Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Recognising individual learner preferences as a product of their previous experiences.

One of the readings for my EDCURRIC740 Accelerated Learning paper this week was Cultural ways of Learning by Gutierrez and Rogoff (2003). As a result I have summarised the reading, including my perspective on the great 'ethnic' debate in learning and learner styles.

Cultural Ways of Learning:
Individual Traits of Repertoires of Practice
by Kris D. Gutierrez and Barbara Rogoff.
Education Researcher, Vol 32, No.5, pp.19-25.

The article argued that we should not characterise ethnic groups into having specific traits which apply to their learning style. Instead they argue that you should look at the previous experiences which shape the prefered  learning style of a student. So, linking behaviours or learning style to previous experiences not ethnicity although those experiences may be common to that ethnic group.
Gutierrez and Rogoff (2003) debunk cultural over-generalisations of learning styles, as too often we assume, putting a student into a category due to their ethnic make-up. The risk is that often this then results in a comparison to the status quo. This status quo is often judged upon a middle class white centric norm. However, by adopting a historic approach and focusing on the actual experiences of a student or group of students irrelevant to genetic or ethnic heritage we can more closely understand how and why student learning styles are preferential.
They also iterate that although a student may innately prefer one style over another, this does not mean that they should not or can not learn another. In fact, we should teach them other means of learning as the more tools we have in our kete the stronger and more independent learners we become.
There are two strong debate which i think of when reading this article, firstly the nature versus nurture debate. We are a product of our experiences, albeit often culturally specific, not defined by the nature of our ethnicity. Secondly, judging a learner by generalised ethnic traits can lead to this being compared to “the practices of the dominant groups [and] judged to be less adequate” (Gutierrez & Rogoff, 2003, pp.19). It is like judging a fish by it’s capability to climb a tree, rather than it’s proficiency to swim.
Why the attention on ethnicity as a defining feature in the first place? When it is the shared experiences which actually create the similarities.

Why are culture and ethnicity used interchangeably?

During this weeks in-class session we dissected the idea of learning and development, discussing and categorising synonyms of learning, and considering how those models interact. To quote popular NZ spoof current affairs show 7 Days, "and this is my picture!"

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