Re: [xmca] Playfully Answering Ana--

From: Peter Smagorinsky (
Date: Sat Jun 10 2006 - 08:16:51 PDT

I'm interested in Mike's term "regressive zopeds." Jim Wertsch, about a
dozen years ago, posed the question, "development toward what?" Mike's term
has a value judgment--children learning to be skinheads would be, to me, in
regressive zopeds, if I understand Mike's term correctly. Perhaps we can
all even agree on that. But we'd have less agreement on classroom
instruction that some of us would approve of, and others not. I think of,
for instance, character education, in which the most influential people
believe in highly authoritarian conceptions of CE that presume adults are
virtuous and students (particularly those from impoverished backgrounds and
non Christian families) are expected to be obedient. Others critique this
view as limiting on students' agency, generally taking a Deweyian
perspective. So, is a "school of character" in a "regressive zoped"?
Depends on where you think development should be headed. p
At 08:01 AM 6/10/2006 -0700, you wrote:
>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
>> > 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
>> > and trying to get some writing done. I'm wondering, though, about the
>> > that a child has "his/her zpd." If cognition is distributed, it seems
>> > the zpd isn't the child's alone, but extended to mediational tools,
>> > 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
>> > 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
>> > an individual capacity, but using Vygotskian logic, the setting
>> > the learner) in which potential may be realized. Peter
>> >
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