In October and November, I led two Vygotsky seminars, one in person in NYC and the other online. About 40 people participated, many of them familiar with Newman and Holzman’s Vygotsky (what we call “our” Vygotsky in our writings) as practitioners in NYC, in other areas of the US and in many other countries. But the majority of participants had not read very much of Vygotsky’s own writings. So I chose some of my favorite excerpts, chapters and lectures of his, including ones on the environment as a source of development, on educating and developing children who are “specially” challenged, and on the crisis in psychology he was responding to.
What wonderful conversations we’ve had! Vygotsky’s own words helped people appreciate the man, the ideas and the historical times in which he lived—and how they played out in the interplay of his modernism and his “pre”-postmodernism, his humanity and his generosity, his revolutionary spirit and the task he took on. Reading Vygotsky in the uniquely open-ended, diverse and pointless (no credits, grades, evaluations) environment that is the hallmark of the Institute’s educational approach was, in my (perhaps strange sounding) phrasing, a socially completive creative activity. A medical educator, a dancer, a school psychologist, a social worker, a coach, a university professor, a youth worker, a school principal, a physician—these and the many other students gave their cognitive and emotional responses in such a seamless way that I felt like I was in the presence of dozens of 21st century Vygotskians.
Read on if you’re interested in some of what different people said (online)….
Hi All. I just got done reading the article about environment. I have many thoughts swimming in my head AND made a very interesting connection with Vygotsky in my teaching and learning as a dancer (an AHA! moment if you will) that I am very excited about and want to share with you.
I love the description that Vygotsky gives us of how speech is developed in a child. It connected so nicely with some research I am doing in the history of tango and how the dance developed in Buenos Aires at the beginning of the 20th century-—beginner dancers were trained, and danced only with, the best dancers in their area. They would not be allowed to dance with beginners until they were very proficient themselves as there was the belief that it would inhibit the ability of novice dancers to develop into the best dancers they could be. This caused the dance to evolve very much like language does, i.e. in relationship with older and more experienced peers.”Something which is only supposed to take shape at the very end of development, somehow influences the very first steps in this development.”
My Vygotsky was an aloof, distant scientist, when I first met him at the university. He was mostly used in theoretical duelling with the ghost of Piaget in student papers over casting development as blank slate or the preplanned blooming of biology. And the zones of proximal development were represented by technical drawings and equations century Vygotskians. on the blackboard. The drawings traced the predicted path/bridge within a ZPD of the transformation of a skill from novice to expert. My Vygotsky never questioned the tool for result methodology. Never imagined another ontology.
What I really appreciate and in turn struggle with in Holzman/Newman’s Vygotsky is that it opened my imagination of what is alive, transformable, buildable. A new psychology of becoming. That the human world is alive in a myriad ways, not dead, commodifyed, closed off.
Loved the word perzhivanija, would love to hear it pronounced. Really found important talking about emotions as a unit of analysis at integrate holistically biology-person-social-culture. Wow! And most interest about emotion for a long time has been in relation to pathology, and more recently with positive psychology but yet in this positive-negative dichotomy, and in very prescriptive terms, and not in the dynamic way Vygotsky was exemplifying, let alone talking about emotion as a way of transcending the separation of people to their cognitions, their emotions, their personality, and the taking into “account” the social and the cultural.
Hello all—nice food for serious thought! I am looking at practice of high-tech modern medicine and the idea of activity rather than space plays an important role. I am actually suggesting that if we consider that the experience of illness and of being sick (self and body) are not dichotomized, the place where they are both existentially needed, necessary and not divisible is at the level of a person interaction in an activity because it is there that we take things and change with others …This, I am making the case in my work, has powerful implication in what medicine IS because if a patient must learn how live with an artificial heart it is not the self (as in identity) or the body (as the organic part) alone that need to be take care of this, but in the environment with other people that the integration into a person life happens and contains both body and self not anymore distinguishable. So the role of the doctor here is to help integration of treatments, goals etc. into this person life. Would you call this ZPD?
[To read an excerpt from the introduction to the new Psychology Press classic edition of Newman’s and my Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary Scientist, go to my blog post of July 24, 2013 Vygotsky’s a Classic!]