Turning A Big Ship Around: Education Adjusts For Multicultural Challenges: By Dennis Beck (excerpted).
Behaviorist "carrot and stick" methods which exercise manipulation and control have become more inappropriate than ever in view of the cultural diversity present in today's classrooms. Even B.F. Skinner, whose behavior modification research was instrumental in the development of stimulus-response theory wrote, "Except when physically constrained, a person is least free or dignified when under the threat of punishment." (Skinner, 1971, p. 76) Extrinsic motivation, with its systems of rewards and punishments, fails to recognize cultural differences and deprives students of human dignity.
Several models have been developed by psychologists and educators which meet the four conditions which have been identified as necessary for culturally responsive teaching:
1. "Establish inclusion...collaborate and
High Scope Active Learning, with it's "plan, do and review" lesson plans, provides students an opportunity to participate in the curriculum plan daily, with adjustments and corrections as necessary when the teacher identifies the "teachable moment." The five components of active learning are: CHOICE / In Planning the child chooses what to do. LANGUAGE / Each child is encouraged to describe their activities; verbalize feelings, needs and desires. MATERIALS / Abundant materials, conveniently located for children to use in many ways. MANIPULATION / Children are free to manipulate their materials in a variety of ways. SUPPORT / Adults and peers recognize and encourage each individual's problem solving and creativity.
2. "Develop positive attitude...approaches
based on multiple intelligences theory."
The Key School approach to learning stresses learning through experience and is based on the concept of multiple intelligences developed by Dr. Howard Gardner. He denounces the notion of general intelligence, identifying instead seven areas of intellectual competence which are defined as: verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, visual/spatial, body/ kinesthetic, music/rhythmic, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Students from different grades work together on projects that interest them. Younger students work with older students to learn, develop skills, and benefit from personal attention by interested people. Older students working with younger students develop interpersonal relationship skills and reinforce their own knowledge. Lessons focus on creative experiences, thus allowing the student to learn through his/her intelligences.
3. "Enhance meaning...provide challenging
Children actually learn better through more developmentally appropriate activities at a young age than they do through academics. A child learns more about math, for instance, by sorting shapes and colors than by rote memorization of number sequences. Viktor Lowenfeld, art educator and child psychologist, generalizes that the cornerstone of education for most educators is the manipulation of 26 letters and 10 numerals. The patterns and manipulations become increasingly abstract and complex with time, but they actually mean very little without a frame of reference for understanding what the arrangements of the symbols actually represent. "Being able to assemble letters in the proper sequence to spell rabbit does not constitute an understanding of a rabbit. To really know a rabbit, a child must actually touch him, feel his fur, watch his nose twitch, feed him, and learn his habits," (Lowenfeld, 1975, p.5)
4. "Engender competence...connect the assessment
process to the student's world."
When students are motivated intrinsically, learning is no longer simply forced memorization. When he/she learns something, it actually means something. Dr. Howard Gardner, the author of Multiple Intelligences also wrote a book called The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach. In it, Dr. Gardner presents a case for restructuring education based in part on the ancient practice of apprenticeship, and in part on the concept of the modern children's museum. Both work because learning takes place in context.
These ideas are not new. Most of them have been around, both in theory and in practice, for decades. However, government schools seem unable to adopt new ideas proactively, even when they are in the best interests of learners.
Feeney, Stephanie, Doris Christensen, Eva Moravcik. Who Am I in the Lives of Children? An Introduction to Teaching Young Children. 3rd ed. Merrill. Columbus. 1987.
Lowenfeld, Viktor and W. Lambert Brittain. Creative and Mental Growth. 6th ed. Macmillan. New York. 1975.
Skinner, B.F. Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. 1971.
Turnbull, Ann P., et al. Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today's Schools. Merrill. Columbus. 1995.
Wlodkowski, Raymond J. and Margery B. Ginsberg. A Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching