Parents and toddlers: Teaching and learning at home
Parents and toddlers: Teaching and learning at home

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Parents and toddlers: Teaching and learning at home

2 Cognitive socialisation and ‘good tuition’

2.1 Introduction

During his interview, Daniels expressed the opinion that Vygotsky's theory is attractive because it:

Promotes the view that effective parenting, instruction and education lead development. Preparing, or socialising, children for the future, therefore, becomes a highly meaningful (and often politically charged) activity, as does deciding which types of experiences will best foster the acquisition of skills and competencies of particular value to a society.

(Professor Harry Daniels)

Simply providing children with appropriate experiences, however, is not sufficient. Children also need guidance and instruction. In early childhood, joint involvement episodes (JIEs) provide informal teaching and learning contexts in which mutual co-operation between adult and child can lead to mental growth. This is what we mean when we talk about cognitive socialisation. Of course not all experiences are good experiences and this has led psychologists such as Schaffer (1996), Wood and Middleton (1975) and O'Connell and Bretherton (1984) to ask the question ‘What are the distinctive features of effective tuition?’.

Reading 1

Read the section on cognitive socialisation from Social Development by H. Rudolph Schaffer, attached below, where Schaffer provides a brief introduction to this topic. The important things to note for now are Schaffer's definitions of the characteristic features of contingent interaction and joint involvement episodes (JIEs).

Cognitive Socialization extract from Social Development (PDF, 6 pages, 1.1 MB) [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Schaffer defines ‘effective tuition’ as teaching which elicits performance from the child at a developmentally advanced level. He argues that effective tuition obeys the contingent-shift rule. Effective tutors gradually transfer responsibility for tackling the task in hand from the adult to the child as he or she begins to master more and more complex aspects of the task or problem. As you have seen Vygotsky described this process of gradual transfer from adult to child as internalization. Daniels describes it as appropriation. Although Schaffer focuses on adult-child tuition, these concepts are relevant to all those situations where a tutor, or more knowledgeable person, is responsible for passing on some knowledge or skill to a less experienced person.

In the video activity below you will look at two short video extracts of JIEs which nicely illustrate what Schaffer and Wood mean by contingent interaction.

Lego with Mum

For this activity you will be watching Video 1: ‘Joe's day’, a section of video which illustrates some fairly typical teaching and learning interactions which might occur during a day in the life of a pre-school child. In Video 1 Joe's mother, Megan, is helping him to build a car using a commercially produced Lego construction pack. The pack is new; Joe has not used it before.

Before you watch the video read the notes below and the specific instructions that follow. You will need the video transcript which is attached below the video.

This activity is designed to do two things: first, it illustrates the concepts you have been reading about so far; second, it asks you to use a simple coding scheme to categorise Joe's mother's behaviour in the JIE.

From the research he has carried out observing similar JIEs in more formal experimental settings, Wood has identified five ‘levels of control’ which adults typically use to structure such activities for their child. These are shown in Table 1.

Wood showed that when children are having difficulty with a task adults increase their level of control from one through to five. Conversely where it is clear that a child is able to manage parts of the task for him or herself, adults decrease the level of control or support offered. The extent to which adults adjust their level of control to the competence shown by the child is what Wood calls contingency.

Watch the video all the way though first to familiarise yourself with it, then watch it again with the transcript. Use Wood's ‘levels of control’ to mark on the transcript Joe's mother's contributions to the JIE. Use the abbreviations GVP, SVP, IM, PFA and Dem (as shown in Table 1) to do this. Pause the video occasionally to allow yourself time to mark up the transcript.

Download this video clip.Video player: LEGO WITH MUM
Skip transcript: LEGO WITH MUM

Transcript: LEGO WITH MUM

Joe
I can’t how to do it
Megan
The hat, put the hat on – try like that –is that it?
Joe
No. That can’t fit on it
Megan
I think the red one goes on here Joe
Joe
What does it go?
Megan
Yeah, yeah
Joe
What do that go ... Does it go there
Megan
I think it goes under the man
Joe
Does it go there?
Megan
No, I think the man has to come off, the man and the wheel have to come off ... whoops ...
Joe
What does it go
Megan
No that was right, put put put the red one back on ... and the other red one
Joe
What way that go, there?
Megan
Yeah
Joe
What do that go
Megan
Well, what do you think?
Joe
What about there?
Megan
OK. Push really hard, that’s it
Joe
I can’t do this lego
Megan
I push hard for you ... it is hard isn’t it?
Joe
What about that one ... oh oh oh
[Sings]
Megan
Where’s the wheel gone, where did you put the wheel?
Joe
There, what do the driver go? There
don’t go there?
Megan
Um probably about there. Ah I dropped it. That’s it, shall I push it hard for you, yes it’s hard isn’t it, it’s ’cause it’s new, there you are
Joe
It go there? What’s that?
Megan
What’s that?
Joe
Yeah, what are we making?
Megan
It will be this won’t it, it will be the engine
End transcript: LEGO WITH MUM
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Table 1 Wood's levels of control

Code Levels Example
GVP 1 General verbal prompts ‘Now you make something’
SVI 2 Specific verbal instructions ‘Get four blocks’
IM 3 Indicates materials Points to blocks needed
PFA 4 Prepares for assembly Orients blocks so that they can be fitted together
Dem 5 Demonstrates Assembles blocks for child
(Adapted from Wood, in Cultural Worlds of Early Childhood, p. 163)

When I carried out this activity the first time I wasn't really sure what I would find. I noted first that Joe does not find this task easy. He keeps asking how he should fit particular blocks together and needs help to make the blocks stay in place. This being the case one would expect quite a high level of control from his mother, and this is exactly what I found (I hope that you found it too). Megan mostly helps him build the car by pointing out specific pieces (IM) or preparing them for assembly (PFA) and at times she demonstrates how the pieces fit together (Dem). She uses a couple of specific verbal prompts (SVP) but no general verbal prompts (GVP).

Lego with Brother

Watch Video 2 below in which Joe and his brother, Owen, are again building a Lego model. Megan, their mother, is also present and has asked Owen to help Joe build the model.

This activity asks you to do two things. First, use Wood's ‘level's of control’ (see Table 1) to analyse Owen's attempts to help Joe with the model. Use the transcript of the interaction again to assist your analysis. Second, look at how Megan, Owen and Joe use the Lego instruction sheet and diagram to help them make the model. What differences do you notice here in the ways in which Joe and Owen use the instructions?

Lego with brother

Download this video clip.Video player: LEGO WITH BROTHER
Skip transcript: LEGO WITH BROTHER

Transcript: LEGO WITH BROTHER

Owen
Need the part Joe’s got and the wheels
Megan
If you give Joe the yellow bits Owen, because he knows how to put those on the wheels I think, no no
Owen
I’ll put these on ...
Joe
[Shouts] Let’s go and make that
Megan
You want to make that, can you find the wheels then Joe
Owen
Joe find four wheels ... need to put this
one on
Joe
I want how to do it ...
Owen
Put one wheel on
Joe
Oh, I can’t how to do this lego
Owen
Um something’s fallen ... on the floor
Megan
Pick it up then Owen in a minute it’s near you, then put that on, pick it up first, put that on the table, got a wheel then Joe ... Owen look what about this ...
Owen
Oh look ...
Joe
Where that ... do that go?
Megan
Where does that wheel go?
Joe
Yeah
Megan
Ask Owen
Joe
Where do that go?
Owen
It goes on here Joe, can I have it please, thank you. Joe can you pass it to Owen, good boy
Joe
And then there’s a engine
Owen
Not yet, not yet Joe
Joe
I need a engine
Owen
Joe we don’t need it yet. Joe can you give Owen the engine please?
Joe
You have to share ...
Megan
Owen
Owen
Yeah, that’s me ... yeah
Megan
Which bit are you doing? Right
Owen
Done the front bit
Joe
What about ...
Megan
Give Joe chance to push some on because he might ... to do it ...
Joe
What about
Joe
What about that digger?
Owen
Joe
Joe
Yes
Owen
Can you do this for Owen ... push that there, push it down ... Is there anything else Mum, because not everything is here
Megan
What are you looking for?
Owen
That bit
Megan
Is it on the floor? Here it is I’ve got it
Owen
Thank you
Megan
Where’s the man Joe
Joe
It’s there
Megan
Put him together, where’s his legs
Owen
There’s his hat
Joe
I can’t find ...
End transcript: LEGO WITH BROTHER
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