Re: [xmca] Playfully Answering Ana--

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Sat Jun 10 2006 - 08:01:03 PDT

Hi Peter and bb and.......

Peter-- In a 1985 book edited by Wertsch I wrote an article called. "The
zone of proximal development: Where culture and cognition create each
other" (or some such title). I argued, using Leontiev, Meyer Fortes, and
Nadel (a very interesting anthropologist) that the activities where adults
and children were all engaged constituted a zone or proximal development. VV
Rubstov said it was a stupid idea. Probably was.

Yes, seems like we have to keep distributed cognition (joint mediated
activity IS distributed cognition!) in mind. But seems like an idea such as
guided participation applies more to a lot of such scenes. And, as bb points
out, there may not be much jointness in the participation. Such a
view has nothing whatsoever to say to a theory that distinguishes learning
and development. Change maybe, if one is careful to indicate the
unit of analysis (which is unlikely to be "in the child.").

bb-- I have been thinking about societies where children's play is of
interest to adults mainly when it gets in the way of the kids working. Artin
and Suzanne Gaskins write about this state of affairs, among the Maya of
southern Yucatan, for example. If play is important in the ways that
LSV claimed (separating sense and meaning, word and object, for example)
wouldn't these kids have to be retarded intellectually? Well, by
some measures (Sharp, Cole & Lave monograph in late 1970's) they are -- they
give syntagmatic responses to word stimuli (duck swims instead of
duck-chicken-- into adulthood, a pattern of responding that would produce a
low IQ score if done in Boston.

Of course, there are other explanations, and we provide one that seems
compelling to me still. However, it is also true that there are
a variety of carnavalesque activities where children participate as
peripheral members that are clearly playful/imaginative/religious. Yet this
kind of cultural practice is not discussed in the literature on play as it
relates to learning/development. In such activities the kids may be
tapping their feet or watching ants make a trail across a path, or fixate on
costumes more than the adult meanings. But there they are,
participating in imaginative activity.

Anyway, so far as I can tell, no one has made the claim that teachers create
a zone of proximal development in math lessons or that a zoped
can appear in play, or, in general, that there is any evidence for such a
thing as a zoped. Two sisters playing sisters is too anecdotal and
impressionistic, if I read local sentiment correctly. Any given form of
lesson in, say, understanding long division (Pettito's work in Newman,
Griffin, & Cole, for example) clearly fails despite their ideas to the
contrary-- no evidence for the generality assumption at all, among other

Newman, Griffin, & Cole could not agree on how to specify
learning/development differences with sufficient intersubjective reliability
to use the
terms -- they settled for change. In some cases, however, those changes
appeared to be like zopeds, even regressive zopeds. But looks
can be decieving, even when there are video cameras whirring.

On 6/10/06, bb <> wrote:
> Yes, this makes sense. I know of a child whose elementary school teacher
> complained that he would not pay attention -- he was doing tihngs like
> looking at the ceiling (when I asked he said he was finding patterns in it)
> -- and she would have been surprised to find years later that he scored
> 99%ile in math. His middle school teacher, who complained of his constant
> foot tapping, was surpised to find that he was a drummer... but in all this,
> is it also not true that these teachers instincts were right -- that this
> kid was not in the zone because he was not attending to the moment?
> -------------- Original message ----------------------
> From: Peter Smagorinsky <>
> > At 05:36 PM 6/8/2006 -0400, you wrote: Since, by definition, ZPD is a
> > construction zone, a time of dynamic changes where everything is "up in
> the
> > air", a longer period of time and more play and non play observations
> > should be made on a child in order to be able to make any decisive
> > conclusions about that child's position in her/his ZPD.
> >
> > I haven't contributed much to this discussion--am teaching a summer
> class
> > and trying to get some writing done. I'm wondering, though, about the
> idea
> > that a child has "his/her zpd." If cognition is distributed, it seems
> that
> > the zpd isn't the child's alone, but extended to mediational tools,
> their
> > histories, and the community of practice in which they're used (and more
> > I'm sure). In 1990 Luis Moll equated zpd's with social contexts (his
> intro
> > to Vygotsky and Education), and I've always found that to be a useful
> > reformulation of Vygotsky's relatively brief account of the zpd: It's
> not
> > an individual capacity, but using Vygotskian logic, the setting
> (including
> > the learner) in which potential may be realized. Peter
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Sep 05 2006 - 08:11:24 PDT