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Holbrook Mahn (2014)

"Vygotsky's Analysis of Meaning Making and its Implications for L2 Teaching/Learning"

Dr. Holbrook Mahn (University of New Mexico) 

Date: Monday, April 14, 2014
Time: 4:00-5:30 p.m.
Location: Foster Auditorium (Paterno Library)

In this Gil Watz Memorial Lecture, Holbrook Mahn examines a central, but often overlooked, aspect of Vygotsky's work--the analysis of the system created through the unification of thinking processes and those involved in the use of language in its myriad manifestations. In that analysis, Vygotsky focused on the internal development of meaning acquired through language use, examining its origins and path of development, the form of its development, and finally the way that its use in practical activity shaped its development. Mahn will examine a number of reasons why this central aspect has been overlooked, starting with the varied interpretations of Vygotsky's methodological approach. Without a clear understanding of his approach and its relationship to his theoretical framework, it is difficult to appreciate his analysis of the processes through which children make meaning of their sociocultural, natural, historical worlds, and create systems of concepts. This presentation examines two key concepts Vygotsky used in analyzing these processes--perezhivanie and the social situation of development--relating them to his analysis of concept development. By situating Vygotsky's better-known concepts--the zone of proximal development, semiotic mediation, social interaction, psychological tools, and practical activity--in his analysis of the internal meaning-making system, Mahn will present a different perspective on these concepts. The lecture concludes by looking at implications that can be drawn from Vygotsky's analysis of children's meaning-making processes and concept development for studying second language acquisition and for teaching/learning a second language in school.

Holbrook Mahn, Professor in the Department of Language, Literacy, & Sociocultural Studies at the University of New Mexico, has extensive publications in national and international journals and books on the work of Lev Vygotsky. Over the past two decades he has collaborated closely with Vera John-Steiner. At UNM, he teaches courses in the theory and practice of teaching English as a Second Language, with a particular focus on second language literacy. Prior to teaching at UNM, Mahn taught high-school ESL in inner-city schools in Los Angeles.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the University Libraries.