Can you help? Reflection and change in a CHAT/Cultural Psychology paradigm

From: Carol Macdonald (
Date: Fri Mar 19 2004 - 09:32:20 PST

Hi— (XMCA and other colleagues)
I wonder whether you could help me with a problem, which seems to have
arisen because I work with two paradigms in my head (CHAT and
constructivism), and I have a PhD student who is working with another two
movements (Action Research and Reflective Practice)? This means that we can
’t answer a seminal question very well. I need to sharpen my own theoretical
tools, so I am asking for some help, if you are able to give it.

I would like you to help me, if possible, or refer to me writing in CHAT,
that will help me to analyse the relationship between reflection and change.

I know that change is the prototypical context for microgenetic analysis,
etc., but here I need to turn the question on its head. If you ask a
teacher to change her practice, then change becomes the unit of analysis.
One of the generative mechanisms is quite possibly reflection (and I can do
this using and IPS model, or the researcher as an external tool whose
“coaching” becomes internalized.) However, I am certain that although there
are reciprocal relations between reflection and change, they are not
determined completely. Reflection may result in statis, and change may not
lead to reflection (or be an object of reflection.)

The concern with “change” is of course, in innovation, in this case—so
predictably, it is set in motion with the tools of a new teaching
methodology. However, how a teacher appropriates this is at least partly
through reflection, but reflection may be necessary but is certainly not

My worry is, that theory emphasizing “reflective practice” is actually
missing the mark. Teaching is a multi-layered task in a complex context. If
we want to explain the dynamics of how or why the teacher changes her
practice, we need more powerful tools.

I think I could, in CHAT terms, explain teacher change in terms of
successfully resolved conflicts in beliefs, motives and goals, and failure
in terms of unresolved conflicts in the old and purportedly new ones. But
that doesn’t help me to critique or even describe the nature of the
relationship between reflection* and change within the CHAT paradigm. So,
can you give me a direction or point me to reading that I should do? (If
you need more background on 1-1 discussion, I can certainly describe this.)

One realizes, of course, that your help isn’t going to be simply translated
into the PhD. I just feel so isolated, that I am probably missing the
theoretical tools in my own paradigm. Any help with be effusively

Yours, hopefully, a cultural constructivist
[*I can also do an extrapolation about reflective abstraction, cognitive
conflict and change in a Piagetian paradigm, but that’s a metaphoric move I
don’t want to make here.]

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