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

From: Ana Marjanovic-Shane (
Date: Tue Jun 06 2006 - 00:53:08 PDT

Great analysis, but... I have a somewhat different angle of
interpretation which I would like to call:

      Why the episode with Franklin could be taken as an indicator of
      the Zone of Proximal Development or Why play represents a process
      of construction of the Zone of Proximal Development

 In my earlier posting I argued differently from Bill and Mike and said
that I thought the episode with Franklin "is really a great example of
the zone of proximal development"


Bill analyzed the episode using Chaiklin's interpretation of Vygotsky's

"/Chaiklin states that objective zopeds, while culturally-historically
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./ "

No one IS in the "objective zone of proximal development" -- the one
which is given as a cultural historical norm for a particular age. In
Chaiklin's words: "The objective zone is not defined a priori but
reflect the structural relationships that are historically constructed
and objectively constituted in the historical period in which the child
lives. One can say that the zone for a given age period is normative, in
that it reflects institutionalized demands and expectations that
developed historically in a particular societal tradition, or practice"
(p.49) -- as an aside, compare this definition to the definition of
"prolepsis": "The parents represent the future in the present. Second,
if less obviously, the parents' (purely /ideal/) recall of their past
and imagination of their child's future become a fundamental
/materialized constraint/ on the child's life experiences in the
present" (Cole, 1996, p. 184, Mike's original emphasis).


Bill said that Franklin definitely was not in THAT zone. I saw
Franklin's relationship to the "objective zone" slightly different. What
I saw from Paley's description was Franklin's awareness of that
normative zone. There were several moments which Paley describes and in
each one of them Franklin showed in different ways that he understood
the norm -- in this case the cultural norm for that age regarding social
behavior was an expectation of collaborative, sharing and fair behavior
toward peers. However, to talk about Franklin specifically, means to
talk about his "subjective" zone of proximal development. So let's see
how it is defined. Bill says:


"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."

And then he adds:

"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?'"


Finally: "For that, we have to try to assess Franklin's understanding of
the situation"


As I said above, Paley's description reveals several instances where
Franklin understands the norm, even when he does not understand in which
way he breaks it from time to time:

   1. Paley describes Franklin at the beginning as a boy who is "At both
      the art table and the wood bench... the model of maturity and
      aplomb. He performs his self-appointed tasks with such meticulous
      care that others watch and copy him. His intense concentration on
      clearly defined goals entices more boys into 'work' projects than
      all my curriculum ideas combined."(p. 84)
   2. He also has a control in the super hero play -- because his
      detailed knowledge of movies gives him a leading role among the
   3. Franklin "knows how to listen to dialog and stay in character".
   4. He believes that he is cooperative in the block area "but I am
      helping them!!" and what he does not understand is WHY his "help"
      makes everyone go away.

Another question which is important to answer is the issue of "imitation
with understanding". Chaiklin quotes Vygotsky: "It is well established
that the child can imitate only what lies within the zone of his
intellectual potential." (p 52, quote from "Thinking and Speech").

Paley failed when she tried to tell Franklin DIRECTLY what he was
actually doing -- even using an analogy with a fable they dramatized
earlier. Even though Paley does not write about her reasons to put on a
"pretend" play in terms of a theory of zone of proximal development, she
articulates several assumptions about how the "pretend" play works in
these situations:

She says: "What he (Franklin needs) is an objective view of the scene he
just played." Her assumption is that a pretend play can give one "an
objective view". -- "They (children) can become objective only when
events are seen as make-believe" (p.87).


What the teacher creates for Franklin is a situation in which he can
distance himself from the actual events in the blocks, and look at his
social acts only -- without a simultaneous demand to build a work of art.

Also, because it is a framed activity (Bateson) in which an act stands
for another act -- but it is not that act ..., the social relationships
of collegiality and friendliness can be maintained even when the
portrayed scene is not "pleasant". In fact Franklin laughs when he
recognizes himself in Paley's imitation. This laughter reveals both his
understanding of the social situation and more importantly of his
precise place of development toward that norm (not yet developed) AND
as Chaiklin said, it reveals the "contradiction between the child's
current capabilities ..., the child's needs and desires, and the demands
and possibilities of the environment.

Paley also does not ask Franklin to imitate either himself or her
(playing him), but she asks him to play a boy "named Franklin who lets
people use their own ideas in the blocks", in other words, she asks him
to play a character who knows how to handle this specific social norm of
the objective zone of proximal development. And he does it -- with


There is yet another layer here which I want to mention -- and that is
the layer of the actual social interaction -- actual events that
children experience in their development, not just the abstract
"normative" zone of proximal development. If zone of proximal
development can be described as that stage in development of a
psychological function in which this function is still interpersonal and
is only on its way to become intra-personal, then what Paley did is not
merely creating a pretend play for Franklin to "see objectively" his own
behavior. In addition to that, she had created an experience for
Franklin and the rest of the children in which she is one of the
cooperative actors herself. She was able to "walk them through" a
cooperative and friendly model of conflict resolution in which everyone
is respected. For Franklin specifically, she was able to bring him to
the safe place from which he could see himself as he is seen by the
others. She gave him that ability. In that sense, the whole episode --
not just the pretend play part of it -- was construction of the zone of
proximal development for Franklin and other children. Play as a very
special kind of activity cannot be analyzed alone and in isolation from
the surrounding social situation out of frame of play. What happens
within the play frame is only meaningful if it is related to what is
happening out of the play frame.


Finally, Mike is asking if there are any other known descriptions and
studies of play that support the idea that play might be seen as "zone
of proximal development".

I know of some Cultural Historical Activity Theory approaches to play
which either implicitly or explicitly describe play as a form of
creating zone of proximal development. One of them is Elkonin's
"Psychology of Play", [Psihologiya Igri, 1978] (I have it in
Serbo-Croatian translation). According to Elkonin, play activity is
characterized by the following: taking roles (usually of adults);
creating a play situation through the transfer of meaning from one to
another object; conditional representation of the activities by modeling
goals and motives as well as the rules and norms which govern those
activities. Fully developed form of role play contains a subject (plot),
characters which imply certain rules of conduct, then the activity
portrayed by play which is condensed, generalized and conditional, and a
very developed system of relationships among the players themselves...
 All of these are different psychological functions in development which
are given a place in which they can be exercised, so to speak.

Some other authors who studied play from this point of view and who see
play as a developing and developmental activity (even if they do not
always explicitly call it ZPD) are some of my colleagues from what used
to be Yugoslavia. I am sure that if it was not 3:30 AM I would be able
to think of many more, but I leave it at this for now.


Mike Cole wrote:
> 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
> that
> play can create a zone of proximal development? Certainly the example of
> two
> sisters playing sister that Vygotsky gives fails the current test. Using
> McCarthy
> 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?
> mike
> 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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Ana Marjanovic'-Shane,Ph.D.

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Philadelphia, PA 19144

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