[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [xmca] Does "Obuchenie" Have Two Sides?

Hi, David,

I haven't read Mike's critique of the use of "teaching/learning" as a 
translation of obuchenie, which obviouisly makes it a little tricky to 
respond.  However, those like myself who have used teaching/learning as a 
reasonable translation would disagree with Mike's point (or your summary 
of it) "that "teaching/learning" is no more adequate than "learning" or 
"teaching" on its own."  In English these two words have quite different 
meanings, despite the fact that we may actually learn best in the course 
of teaching.  In Russian, however, the situation is more complex. 
Obuchenie is the noun associated with obuchit' (to teach or instruct) and 
with obuchit'cya (to learn).  Take away the prefix "ob" and you're left 
with uchit' (which can be translated both as to teach [the first meaning] 
and to learn or memorize) and uchit'cya (to learn or to study).

In other words, unlike in English, obuchenie carries the meaning of both 
teaching and learning.  How can we best represent that?  I don't think 
that it helps to translate the same word, in the same context, 
consistently as "instruction" (as in the 1987 Plenum translation of 
Thinking and speech) and as "learning" (Mind in society).  Given the fact 
that the English language doesn't have a word that captures both teaching 
and learning how do we represent the concept?  At least in the places 
where I've written about this "teaching/learning" is clearly not intended 
to mean "teaching or learning"; as Scrimsher and I wrote: "By contrast, 
the meaning of 'teaching/learning' is subtly, but clearly, different from 
either of the words used alone" (Tudge & Scrimsher, 2003, p. 212).  At 
least from my reading of Vygotsky's ideas about zones of proximal 
development being created in the course of interaction, the combined sense 
of teaching and learning fits better than either word used alone.

If the "/" has the inadvertent effect of signalling "either/or" (which 
thus should presumably be read as "either 'either' or 'or'") I'd be happy 
to use "teaching-learning" or some other way of signalling a multifaceted 
process for which English has no equivalent.  Use of "obuchenie" itself 
probably won't work, as too many people already think that it means 
"instruction" (a view that fits nicely with the teacher-dominated view of 
scaffolding that too often prevails).

All the best,

Jonathan Tudge
155 Stone

Mailing address:
248 Stone Building
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
PO Box 26170
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Greensboro, NC 27402-6170

phone (336) 256-0131
fax   (336) 334-5076


David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com> 
Sent by: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu
11/16/2009 06:35 PM
Please respond to
"eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>

xmca <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>

[xmca] Does "Obuchenie" Have Two Sides?

I just got my copy of MCA and read through Mike's editorial on 
(re)translating "Interaction Between 'Obuchenie' and Development" again. 
It seems to me that there are really three quite separate issues here:
a) What does the word mean in Russian? Is "teaching/learning" or 
"instructed learning" an adequate translation?
b) What did Vygotsky mean by the word when he used it in his earlier 
writings (e.g. Educational Psychology, and possibly as late as Chapter 
Five of Thinking and Speech)? For example, is "the social environment of 
learning" referred to in Educational Psychology related to "the social 
situation of development" referred to in Volume Five of the Collected 
Works (the unfinished manuscript "Child Development")?
c) Did Vygotsky mean the same thing by the word when he used it in his 
later writings, specifically "Interaction" and Chapter Six of Thinking and 
Speech? For example, is he serious when he suggests that complexes and 
complexive thinking should be "left at the schoolroom door"? If so, why 
does he refer to them as "preconcepts" and remark that a great deal of 
adult thinking is still on the complexive level?
First of all, I agree with Mike that "teaching/learning" is no more 
adequate than "learning" or "teaching" on its own. Adorno remarks that the 
"/" punctuation mark has its only real legitimate use in indicating a 
caesura in poetry. It also suggests "either/or" in English, and clearly 
"teaching" OR "learning" is not a possible translation. Worse, the idea of 
"teaching/learning" as two sides of the same process suggests a metaphor 
with "borrow/lend" or "buy/sell" and this is quite explicitly ruled out in 
Vygotsky's remarks on Tolstoy's pedagogical notebooks. 
So either the slash implies that they are somehow the same phenomenon 
viewed from two different angles or it tends to built a wall where we need 
to build a bridge. A process is not like a bottle with an inside and an 
outside or a piece of paper with a recto and a verso. Even viewed 
temporally, it is not a machine with an input end and an output end. What 
goes for processes goes doubly for the relationship between two processes. 
I suggest, as a provisional measure, we use a hyphen instead, 
Secondly, I think we have to accept that when Vygotsky uses a word it 
means what he's paying it to mean and not anything else. Vygotsky 
eviscerates all kinds of words ("pseudoconcept", "egocentric speech", 
etc.) and reanimates them with completely new content; he plays with the 
words of other people the way that a child plays with his blocks, and as a 
result their meanings develop. So I doubt very much if either "learning" 
or "development" means what it means in the Large Psychological Dictionary 
Mike refers to. To pick up David Kirshner's request for assistance on the 
"Renaissance Man", Vygotsky clearly rejects the Thorndikean view that 
development is developing the ability to do lots of separate little 
skills; Vygotsky's "Renaissance Man" is a relentless synthesizer. 
So it seems very likely that the "social environment of learning" is a too 
literal, early, vulgar materialist interpretation of the "social situation 
of development" referring to the actual environment organized by the 
flesh-and-blood parent or teacher. The "social situation of development" 
is a rising to the concrete: instead of "classroom", "nursery", "home", we 
have "situations" constructed by particular ways in which the child uses 
language: indicative, nominative, and only at the conceptual level truly 
Thirdly, I think that the English language needs yet another translation 
of "Thinking and Speech", and this one needs to be thoroughly annotated, 
in order to explain exactly how Chapter Five and Chapter Six fit together 
on the issue of learning and development. My own belief is that by the 
time Vygotsky wrote Chapter Six he was trying desperately to deal with the 
very unfavorable Stakhanovite wind that had swept away the whole of the 
pedological career he had built up to 1931. Chapter Six, represents a 
great deal of trimming and tacking on his part. Alas, this includes some 
of his writing on the zone of proximal development, because the zone is 
presented as the answer to the evils of the pedologists who did not 
consider it when they allowed children to keep fiddling with syncretic 
thinking in preschools and playing around with complexes throughout 
elementary school. 
But when Vygotsky takes a step sideways, it is only in order to take a 
giant leap forward. The zone really is the hyphen in the middle of 
"teaching-learning", at least if we understand that hyphen as an arrow 
representing a meta-process and not as a single process, still less as a 
direct link. The zone of proximal development is to microgenesis and 
ontogenesis what "Origin of Species" is to ontogenesis and phylogenesis 
(or, perhaps more to the point, what Marx's "Capital" is to ontogenesis 
and sociocultural progress).
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list