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RE: [xmca] Fleer/Hedegaard for discussion

I am SO impressed by the depth of observation achieved in this paper - the authors clearly succeeded in winning the trust of the families who participated in the study and we are privileged to be given this sort of access to how others live (only otherwise available in reality TV programmes where producers and editors have their own agendas!).

The description of Andrew's roaming family reminded me of Brownian motion (that is going back a long way!) and is a powerful reminder of the fact that we really can't afford to take for granted that other people live their lives in much the same way as we live ours. It would be easy, as Fleer and Hedegaard point out, to see his family as 'failing' to provide a 'properly' calm and focused environment in which Andrew could be expected to develop in the right ways but perhaps it is also too easy to blame schools for failing to accommodate children from the full range of possible social worlds. I am not sure that the different 'institutional contexts' identified in Figure 1 can really be understood as being the same sorts of things (on the same line in the diagram) because I suspect that family has a different KIND of impact on a child's development. Back in the 60s Berger and Luckman wrote about primary and secondary socialisation - first finding one's place in a family of people all of whom are known and know one in particularly rich, thick ways, grounded in lots of common experiences over time (and particularly over the affectively formative early months) and then finding one's place in a more public world, also finding the place of one's family in this bigger picture. There seems to be a big difference between social situations in which one is known as a person with the full range of likes, dislikes, quirks and peculiarities and those in which one is known primarily as a 'role holder' - e.g. as a 'student'. I think there is a widespread understanding that 'kindergartens' can provide a valuable 'half-way house' or 'home from home' where young children can move from home to a new social situation but one in which they are allowed to work out their own ways of engaging with people who do not share their particular form of primary socialisation. Of course kindergartens can also be more or less blinkered in terms of their readiness to accommodate children's different family styles but the provision of extensive time for unstructured play tends to leave a bit more space for children to find their way into a more public community. We are not told whether Andrew had attended any form of kindergarten before going to the school in which he was observed but I suspect that, if he did, this might well have given him an early 'heads up' about non-family adults' expectations about how people are expected to move about and communicate.

Schools have to accommodate/include children from different sociocultural backgrounds and I think it is fairly obvious that this should involve being prepared to make adjustments (changing the shape of the hole rather than/as well as trying to change the shape of the peg) - child readiness as well as school readiness - but it may also be important that schools should retain a degree of autonomy from the culture of individual families. Schools can be places where children learn that their family's values have to be understood in a wider context (this may be the only way to bring such values into the light, where they can be noticed) - that other values are also available. Of course we don't want schools to impose a rigid set of cultural prescriptions but we may not be so keen on families doing this either and children may need somewhere where they can at least recognise and question racist, xenophobic, aggressive and otherwise bigoted views which might otherwise be accepted as just the way people are.

I can see this becoming a dangerous topic to write about -without the benefit of knowing or being known by potential readers- I just wanted to air my own concerns about treating family relationships as if they were the same sort of things as relationships with other people (and I do accept that 'family' has to be understood in a wide range of different ways, from the tight, nuclear unit to the community wide whanau of New Zealand Maoris and lots of others besides).

All the best,


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Carol Macdonald [carolmacdon@gmail.com]
Sent: 03 May 2010 15:41
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Fleer/Hedegaard for discussion

Carol says:

What an interesting article. My thoughts go to how the authors are going to
analyse all the data they have collected! Andrew's situation is particularly
interesting, so obviously one would want to use it.

Andrew and his brothers I think would want to roam--if you look at the
drawing of the house, all three are in one bedroom, so going off quietly to
occupy themselves does not seem an attractive option. But walking around
with your supper does seem idiosyncratic. I know familys (like my mother's)
who sat and watch TV while eating supper, thus destroying an opportunity for
potentially interesting conversation

I think that Andrew has showed commendable restraint in actually sitting all
the time: he may have gone to kindergarten, where children are generally
allowed to wander except for "ring time". It absolutely annoys me that so
many professionals are intruding in the family's life. What is going to
happen to Andrew's siblings--the same "fate"?

Andrew doesn't have ADD,  there is no suggestion that he is not being
compliant, except that the teacher sees "deviant" behaviour in his
successful multitasking. I looked up Ritalin (the drug of choice for ADD;
and there are 3 million hits on Google). It makes children focus on their
work, even if they are *not *doing doing geographical scanning.  A
generation ago there were lots of children who didn't concentrate and it was
for the teacher to bear with. Regrettably, Ritalin is widely used.  In the
most fashionable suburbs here in Johannesburg up to 70% of the children are
on drugs of some kind, mostly Ritalin. (Please feel free to criticise.)

The diagram of where the family moved around wasn't very clear in my version
(HTML); maybe a simpler diagram would have been clearer.

Then there are the ethics of observational research.  Did anybody get to say
to the Mom that ADD was not indicated? Why the poor child might have to go
to a special school is quite beyond me.

Finally, in defence of helicopter Moms. I have a friend who runs a group of
two and a half to three year olds.  If I phone her, our conversation is
punctuated with instructions etc. all the time to one child or another. But
she still talks to me and follows the point of the conversation.  She is a
"helicopter preschool teacher".

Sorry that my comments are largely practical.  One last point.  The
suggestion at the end of the article that teachers would benefit from
learning about the C-H view of children's development is entirely apt.  Who
is going to do it?


On 3 May 2010 08:57, Larry Purss <lpurss@shaw.ca> wrote:

> Andy
> I also just finished reading Marilyn and Marianna's excellent article.
> Their extending Vygotsky's construct of neoformations to engage the notion
> of institutional structures as reconstructing the child's consciousness of
> reality is fertile ground for further elaboration of development as
> transformations within  the child as the child meets new demands upon
> entering new institutions.
> One of the new demands the child is encountering in the new institution are
> new ideals of what are the "normal" developmental trajectory to maturity.
>  [which are assumed to be biological and universal but in fact are
> historical constructions that imply how we OUGHT to develop]
> I have a clearer understanding of "socially situated development" as the
> use of a case study approach elaborated the developmental pathway of a
> single child . As a counsellor who works in a similar institutional
> structure it will give me an added lens through which to understand the
> conflicts and struggles of many students in the school system.
> I would like to make more explicit what is implied in the article when
> discussing the analysis section of the article. Data were examined using the
> cultural-historical concepts of transitions,demands, and conflicts across
> institutional structures. Also various interactional patterns within
> particular institutions are elaborated.
> In the family were particular COMMUNICATION patterns [simultaneous patterns
> of communicating, machine gun fire communication, geographical roaming [as
> communication]
> In the school were different COMMUNICATION patterns which included
> [successive structures of communication, alternating attention management,
> geographical scanning to communicate, and strategic positioning to
> communicate.]
> The schools communicational patterning can be categotrized as an
> INDIVIDUALISTIC orientation.
> What I want to highlight is the underlying MOTIVATION within the child in
> BOTH the family and school structures. All the interactional patterns are
> described as patterns of communication.  However I suggest the motivation to
> communicate in all situations was the intention to STAY CONNECTED to the
> significant OTHERS within the institutions occupied by the child.  At home
> the mother was a "helicopter mom" doing more than making sure the children
> were safe. She was actively RECOGNIZING and validating the children and
> encouraging their INTENTIONAL RESPONSE in the motivation to stay CONNECTED
> [intersubjectively]
> The terms "activity" "participation" "affordances" "practices"
> "communication" while accurate and definitely capturing [and foregrounding]
> the STRUCTURAL aspects of the institutional arrangements leaves the
> dialogical imperative of ongoing engagement [of the child's relation with
> the mother] [and the child's relation with the teacher] in the background
> while emphasizing the institutional structures that constrain and facilitate
> In the article the centrality of communication is made explicit but it is
> expressed from a third person perspective as the researchers OBSERVE the
> behavior of the child with others.  The conflict generated in the transition
> from one way of facilitating communication to another institution is
> brilliantly elaborated in this article.  I hope to see many more articles
> which explore how multiple institutions create crisis and opportunities for
> development.
> However I would like to recommend we don't loose sight of the
> "communication structures" as often [and I would suggest mostly] focused on
> intersubjective motivation for RECOGNITION and the motivation to RESPOND to
> that recognition.  This is a more specific type of communication that I
> think needs to be foregrounded when we analyze how different institutions
> facilitate engagement or withdrawal through different assumptions of
> subjectivity, intersubjectivity, and institutional values of how we OUGHT to
> interact.
> Larry
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
> Date: Sunday, May 2, 2010 3:11 am
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Fleer/Hedegaard for discussion
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> > I have just finished reading Marilyn and Marianna's
> > excellent article. It was a great choice against strong
> > competition.
> >
> > M&M begin from a very clear conception of Vygotsky's "social
> > situation of development," and in my view, one faithful to
> > LSV's original insight. And following how they both utilise
> > and test out this concept in a single case study has very
> > much interested me. The decision to follow a single case,
> > rather than the usual method of using a survey of 100,000
> > kids and then doing mindless statistics, is very welcome,
> > because only such an approach can bring out a *concept* of
> > what is at work here.
> >
> > In particular, M&M investigate, not just the SSD of a child
> > within the system of activity constituted by the family, or
> > by the school, but specifically focus on the normal
> > situation (once over infancy) or being involved in a
> > multiplicity (in this case two) of social situations of
> > development, each with different, conflicting sets of
> > expectations being placed on the child. Plus a mutual lack
> > of understanding between the adults involved in the two
> > institutions.
> >
> > It is remarkable how the child manages to adapt to this
> > internal conflict, although it is clear that he is not
> > flourishing.
> >
> > M&M have drawn in fairly clear outline I think what the
> > concrete (conflicted) social situation of development is.
> > Doing this is a very important theoretical task. My only
> > cautious questions might be, that rather than expressing the
> > conflict manifested from participation in two different
> > institutions (family + school) in terms of *value* sets, I
> > would have thought that terms of *expectation* (and maybe
> > role definition) might give more information, maybe?? and
> > although the prose is creepily vivid in its description of
> > Andrew's social situation (all too familiar maybe?), what I
> > didn't get was very much about how Andrew conceived it. Only
> > the very keen observations about his "scanning" and
> > "roaming" activity. It is after all Andrew who is mediating
> > this complex situation. I guess research is not magic, and
> > maybe this is all that is actually evident. The observation
> > of the interface between the two institutions was good too
> > of course.
> >
> > Anyway, well done Marilyn and Marianna. Great work! and I
> > hope to see more of it. The concept of "social situation" is
> > very rich and needs to be invetigated and tested out like this.
> >
> > Andy
> >
> > mike cole wrote:
> > > Folks-- I fear I may have slipped up and not sent out link for
> > the article
> > > for discussion. You can go to
> > > Taylor and Francis web page for MCA, but you can also obtain
> > here for now.
> > > http://lchc.ucsd.edu/MCA/index.html
> > >
> > > Read, learn, discuss...
> > > mike
> > > _______________________________________________
> > > xmca mailing list
> > > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> > >
> > >
> >
> > --
> > -----------------------------------------------------------------
> > -------
> > Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ <http://home.mira.net/%7Eandy/>+61 3 9380 9435
> > Skype andy.blunden
> > An Interdisciplinary Theory of Activity:
> > http://www.brill.nl/scss
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > xmca mailing list
> > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> >
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