[xmca] Once Again, Learning and Development!

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at yahoo.com>
Date: Sat Jan 19 2008 - 08:16:12 PST

  Thanks for sending your two articles, and my congratulations on gettng past the first hurdle with TESOL Quarterly. (I'm truly envious; I've got a stack of rejections from them I could wall-paper my bathroom and maybe even my classroom with.)
  I guess you know we disagree on a LOT ("interlanguage", "scaffolding", private education, the role of rote learning, PPP, "task based teaching", use of native-speaker English in class, and so on and so on and so on). So I was pleasantly surprised to find some things we agree on.
  I too see NO difference between "task based teaching" and "teaching English through English" at least as far as kids are concerned. With adults it's a bit different because Long and Robinson, at least, have argued that tasks have 'real-world' outcomes, meaning they are related to the world of work. But kids have no experience of work; as far as they are concerned, the classroom IS the 'real world'.
  I too find Sinclair and Coulthard almost useless for describing classroom discourse (though I guess if you are doing an MA for Birmingham you can't really say that!). Mehan's version was considerably better (because he had the key insight that "follow up" is not simply a response to a response but an INTEGRATING move that explains how the whole exchange fits in with other exchanges).
  But I think both S&C and Mehan are too "microscopic"to describe how learning turns into development; they are projections of the micro-structure of interaction onto the macro-structure of the lesson, and if we want to understand how relations BETWEEN people become relations WITHIN them we might do well to start at the other end with episodes (the way Wells and Swain have done).
  Like you, I can't find the distinction between "learning" and "development" in Ohta's work, so I don't know how it relates to the ZPD or even to Vygotsky. Actually, I asked her about this last April, and she told me that she didn't see any difference at all. (Vygotsky sure did!)
  But to turn to the matter at hand (I don't know why I think MY version is the matter at hand and YOURS is not, except that I got here first!). Tell me how you think your papers relate to the following issues:
  a) Learning and Development. We need some way of distinguishing between them! As Mike says, LSV wrote a whole chapter on this and it's still not entirely clear. They are linked but distinct, linked but distinct, linked but distinct...and we need to figure out some way of distinguishing between them that does not sever that crucial generative connection.
  b) Teachers and Pupils. Here the distinction is clear, but it's the LINK that's unclear. They don't speak the same language, not even in your data. When the teacher says "It's time for recess" and the chldren say "What's recess?" (and not "What is recess?" or "What are recess?") the teacher answers "(Recess is the time) When you play." That is a very DIFFERENT kind of language than the language the children are using, isn't it? Your solution is S-S interaction, and it's a good one. But then where does the teacher fit?
  c) (This is an issue I forgot to include last night when I impetuously sent off the whole chapter I've been working on instead of stripping it down to the data) Parts and Wholes. This is what LSV talks about in Vol. 5 of the collected works, and it's the bit that stumped Mike. He says the evolution of the PARTS influence the development of the WHOLE during NON-critical periods, and then the restructuring of the WHOLE influences the development of the PARTS during the critical periods. I guess I was thinking that the children go from a holistic understanding of the text to an analytical one in my data (and this is also a confusion of development and learning). But I'm not sure what the whole and the parts are for your data.
  d) (This is ANOTHER issue from Vol. 5 I forgot to include): Central functions and peripheral functions. Mike also talks about this in his LCHC-Centre for Activity Research on-line presentation. I guess I thought that in my data we can see a situation where UNDERSTANDING is the central function (comprehension) and EXPRESSION is peripheral turn into a situation where EXPRESSION is central (role play) and comprehension is subordinated to expression (in time as well as importance).
  I think that I see this as happening precisely by means of the T-S discussions that you are trying to circumvent in your paper (the V-task is really an S-T discussion!) The T knows how to focus on setting and characters in the bootstrapping phase, and also how to analyze the utterances into various semantic roles using wh-questions. S-S child role plays tend to be too holistic for this purpose (the lit on "peer scaffolding", Ohta and Donato and Swain and Lapkin, is ALL adult data you notice!).
  Actually, I'm not sure if this way of understanding what Vygotsky meant by central functions and peripheral functions is right at all. It's okay for learning, but it does seem too microgenetic to describe development, doesn't it? Perhaps the BEST thing to do is to take this back to XMCA and see what others think!
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Sat Jan 19 08:18 PST 2008

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