Experiencing (Perezivanie) as Developmental Category: Learning from a Fisherman Who Is Becoming (as) a Teacher-in-a-Village-School

By Jóhannsdóttir, Thurídur; Roth, Wolff-Michael | Outlines : Critical Practice Studies, September 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Experiencing (Perezivanie) as Developmental Category: Learning from a Fisherman Who Is Becoming (as) a Teacher-in-a-Village-School


Jóhannsdóttir, Thurídur, Roth, Wolff-Michael, Outlines : Critical Practice Studies


Introduction

Learning and development-such as how someone becomes a teacher and develops (i.e., is becoming) while taking courses or teaches-tend to be theorized with the individual as the unit of analysis.1 This is so even in those cases, where researchers recognize the role of others. But then such research turns to concepts such as internalization and the individual construction of knowledge. This does not appear be in the spirit of L. S. Vygotsky, however, who, in proposing "experiencing [perezivanie]" as a category, that is, as the developmental unit, keeps the environment in continual focus: "Experiencing [perezivanie] is that unit where, in an irreducible form, is represented, on the one hand, the environment-experiencing always refers to something that is outside of the person- and, on the other hand, how I experience if (Vygotskij, 2001, p. 75, original emphasis, underline added). As one interpreter of Vygotsky's work on categories and unit analysis suggests, the category experiencing "has to be the unit of analysis of consciousness" (Veresov, 2010, p. 274). There are radical consequences for thinking about development when such a unit is chosen (seriously) for studying teaching.

The purpose of this study is to make a case for experiencing [perezivanie], as defined, and to exemplify the use of this category in the case of "becoming (as) a teacher-in-a-villageschool " The first part of the foregoing expression focuses on development including qualitative and quantitative (continuous) transitions (i.e., first becoming a teacher and then developing as a teacher). The second part of the expression highlights the fact that experiencing [perezivanie] cannot be broken down into elements-person + environment-but constitutes a continuously unfolding process that simultaneously designates the movement from person to environment and from environment to the person. The person, however, is "the ensemble of societal relations [sobokupnost' vsex obscestvennyx otnosenie]" that come to be "shifted to the inner sphere and having become functions of the personality and forms of its structure" (Vygotskij, 2005, p. 1023, original emphasis, underline added). It has been suggested, therefore, to study everyday learning and development in terms of the "fullness of life as minimal unit" (Roth & van Eijck, 2010). In this study, we understand person (personality) and experiencing [perezivanie] as categories, analytic units, that retain the characteristics of the whole, which-for Vygotsky as for all Marxist theories-is society, the relations that sustain it, and their development.

To make our case we begin by describing a stage of development in the life of a person who becomes a teacher and then experiences a developmental trajectory very different from his previous life. This is an aspect of teacher education that is hardly (if ever) described in the teacher education literature concerned as it is with events after a person has entered a professional program or after a person has begun teaching. We then provide a brief review of teacher education from a cultural-historical activity theory perspective before outlining in which way experiencing [perezivanie] constitutes a useful category (analytic unit) for theorizing both continuity (e.g., within the life as a fisherman or a teacher) and discontinuity (e.g., the change in developmental trajectories when one life form, being a fisherman, is changed for another, being a teacher). We conclude this essay with comments concerning (a) a radical commitment to unit analysis and (b) teacher education.

Becoming as an Inhabitant-of-a-Fishing-Village

Empirical background

We begin to make our case by reporting the results of an ethnographic study of a fisherman (Sam) who first becomes and then develops as a teacher. Sam had earned a living in fisheries, but who has turned to teaching and then enrolled in a teacher education program to obtain certification. (Pseudonyms used throughout. …

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