Perceptions and Environment
- On 08-01-2010
Welcome to 2010 and the start of a whole new year of learning and discovery!
Over the summer I have been involved in doing some research for Dr David Zyngier at the Faculty of Education at Monash University. David and I first met when I took over the ruMAD? program at the Education Foundation and I began to redesign it to be more applicable in schools. Since then David has asked me back each year, no matter what I am up to, to talk to his first year and final year pre-service teachers about inquiry learning and applying it in schools.
Out of the 2009 lecture on Connectedness I asked David if there was some work i could do for him (and that way I can build my knowledge base and continue to develop what i deliver to schools from the latest research). So for the past month I have been reviewing the research literature on after-school programs, on how community-school partnerships can support children who are culturally, linguistically and economically challenged, and how schools can support parents in supporting the learnign of their children.
I was just reading an article about what interventions schools and parents can make for their children when a particular paragraph struck me as vitally important for us all …
“During the early school years children develop perceptions of their own academic competence. Research suggests that these perceptions are established in response to children’s perceptions of their own abilities in school, and become relatively stable by third or fourth grade (Chapman et al., 2000). These self-perceptions appear to determine whether children pursue or avoid opportunities to acquire and refine the academic skills and strategies characteristics of proficient learners, expend effort and persist in the face of difficult challenges (Chapman et al., 2000; Helmke & van Aken, 1995). This suggests that if an early childhood intervention succeeds at boosting children’s academic skills, even if only in the short-term, it may lead children to have more positive perceptions of their own abilities. If instilling positive academic self-concepts increases the likelihood that students seek out learning opportunities and remain engaged in school, then it may result in long-term benefits to human capital.”
Duncan, G. and K. Magnuson (2004). “Individual and parent-based intervention strategies for promoting human capital and positive behavior.” Human development across lives and generations: The potential for change: 209-235.
What this paragraph implies is that we have a critical focus in primary schools and parenting … ensuring that our children’s perception of themselves, their ability to learn, and “who they are for themselves” are empowered ones.
I have been especially noticing the perceptions of my children to themselves over the past year. Ty is 9 years old and going into Grade 4 this year and Chiara is 6 years old and going into Grade 1. I have been picking up the underlying perceptions in what my children say and their actions, and I have taken on to have them think about who they are and what they say as they tackle tasks and communicate with each other.
For example, one of the first words that come out of my children’s mouths when they are attempting something new (or they fail in doing something a number of times) is that it is “hard”. When something is “hard” it creates a perception of being immovable, impossible, overwhelming difficult. In fact one definition of “hard” is that it is “resistant to pressure, not readily penetrated“. But … if you are doing something for the first time (like playing putting a basketball through a hoop, or doing a maths problem or writing a word) then … you may not be successful until you have trained your muscles and your brain in doign what is necessary to be successful. However the word “hard” creates a mental barrier. What I have created for the kids is to replace “hard” with “challenging”. A challenge can be overcome. By definition a challenge is “A test of one’s abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking“.
We have also set up, as much as we could, an environment at home where the children read, there are limitations on TV watching, that they participate in homework clubs and other out-of-school activities, and we partner them in their learning as much as we can.
What difference has this made?
Ty, who at the end of Grade 2 was rated by his school as only being midway though Grade 2 in most of his learning areas jumped a year an one half in his ratings so as he begins Grade 4 his is rated as midway through Grade 4. Chiara is rated at midway through Grade 1 after a year of prep (and being in a Reggio Emilio inspired program).
Given the above highlighted research it then is critical for schools to also educate and empower the parents of their students … especially before Grade 4.
It is for this reason I have designed a new seminar for 2010 to be delivered to parents at primary school to begin to educate them on how they can partner their children in developing a positive self-perception of learning. Check out the seminar at the website www.intuyuconsulting.com.au