Micro-moments in learning relationships: Crises as initiators of development

Shona McIntosh, Janet Georgeson, Paolo Sorzio

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This symposium builds on ongoing work that is concerned with the relationship between learning and development, and examines the notion that “the only ‘good learning’ is that which leads development” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 89). We offer a conceptualisation of microgenetic moments in learning relationships as crises that can generate the kind of “qualitative transformation” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 73) that enable things to be seen in a new way. We also argue that these micro-moments apply across various learning activities and cultures. The crises, rather than being understood as the object toward which learning activity is unfolding, are understood as initiating development, both of the person(s) in the activity, and in ongoing involvement in the activity itself. As such, micro-moments are starting points for development. Our work uses concepts from historical socio-cultural theory to understand more about the multiple factors at play in micro-moments. We take illustrations from three research projects, across different national settings, to examine micro-moments in social situations. In particular, we focus on the social situation of development (Cole, 1998) where micro-moments arise and hold the potential to initiate new ways of doing and being. Central to the struggles that lead to crises is the historical process of the dialectical and the mobile objects of activity which emerge through learning relationships. The first study involves the social situation of learning in the context of father-child relationships in families, the second between early years practitioners and children, and the third involves adult trainee teachers.


Conference6th Congress of the International Society of Historical Socio-cultural Activity Research
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  • microgenetic development
  • learning relationships
  • crises as generative


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