The political factors presented below were extracted from the book “Contributions to didactics”.
- Document: Curriculum for Preschool education – 1972
This document has its basis in the principles of the Escuela Nueva (New School), which explored the spontaneous interests of children, the contact with nature and the search for harmony between family, school and society.
The political, social and cultural dimension:
THE NEOLIBERAL AUTHORITARIAN STATE:
The educational policy adopted by this state was characterized by a strong regulation of the procedures and a raise in the number of private institutions.
“This type of state didn’t put any price on democracy…”, but considered it a political method that had to adapt to the social rules and traditions.
The general objectives proposed by this state focused on: the contact of children with nature, and the teaching of habits and attitudes of respect and solidarity. It was important that children reach a superior level of development, be independent, creative and able to enrich their vocabulary.
The organization of objectives, contents and activities:
The contents were determined by the type of achievement that the children had to reach:
These contents fitted the children’s necessities, interests and attitudes. There were specific objectives for each of these achievements.
The activities were closely connected to the idea of experimentation and external movement (the internal process was not taken into account), which evolved into “doing an activity for the sake of the activity itself” (activism).
Organization of school subjects:
The curriculum was not divided into specific subjects, but into areas of study:
- Esthetic sensitivity
Each area was further subdivided, depending on the students’ age.
The role of the student:
The student was the center of the educational act, his freedom and personality had to be respected, he was the author of his own learning and the creator of his own achievements.
Learning was a natural process of observation and experimentation, which could be done regularly outside the classroom.
From the point of view of literacy, it was considered that the child had to start achieving these skills before entering the first grade. Taking into account the potential of each child, the teacher guided and instructed the children according to a teaching plan that was intended to provide a comprehensive education.
The role of the teacher:
The teacher had to design a timetable that was flexible and helped him or her maintain a cordial relationship with the workmates and the community. It also had to create an adequate environment for reading and writing.
The concept of literacy:
The process of alphabetization involved training the children by doing exercises that developed their motor abilities (see the pictures attached to the paragraph regarding Traditional Methods).
Psycho-linguistics is the science that studies the psychological processes of language comprehension and production. These processes can be understood by putting together the theories emerged from different studies conducted so far, even if they were made from completely opposite points of view.
Today, psycho-linguistics admits that these theories have brought important contributions to the field, so it does not discard any of them, but, starting from them, formulates a new explanation in regard to how language is acquired.
This interpretation claims that people acquire the language through their need to communicate, but also with the aid of the human innate aptitudes for learning the language, the interaction with the linguistic environment, and the creative and dynamic process that occurs during the stages of psycho-evolutive development.
Finally, we thought it would be appropriate to mention the most relevant aspects of the theories described above, in order to see what were the exact contributions of each theory and how the present interpretation was obtained.
In the following, we present a table that synthesizes the theories that have tried to explain the psychological processes of language comprehension and production.
Recognized the importance of the environment in the development of language
|Skinner B.F.||Analyzed the way children learn. It is based on the behaviorist principles, which see the child as a passive receiver of information, who learns by imitating their parents’ speech, and reinforcement.|
Human aptitudes in the acquisition of language
|Chomsky N.||This theory is the opposite of the previous one, which focuses on the acquirement of language. It claims that the child has innate knowledge (inherent to his/her mind) about the universal principles that govern language.|
The importance of the interaction with the linguistic environment
|Roeper T. and E. Williams||Also claims that children have innate knowledge, but puts the student in a continuous relationship with his community, which is set to influence it from a linguistic point of view.|
The relation between transformation of the processes of thinking and the evolution of language.
|Piaget J. and Geneva School||Studies the mechanisms of the mind and claims that as soon as the child develops his sensor and motor intelligence, he can acquire the language. Rejects the principles of the innate theory, and considers that the only thing inherited is the intelligence.|
Social interaction and the student’s need to communicate.
The importance of the role of the adult.
|* Vygotsky L.S.
* Bruner J.
|Both currents analyze the role of social interaction in the development of language.
“Language is (…) a means of communication with external form and function, that progressively acquires an internal, personal function, until it becomes completely internal and is transformed into “thinking”…”
Language is acquired and is influenced by the social function.
Supports the theory of inherited predisposition of the subject which enables him to acquire the language, as well as the need of support and reinforcement from the adults (instructional scaffolding).
One of the points in which this theory differs from that of Piaget is that Vygotsky considers that the learning processes trigger the processes of development. Development cannot exist without a learning situation to provoke it, so learning stimulates development.
Vygotsky brought important contributions in regard to the problem of literacy, as he highlighted the need to focus on reading and writing activities. This is related to the difference between the children’s need to learn the spoken language and that of learning the written one. Although either of them represents a means of communication, children start speaking because they are urged by the necessity to make demands, ask questions, give replies, etc. “This is why it is necessary to generate situations and activities that provoke in the child the necessity to write and use external motivation to make him read, so that writing becomes something that the child needs to do in order to attain different goals.”
Vygotsky proves that playing and drawing are the precursors of writing, because they all use the same process of symbol transition. Drawing and playing teach the child the basics of symbolism and writing (where symbolism means “the interpretation of graphic signs and symbols”). In his study, Vygotsky sees symbolism as a mental representation of writing, and mentions the existence of a sequence of steps in the process of transformation of symbols. This sequence can be an equivalent of the three steps presented in the Diseño Curricular para la Educación Inicial (Curricular Designs for Primary School, published in 1989): the first level of symbolism, the second level (indirect symbolism) and the third level (direct symbolism).
In the first-level symbolism, writing is related to the meaning of things and actions like, for example, the names that represent different people.
Indirect symbolism (second level) does not refer directly to objects – which is why it is called indirect – but represents the spoken language which, in turn, represents objects. The spoken language acts as the connection between objects and symbols. This is the most difficult stage for children, because they have to understand that what they say needs to have the same meaning as what they write.
Finally, in the third level, the spoken language is no longer an intermediary, and writing becomes a direct symbol; this is why this level is called direct symbolism or third-level symbolism.
After conquering these three levels, the child can read and write, but learning does not end here.
From this point of view, school has an important role in the children’s development. Its objective is to turn them into literate persons, by providing the instruments they need for actively interacting with the reading and writing system.
After analyzing the work of various authors, we have extracted several characteristics of Vygotsky’s work, so that we can understand his contribution to education.
He understands the process of development as a complex dialectic process, characterized by periodicity, irregularity in the development of different functions, transformation, the interconnection of external and internal factors, and the adaptation processes that overcome and conquer all the obstacles that the child encounters. It also states that the learning process doesn’t depend entirely on the genetic factor, but is greatly influenced by the socio-cultural environment.
Further, we will try to explain some of the terms used above.
According to Vygotsky, the student doesn’t only respond to the stimuli around him, but he transforms them through his actions, with the aid of instruments.
He mentions the interconnection between the internal and the external factors, and the adaptation processes that help overcome the obstacles, because he considers that the student acquires the meanings from the external social environment (they are transmitted from one person to the other, from adults, who know more, to children), but they also have to be assimilated or absorbed by each child individually, thus allowing them to make contact with cultural instruments and adjust them to their own personality.
Vygotsky felt the need to formulate the concept of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), in order to explain how the thinking process develops and reaches superior stages in a socio-cultural environment, where the individual starts from an external approach and gradually transforms it into an internal construction.
The Zone of Proximal Development is defined as the phase between the Zone of Real Development and the Zone of Potential Development. Physical and symbolic mediators, also known as “instruments” – school, society and activities – operate in the ZPD and they help the child reach his level of potential development.
“In time, the child needs less and less help in his efforts, as his self-regulation ability improves. Thus, he gradually progresses through the Zone of Proximal Development”, from the stage where he needs to be helped, to a level where he can obtain the same performance by himself.
The Zone of Real Development corresponds to the levels the child has already attained or, in other words, to the knowledge he has already got and the activities he can do by himself, without any help or guidance from other persons.
The Zone of Potential Development represents the activities that the child can do only with the help, support or guidance of a tutor. This zone comprises all the functions that are not yet well-developed, but are in course of development.
For many years, teaching plans and practice were based on the psychological and/or linguistic knowledge (that is, the knowledge directed at the use of language and the construction of linguistic knowledge in non-didactic situations). This type of knowledge is still important, but not enough, as none of it can explain the interaction that occurs between the three points of the didactic triangle: object of study, teacher, and student.
This is because in the last 15 years, research has focused on studying teaching and learning of reading and writing in school, so it had to analyze the contents of the teaching plans and reformulate the didactic approach.
After reading Delia Lerner’s “Reading and writing. A modern perspective”, we can draw the following conclusions:
People who elaborate the Curriculums have to decide which contents should be studied. This implies a reconstruction of the subject. This is the first level of didactic transposition (the presentation of scientific knowledge about the object or activity to be taught).
The selection of the information is essential, because it is impossible to teach the students everything. This selection must also order the information according to its importance, without neglecting the context in which the information must be inserted, at the same time avoiding an excessive isolation of the subject of study from its social function.
The sciences in which this knowledge is comprised are not enough to build the learning process. Didactic goals also play an important role and, together with the sciences, they are the source that school practices are inspired from.
For example: the main “educational goal of teaching learning and writing (…) is to make children become part of the community of readers and ‘writers’; it is to make the students citizens of the written culture…” According to this goal, the object of study in composed of the social reading and writing practices.
Once the information to be taught has been decided, it is necessary to establish the practices – in order to explain the contents and try to define the didactic conditions necessary to make them meaningful.
The social practices of reading and writing have existed for a long time and they are not independent from linguistic studies. The study of the language sciences might not be paramount, but it has contributed in a decisive manner to the conceptualization of the school practices.