RE: [xmca] neoformation

From: Michael G. Levykh <mglevykh who-is-at>
Date: Thu Feb 07 2008 - 12:04:13 PST

Dear Lois,

I am excited to hear that you are writing about how the ZPD has been
interpreted in various writings. I often read that in many cases and
writings ZPD has not been used as it was intended by Vygotsky. It puzzles
me. Let us assume for the time being that there is no other purpose that
ZPD was created but to facilitate the child's further development. Imagine
if a wheel inventor (if there was such a person and if he lived nowadays)
who invented the wheels only for the usage of the buggy pulled by the horse,
would complain about the modern usage of the wheels (his own invention which
had a specifically different intended function to perform). It would seem
trivial, to say the least, to limit our technological progress by warring
about "authenticity" of the originally intended usage of the wheels. Since
Vygotsky only intended but never had a chance to give any specifics and
details on the subject of ZPD, one cannot be sure as to his dissatisfaction
in regards to the extended usage and interpretation of his ZPD, had he ever
had such a chance.

As far as the inclusion of emotions in ZPD is concerned, in my recently
published article - Levykh, M.G. (2008). The affective establishment and
maintenance of Vygotsky's zone of proximal development. Educational Theory,
vol. 58(1), pp. 83-101. - I begin to address this very important issue of
emotions. I attempt to show that there is no need to expand ZPD to include
emotions, as its more "conservative" dimensions (cognitive, social,
cultural, and historical) already encompass affective features. In this
article I also emphasize that an emotionally positive collaboration between
teachers and students in a caring and nurturing environment must be created
from the outset; and culturally developed emotions must mediate successful
establishment and maintenance of the ZPD in order to be effective.

I think the interest in this conversation is still there.

Michael Levykh.

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Lois Holzman
Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2008 10:33 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] neoformation

This is a topic I'm currently writing about-the various ways the zpd
has been interpreted. As Glick points out in The Essential Vygotsky, a
different zpd appears in different translations of different writings
of Vygotsky. I am especially interested in how most contemporary work
is cognitively overdetermined, that is, continues the cognition-
emotion split of mainstream psychology in talking about/applying the
zpd conceptually. I think confining the zpd to goal directed,
educational settings is also an outgrowth of this unintended cognitive
bias. I detect a slight movement toward "including the affective" in
some recent work. And then, of course, Vygotsky did mention the zpd of
play... My own work follows that line of thinking to performance as a
unity of cognition and affect. A big stretch from Vygotsky's text, but
as Anna Stetsenko wrote in that same collection, "The best way to
penetrate Vygotsky's ideas is to turn them into an instrument of one's
own social practice." Is there any interest in pursuing this

Lois Holzman, Director
East Side Institute for Group and Short Term Psychotherapy
920 Broadway, 14th floor
New York NY 10010
tel. 212.941.8906 ext. 324
fax 212.941.0511

On Feb 7, 2008, at 12:52 PM, Michael Glassman wrote:

> A great post because it makes me think of a thousand questions. Are
> zpds always intended? What if I'm having a conversation with a friend
> and all of a sudden she mentions something that makes me think,
> hmmm, I
> haven't heard that before, and it leads to a really salient situation.
> I was in a research meeting and a student mentioned the different ways
> children were discussed in policy in the first part of the 20th
> century
> and the latter part of the 20th century. It sparked a salient
> learning
> moment for me. Leading to a second question - are zpds circumscribed?
> Meaning I started with that one learning moment, but then it starts
> building on itself. Can I still say my learning is part of the
> original
> zpd? Are zpds unidirectional, or can it be almost like a game of ping
> pong, where one person says something that sparks learning in one
> person, which leads to her saying something leading to learning in
> return.
> I guess this all points to Phillips point about whether there needs
> to a
> redefinition of the zpd, or to Mike's point that maybe it needs to be
> stretched out further in to Vygotsky's thought and those who came
> after.
> But then does that make it difficult and two far outside of its
> usefulness according to the rules of current scientific discourse? To
> bring Bourdieu back in if only for a moment, does it take us too far
> outside the habitus of many of those studying development and even
> education? Is it part of a field that has no implications, and
> pursuing
> these ideas little social (and eventually material) capital?
> Michael
> -----Original Message-----
> From: []
> On Behalf Of Worthen, Helena Harlow
> Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2008 9:56 AM
> To:; eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity
> Subject: RE: [xmca] neoformation
> Hello --
> Sometimes I like to think about the zpd in terms of what is not a zpd
> situation -- that is, something that involves very close interaction
> between people in extended conversation that is highly purposeful
> but is
> NOT intended to accomplish teaching or learning. For example:
> deposing a
> witness, confessing to a priest, bargaining a contract. If you took a
> photo of each of these you might think that there was a zpd there
> somewhere, but I don't think there is.
> Helena Worthen
> ________________________________________
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Mike Cole []
> Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 10:36 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] neoformation
> Michael. I think your note reinforces what Peter wrote in an odd way.
> the zoped cannot be isolated easily, not measured (perhaps at all, and
> certainly not by standardized techniques, and its contextual aspects
> are
> enormous. BUT, if you reduce it to scaffolding, "amount of help
> needed",
> ignore what is written beyond Thought and Language and the
> chapter in mind in society -- in short, if you assimilate it, as I
> first
> did, to mediated stimulus response learning theory circa 1962, THEN
> it can be assimilated by Americans.
> However, if you keep on reading......
> mike
> On Mon, Feb 4, 2008 at 5:16 AM, Michael Glassman <
> >
> wrote:
>> You know it also might be the other way around, that people in the
> U.S.
>> are not really that taken with Vygotsky but with the zpd because it
> fits
>> relatively well in to modern mainstream discourse in the United
> States in
>> studying children (it can be isolated, it can be measured, it
>> measures
> a
>> particular aspect of the child - cognitive development, its
>> contextual
>> aspects are limited), and they are happy to associate Vygotsky with
> the ZPD.
>> Michael
>> ________________________________
>> From: on behalf of Peter Smagorinsky
>> Sent: Mon 2/4/2008 6:06 AM
>> To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
>> Subject: RE: [xmca] neoformation
>> I wonder if the idea that "Americans" are heavily focused on the zpd
> comes
>> from the possibility that Mind in Society presented it early as a
>> Vygotskian
>> construct in translation, and it was converted to a new metaphor
>> ("scaffolding") that people can grasp relatively easily (if not
>> particularly
>> deeply in many cases). But I think it's mostly something that's
> focused on
>> by people who haven't read much LSV, which would be most people in
>> the
> US
>> who talk about LSV. The zpd is also something that an ed psych
> textbook
>> can
>> include that "explains" Vygotsky while covering many perspectives on
> human
>> development or other ed psych topics.
>> But I think that people who read a bit beyond a chapter excerpt from
> Mind
>> in
>> Society look at more than the ZPD. In my view, the problem is that in
> the
>> US, there's a paucity of people who've read beyond the introductory
>> readings, and thus the appearance of a national focus on what's most
>> readily
>> available. Those who've read more tend to put the zpd into the
> perspective
>> of Vygotsky's larger project, I think.
>> Peter Smagorinsky
>> The University of Georgia
>> 125 Aderhold Hall
>> Athens, GA 30602
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: [mailto:xmca-
> On
>> Behalf Of Dot Robbins
>> Sent: Sunday, February 03, 2008 5:05 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: [xmca] neoformation
>> Thank many of you for your thoughts on neoformations, ZPD, social
>> situation
>> of development, leading is interesting to find
>> articles
>> that
>> try to return to the unity of the genetic, structural, and functional
>> analysis of consciousness and development. And, when in Moscow in the
>> past,
>> I was asked numerous times why there is such a focus on the ZPD in
>> the
>> West,
>> as opposed to critical/non-critical times of development
> neoformations,
>> etc.
>> The only answer I had (and correct me if this is wrong) is that in
>> the
>> USA,
>> to my understanding, there are certainly many clinical psychologists
> who
>> use
>> Luria's ideas, but fewer psychologists who use Vygotsky's ideas
> (assuming
>> that the majority of Vygotskians [certainly not all] in the USA are
>> in
>> some
>> form of education). So, I continually look for articles that try to
>> refocus
>> on basic issues through the lens that includes non-linear thinking,
>> non-classical or organic psychology, historical method, "systemics,"
>> dialectics, etc., a
>> return to trying to understand what the "experimental-genetic method"
> is,
>> and to develop my own Vygotskian heuristic that can be used for
> personal
>> "transformation," which will also inspire/motivate others. It is a
> drive
>> for
>> constant change that leads to development in all ages, and this is
> where
>> Vygotsky helps me. It is not so much striving to understand static
>> definitions, but how to use a method for real change. How do we
> actually
>> understand the process of development as "developing" and the
> potentiality
>> involved? And, all of this leads to thoughts on causality,
> determinism, as
>> well as internalization, etc.
>> I believe the ideas of neoformation, social situation of development,
>> leading activity, ZPD, critical periods (that need to be extended
> beyond
>> 17years of age, in Moscow there have been discussions on the critical
> ages
>> of 22 and 24) have not been viewed in a unified manner, which must
> also
>> include word meaning, concept formation, operational-technical and
>> emotional-motivational aspects of activity, etc. Returning to
>> neoformations,
>> I would like to understand that concept more, especially in relation
> to
>> its
>> transitional role, and the fact that neoformations can be brought to
> life
>> or
>> experimentally created. It also returns to the ideas of "engagement"
> and
>> "separation" where non-linear paths cross and form connections, such
> as
>> spontaneous/scientific concepts (and to be honest, I feel that our
>> interpretations are sometimes limiting and rigid.for example,
> scientific
>> concepts which are often viewed from the abstract to the concrete, or
>> spontaneous concepts from the concrete to
>> the abstract, something I find difficult to truly understand in some
>> Western texts).
>> Nik Veresov has written an article that views neoformations (and the
>> social situation of development) that encourages me regarding a newer
>> vision
>> of integral unity, non-linear thinking, etc. "Leading Activity in
>> Development Psychology." Journal of Russian and East European
> Psychology,
>> 2006, 44/5, pp. 7-25. He returns to a position of Vygotskian ideas
> within
>> a
>> systemic, organic (living, dialectical) approach. He also enters the
> world
>> of "between" and Vygotsky's interaction of the ideal and real
> forms...I
>> hope
>> we will see more articles on the concept of neoformations. Thanks to
>> David,
>> Elina, Mike, others for stimulating new thoughts on a subject rarely
>> discussed.
>> Warm regards,
>> Dot
>> P.S. Nik also mentions K. Polivanova, and the word Sasha spoke of
> earlier
>> subjectivization. "In her splendid book she cogently demonstrates
>> that
> the
>> content of crises is the transformation of an age-related new
> formation
>> into
>> a subjective capability-subjectivization." (p. 22)
>> Dorothy (Dot) Robbins
>> Professor of German
>> Russian Orphanage Vyschgorod
>> ---------------------------------
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Received on Thu Feb 7 12:12 PST 2008

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