Re: [xmca] Re: LCA: Activity Theory

From: Gordon Wells (
Date: Thu Jun 30 2005 - 17:40:31 PDT

Michael, Ana,

I agree with Ana's qualifications on your remarks, Michael. The
'object' of joint action has to be negotiated (as the two girls I
wrote about were obviously doing) for the reason that Ana gives. In
this sense the 'object' is in the 'vision(s)' of the actors/subjects
and vice versa, as you say.

I also wholeheartedly agree with Ana's comments on the way in which
standardized tests are used as measures of individuals' current
understanding of the topics tested. For the purpose of monitoring the
institution of education, such standardized tests may be somewhat
appropriate, but they certainly should not be simultaneously used in
place of a diagnosis of individuals' understanding.

Project Zero, at Harvard Grad.School of Ed. has made some helpful
proposals along these lines. In particular, in the place of tests,
they propose to engage students in 'Performances of Understanding."
You might also be interested toi read about some classroom teachers'
ways of approaching this issue in

Project Zero: Learning for Understanding

        occurs through: using knowledge to carry out some
                                 is shown in: new and challenging
activity in order
                        to achieve some desired outcome
                        in a particular situation.

Generative Topics: Themes that connect to
students' lives, stimulate
                                 inquiry, provoke discussion.

Goals for Understanding: "Big ideas", important concepts,
necessary skills,
                        connections and implications.

Performances of Understanding : Activities that use knowledge for meaningful
                        purposes, practical and intellectual.

Ongoing Assessment: Provide criteria, give feedback and support,
                        encourage reflection.

Summative Assessment: A 'performance of understanding' that requires
                        students to draw on what they have understood
                        to meet some new challenge.

                                    (based on Project Zero Framework

Perkins, D. (1991). Educating for insight. Educational Leadership. 49 (2).

Perkins, D., & Blythe, T. (1994, February). Putting understanding up
front. Educational Leadership, 51 (5), 4-7.

Gordon Wells
Dept of Education,
UC Santa Cruz.

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