2 Cognitive socialisation and ‘good tuition’
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?’.
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).
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.
Transcript: LEGO WITH MUM
Table 1 Wood's levels of control
|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|
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