RE: [xmca] Socio-Cultural Theory Interest Group Seminar Series

From: Valerie Farnsworth (
Date: Fri Sep 29 2006 - 02:27:04 PDT

Thank you, Julian, for clarifying the comments made about "scientific" and "everyday". Was Vygotsky talking about scientific discourse or scientific storytelling? I'd say that Ochs et al set out to discuss everyday storytelling and relate that to scientific storytelling (although only using everyday narratives to demonstrate this point).

Being more familiar with authors influenced by Vygotsky rather than Vygotsky himself, I latched onto the later comment in our discussion: the difference between school and everyday discourse is the emphasis on learning concepts. I find it helpful to think about stories as having at least two dimensions - the narrative content and the form of language used. So, I interpreted this part of our discussion as - the family storytelling is different from school storytelling in that the content or function (ie: language has form and function dimensions) is different. However, as I think about it now, this would imply that the function of the home storytelling is socialising and the function of schooling is something else, like teaching knowledge. But then, isn't schooling also socialising? We may like to think that schooling is purely about developing knowledge in key areas, such as math and science, but aren't we also actually socialising students in particular ways of thinking and valuing particular types of knowledge? So, now I would say that the difference is the explicitness of the functions, where the socialising function is almost always implicit and the educational function of learning scientific storytelling is more explicit. Such educational functions are not explicit in the everyday stories that Ochs et al present.


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of bb
Sent: 28 September 2006 20:20
To:; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] Socio-Cultural Theory Interest Group Seminar Series

Thank you Julian. I'll see if I can get a copy later this week when I have access to a real research library. But, in the interim I'm left wondering how it hapens that learning scientific concepts coincides, through the onset of schooling, with what many complain about -- the isolation and decontextualization of school learning.


 -------------- Original message ----------------------
From: "Julian Williams" <>
> Dear BB
> The distinction I thought relevant at the meeting was between 'everyday' and
> 'scientific', the latter being mostly associated with school-going/pedagogy. The
> story telling in the family home seems to me 'everyday' and the attendant
> scientific structure an imposition of the authors. It seemed to me that the Ochs
> paper misses Vygotsky's (Marx's?) notion of 'scientific', being something
> approached by the best thinking that human culture has to offer.
> (I think you might need sight of the first few pages of the paper to make sense
> of this...?)
> Julian
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On Behalf
> Of bb
> Sent: 28 September 2006 18:07
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: RE: [xmca] Socio-Cultural Theory Interest Group Seminar Series
> Interesting notes, especially around storytelling and the zpd, the latter ever
> so elusive in our last x-discussion of it. I'm really wondering about the
> relationships between and among concepts, explanation, language, theories and
> their constructions. What do we mean by "learning a concept' in activity
> theory and how is that different from "learning language" or "learning to
> speak"?
> I could not access the ochs paper, but at least found the abstract:
> The present study examines the activity of storytelling at dinnertime in
> English-speaking, Caucasian-American families. Our findings demonstrate that,
> through the process of story co-narration, family members draw upon and
> stimulate critical social , cognitive, and linguistic skills that underlie
> scientific and other scholarly discourse as they jointly construct, deconstruct,
> and reconstruct theories of everyday events. Each story is potentially a theory
> of a set of events in that it contains an ex planation, which may then be
> overtly challenged and reworked by co-narrators. Our data suggest that complex
> theory-building through storytelling is promoted by (and constitutive of)
> interlocutors' familiarity with one another and/or the narrative events. As
> such, long before children enter a classroom, everyday storytelling among
> familiars constitutes a commonplace medium for socializing perspective-taking,
> critical thinking, and other intellectual skills that have been viewed as o
> utcome s of formal scho oling. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR
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