RE: [xmca] Did Franklin Participate in a Zoped?

From: Tony Whitson (
Date: Mon Jun 05 2006 - 15:45:49 PDT

On 6/5/06, bb <> wrote:
> The short answer is "No". . . . . > The
> Paula and Randy in me want to vote yes, but Simon Says "No".
> bb

I wonder if there might not be a problem here with trying to treat this as a
dichotomous yes/no question.

Consider an infant who does not yet know words, much less writing, whose
mother reads with the child on her lap, turning pages in the picture book
and vocalizing text.

In the ordinary sense we might see the infant "imitating" the mother's
activity - turning pages, pointing at the pages, babbling, etc.

We might say that this fails the criteria for imitation to qualify for zpd
because the infant lacks understanding. But is the infant totally devoid of
understanding? Does that not depend on how understanding itself is to be

Language acquisition folks might say that the infant is indeed developing
the rudimentary pragmatics (vs. syntactics & semantics) of reading. If so,
could it be possible to formulate an account of some kind of "understanding"
that is essential for this developmentally significant activity?

If so, the issue might be less a matter of reaching a "yes" or "know"
verdict of the zoped question. Instead, we might consider variation in the
kinds and forms of understanding that might be relevant.

What do you think?

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Mike Cole
Sent: Monday, June 05, 2006 5:24 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Did Franklin Participate in a Zoped?

Great analysis bb. I agree. It cannot be a zoped by the criteria listed.
So now another, really key question.
Is there any example, anywhere in any known literature to support the idea
play can create a zone of proximal development? Certainly the example of
sisters playing sister that Vygotsky gives fails the current test. Using
developmental norms is not play.

Or, perhaps, is there something wrong with the specification of criteria? In
our chapter
on early childhood (In the Development of Children) Sheila and I refer to
"Islands of competence," the idea that in some forms of activity little
children display new forms of development that will appear more broadly
later. Wrong headed, right? If it doesn't appear everywhere, it doesn't
count. If it is not willful, it doesn't count, and so on. A neoformation is
formed everywhere at once? The social situation of development
applies equally at home, at school, in the market, at play, .............
Nothing is activity contingent.

And I am certainly misunderstaning a lot here even before I get to the
complexities that David raises from what his theoretical/methodological
perspective. We are left with
the possibility that Vygotsky is just plain wrong or self contractictory:
play being a specific kind of activity cannot every provide evidence for
development or a zoped. Or we have to start to think that some of the
criteria are no helpful.

Anyone want to float an example that satisfies the criteria so we can work
out from there?

On 6/5/06, bb <> wrote:
> The short answer is "No".
> It always takes some effort to jump into someone else's text/mind, and
> this
> may be why the answer to Mike's question seems so elusive. I'm going to
> try
> to stick closely to Chaiklin's text, reserving, not pushing, my own
> perspective.
> What Chaiklin is advocating, reading among and between the lines, is that
> one
> cannot ascribe a zoped without a theoretical framework. First, he
> clarifies
> development, and I've been able to pull out these aspects, although the
> list
> may not be complete:
> child development:
> 1) involves the whole child, not one task
> 2) is staged
> 3) is functional
> 4) is agentful (willful)
> 5) is historical (need description of the theoretical model)
> 6) is material
> Chaiklin states that objective zopeds, while culturally-historically
> specific,
> are normative, "one can say that the [objective] zone is normative..." p
> 49.,
> reflecting 'a particular societal tradition of practice."
> So Franklin's definitely not in THAT zone, the objective zone. But what
> about
> the subjective zone?
> For the subjective zoped, Chaiklin writes the "ability to imitate... is
> the
> basis for the subjective zoped." p 51. and then "Imitation is possible
> only to the extent and in those forms in which it is accompanied by
> understanding" p 51-52.
> This IS a very specific delineation of 'imitation', not the normal
> cultural
> meaning, but I've seen common words used with precise definitions in other
> areas ( e.g. force, energy, momentum mean precise things to physicists),
> so I
> do not find this refinement of 'imitation' peculiar. Rather, the
> sub-question to Mike's big one becomes " Is Franklin imitating Paley
> imitating Franklin (or imitating himself) when in the circle, or is he
> just
> copying Paley/himself?"
> For that, we have to try to assess Franklin's understanding of the
> situation,
> i.e., reading Chaiklin closeley, this seems to mean whether there are
> "maturing psychlogical functions that are developing" p 57, to which
> Paley's
> intervention is directed. The problem is that Paley just does not
> articulate
> enough of the situation for us to tell, one way or the other. My
> conjecture,
> reading into the situation, is that there are functions of self-regulation
> that are in development concerning Franklin -- he can't self-regulate at
> the
> blocks, but with the support of a socio-dramatic play context, he is able
> to
> cooperate with other children. Paley writes ""pretend disarms and
> enchants;
> it suggests heroic possibilities for making changes, just as in the fairy
> tales." Franklin just may be "imitating", with understanding. The only
> evidence we seem to have is that he is able to cooperate in one situation,
> i.e. socio-dramatic simulation of the building blocks, while not being
> able
> to cooperate while actually in the building block area.
> But no, this is circumstantial evidence, not conclusive, becuase a
> theoretical
> model of Franklin's age period for self-regulation in the practice of
> building with blocks has not been expressed, at least not in Paley's
> paper.
> Chaiklin writes "the zone is never located soley in the child, not even
> the
> subjective zone. the subjective zone is always an evaluation of a child's
> capabilities in relation to the theoretical model of the age period. p 58.
> Theoretical models for the role of socio-dramatic play have appeared in
> the
> literature however, e.g. in Cole & Cole, and Leong & Bodrova, et...
> So perhaps Paley knows. Paley wrote: 'A role playing incident may not
> alter a
> person's manners, but it provides a standard for easy reference. I can
> now
> speak about Franklin's behaviour in a calm context, and he willingly sees
> himself in the picture'. It's not clear whether Paley is evaluated
> Franklin's performance in relation to a theoretical model -- she does not
> articulate this in such a manner in her text. She does seem to have a
> grasp
> of the situation, however, writing the first part of her claim in general
> terms.
> There is just not enough written about the situation to tell for
> sure. The
> Paula and Randy in me want to vote yes, but Simon Says "No".
> bb
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