Exploring perezhivanie

A new tool for teacher development in the digital transformation in education

by Lada Smirnova (Author)
©2021 Monographs XX, 218 Pages


This book uses the notion of perezhivanie, a psychological response to an issue that an individual cannot solve using their habitual actions, to describe why and how teachers make decisions and act the way they do, and develop professionally in the push to digital transformation, which is shaping teaching and learning. Unlike earlier work in teacher development, where cognition predominantly served the thinking and decision making processes, here the focus is on the emotion, cognition, and context, united in the notion of perezhivanie. To demonstrate the work of perezhivanie as a unit, the author applies a conceptual framework to the data from qualitative interviews with ten university language teachers about their experience of using technology in their teaching. While teachers responded to issues of technology integration in various ways, a broad pattern emerged, when teachers could not do what they had planned for the lesson due to struggles with technology. Additionally, since perezhivanie exists in several forms, here the author defi nes them as perezhivanie-experiencing, perezhivanie apprehension, and perezhivanie-reflection. The author exemplifies how these forms can provide a theoretically powerful frame for understanding and researching teacher development and, more broadly, human consciousness.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Figures
  • Tables
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Part 1 About perezhivanie
  • Chapter 1 A puzzle and the definition of perezhivanie
  • Chapter 2 Vygotsky’s work on perezhivanie
  • Chapter 3 Research on perezhivanie after Vygotsky in Russia
  • Chapter 4 International discussion on perezhivanie
  • Part 2 Key notions and conceptual framework
  • Chapter 5 Utilising technology: New environment, new roles and new jobs
  • Chapter 6 The role of motives in teaching activity
  • Chapter 7 Emotions
  • Chapter 8 The role of perezhivanie in teacher development
  • Chapter 9 The conceptual framework
  • Part 3 The study
  • Chapter 10 The narrative orientation of perezhivanie research
  • Chapter 11 The fieldwork and data analysis
  • Part 4 Manifestations of perezhivanie in the data and the research applications
  • Chapter 12 Empirical evidence of teachers’ perezhivanie
  • Chapter 13 Three forms of perezhivanie
  • Chapter 14 Further research on perezhivanie
  • Bibliography
  • Index

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I remember a thick book on the ‘Mathematical fundamentals of the theory of complex systems’, which started with the words ‘As is generally known, …’. Since that first degree in computer programming, the statement has challenged me several times when it came to theories or value propositions. One of them was that teacher cognition is pivotal to understanding how teachers teach, learn and develop, and it is teacher cognition that shapes teachers’ activity (e.g. in Borg, 2003, 2015; Richards, 2010). If something is true, check out its opposite and see what that can do for you, as John F. Fanselow (2010) wrote in ‘Try the opposite’.

I did not even have to check or try the opposite to what the teacher-cognition literature said. Life sometimes offers us unexpected opportunities as gifts. Working in a teacher training capacity I noticed how perezhivanie, a unity of cognitive and emotional factors, served trainees’ thinking and decision-making. It was surprising, as these processes were predominantly claimed to be served by teacher cognition solely. That opposite that I noticed became pivotal in my research for several years. This book is a revised and reworked version of this study.

When I enthusiastically shared this empirical finding with my western colleagues, many agreed that their emotions and cognition were not separate, even though the institutions told them otherwise (the bifurcation of thinking and feeling and suppressing emotions). That is, they experienced that concept even though they did not have language to describe this. Ferholt and Nilsson (2016) also noticed this interesting fact in the work of Sobchack (2004) and Sutton-Smith (1997), among other ‘scholars and artists whose studies of the properties of perezhivaniya have converged, often without their using, or possibly even being aware of, the term “perezhivanie” [italic is in the original text]’1 (Ferholt & Nilsson, 2016: 27). This book is ←xv | xvi→devoted to an exciting journey: to give a word – perezhivanie – for this phenomenon.

The most obvious primary audience for this book is teacher trainers and educators, and the book may be read as a methodological discovery of an epistemology for understanding perezhivanie for development. Since the book addresses the resolution of difficult situations in a technologically enhanced classroom, its audience includes teachers, as well as those who oversee the processes of digital transformation, such as department chairs, deans and other administrators and policy-makers.

Additionally, as the focus of the book covers the psychological aspects of human mind and activity, its perspective might resonate with readers whose professional interests lie outside the field of education, for example, developers of Adaptive Technologies, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Attainable epistemologically, the natural phenomenon of perezhivanie can contribute to studies of consciousness, for example, in cognitive psychology or neuroscience.

Regarding the theoretical perspective, the book is intended for anyone with an established interest and knowledge of sociocultural theoretical perspectives, and a Vygotskian cultural historical perspective in particular. A secondary audience includes professionals engaged in the discussion on the role of teachers in the Digital World, as well as researchers, who study from their psychological, neurophysiological or any other perspective, inextricable intertwining of thoughts, emotions and feelings.

←xvi | xvii→


It is impossible to acknowledge all the people in my life in a way that does justice to their contributions to the present work. The probable major influence was Dr Juup Stelma, my PhD supervisor, who I had the privilege of working with for four years at the University of Manchester. When we first met and discussed my ideas, he wondered aloud about how to take the abstract notion of perezhivanie, which was new and confusing for him, and immediately apply it to language teaching and teacher development. We have now taken the first step in answering that question together. His initial belief in me, patience with my ideas and his clear investment in my professional development cannot be measured. I am forever grateful for that stellar experience. An experience, which Juup was the greatest part of, being the kind of teacher and researcher I hope to be.

Another source of influence was Social Theories of Learning research group at the University of Manchester, guided by Prof. Julian Williams, which over the years has included Dr Gary Motteram, Dr Sarah Darley, Dr Laura Black, Dr Kelly Packard Smith and Dr David Swanson, among many others. I have benefited more than I can account from the inspirational discussions, which transformed my thinking within the social cultural paradigm, and empowered me to look for, and find my own way in such an extraordinary, collaborative and supportive community.

I am indebted to my entirely earnest colleagues who opened their language teaching to my endless questions and – my participants, ‘those who cannot be named’, for letting me into their lives and allowing me to learn with and from them. Their willingness to be open, honest and genuinely reflective shows that they truly care for the profession. If this book helps advance teacher development in any way, it is only because I have told the story of their true commitment to students and their learning.

I have been fortunate to have my very own advisor David Connolly, who provided a caring and gentle persistence in shaping my ideas and polishing this text to become more readable and digestible. Any mistakes of ←xvii | xviii→shortcomings that remain are mine, of course. I owe my four anonymous reviewers a debt of gratitude because their comments were instrumental and suggestions were cogent, and all of them pushed me to improve several chapters, which inevitably influenced the entire book outcome and its quality. I also would like to thank David Rickert, whose clip art of Einstein I use in several figures throughout the book. It was a privilege to work with Anthony Mason, a Senior Commissioning Editor in Peter Lang for his encouragement and confidence in me.

I am also indebted to my family, both near and far, Igor, Anna, Viktor, Alexander and Jane. You pushed me to reach beyond my limited vision of what I thought I could be. Thank you, forever and ever.


XX, 218
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (September)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2021. XX, 218 pp., 8 fig. b/w, 3 tables.

Biographical notes

Lada Smirnova (Author)

Lada Smirnova holds a PhD from the University of Manchester, UK. She is the founder and CEO of En4all, an online English language learning provider. Her areas of interest and research include teacher training and sustainable teacher development, using technology for academic English in ELT, and, more specifically, using adaptive technologies and artificial intelligence for designing blended and online programmes. Lada has initiated an MA in Digital Transformation in Education and is Deputy Director of this programme, and is currently working as Associate Professor in the HSE University in Moscow.


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