Dear Gordon, Eric, and All,
Thanks for the reminder of your paper, Gordon - I recall we discussed
it here on xmca and even had access to some of your audio-video data to
see the students in action. I just took a peek back at it, and to your
comments regarding the complexity of representing, temporally, when
newly created artefacts become means of mediation in later phases of
the learning activity. You also mentioned the added difficulty of
representing the relationships among the various tools and signs that
constitute the activity's means of mediation through different phases
of the learning activity. Quoting you from the paper:
"In their different ways, sometimes reinforcing each other and at other
times relatively independently, all these means contributed to the
progressively increasing dialogic understanding which was itself both
mediator and outcome of the activity. One thing seems to be clear,
however, and that is that to represent each phase of action as either
object oriented, mediated by tools, or subject-oriented, mediated by
signs, does not do justice to the nature of collaborative joint
This brings back a comment from a co-advisor who studied under A.N.
Leont'ev to the tune that using the "triangles" to represent learning
activity in small groups in the classroom may be too "industrial
strength" - referring to Engestrom's application to much broader
activity systems such as the hospital, albeit focussed on one subject
(e.g. the primary care physician)- see
The triangular representation of classroom L2 learning activity that I
was fiddling with, and still am, is attached.
P.S Am I right that you (Gordon) will be leaving us for more
pleasurable pursuits today? If so, many thanks for your contributions
and let's hope we can continue the dialogue in some form here when we
have covered the next and final phase of the readings.
On 01/07/2005, at 1:22 AM, Gordon Wells wrote:
>> Eric wrote:
>> I do know most of the problem lies in my behavioristic training but
>> nebulous ideas and lengthly descriptions that sound nice are a hard
>> to support when so many educators are hell bent on test scores. I
>> think test scores are the answer but then what? How could the
>> triangle be
>> applied for an individual? Should it be? Once again Phil I like your
>> summary of Activity Theory, it points to the usefulness of how
>> Theory is a useful tool for social theorists when discussing how it is
>> people interact and accomplish activities.
> Engestrom gives a couple of examples of how an individual (himself)
> and then a group (participants at a conference) might engage in
> actions within a joint activity: that of developing activity theory.
> You can find this in the first chapter of Engestrom et al (Eds)
> Perspectives on Activity Theory (Cambridge University Press, 1999).
> But very little work in activity theory addresses the interaction over
> time of participants in an action, in which goals are negotiated as
> the action proceeds through talk and other media, including gesture,
> body posture as well as artifacts such as texts, computers, etc. I
> tried to develop a way of describing an example of this kind in my
> paper in MCA, The role of dialogue in activity. In it, I include the
> attached diagram to show two (or more) subjects bring their individual
> mediating resources to bear on the same object to produce a joint
> outcome and, in the second diagram, how this can represent working in
> the zpd when one of the participants who has greater relevant assists
> the other and provides an occasion for appropriation. While the
> diagram is static, the analysis of the interaction attempts to capture
> the emergen nature of the participants joint action. Perhaps this
> would be relevant for yhour work, Phil.
> Gordon Wells
> Dept of Education, http://education.ucsc.edu/faculty/gwells
> UC Santa Cruz.
> xmca mailing list
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