RE: No Dialectical Pumpkins yet please.

From: Cunningham, Donald J. (
Date: Mon Apr 26 2004 - 16:16:17 PDT

Steve, are there only two possibilities ( i.e., "all inside the head" or
"in dialogue")? Is dialogue between people and culture really possible?
Does the metaphor of "zone" open up our thinking in useful ways? Does it
constrain our thinking at all?


Don Cunningham

Indiana University


From: Steve Gabosch []
Sent: Monday, April 26, 2004 3:16 PM
Subject: Re: No Dialectical Pumpkins yet please.


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

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 start.

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

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
> Greblen-Shields review, I suggest we start a different thread on this
> people want.

Steve has drawn a nice analysis (as I expected). I think Steve's
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
e.g. little "consideration of the greater theoretical context in which
quote rests" This I wrote in part because of the above omission AND
Gedler and Shields insistence of the individual nature of the zoped.
dominant script to which i infer/refer here includes a western
that places cognition only inside the head -- arguably more fully
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
interested in integration of vygotsky with dewey at this point) The
supporting Gredler and Shields participation in the dominant script (I'm

simply arguing for plausibility here, I don't intend to conduct a full
of Gredler and Shields) includes their apparent neglect of:

1) Vygosky's *Instrumental Method in Psychology* which states what IMHO
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
the development of the child but his/her education" (p140). This points
the need for a greater unit of analysis than just the child, in
contradiction to Gredler and Shields definition.

2) Vygotsky's formulation of the general genetic law *The genesis of
mental functions* notes "Any function in the child's cultural
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

4) Vygotsky's *The problem of the environment* notes "... the
cannot be regarded as a static entity and one which is peripheral in
to development, but must be seen as changeable and dynamic. Here we
enrironment, a situation which influences the child in one way or
another and
directs his development. But the child, his development, keeps
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"

The only real claim this evidence supports well is that Gredler and
really do not understand how the zoped fits into a dialectical and
cohesive theory of child development. (Or perhaps they don't think
thought this way). The strong claim I make about their participation in
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
these two papers, and not really in detouring through Ilyenkov's pumkin



Thanks Steve!


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