The Lessons of VygotskyTerm Paper

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Mediated Action

The contents of this report will be a fairly brief but substantial review of mediated action and communication. One of the visionaries when it comes to this subject would be Vygotsky and that will be one of the main people cited and discussed in this report. Whether it be academics, psychology, individualism or other things, the realms of mediated action and communication have been heavily studied and they have been applied in many different situations and parts of life. Even more controversial parts of society and life like religion/theology and cultural topics have been aligned and positioned using the topics of mediated action and communication. While it is indeed possible to overthink communication and mediated action, it is indeed a complex and variable topic in many ways.

Literature Review

The primary source that shall be used for this literature review was authored by James V. Wertsch. In his treatise, Wertsch focused on mediated action and communication but does so while looking at the work and insights of L.S. Vygotsky and M.M. Bakhtin. One of the cornerstones of Vygotsky's line of thinking centers on the social origins of individual mental functioning. Further, his analysis largely fixates on the how cultural tools mediate social and individual functioning and how this all provides a means and a method for relating individual mental functioning as paired with cultural, historical and institutional settings across all of our lives. However, while it is intriguing and exciting to realize the possibilities of integrating the study of communications with other fields like those mentioned in the introduction, this is sometimes easier said than done. Indeed, many academic disciplines in the scholarly sphere are divided by what is interesting and important when it comes to issues. Beyond that, there is also some discord about the theoretical and methodological means that could or should be used to deal with the same. When interdisciplinary communication is put in motion, there is often a good amount of juxtaposition of ideas that occurs and it can be challenging and even exciting to see whether or how the ideas in question align and interact (Wertsch, 1995).

When it comes to specific specialty fields like psychology, these challenges grow even larger in size. One reason for this is that "facts" in psychology are very fickle things. As noted in Wertsch's offering, it is noted that there are no clear-cut and "correct" observations about a subject unless the analysis given is based on proven and known facts and absolutely nothing else. Since psychology and the practice thereof is often very nebulous and indefinite, this obviously is not going to happen all that much. When speaking of Bakhtin, they were aligned in many ways when it comes to the broader subject of mediated action and communication in general. As stated by Wertsch, they both "took the general position that human mental functioning emerged largely through the mastery and internalization of social discourse" (Wertsch, 1995). Vygotsky expands on this by saying that the "social dimensions of consciousness is primary in time and in fact. The individual dimension of consciousness is derivative and secondary" (Wertsch, 1995).

When it comes to the mediational part of action and communication, Vygotsky is one of the more vocal people on the subject. Wertsch notes that he "assigned the notion of mediational means such a fundamental role in his theoretical framework that it has a kind of analytic primacy relative to the other themes that organize his writings" (Wertsch, 1995). Wertsch paraphrases that statement by saying that the formulation of notions such as things like developmental transformation, intramental processes, intermental processes are "grounded in claims about mediational means, but not vice versa" (Wertsch, 1995). Vygotsky also made some rather firm and detailed assertions about the social part of life and culture. He notes that his general genetic law of cultural development includes the assertion that "social relations or relations among people genetically underlie all higher functions and their relationships" (Wertsch, 1995). Vygotsky also sought to counteract some of the patterns of psychology. One specific example of this is noted by Wertsch when it is said that Vygotsky wished to engage in a bit of social reductionism that acts as a counterbalance to individualistic reductionism, the latter of which is very thick and obvious to see in psychology. Some of the buzzwords and ideas that Vygotsky has written or uttered have been compared to quite similar phrases and assertions in the work of Mark and in general Marxist ideology. However, Vygotsky was different than Marx because his analysis and points of analysis centered on individuals and small groups rather than larger groups of people, the latter of which is a common frame of analysis with Marx and his adherents (Wertsch, 1995).

Another work that the author of this report found greatly parallels what is noted with Wertsch. The later work, as offered by Roth (2014), says much the same things as noted above but focuses specifically on science. Roth notes that the last two decades has shown a paradigm shift and evolution in the way that science-oriented teachers use words and communication in general to do their job. This evolution has included the advice and insights of the aforementioned Vygotsky and Bakhtin. One of the main goals of this shift is to help with "understanding the dialogical nature of knowledge in a sociocultural framework" (Roth, 2014). Further, there is the emerging belief that "currently available analyses of science classroom talk do not appear to exhibit sufficient appreciation of the fact that words, statements and language are living phenomena, that is, they inherently change in speaking (Roth, 2014). In response to this, there is a new model proposed whereby there is a focus on the relation between classroom talk and the formal written genres of expression that have and continue to exist. This shift in perspective, by itself, leads to a many new questions of a research nature (Roth, 2014).

Another realm of academia that lends itself to using a Vygotsky-esque lens would be language arts. One thing that should be pointed out is that Vygotsky's association with Marx, as mentioned earlier, is probably not a huge stretch due to the fact that his playing field was the Soviet psychological and educational circles during the 1920's and 1930's. Given that nearly a century has passed since then and given that the U.S.S.R. no longer exists, it is quite noteworthy and impressive that Vygotsky's works have remained so omnipresent and cited in the fields of communication, psychology and others. Indeed, Vygotsky himself was a psychologist and a lot of his viewpoints extended from that perspective. With that in mind, the ways in which Vygotsky's teachings can be extended are numerous if not endless and language arts is certainly among them. Smagorinksy (2013) notes that just a few examples of this are the use of speech as a tool for thinking, the role of emotion when it comes to thinking, the social nature of thinking and an emphasis on meaningful activity. Further, it has to be realized and assessed how the construct of the zone of proximal development can contribute to the proper application and teaching of language arts (Smagorinsky, 2013).

Even children who are still developing exhibit signs of what Vygotsky and others have been talking about. People in general are very commonly shown to be using things like signs, codes and rules of their community as part of their broader language and communication. This habit starts quite early in life as even children resort to the use of signs, codes and rules as part of their daily life with other kids and/or adults. This paradigm of communication can be assessed and looked at using Vygotsky's concept of what is known as semiotic mediation. There are also signs of the work of Bernstein and his code theory. Bernstein centered on examples of how children use creative and delightful approaches to communicate and part of this framework is the creation and use of signs. Some argue that the language of young learners are actually symbolic expressions of their intent to reinforce and generate desirable social and cultural learning situations. Further, there is often a conclusion that individuals mediate social and individual functioning as a means to define and create meaning in their world. This in turn leads to the theory that we all should move away from viewing second-language learning and emergent writing in general as static and unchanging sets of abilities in favor of a more dynamic and changing interpretation of the same (Guo & Mackenzie, 2015).

The teachings of Vygotsky and the wider paradigm of mediated action and communication can be spoken of when looking at those that are hearing impaired. As noted by a study that was written in 2014, there has been a notable increase in the amount of access that hearing impaired people that have access to higher levels of education such as undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs at the college level. This is no small thing because the people of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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