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RE: [xmca] spontaneous concepts indeed

Okay, I'm going to throw my 2 cents into the concepts ring. 

I'm sympathetic to those who've expressed skepticism about the utility of concept as an analytic construct. 
Nevertheless, I teach entire courses devoted to development of math concepts; I find the notion of concept indispensable to preparing effective mathematics educators. Instrumentally, what's relevant is concept development. We're always talking about how intuitive concepts can be transformed into more sophisticated concepts through certain kinds of experiences (either occurring spontaneously, or as orchestrated instructionally). Importantly, these experiences are theorized intramentally as involving feedback loops between expectations and results of actions. Piagetian notions of accommodation and assimilation come into play.

My point isn't that sociocultural notions of concept as indexed to the culture are incorrect or unreasonable. Indeed, a comprehensive sociocultural psychology has to come to grips with concepts, eventually reconciling the divergent ontogenetic and sociogenetic perspectives. But after so many dozens of emails devoted to articulating this program, I thought it would be refreshing to offer an escape into paradigmatic divergence. "Concept," narrowly defined in intramental terms, is a really useful construct to inform the genre of teaching involving concept development. Reciprocally, a narrow sociocultural theorization of enculturation into the practices of a cultural community is invaluable for informing the pedagogical project of acquiring valued dispositions through cultural participation. It's the ever-roiling program of theoretical synthesis that's so darn problematic for purposes of informing educational practice.

As baseball legend Yogi Berra put it, "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is." :)


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Andy Blunden
Sent: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 8:29 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] spontaneous concepts indeed

Temple, there is a little ambiguity in your question. When you talk 
about "concepts developing" can I presume you mean "can a person 
learn/master a scientific concept ...". I presume you are not actually 
asking about the formation of concepts, i.e., their creation, as opposed 
to their transmission.

I think Vygotsky took a scientific concept as an archetype (or paragon) 
of the true concept, and in the context of the early Soviet Union, most 
people would have taken the two as synonymous. But in general, *true 
concepts* arise in *institutions* of some kind. As I said to Anna Sfard, 
in my opinion a trrue concept is nearly synonymous to a discourse. (Not 
quite, because in my opinion, concept also includes the forms of social 
practice other than discourse.)

So for example, "the Holy Trinity" is a true concept and obviously 
neither scientific nor spontaneous, and it arises through instruction in 
a Church institution.

I think *adults *can acquire concepts in all sorts of activity, whether 
playing computer game or reading books, so long as their acquisition of 
the word is connected to participation in the relevant social practices. 
After all, I learnt everything I know about CHAT participating in xmca 
and reading.

that's how I see it.

Martin Packer wrote:
> Anthony, and Temple,
> Mind, Culture and Activity has a special issue in preparation, guest edited by Yrjö Engestrom and Annalisa Sannino, titled 'Concept formation in the wild.' I know that some of the people who have sent in abstracts for manuscripts to be considered for that issue are xmca members. Perhaps they would like to take a shot at answering your question.
> Martin
> On Apr 26, 2011, at 6:24 AM, Temple wrote:
>> I realize some time's gone by, but the question Jody's (Joanne's) post from last week raises for me is this:
>> Can scientific concepts develop in non-structured learning settings?  I mean those other than schooling, team play, church, work, etc.  How about from being online a lot - just surfing, playing games, or reading blogs - or from spending one's time at the library or bookstore alone? 
>> It seems to me that such scenarios blur the lines between spontaneous and scientific situations, so to speak.  That is, they are natural, everyday activities that lend themselves to repetition and reflective thinking and naming, where the structure of the activity itself (as opposed to a more experienced mentor) spurs on one's reflection, generalization, and "scientification" of knowledge.
>> The following statement from Jody's (post sent my thoughts in this direction:
>>> In home schooling described by Holt, certain scientific concepts could be learned by a child at home, driven by their loves and needs.
>> Could someone point me specifically towards a richer discussion of the development of scientific concepts during one's everyday "alone time"?
>> Thx,
>> Anthony
>> Sent from my iPhone
>> On Apr 22, 2011, at 7:32 AM, Joanne Hyatt <jody.hyatt@gmail.com> wrote:
>>> I'm only a grad student, but I'll risk a spontaneous response.
>>> In 1991 I had no background in education other than my own experiences.
>>> However, compelled by circumstance, I home schooled my fourth grader. My
>>> main thought at the time was, "Even if he only reads at home for a year,
>>> he'll be better off than attending the school he is destined to be bussed
>>> to." My pedagogy was inspired by John Holt's magazine "Unschooling", a
>>> publication edited by Holt and filled with inspiring stories from families
>>> following Holt's theories.
>>> I loved overseeing school at home, and my son and later my daughter thrived
>>> there. However, try as I might, it was exceptionally hard to shift or impact
>>> the approach my children took to schooling. They were already hopelessly
>>> brainwashed by their few years of traditional schooling. While I hoped
>>> they'd want to build a ham radio and communicate with 10-year-olds in
>>> Australia, they'd see a workbook in the supermarket and ask me to buy it for
>>> them. Also, years later, when I became a 4th grade teacher, I found it
>>> impossible to create at school the environment I strove to create in my
>>> home.
>>> Clark Aldrich, in the link Peter supplied, is a breath of fresh air, a more
>>> modern and insightful 'Holt'. He is spot on in his diagnosis of traditional
>>> schooling's failings and offers compelling reasons try a new approach at
>>> home. However, to unschool properly, in my opinion, required a tremendous
>>> amount of work on the part of parents. Today, in my community, more and more
>>> parents are choosing to home school, mostly out of desperation and
>>> frustration with the school systems, but they lack the time and energy to
>>> follow up on Aldrich's compelling implications of what might compromise
>>> unschooling.
>>> I just finished reading Vygotsky's Thinking and Speech. Admittedly a novice,
>>> as I read, I kept looking for more references to a child's learning from
>>> their own experiences. Vygotsky's notion of scientific and everyday concepts
>>> seemed defined more by an instructional pedagogy than by content. He seemed
>>> to discount the idea that a child could develop an interest and pursue it
>>> successfully on their own.  He refers to formal schooling, as he knows it,
>>> as a given, an unchanging institution, and the trick is to figure out how
>>> children are developing there. The concept that many children might learn
>>> outside of such an institution in different ways was absent.  "Schools are
>>> teaching too many children too many things that don't excite them and have
>>> no relevance to what they need or love... says Aldrich." In home schooling
>>> described by Holt, certain scientific concepts could be learned by a child
>>> at home, driven by their loves and needs.
>>> It seems that today we are trying to reinvent the institution of formal
>>> schooling; how would that affect both Vygotsky's teacher or expert in the
>>> ZPD as well as his distinction between scientific and everyday concepts?
>>> On Fri, Apr 22, 2011 at 6:04 AM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:
>>>> http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2011/04/22/unschooling-homeschooling-
>>>> without-the-school/?cxntfid=blogs_get_schooled_blog
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*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: 
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857
MIA: http://www.marxists.org

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