Re: No Dialectical Pumpkins yet please.

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Mon Apr 26 2004 - 13:15:48 PDT

Bill, two things really stand out for me in your posts.

One is your really interesting take on the general "dominant script"
problem. You point very articulately to the question of the location of
cognition - is it something that happens "all inside the head" (the
dominant script)? Or is it something that happens in the dialectic and the
dialogue between people and culture (cultural-historical theory)? I like
the way you have brought this fundamental question into the discussion.

Your assignment of the Gredler (there, I finally have the spelling right!)
and Shields approach, as revealed in their review, as following the "all
inside the head" line of reasoning and not the "cultural-historical", has
gotten my attention, and given me some very interesting food for thought.

The other thing that stands out for me is the way you are working at
unpacking the concept of ZPD. In sensing essential omissions in the
Gredler/Shields treatment of this concept, you are working at articulating
a treatment that you see as embracing much more of what the concept of the
ZPD has to offer. Great stuff.

Some immediate questions on my mind here:

One, what text are your page numbers referring to?

Two, if you were to unpack the concept of the ZPD, what would you list as
the essential components? What you recently wrote seems like a very good

Three, since Gredler and Shields raise the issue, how do you see the
relative place of teaching (especially in Michael's terminology, the
"mentoring" versus "facilitating" role) in Vygotsky's concept of the
ZPD? G&S emphasize the aspect of "developing" versus "matured"
psychological functions in the ZPD, and deemphasize the role of the
teacher. In fact, G&S (pg 22) go so far as to say "Vygotsky did not
include the assistance of another in his definition of ZPD."

For reference, here is a paragraph from Mind in Society (page 86) where
Vygotsky gives us an oft-quoted definition of the ZPD:

"When it was first shown that the capability of children with equal levels
of mental development to learn under a teacher's guidance varied to a high
degree, it became apparent that those children were not mentally the same
age and that the subsequent course of their learning would obviously be
different. This difference between twelve and eight, or between nine and
eight, is what we call [italics from here on out sg] *the zone of proximal
development. It is the distance between the actual development level as
determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential
development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or
in collaboration with more capable peers.*"

Something more than I can see must be going on in G&S's reasoning, because
Vygotsky obviously includes the role of the "teacher" in this
definition. Is there another context where it makes sense to deemphasize
the "assistance of another" in considering the ZPD?

Four, G&S attribute the 1978 book Mind in Society as apparently originating
the "erroneous" view that "the ZPD is constituted by tasks solved in
collaboration." (FN 6). The only place I have found in this book where the
editors - and not Vygotsky - speak of the ZPD is in the Afterword by Vera
John-Steiner and Ellen Souberman, where they quote from the above passage
and say things about the concept of the ZPD like:

"In this theory, then, teaching represents the means through with
development is advanced; that is, the socially elaborated contents of human
knowledge and the cognitive strategies necessary for their internalization
are evoked in the learners according to their "actual development
levels."" pg 131. Clearly, these editors interpret teaching as essential
to the concept of the ZPD.


Thanks for this thread, it is doing wonders for my own zone!

- Steve

At 07:15 PM 4/25/2004 -0400, you wrote:
>On Saturday 24 April 2004 9:36 pm, Steve Gabosch especially wrote:
> > Since the concept of development and its theoretical expression in
> > dialectical materialism was not part of either the Glassman paper or the
> > Greblen-Shields review, I suggest we start a different thread on this if
> > people want.
>Steve has drawn a nice analysis (as I expected). I think Steve's comment
>above points to problems in the understandings of both papers, UNLESS
>however, this topic was omitted because of the publications space
>limitations. We'd have to inquire fuirther to be sure.
>I'd like to expand on one sense of the dominant script to which I referred
>e.g. little "consideration of the greater theoretical context in which the
>quote rests" This I wrote in part because of the above omission AND because
>Gedler and Shields insistence of the individual nature of the zoped. The
>dominant script to which i infer/refer here includes a western perspective
>that places cognition only inside the head -- arguably more fully described
>as a western non-dialogical non-dialectical non-social ahistorical
>perspective. If we interpret Vygotsky through this perspective, then
>integration with Bakhtin would seem very difficult. (Personally i'm not
>interested in integration of vygotsky with dewey at this point) The evidence
>supporting Gredler and Shields participation in the dominant script (I'm
>simply arguing for plausibility here, I don't intend to conduct a full study
>of Gredler and Shields) includes their apparent neglect of:
>1) Vygosky's *Instrumental Method in Psychology* which states what IMHO is
>the basis of activity (as how Leont'ev writes of activity) being the unit of
>analysis of child development, i.e. "The instrumental method studies not only
>the development of the child but his/her education" (p140). This points to
>the need for a greater unit of analysis than just the child, in (logical)
>contradiction to Gredler and Shields definition.
>2) Vygotsky's formulation of the general genetic law *The genesis of higher
>mental functions* notes "Any function in the child's cultural development
>appears twice, on on two planes. First it appears between people as an
>interpsychological category and then within the child as an
>intrapsychological category." (p163) This is a key concept that supports an
>interpretation of the zoped to include the assistance of others (and
>auxiliary means, see below).
>3) The method of double stimulation in *the problem of the cultural
>development of the child* is an historical-genetic method in which one
>examines different configurations of "auxiliary means" to map out the
>changing (and arguably potential) development of the child, i.e., "the
>child, in mastering himself...goes on the whole in the same way as he does in
>mastering his external nature, e.g. by technical means." This is what
>Gredler and Shields seem to completely miss in their interpretation of the
>4) Vygotsky's *The problem of the environment* notes "... the environment
>cannot be regarded as a static entity and one which is peripheral in relation
>to development, but must be seen as changeable and dynamic. Here we have
>enrironment, a situation which influences the child in one way or another and
>directs his development. But the child, his development, keeps changing,
>becomes different. and it is not just the child who changes, for the
>relaitonship between him and his environment also changes, and the same
>environment now begins to have a different influence on the child" (p346)
>The only real claim this evidence supports well is that Gredler and shields
>really do not understand how the zoped fits into a dialectical and culturally
>cohesive theory of child development. (Or perhaps they don't think Vygotsky
>thought this way). The strong claim I make about their participation in all
>those other characterizations of a dominant script is a conjecture to be
>either further supported or refuted.
>Anyway, I'm interested in exploring the grounds of our interpretations of
>these two papers, and not really in detouring through Ilyenkov's pumkin
>Thanks Steve!

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