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The Social Construction of Data: Methodological Problems of Investigating Learning in the Zone of Proximal Development

Peter Smagorinsky
Review of Educational Research
Vol. 65, No. 3 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 191-212
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1170682
Page Count: 22
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The Social Construction of Data: Methodological Problems of Investigating Learning in the Zone of Proximal Development
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Abstract

Educational researchers have traditionally drawn on procedures and metaphors from the hard sciences to guide their thinking about methodological issues. One frequently invoked metaphor is that of the "purity" of data, which a researcher can "contaminate" through the process of investigation. This article questions the appropriateness of the purity metaphor, using a perspective provided by Vygotsky's notion of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and its emphasis on a genetic method in which development is mediated by cultural tools and signs. Methodological problems emerging from this conception of the ZPD--including problems of defining research, identifying an appropriate unit of analysis, considering the relationship between evidence and telos (an optimal sense of development), and accounting for the mediational role of assessment--are reviewed. Finally, the work of Luria (1976) is examined from the neo-Vygotskian perspective developed in this article.

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