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[Xmca-l] Re: "Mediation" as Error Correction

Huw, Alfredo, Alex, Mike:

Language teaching is still in a stage I would call semi-behaviorist: we are
interested in shaping behavior, and not in what Kozulin calls cognitive
modifications. So the "dynamic assessment" work done by Feuerstein and
Kozulin has been "shaped" by the studies of corrective feedback done in the
late twentieth century by people like Mike Long, Cathy Doughty, Teresa
Pica, and Susan Gass. At first these studies seemed to show that corrective
feedback was more effective when it was implicit--when there was a focus on
meaning rather than on form--because the result was that people were able
to shape their behavior even when their cognitive focus was elsewhere. But
in 1997 Lyster and Ranta demonstrated that most teachers already use the
most implicit form of correction, namely the so-called "recast".

S: And this is book.
T: That's a book, yeah.
S: Yeah, this is book, and is very expensive in you country.

They also demonstrated that these implicit forms of correction were the
most likely to be ignored by the student, often because (as in this
example) the student is quite unaware that anything is wrong at all. So it
has begun to appear that cognitive modifications are not irrelevant after

As Andy points out, there is a strong tendency for we as academics to
resist cognitive modifications too--that is why people prefer to mine
Vygotsky's (Marx's, Hegel's) texts for jargon with which to rephrase what
they already believe rather than to undertake the hard work of
reconstructing the whole original system of concepts in their context. But
academics are a powerful check on other academics.

After years of equating "dynamic assessment" with corrective feedback, Matt
Poehner has begun to argue that dynamic assessment is really about
transferring the locus of assessment to the learner. I am not sure to what
extent this argument is motivated by a desire to return to the Vygotskyan
idea of internalization and to what extent it is simply another swing of
the pendulum: it seems to me that Poehner's model of "self-assessment"
pretty much ignores what Vygotsky really had to say about internalization,
because (like the idea that DA is nothing more than corrective feedback) it
assumes that the "mediator" is the site of development and not just the
source (that is, the learner's job is not to reconstruct or to restructure
the correct form but simply to "appropriate" it from the environment).

So it seems to me that the place to start to try to untangle this web of
misappropriations from Vygotsky is with "mediation". As Andy says, for
Hegel everything in heaven and earth, man and nature, is mediated (but some
things are more so than others). For Marx mediation arises because without
it reason (man) is simply the slave of necessity (nature). For the old
Vygotsky (the critical reactologist) mediation arises because one stimulus
can have many responses and vice versa, and for the new Vygotsky (the
semasiologist, the pedologist), it arises because one sign can have many
interpreters and many interpretations and vice versa. This allows the
emergence of self and free will (because after all I myself am a potential
interpreter of my own signs). So it turns out that Poehner's emphasis on
self-assessment is not completely irrelevant.

A propos, a little problem in translation for the Russophones on the list.
Vygotsky says (in his work on Early Childhood in Vol. 4 of the Russian
Collected Works, p. 347).

"Габриэль очень хорошо описал эти постоянные непонимания. По его мнению,
исследователи напрасно не обращали внимания на затруднения в понимании
только что начинающего говорить ребенка взрослыми."

Hall renders this as:

"Gabriel described these misunderstandings (that is, the misunderstandings
caused by the child's use of single word sentences to adults) very well. In
his opinion, investigators did not turn their attention in vain to the
adults' difficulties in understanding a child who is just beginning to

But it seems to me that the very opposite interpretation is also possible:

"Gabriel described these misunderstandings very well. According to him,
researchers wasted their time in not attending to the difficulty for adults
in understanding a child who just starting to speak."

What do you think?

David Kellogg
Macquarie University

On Fri, Feb 12, 2016 at 5:41 AM, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>

> Hi David,
> Well, we can ask direct and indirect with respect to what?  The sign
> systems, in this case, are what is being 'directly' corrected.  The
> indirect, is that which the sign systems are about.  So, a good situation
> in which to learn appropriate grammar for this phrase is one in which
> ambiguity and confusion is induced in the receiver of such a message,
> thereby allowing for a contextualised and situated understanding of the
> meaning.  For students who are comfortable with talking about notation
> itself, however, perhaps you can do both, but I still think it merits
> pointing to the real meanings.
> >From the encyclopaedia of social behavioural sciences:
> Actiity Theory and Errors
> Activity theorists define errors as the non attainment of an activity goal.
> The comparison of the activity outcome with the goal determines whether the
> goal has been achieved or whether further actions have to be accomplished.
> If an unintended outcome occurs, an error will be given. Consequently, a
> definition of an error based on Activity Theories integrates three aspects:
> (a) errors will only appear in goal-directed actions; (b) an error implies
> the nonattainment of the goal; (c) an error should have been potentially
> avoidable (Frese and Zapf 1991). Frese and Zapf (1991) developed an error
> taxonomy based on a version of Action Theory. This taxonomy and other
> comparable ones are inevitable in the examination of causes of errors and
> faults as a prerequisite of error prevention. Error prevention became an
> inevitable concern in modern technologies, e.g., the control rooms of
> nuclear power plants.
> Best,
> Huw
> On 11 February 2016 at 20:24, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > I don't think error correction or even "making a student say 'This is a
> > book' is always "direct" or "immediate", quite the contrary. Most of the
> DA
> > sources I am referring to (yes, I am thinking of Lantolf and Poehner)
> > distinguish between the highly indirect and the direct. We can lay out a
> > kind of cline.
> >
> > a) What did you say?
> > b) Did you say a book?
> > c) A book?
> > d) A book.
> > e) You mean a book.
> > f) No, you have to say "a book".
> >
> > There are various ways of discussing this cline in the literature, e.g.
> > "implicit" to "explicit" correction (Long and Doughty), or
> > "interventionist" vs. "non-interventionist" (Lantolf and Poehner), or
> > "recasts" vs. "prompts" (Ellis and others), "other repair" vs. "self
> > repair" (the Conversation Analysts). I don't agree that direct
> intervention
> > is bad, and indirect intervention good. Since the work of Lyster and
> Ranta,
> > we have become acutely conscious that most teacher intervention is highly
> > indirect and thus highly ineffective.
> >
> > The real thing that needs to be "mediated" is this:
> >
> > g) Every singular noun must have a determiner in English.
> >
> > Now, I think grasping this (is it implicit? Is it explicit?) is mediation
> > only in the following sense: in order to be able to use it, you need to
> > understand concepts like "noun", "singular", and "determiner". These are
> > all academic concepts and not everyday concepts and they cannot be
> directly
> > taught (c.f. Chapter Six of Thinking and Speech). I think that all error
> > correction, direct and indirect, is a way of indirectly teaching it.
> >
> > Perhaps the two "forces of nature" that are being played against each
> other
> > are the eidetic memory, which is concrete and based on everyday
> experience,
> > and forgetting, which produces an involuntary form of abstraction.
> Neither
> > force can overcome the other, but a learner can use a voluntary form of
> > abstraction to overcome both.
> >
> > I think the problem with the way "mediation" is interpreted as the
> > learner's "internalization" of the correction is simply this: it falls
> prey
> > to what Chaiklin calls the "assistance" assumption: the idea that the
> site
> > of development, and not simply the source, is the environment nad not the
> > learner. The environment (the correct form) is indeed the source of
> > development (and I do think grasping the English article system does
> > represent a form of real development, and certainly academic concepts
> do).
> > But the learner and only the learner is the site.
> >
> > David Kellogg
> > Macquarie University
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > On Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 8:04 PM, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>
> > wrote:
> >
> > > Perhaps you should respond in kind, David:
> > >
> > > 1.  A failure to understand that speech and systems of notation
> mediate,
> > > i.e. guide and structure, activity which is the phenomenon that
> benefits
> > > from contact with reality.
> > > 2.  Failure to understand that direct correction of these systems can
> > > inculcate an erroneous sense that systems of notation and speech are
> the
> > > "objective material" to be worked upon, rather than the efficacy of
> their
> > > use in realising object systems from which natural feedback can be
> > > obtained.
> > > 3. Failure to grasp the opportunity to frame these minor situations in
> the
> > > context of encouraging the student's own self-regulation and confidence
> in
> > > thinking.
> > >
> > > Any good?
> > >
> > > Best,
> > > Huw
> > >
> > >
> > > On 10 February 2016 at 21:38, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > >
> > > > I am occasionally, out of deference to a few papers I once published
> in
> > > > TESOL, sent articles to review on the use of Vygotskyan concepts in
> > > > language learning. Time was that these articles were mostly about
> > > > scaffolding and the ZPD; of late they have been mostly concerned with
> > > > "internalization" and "mediation".
> > > >
> > > > The problem is that most of these articles have taken these concepts
> > > > entirely out of child development and placed them in an alien
> > > > context--classroom error correction, which is now referred to as
> "Dynamic
> > > > Assessment".
> > > >
> > > > I am not sure what to do about this. It seems to me that one way to
> start
> > > > to address the issue is to go back to the original Hegelian idea of
> > > > "mediation" as using one force of nature against another: the force
> of
> > > air
> > > > pressure against gravity in flying, or the friction of snow vs. the
> > > > momentum of the fall line in skiing.
> > > >
> > > > When a teacher corrects an error in a classroom, e.g. when a teacher
> > > makes
> > > > the student say "This is a book" instead of "This is book", what are
> the
> > > > forces of nature that are being used against each other? Is this
> really
> > > an
> > > > instance of mediation at all?
> > > >
> > > > David Kellogg
> > > > Macquarie University
> > > >
> > >