpractice@gmail.com>

> Alfredo, Andy and others interested in the unit of analysis question.
> I'm working on getting a downloadable version of Chapter 1 of my book. In
> the meantime, Routledge has added a link that will be open until September
> 15 to my whole book, which is free on line but not downloadable.
> http://rdcu.be/tPjV
> <
> http://em.rdcu.be/wf/click?upn=KP7O1RED-2BlD0F9LDqGVeSKtaE-2Fqou1Q11U-2FYg5cc50Q-3D_m4a-2BVtvVL0JudawDiUq5qdCZb5YjXonCfC9-2F5OH6Lwi46jfFdV3eRXJoQnltaofLVswp4xfHbra6-2Bk4-2FzC3ZWpOvYevDOzjaOyCqTG9ZJ-2ByPLdCGS0mIToo9PWMYPvsz4kJBEMe48mHE8Z1TJeexp-2BVu9LE5LGVesjGGQqEiP-2BY6Rz8y-2BhIGYF3fb9H4E5XH6DA8HkH2dAUze1hR81LEotVxE6l6JtNqAkckzIxG3is6fG0S2COgNgBLtvDXsWZ-2FbqVosOKnHpflMyrUIeVsJzefjOywqItXYZ-2B9dMGIRi4-3D
> >
> That first chapter has a well-developed and reliable definition of unit
> ("mode of practice") that has worked in over 300 interviews of people in
> roughly 100 different disciplines. That's not to say it couldn't be
> improved. For example it complements Engestrom et al.'s concept of "germ
> cell" in at least some very interesting ways. For one, ascending from the
> abstract to the concrete (from sit-to-stand to household mobility actions
> like table setting) complements Mezirow's (1991) phases of transformative
> learning, so that the results looks more like collaboration between the two
> than competition.
> In addition to that chapter the link above also gives an opportunity for a
> free look at the rest of the book, including another chapter on unis.
> Chapter 11 provides a nested hierarchy of units that was defined from
> "modes of practice" at the middle down to the kinds of "germ-cell" units
> that have been discussed in the last few weeks and up to extremely broad
> scale units. The broad end is somewhat reminiscent of Mike Cole's
> description of context based on Bronfrenbrenner's *Ecology of Human
> Development, *as that which surrounds." Mike goes on to enrich this view as
> a unit of culture. In ecology, the "surround" of a species is a community,
> but communities are studied as units of ecosystems, much like cells are
> studied as units of organ systems. Biology has made enduringly effective
> use of its rich number of levels of units. The aim of the chapter is to
> show some of the potential that such a rich conception of units might have
> for research on practices.
> David Dirlam
> Author of Teachers, Learners, Modes of Practice: Theory and Methodology for
> Identifying Knowledge Development (see www.routledge.com/9781138641181)
> On Sun, Aug 20, 2017 at 6:47 PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil <a.j.gil@iped.uio.no>
> wrote:
> > Thanks so much David for bringing to the fore your ongoing chat with
> Andy.
> > The levels you describe are interesting. You mention a chapter; any
> chance
> > it could be shared with the list? I look at excerpts of your book online
> > and the introductory chapter seems totally relevant to the unit of
> analysis
> > discussion.
> >
> > Cheers,
> > Alfredo
> >
> > ________________________________________
> > From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
> > on behalf of David Dirlam <modesofpractice@gmail.com>
> > Sent: 20 August 2017 23:38
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: [Xmca-l]  Units of analysis
> >
> > It looks like I finally got my blank-emails problem fixed, thanks to
> Andy's
> > kind notification of what was the cause. I did a little off-line
> > corresponding with him in the meantime and plan to share some of it and
> add
> > some to it.
> >
> > I found Andy's current and 2010 articles on Vygotsky's unit of analysis
> to
> > be fascinating and his comments during my xmca blackout very helpful,
> even
> > after spending 50 years work on the problem. I hope to join this
> discussion
> > of what I believe is one of the most central social science problems of
> our
> > age. So below I've put a brief synopsis of what I think people on xmca
> > might find most useful from that work and invite comments.
> >
> > One of Andy's useful comments about units came through an xmca in
> response
> > to David Kellogg's suggestions. The introduction of features (father's
> job,
> > sibling number, etc.) reminded me of the attempts to evaluate higher
> > education in the U.S. using graduation rates and job placements, a
> tendency
> > that I have been fighting for decades.
> >
> > Also, during my offline discussion with Andy, I mentioned a chapter from
> my
> > book that used biology as an analogy to define 11 levels of a nested
> > hierarchy of practices. That was a project that I had been imagining for
> a
> > decade by tagging articles in Science that I thought would be useful for
> > the purpose, especially in the context of many additional articles
> > generated from library databases (though I wrote this chapter not even a
> > year ago, it has had much value in helping to identify and talk about
> what
> > people do). The 11 levels ranged from an analog to the gene at the
> bottom,
> > which was quite similar to Vygotsky's sign-mediated action, since it
> > combined activity with artifacts and social context. The next level up
> (the
> > cell analog), I called actuations, which add short-term memory to the
> > bottom level, Luria's *Human Brain and Psychological Process *has many
> > examples of both levels. Procedures that use several actuations (like
> > recipes) were the next level. The units continue in similar nested
> fashion
> > up to the biosphere analog, that I called praxosphere.
> >
> > Andy replied that units do not have to be nested, and I fully agree. In
> > fact nearly all the units I discussed have both defectology and social
> > situation aspects. Since they are not nested like the ones in the
> chapter,
> > they need to be different sorts of units. The same occurs in biology
> where
> > competition and pathology occur at least at levels ranging from cells to
> > biomes. Actually, Luria's book just mentioned would be a great place to
> > identify examples of the first two or three levels of the hierarchy of
> > practice I proposed in my book. His amazing observations of simple acts
> of
> > brain-damaged patients have been an inspiration to me for decades.
> >
> > The mid-level units (the analog to biology's species) that I proposed are
> > modes of practice. I found these by studying dimensions of competing
> modes
> > of practices in children's drawing, student writing, and developmental
> > researchers' methods. The first publication of a dynamic analysis of the
> > drawing study was in *Mind Culture and Activity *in 1997. My language has
> > changed during two decades of use of the ideas, but the kernels were
> there.
> > Dimension is the next more complex level of units above the modes of
> > practice. The modes of practice in each dimension get sequenced by four
> > parameters: their endemicity (initial prevalence), acquisition rate
> (growth
> > in frequency), and commitment (competitive strength), and their resource
> > level (social acceptance or limited artifact availability). One pattern
> is
> > especially common: *beginning* modes are endemic, *exploring *modes are
> > acquired very quickly but are not competitive, *sustaining *modes grow
> > slower with more commitment, and *inspiring *modes have the highest
> levels
> > of commitment. Sometimes a *destructive *mode appears instead of the
> > sustaining or inspiring mode -- these grow faster than exploration, but
> > overshoot the resource level so much that they eliminate the whole
> > dimension (drug use is a good example for persons). To transition from
> one
> > mode of practice to the next requires transformative learning, a concept
> > that has benefited much from Mezirow's writings. A study with some
> friends
> > of 500 hour long sessions with individual students revealed that
> Mezirow's
> > 10 phases occurred in 4 time periods. The phases of commitment and modes
> of
> > commitment, therefore, became the fourth and fifth levels.
> >
> > An interesting aspect of the sequence for modes of practice is that it
> lays
> > out zones of proximal development for each dimension. I watched teachers
> > use them that way 40 years ago with amazing results, especially for
> student
> > writing. I've had a harder time getting academics to do so. It makes me
> > wonder how Vygotsky's discussion of zone of proximal development might
> fit
> > with the modes and phases of commitment.
> >
> > We can tell when we have two different dimensions, because all modes of
> > practice within one dimension can occur simultaneously with any mode of
> > practice in all others (i.e., there is no competition between them). So,
> > when I have given this model to experts (300  altogether so far) and
> asked
> > them what people do who are learning in their area of expertise, over 99%
> > readily describe the four or five modes of practice in 6-12 dimensions of
> > their expertise. They often comment that it is an interesting way to
> > organize their thinking about their field. My interest is that each
> > interview results in somewhere between 15,000 (6 dimensions) and a
> quarter
> > billion (12 dimensions) patterns of practice but uses only 24-48 terms.
> > When I did this for the entire faculty of a liberal arts college and
> > combined dimensions that were similar, I ended up with 25 dimensions with
> > 100 terms (these are detailed in the appendix of my book). They are
> > incredibly more interesting and meaningful than graduation and
> > job-placement rates. But, and this is what keeps me at it, they also have
> > the potential to emancipate teachers and learners from the sort of
> > bureaucratic hegemony that demands simple minded measures like job
> > placement and graduation rates.
> >
> > Text analysis of the 25 dimensions (a technique I started working on at
> > Mike's suggestion during my 1997-98 year at LCHC) also grouped dimensions
> > together into clusters that resembled specialties (analog to biological
> > communities) and these into disciplines (the analog to ecosystems). The
> > next levels came from interviews of some 80 designers in 20 different
> > disciplines at the Savannah College of Art Design. I never thought of
> > design as a methodology as progressive as science, but those interviews
> > convinced me. Now, it seems obvious: scientists record their progress in
> > papers and equipment, designers in services and products. Interviews of
> 60
> > rabbinical scholars at Hebrew Union College then convinced me that
> > interpretation was also progressive, but now recorded in precedents. So
> the
> > level above discipline (the analog to biome) became progressive
> > methodology. Human knowledge, then, becomes the praxosphere or analog to
> > biosphere.
> >
> > I'm not sure what Vygotsky would think about all this (I am sure that
> many
> > on this list know better than me about that), but I don't think he would
> be
> > nearly as upset as he seems to have been with reducing a child's
> > environment to parent occupation, age, housing, sibling numbers, etc.
> > Thinking about Vygotsky and Andy's papers does give me the idea that I
> > should look back through all my interviews to see what meaningful objects
> > and social environments they imply.
> >
> > I hope this adds to the discussion, and even more that it proves useful
> for
> > progress in studying what people do in ways that thwart simplistic
> > reductions to graduation and employment rates. I'm off to read Yrjo's
> paper
> > next.
> >
> > All the best,
> >
> > David Dirlam
> >
> >