The lesson considered as a cultural-historical formation of the activity of schooling

MJ Reed

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


In people’s development through schooling the lesson holds an enduring and formal significance in the actualisation of the phylogeny-culture-ontogeny relationship (Cole, 2007). Historically, at least since medieval times, the English word ‘lesson’ reveals a particular set of dynamics for literacy and instruction (Wood & Wood, 1996) which can be traced to classical concerns for the humanizing activity of signifying experience that we all need to learn (Hardcastle, 2009). The lesson constitutes a social formation that organises mundane events of schooling. Since it is bounded by time and place it offers a chronotopic capsule of cultural activity (Bakhtin, 1981; Prior & Shipka, 2003). As a form the lesson may enclose many different instances of technological appropriation, modes of interaction, powers of agency and structures of content, but its significance as a cultural tool of educational development remains potent. As a tool (Wertsch, Tulviste & Hagstrom, 1993; Wertsch, 1991, 2007; Daniels, 2001, 2007) in the business of cultural instruction the lesson is both durable and enduring. This paper proposes a theoretical consideration of the lesson as a unit of analysis in the activity of schooling. I will draw on lesson observations, my experience of classroom teaching and previous investigations of classroom interaction in the CHAT tradition (Reed, 1999, 2004, 2008). Following Valsiner (2000, 2003, 2008) I am concerned for expansion of microgenetic instances in which intersections of cultural groups and their rituals are played out. I resist the normative fallacy (Macherey, 1978) of the lesson as a taken-for-granted site in which learning is bound to happen; consequently, my enquiry tends towards the interiority (Zinchenko, 2007) of activity, drawing on concepts of ‘disoccupation’ (Oteiza, 2003) and ‘counteraction’ (Poddiakov, 2001; Reed, 2008). Keywords: lesson, unit of analysis, activity formation, disoccupation, counteraction.
Translated title of the contributionThe lesson considered as a cultural-historical formation of the activity of schooling
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCongress of International Society for Cultural and Activity Research, University of Sapienza, Rome
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'The lesson considered as a cultural-historical formation of the activity of schooling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this