Re: [xmca] LSV`s developmental idea

From: Katarina Rodina (
Date: Sun May 14 2006 - 15:28:22 PDT

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your answer. I have written some comments to your answer and
sent this with some references to

It is interesting to note that there are different views on Vygotsky in
Russia and in the West. On this forum, there has been interesting
discussions about zoped, mostly from an activity perspective (as you have
pointed out LA in a Elkonin - and Leontiev-perspective). As Seth Chaiklin
(2003: 58) stressed about the need for more investigation and discussion
of contemporary interpretations of developmental ideas of LSV, as for
example “[…] problems with many contemporary interpretations of the zone
of proximal development” and “[…] methodological basis on which these
ideas were developed”. Unfortunately, many works of so-called Russian
neo-vygotskians (cf. Yuri Karpov 2005) and contemporary Russian
vygotskians are not well known outside Russia (e.g. the development of the
Vygotsky–Elkonin–Davydov-idea of a contemporary Russian theoretical
psychology and education). These works are, so far, largely not available
in the English speaking world.

As already known, there exist different interpretations of the
developmental idea of LSV: the cultural-historical approach and the
activity based approach

Elena Kravtsova (1996) stressed the principal difference between
cultural-historical and activity approach as a different view on the logic
of development. The term «Leading Activity» (LA) was introduced in Soviet
psychology by Vygotsky in the early 1930s, in his analysis of child play.
Vygotsky stressed that play is an “leading- but not central activity”.
Vygotsky didn’t investigate the term “LA”, as it isn’t a key concept in
his works (Kravtsova 1996:76). Chaiklin (2003:47) suggests that ”The
notion of ”leading activity” is a way to identify the particular relations
in the social situation of development that are likely to contribute to
the development of the functions that lead to the structural
reorganization of a child’s psychological function. (This general idea has
been subsequently connected to the theory of activity and developed in
more detail, e.g., El`konin, 1999)”.

According to Artur Petrovsky (1983), Vygotsky’s term “social situation of
development” (SSD) was practically replaced by the term “leading activity”
(LA) (by Leontiev), in order to explain the dynamic changes in
developmental processes (Petrovsky & Petrovsky 1983). (Some Russian
researchers, though, think that Petrovsky was mistaken). The original view
on SSD and LA as synonyms was introduced by Vassilij Davydov (1986) in his
concept of “developmental learning-teaching” (Chaiklin & Heddegard 2005).
According to Davydov, it is not necessary to distinguish between SSD and

“The social situation of development is above all the child’s relation to
social reality. This relation is realized through human activity. It is
therefore justified to use the term ‘leading activity’ synonymously to the
term ‘social situation development” (Davydov 1986:240).

Thus a student of V. Davydov, Vladimir Kudriavtsev (in personal
correspondence, 2006), suggests that the term “cultural-activity theory”
is not plausible, as there is no principal difference between SSD and LA.
In Russia, according to Kudriavtsev (2006), Daniil Elkonin, Alexander
Zaporozhetz, and Vassilij Davydov have been working within a “holistic”
approach to SSD and LA. It’s important to understand that Vygotsky
stressed the original, internal dynamics of SSD, the rules of which remain
undiscovered. Thus, there was a need for a new term, the new concept of
Leading Activity, as suggested by Leontiev.

Vygotsky defined the social situation of development as a “… completely
original, exclusive, single, and unique relation, specific to the given
age, between the child and reality, mainly the social reality that
surrounds him. We call this relation the social situation of development
at the given age” (Vygotsky 1932/1998:198). Development, according to
Vygotsky, is “a single process of self-development”(Vygotsky 1998: 189).
The social situation of development is, according to Vygotsky, not a
child’s non-personal relation to social reality, but a cognitive field
characterized by inter-transformational, inter- and intra-subjective lines
of power (Vygotsky 1929). Vygotsky stressed that ”Growing into culture”
(in Sasha Surmava’s translation) first and foremost should be understood
as “growing” in self (“vrastanie v samogo sebja”), in his subjective world
and its problems, soluble only through cultural means (Kudrjavtsev &
Urazalieva 2001).

Some Russian scholars suggest that one should exchange the term Leading
activity with the term “meaning-formation-activity”, as the latter term
express the formation not only as individual mening in ontogeny, but also
in genesis of basic meaning, through which children in every stage of
development of age related new formations, for the first time opens new
life perspectives on the human cultural world (Kravtsova 1996, Kudrjavtsev
& Urazalieva 2001).

As Chaiklin (2003: 48) points out: ”The social situation of development
provides a way to characterize the interaction between historically
constructed forms of practice and the child`s interests and actions (
which reflect the current age period of the child). Rather than being a
passive recipient of an objective environment, the child is selective
about what is perceived and interesting”

I’d suggest a more thorough discussion of the following points:
Is it possible to see the logical interpretation of the idea of
development LSV as a social-constructionist (not a social-constructivist)
approach to development as an alternative to behaviorist and
constructivist developmental approaches? Is it legitimate to say that
Vygotsky as a “pre-postmodernist” (Newman & Holzman 1997: 25) in
psychology pioneered a sociocultural approach to understanding of learning
and development in ontogeny?

Katja R.

On Fri, May 12, 2006 00:40, Mike Cole wrote:
> Hi Katrina-- Very timely question.
> If you go to you will
> find several papers that address your
> question. I am not sure when you joined xmca, but we have been trying to
> collect materials about different conceptions of
> zopeds. These include an article by Seth Chaiklin critical of non-Russian
> appropriations of LSV's ideas and some papers that
> someone things might be relevant to clarifying uses of the concept. Seth
> specifically talks about leading activity and social situation
> of development.
> One difficulty in this discussion is that LSV's writings about SSD in
> English are very sparse and his writing that includes the idea of leading
> activity was published much later than the work that made him well known.
> The appropriate refences in English are in the Chaiklin article.
> The concept of leading activity is better known in the US through the work
> of Elkonin and Leontiev. Shortly you will find an article by Griffin
> and Cole posted on that XMCA site that deals with leading activities and
> the
> concept of a zoped.
> Perhaps you know of more materials that members of xmca should be reading.
> If so, please send them to and they
> will be posted for discussion.
> mike
> PS-- My colleagues at UCLA have a seminar at this moment discussing
> exactly
> these issues. Hopefully they will respond. I will probably be
> more or less silent for a couple of weeks because I will be out of the
> country and probably disconnected from email.
> On 5/11/06, Katarina Rodina <> wrote:
>> Dear Mike and everybody else,
>> It is well known that at the core of the developmental idea of LSV and
>> his
>> cultural-historical approach lies the concept of social situation of
>> development" (SSD), leading activity" (LA: was more used in the USSR
>> after Vygotsky) and age-related psychological novel formations" as well
>> as
>> the ZPD. I miss some discussions and analysis in western research
>> discourse about this central vygotskian idea (the only exception is
>> ZPD),
>> e.g. the sociocultural approach to learning and development. Do you know
>> any articles that analyse Vygotsky`s SSD or LA ( cultural-historical
>> understanding of development in ontogeny)?
>> What's the principal difference between SSD" and LA" in ontogeny?
>> Thanks in advance,
>> Best greetings from Norway
>> Katarina A.Rodina
>> --
>> Katarina A. Rodina
>> MSc inSpeech-Language Pathology,
>> PhD-Research Fellow,
>> Department of Special Needs Education
>> University of Oslo
>> P.O.Box 1140 Blindern
>> NO-0318 OSLO,Norway
>> Phone: +47 22 85 81 38
>> Fax: +47 22 85 80 21
>> E-mail:
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

Katarina A. Rodina
MSc inSpeech-Language Pathology,
PhD-Research Fellow,
Department of Special Needs Education
University of Oslo
P.O.Box 1140 Blindern
NO-0318 OSLO,Norway
Phone: +47 22 85 81 38
Fax:     +47 22 85 80 21

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