Re: Michael Glassman's response

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Tue Apr 27 2004 - 12:44:52 PDT

Michael, your writing has certainly been generating much intellectual
stimulation! I am so very happy you are participating here on xmca.

I read the "A Letter From Dewey" last night from the Dewey-Bentley book
Knowing and the Known that you suggest, and which is happily on on line
(thanks Don, Adam). I found this piece by Dewey quite helpful in
understanding his radical approach to inquiry, while at the same time
helpful in revealing his ambivalent and circular approach toward ontology
(this is the dialectical materialist in me speaking critically but also
appreciatively of Dewey).

And your 2001 article has certainly stimulated a deeper appreciation in me
and others of the importance and complexity of studying and comparing the
educational philosophies of Dewey and Vygotsky. Again, my hat is off to
you for initiating and tackling this in Educational Researcher. I look
forward to your response to Gredler and Shields.

I want to ask you about a major point you bring up - what you call the
"transactive approach to activity".

Michael posted:
"I offer this thought experiment. For anybody who wants to play here are
the rules. I will offer a simple communication. You need to try and
determine what the meaning of the communication is. I will then offer
another step in understanding of the communication, and again you need to
determine the meaning, another step, and again you need to determine the
meaning and so on. Track the way your meaning changes with each step and
you have an idea of what the transactive approach to activity is. I want to
stress that this is not a new idea. I take the approach, if not the actual
experiment almost wholly from (my interpretation of) Dewey's article on The
Reflex Arc Concept published in 1896. This is an idea that has been around
a very long time and should have been one of the pillars to all
psychological research."

Linguistics considers one of its objects of study to be how meaning is
accumulated in speech and text - in words (phonemes, morphemes, etc.),
phrases (lexemes, etc.), sentences (syntax, etc.), and so forth. Your
suggestion of looking for ways to track meaning in dialogue as an essential
part of understanding an activity is stimulating, as are so many of your ideas.

I am interested in how you see a transactive approach to activity fitting
in (or not) to cultural-historical activity theory and the ideas of the
Vygotsky school in general.

- Steve

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