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Neil Mercer How can we use a sociocultural psychology of education to improve classroom education?

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Presentation on theme: "Neil Mercer How can we use a sociocultural psychology of education to improve classroom education?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Neil Mercer How can we use a sociocultural psychology of education to improve classroom education?

2 Through working with… Teachers Local authorities and schools Policy makers Parents and families

3 Through working with… Teachers Local authorities and schools Policy makers Parents and families

4 Interprofessional working requires… …the building of common knowledge …the development of a common language …an appreciation the different motives, accountabilities and priorities which shape the lives of different professionals..appreciating that we work in an activity system, not just as various individuals (A. Edwards, 2009, Scot. Ed. Review)

5 The relationship between psychologists and teachers What do we offer? What do they think of us? How can we work together most effectively?

6 Teachers’ views ‘ What do you think of educational psychologists?’ They are… “ a child’s only hope of getting a statement” “assessment people” “very rare beasts” “good at making me feel guilty”

7 “ First of all the question made me laugh - it's a wry laugh. Two reasons; faced with very tricky children in class, teachers look forward to, hope for/expect some insight and practical help from the Ed Psychs. In fact - always after a long wait and lots of paper work - what they say is nearly always hopelessly anodyne, vague or impractical and doesn't tell you much you don't already know. On the other hand - now I reflect - the ones who were involved with very long term children with severe needs and knew the families well were great, insightful and supportive to everyone”

8 “ One Ed Psych made a big impression during my teaching years because he was a sympathetic, caring and committed man who tried very hard to help a deeply troubled Aspergers boy I taught. His (and our) efforts however were severely hampered by very restricted funding from the LA and the parents unwillingness to admit their child's vulnerability and increasingly depressive tendencies.”

9 Psychologists are commonly expected to… assess children’s abilities work with children with ‘difficulties’ justify children not being in a mainstream class or getting special help

10 Psychologists are less often expected to… Be concerned with the learning of ‘mainstream’ children Be involved in CPD sessions Work with teachers to design better teaching Help to assess the effects of teaching on learning outcomes

11 ‘There is the potential for [educational psychologists] to make wider contributions to the curriculum, working with colleagues in education services to identify areas where their expertise might have the greatest impact. This might include improving learning, teaching and supporting transitions as part of the successful implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. The research function of educational psychology services could contribute more to improving outcomes for children and young people. This applies in particular to the priorities selected for research and and the use that is made of the results of research to inform policy and practice. there is scope for much more to be delivered, in a broader range of areas, so helping to support the increasing growth of education as a ‘learning profession’ which is continually reflecting upon, and improving, its own practice.’ Educational psychology in Scotland: making a difference (2011)

12 What kind of psychology underpins the curriculum? ‘ The curriculum we have was formed under what might be termed an individualistic paradigm of human psychology and behaviour…. In recent years this paradigm has been challenged. The idea of the self as an isolated individual whose behaviour and decisions are motivated solely by rational self-interest has come under increasing pressure. Insights drawn from a range of disciplines - such as behavioural economics, neuroscience and psychology - strongly suggest that the brain is essentially social, having evolved to function within group settings.’ (Royal Society of Arts: Curriculum and The Social Brain, 2010)

13 The social brain The social brain hypothesis in evolutionary psychology contends that human brains have evolved to be as big as they are so that we can think about and manage our relationships with other people. (Grist, 2006; Dunbar, 1998)

14 Recent neuroscience research supports the idea of…..the brain’s pro-sociality, i.e. the brain’s constant orientation to others and the creation of meaning through brains interacting, rather than through the operation of discontinuous, internal, individual cognition. (Torrance & Maclure, 2010)

15 What kind of psychology should underpin the curriculum (and the teaching of it)?

16 Sociocultural Psychology emphasises that: knowledge and understanding are jointly created dialogue between adults and children can provide an intermental framework for intramental development What happens in a classroom needs to be understood in social context (within an activity system)

17 Ways of talking Ways of thinking Lev Vygotsky Language plays a vital role in cognitive development

18 The amount and quality of the spoken dialogue children experience at home is one of best predictors of their eventual academic attainment (Hart & Risley, 1995). “Mothers or carers who have an “elaborative” conversational style have children with more organised and detailed memories... Mothers who...seldom use elaboration and evaluation, have children who recall less about the past. Longitudinal studies have shown that it is the experience of verbalising events at the time that they occur that is critical for long-term retention.” (Goswami and Bryant,2007, p. 8) Language plays a vital role in cognitive development

19 For many children, good language experience at school is their only hope Working with policy makers, authorities, teachers, what can we do about it?

20 “In the whole class sections of literacy and numeracy lessons… most of the questions asked were of a low cognitive level designed to funnel pupils’ responses towards a required answer.” (Smith, Hardman, Wall & Mroz, 2004) What is most teacher-student interaction like?

21 Whole class talk: example 1 Teacher: OK. Looking at the text now I want you please to tell me what tense the first paragraph is in. Girl:The past tense. Teacher: Yes it’s in the past tense. How do you know it’s in the past tense? Girl:Because it says August Teacher: You know by the date it’s in the past tense, but you know by something else you know, you know by the doing words in the t ext that change. What’s a doing word? What do we call a doing word David? David: A verb. Teacher: A verb good. Will you give me one verb please out of this first paragraph. Find one verb in this paragraph. Stephen? Stephen: Rescued. Teacher: Rescued, excellent, excellent and that’s in the past tense. (Hardman, 2007)

22 Whole class discussion: example 2 Teacher reads text : 'Ten to twenty Daddy-long-legs can live together in this cage. It is fun to watch then at night. They are more active then. They rest during the day. If you look into your Daddy-long-legs cage when they are resting, your shadow will wake them suddenly. Then they will scamper round the cage, bouncing up and down in their funny dance. A few minutes later, they will all be resting quietly again.'

23 Teacher: Who has a question? Susan: How many spiders can fit in a cage? Reggie: It didn't tell Susan: Yes it did Justin: Reggie doesn't think it told us Susan: Charlie? Charlie: About ten or so. Susan: Mara? Mara: Ten to twenty. Teacher: Ten to twenty. Daryl…what question would you ask? Daryl: If you came by and looked, if you looked in the Daddy Long Legs cage, what would the Daddy-long-legs do? Justin?

24 Justin: Your shadow would wake him up and then they would start scampering around and... Mara: And in a little bit all of them will lay down and go back to sleep again. Daryl: He kind of left something out Teacher: What did he leave out? Daryl : When they bounce up and down Teacher : In a funny dance, right. That was a good question Daryl. And Justin, I like the way you brought in the use of shadow. (Brown and Palinscar, 1989)

25 The most effective teachers... 1.…use question-and-answer sequences not just to test knowledge, but also to guide the development of children’s understanding. 2.…teach not just 'subject content', but also how to solve problems and make sense of experience. 3.…treat learning as a social, communicative, dialogic process. (Rojas-Drummond & Mercer, 2004; Kyriacou & Issitt, 2008)

26 Talk about literary texts that does not encourage comprehension has the following characteristics : teachers merely check students’ comprehension by seeking yes-no answers, and leave little room for students to make sense of the text; teachers frame the question in such a way that the students only have to complete the teachers’ incomplete sentence. (Wolf, Crosson & Resnick, 2006)

27 Talk about literary texts that promotes students’ high-level comprehension has the following characteristics : teachers summarise what students say, which provides an opportunity for other students to build on these ideas; teachers encourage students to put the main idea in their own words; teachers press the students for elaboration of their ideas, e.g. ‘How did you know that?’ ‘Why?’. (Wolf, Crosson & Resnick, 2005)

28 Some whole-class dialogue strategies that work Ask ‘why’ questions (rather than only ‘what’ questions) Ask not just one, but several students for reasons and justifications for their views before going into a topic Ask students to comment on each others’ views Hold back demonstrations or explanations until the existing ideas of at least some students have been heard (and then, where possible, link what you say to issues they have raised). (Mercer & Dawes, 2007)

29 How does this transfer into a large scale implementation? The epiSTEMe project Maths and science in Year 7 26 schools Dialogic teaching intervention Randomized control trial

30 How well did it work? +Some teachers v. enthusiastic + Some positive results: learning gains + Practical implications but… - Some teachers resisted - Researchers dominated - Lack of institutional support - Practical nightmares! - Policy makers don’t want to know!

31 In conclusion…

32 1.We need a sociocultural psychology which recognizes that we have a social brain: we think collectively using the tool of language 2.Working across professional boundaries requires the development of common knowledge and a common language 3.If you want to effect changes in an institution, you have to work at the level of an activity system, not just with individuals 4.If you introduce a new element into an activity system, it will have unpredicted effects on what happens before as well as after the point you introduce it SATs in English primary schools OFSTED and the focus on phonics Research Assessment in British universities

33 For more information…


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