Re: [xmca] Unfinished Symphony

From: bella kotik <bella.kotik who-is-at>
Date: Mon Jan 14 2008 - 22:24:57 PST

David, before reading carefully your discussion I want to comment on your
claim that LSV was a "late starter". What is the basis of this conclusion?
I hope to present in September a review of his EARLY writings. At the age of
15 he became a leader of a seminar discussing serious books on history.
Being a student he worked as a technical secretary in a newspaper and
published several esseys very important for understanding his personality.
Hope to be in San Diego to present these data to you and to all.
Bella Kotik-Friedgut.

On 1/15/08, David Kellogg <> wrote:
> Toulmin's comment about "the Mozart of psychology" notwithstanding, LSV
> was a late starter. (LSV also seems to sympathize with Salieri and not
> Mozart in his comments on the Pushkin short story!) But LSV did leave us
> something like the mysterious unfinished Requiem Mass, namely the book on
> Child Development sketched and begun in Volume Five of the Collected Works.
> Mike, Pentti Hakarainnen, Eugene Subbotsky and Yrjo Engestrom gave us a
> thought-shaking but distinctly unfinished discussion on this work in
> November, and my ex-grad students have tried to add a few bars with real
> data. I've got a kind of "executive summary" of what we came up with below,
> and you can also download our powerpoints and watch our presentations at:
> 1) (Questions raised by Mike Cole)
> a) What are these 'parts' and 'wholes' of which Vygotsky speaks when
> he describes how in non-critical periods the growth of parts determines the
> configuration of the whole whle in critical periods the relation is
> reversed?
> b) What are the 'peripheral' and 'central' functions and how do they
> reverse places? What would be evidence that this is taking place?
> c) Is there slippage from a 'social situation of development' in
> which the child is an active participant to one which is simply given, and
> happens to the child from without?
> 2) (Questions raised by Pentti Hakarainnen)
> a) How does Vygotsky's view of development agree with and differ from
> that of Leontiev and Elkonin? In particular, is the ¡°neoformation¡± the
> same as the 'leading activity'? (Olga Vasquez)
> b) Is play a 'realistic' activity directed towards the imitation of
> adult activities (Leontiev) or is it chiefly sense-making?
> c) How do children progress from one period to another? If, as
> Leontiev says, the 'crisis' is unnecessary, don¡¯t we need some kind of
> ''transitional activity system' which takes its place?
> 3) (Questions raised by Yrjö Engeström)
> a) Is there a parallel between the phylogenetic development of
> societies and nations and the ontogenetic development of individuals or is
> it simply a stretched metaphor?
> b) How do we theorize the destructive element of crises and the
> collaborative component of crises without minimizing the damage they do or
> patronizing the participants?
> c) How does the zone of proximal development itself develop?
> Some answers suggested by our data (Yongho Kim, Hyosun Cho, Seonmi Song
> and Ji-eun Shin):
> 1) (to questions raised by Mike Cole)
> a) We think that the 'whole' Vygotsky refers to is the whole child, the
> historical child, the child across the lifespan. We present VERBAL data from
> different periods of the lifespan showing that it can be understood as the
> whole child being shaped by various changes in speech, and speech being
> shaped by various changes in the whole child.
> b) We think that the central and peripheral functions may be understood as
> SPEECH functions, e.g. Vygotsky's 'indicative', 'nominative', and
> 'signifying' functions (infancy and early childhood). Within the signifying
> function, other subfunctions develop. For example, in Yongho's data we see
> that the four year olds are CENTRALLY concerned with the esthetic response
> and only peripherally concerned with ethical responses. This may change! His
> data from fifth graders shows children who are concerned with RULE BASED
> games (where fairness is a central concern) rather than ROLE PLAY (where
> esthetic responses may predominate). Interestingly, RULE BASED games show
> less developed, more inter-mental language than ROLE PLAY.
> c) We think that since even understanding is inherently responsive, a
> speech-made world can never be something that simply 'happens' to a child.
> For example, in Hyosun's data, we see a much higher level of understanding
> in the role plays of a 'Caillou' cartoon than in the teacher-student
> discussion, but even in the teacher-student discussion we see analysis of
> language which will be deployed in the role play. Similarly, in Seonmi's
> data we see the children taking exchanges and 'digesting' them into words or
> sometimes whole utterances. But the exchanges are never simply regurgitated
> undigested, and the variability of processing visible in the 'Word Race'
> results is a clear sign of the variability of the child's contribution to
> the social situation of development (in this instance, the classroom
> discourse).
> 2) (To questions raised by Pentti Hakarainnen)
> a) We agree that there are real and substantive differences between
> Vygotsky and Leontiev, particularly on the question of the inevitability of
> crises. We think that neoformations are not the same thing as leading
> activities, at least not in the critical periods, because neoformations in
> the critical periods completely disappear. Neoformations from previous
> non-critical periods (paleoformations?) do not disappear, but coexist with
> newer neoformations in our data. For example, in Yongho's data we see play
> (the neoformation of preschool) within schoolwork (the neoformation of
> school age children). Within that play 'rule-based' game is more of a
> leading activity (and thus produces much less coherent and complete
> language) while the role play is the main activity (and thus less
> challenging and developmental). Similarly, in Hyosun's data, we see the
> teacher-student discussion playing the role of leading activity, but the
> role play represents a main activity. In Seonmi's data
> we see use of whole utterances in exchanges as the main activity and the
> study of fully decontextualized individual word meanings (on the Word Race)
> as the leading activity. In Ji-eun's data, we think that the novice teacher
> develops her greeting skills in a satisfactory way, but not her overall
> ability to construct 'tall and thin' discourse with the children. The
> greeting, then, is a leading activity for this novice teacher because it
> leads development.
> b) We agree that, contrary to what Leontiev contends, play is not chiefly
> an attempt to take part in adult activities; it is not, therefore,
> inherently realistic or based on 'meaning-making'. For example, in Yongho's
> data we see two very close friends role playing perfect strangers.
> Similarly, in Hyosun's data, the children role play YOUNGER children
> (Caillou is only four years old). Seonmi's data alone can be seen as the
> attempt by children to derive meaning from sense: the children begin with a
> situation-based and ever-changing whole utterance and end with a dictionary
> definition on the Word Race; but of course the Word Race is not imaginative
> play, but something more like a test. Even within the Word Race, the most
> easily memorized words are often those having to do with sense-making, not
> meaning-making (names of games and individual experiences; numbers were well
> memorized when they are part of a recent memory game).
> c) We agree that if one does away with the 'crisis', as Leontiev
> apparently wished to do, there must be some kind of transitional activity
> system that provides a springboard from one relatively quiescent period to
> the next. But why do away with the crisis? As Professor Engström indicates,
> the solution to an undertheorized crisis is to theorize it, not dispose of
> it.
> 3) (to questions raised by Yrjö Engeström)
> a) We think that in many ways the 'development as increased productivity'
> is the very opposite of what Vygotsky meant. In Yongho¡¯s data we see
> increased diversity rather than increased overall productivity as children
> move from role-play to rule-based games. On the other hand, the
> 'development' of language teaching in Korea has tended to follow a model
> which reduces diversity and enforces the uniformity of a native-speaker
> American model. Often this involves introducing anti-developmental material
> (e.g. using preschool materials from America in elementary schools in
> Korea).
> b) We think that foreign language teaching in Korea presents a kind of
> case study of the destructive nature of development, because, as Ji-eun's
> data shows, we are replacing highly developed Korean teacher expertise with
> novice foreign teachers, simply because the native speaker model represents
> the kind of development as increase in productivity rather than
> diversification that Rist is talking about (e.g. Oxford University Press's
> introduction to Korea of teaching materials from science education in
> American elementary schools in English, apparently an attempt to induce the
> kind of language acquisition that immersion programmes in Canada have
> achieved).
> c) We think that one obvious way in which the zone of proximal development
> itself develops (intra-individually) is with foreign language learning. It
> is well known that vocabulary learning in one¡¯s native language tends to
> level off with early adulthood. But foreign language learning brings the
> learning of vocabulary (and associated concepts) to a new developmental
> stage—on condition that we conceptualize foreign language learning the way
> Vygotsky did, with the foreign language building onto the most advanced
> elements of first language acquisition rather than starting all over again
> from the beginning. An inter-individual way in which the zone of proximal
> development itself develops is the the development of teacher expertise,
> described by Ji-eun.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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Sincerely yours Bella Kotik-Friedgut
xmca mailing list
Received on Mon Jan 14 22:26 PST 2008

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