Cultural minority children's learning within culturally-sensitive classroom teaching

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Prince Edward Island]On: 14 November 2014, At: 18:28Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: MortimerHouse, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Cultural minority children's learning withinculturally-sensitive classroom teachingMariane Hedegaard aa University of Copenhagen , DenmarkPublished online: 20 Dec 2006.

    To cite this article: Mariane Hedegaard (2003) Cultural minority children's learning within culturally-sensitive classroomteaching, Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 11:1, 133-152, DOI: 10.1080/14681360300200164

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  • Pedagogy, Culture and Society, Volume 11, Number 1, 2003

    133

    Cultural Minority Childrens Learning within Culturally-sensitive Classroom Teaching

    MARIANE HEDEGAARD University of Copenhagen, Denmark

    ABSTRACT The personal aspect of knowledge the everyday concepts is located in the life setting of a person. These personal concepts are the foundation for the childs appropriation of subject matter concepts that qualify the childs personal concept so they can function as theoretical concepts. However, subject matter concepts are not universal, they are related to national curriculum traditions. The connection between personal and subject matter concepts is often much weaker for immigrants and refugees coming to a new country than for children with generations of ancestors in a society. One problem for teaching subject matter concepts to cultural minority children is: How can societal relevant knowledge be taught which is sensitive to both cultural and social differences and become functional in culturally different life contexts? This question has motivated two teaching experiments with history and social science subjects. The first was an after-school project with Puerto Rican children in New York City and the second was a school project with young Palestinian boys in Aarhus, Denmark. The aim of both projects was to create a form of teaching that was (1) meaningful for the children (2) contributed to their acquisition of skills and knowledge, and (3) created a positive identity and acceptance of their cultural background, as well as the society in which they were living.

    Introduction

    This article will illustrate and discuss the problem of combining knowledge of the subject matter of history with childrens everyday knowledge arising from community and family life.

    The illustrations are taken from two teaching experiments with cultural minority children conducted in New York and Denmark. One was a one-year after-school project with Puerto Rican children in New York City carried out in collaboration with Seth Chaiklin and Pedro Pedraza D

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    connected to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, New York City University (Hedegaard et al, 2001). The other project was a 2-year project initiated and funded by the Council of Aarhus as a school project for young Palestinian boys who the ordinary Danish public schools in Aarhus could not handle.

    The aim of both projects was to create teaching strategies that were meaningful for the children, contributed to their acquisition of skill and knowledge, and fostered a positive identity and an acceptance of their cultural background. We aimed to achieve this by drawing on childrens cultural background and knowledge of the society in which they lived to teach social history.

    Before I enter into a description of the actual teaching experiment I will outline my theoretical inspiration from Vygotsky, Berger & Luckmann, Ogbu, Elkonin and Leontiev by conceptualising the relationship between:

    everyday knowledge and scientific concepts; identity and ideals; meaning and sense as phenomena that connect personal motives with

    the social world.

    Everyday Knowledge and Scientific Concepts

    Vygotsky (1982) has pointed out that there is a difference between the kind of knowledge children acquire at home and that which they encounter in school. Vygotsky characterised the knowledge children encounter in these two contexts as everyday and scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge can be characterised by domain specific concepts where the domains are the different science/school subjects. Everyday knowledge can be characterised as concepts that are connected to the domain of daily family and community life.

    Today we find the same kind of differentiation between everyday and school knowledge being used by many socio-cultural researchers. Scribner (1993) like Tobach et al (1997), Lave (1992, 1996) Mehan (1992, 1993) and Hatano & Ignaki (1992), all point to the importance of context for the kind of concepts that children acquire and that are characteristic of their learning. Each of these researchers points out that scientific and abstract concepts are not context-free, but are situated within the school context and within the specific domains of school knowledge.

    Different fields of life school, home, and work entail different forms of practice that provide the conditions for childrens concept formation and thinking to develop in terms of form and content. Scribner (cited in Martin et al, 1998; Scribner & Stevens, 1989) and Lave (1988, 1992) through their respective research findings have pointed to the different ways mathematics is learned in school as opposed to the D

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    workplace or in everyday life. One of the difficulties faced by teachers is the need to connect subject concepts to childrens everyday concepts in ways that widen and develop childrens abilities. Another problem is how to motivate children to do this. Ogbu (1987, 1993) and Ogbu & Simons (1998) in their research with minority children point out that problems of attendance and school achievement for children from minority groups have to be viewed in light of who the children identify with and whether or not the school values this identification. Vygotsky describes the relationship between scientific and everyday knowledge as two forms of knowledge development that interact to deepen and enrich each other. Everyday knowledge provides the foundation from which children start to learn scientific knowledge. However, the development of everyday knowledge does not cease to be important. On the contrary, everyday knowledge is the knowledge that is functionally useful for a person. Scientific knowledge can be transformed into everyday knowledge through a persons use of acquired scientific concepts in his/her practice in everyday life.

    Vygotskys work cannot help us directly in understanding how this transformation takes place so I will outline how I conceptualise this transformation. First, I need to emphasise the importance of good school teaching, and the need for cooperation between the home and school. The home is important because it is where children are given the foundation of knowledge. The school has to recognise and build on this knowledge if instruction is to be successful. The family is important for a second reason; parents provide the motivation for children to attend school. However, it then becomes important that the school acknowledges the social identity, and the motivation developed in family and community life that the child brings to school.

    The next section deals with the important question of how school-based knowledge relates to the development of social and cultural identity.

    Identity and Ideals

    I am interested in the potential contribution of schooling to the development of childrens personality as a whole including cognitive, social and emotional aspects. Development as a whole implies a capability to relate positively, both emotionally and socially, with people in and outside school settings, as well as having a positive acceptance of ones self. From research, as well as from my own experience, it is clear that children from cultural minorities encounter serious difficulties during their time in schools. According to Ogbu (1993; see also Ogbu & Simons, 1998) and Foley (1991) it does not appear likely that academic difficulties can be explained solely in terms of cultural differences that arise from everyday activities. What seems critical is a minority groups D

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    interpretation and understanding of their situation. Important questions appear to be: what do parents want their children to get from school and what kind of social support does the child receive from the immigrant society? The successes or difficulties experienced by children from minority groups in school are likely to be due to an interaction between several factors, in which the minority communitys values, and expectations relating to school attendance and achievement may play an important part.

    In conducting culturally sensitive teaching that attempts to improve cultural minority childrens learning and development, the cultural perspective has to be made explicit. This means that development has to be considered from the perspective of the minority groups ideals about personality formation. The mediation of societal knowledge has to be viewed from the perspective of the minority groups cultural practice and events. An understanding of the relationship between learning and instruction has to reflect the communitys pedagogic goals of personality formation, as well as its goals for the acquisition of skills and knowledge relevant to its cultural practices and events.

    Following Vygotsky, Elkonin thought that the ideal form, the archetype of adulthood, is a key category that posits the integrity of childhood. The archetype of adulthood, the archetype of an ideal adult is the only means and the only basis upon which children can imagine their future (Elkonin, 1993, p. 57).

    Elkonin points to a second aspect central to development: an ideal model of adulthood has to be available to children and, this model needs to be realizable through real life events. The childs life and the adults model of life have to be eventful. Elkonin also emphasised the importance of adult role models, such as teachers who can mediate the relationship between the model of adulthood and the eventful life of the child. This role can be seen within the perspective that Vygotsky conceptualised as the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). Within this perspective the task of the adult is to help the child to move from the level of actual events and capacities to the level of possible events and capacities.

    I turn now to Berger & Luckmanns (1966) theory of socialisation in order to elaborate how adults in the roles of parents and teachers, mediate the adult ideals as part of the childs formation of his/her own identity and goals.

    Socialisation and Acquisition of Identity

    Berger & Luckmanns analysis of identity is grounded in a general model of the emergence, maintenance and transmission of the social world as a consequence of a dialectical interaction among three kinds of processes:

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    externalisation the creation of a social world in the form of institutions as products of human activity;

    objectification our experience of these products as an objective reality;

    internalisation the process by which we learn about these institutions (reflectively or unreflectively), as well as how to function in them (Berger & Luckmann, 1966, p. 79).

    The dialectic that forms and maintains society is paralleled by a similar dialectic that forms and maintains individual identities. An individual is not born as a member of a society. Rather he or she is born with a so-called predisposition towards sociality, and becomes a member by entering into shared understandings of situations and motivations with others.

    Primary and secondary socialisation are the two general processes that build and maintain social identity. Primary socialisation refers to a process of internalisation by which a person is inducted into a society. Significant others such as parents, siblings and extended family members mediate the social world for the child. This mediated world comprises selected or filtered versions of the objective social world depending on the significant others objective relation to and subjective interpretation of objective social structures. As that child identifies emotionally with significant others, he/she adopts their roles, attitudes and values for his/her own. Through this process of internalisation the child starts to recognise that he/she has a place in a specific social world.

    Secondary socialisation is the process by which an already socialised individual is inducted into other objective sub-worlds. Role-specific knowledge of these sub-worlds and how to function within them are internalised to become part of the basic world view the child acquires through primary socialisation.

    Differences between the social world learned through primary socialisation and the sub-worlds learned through secondary socialisation are manifold. First, in primary socialisation the child has no choice, but to live in the world defined by his/her parents (or primary caretakers). However, secondary socialisation does not require a significant other. Many people can fill the role. In school, for example, the teacher does not automatically become a significant other for the child. As Berger & Luckmann pointed out, it is necessary to love ones mother, but not ones teacher (1966, p. 161). Therefore, while emotional identification supports the learning process during primary socialisation, it is not a characteristic of secondary socialisation. Secondary socialisation requires consciously designed processes and techniques in order to D

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    induct a child into the roles associated with the institutional sub-world. One of these consciously designed processes was the after school club that we initiated in one of the studies. Another was the instruction and teaching provided by the school.

    Identity, Sense and Meaning

    It might be hypothesised that the process by which social identity becomes personal identity is one whereby the child becomes able to differentiate meaning and sense in his/her own practice.

    Leontievs (1978) distinction between the childs acquisition of objective meaning and personal sense can be related to Berger & Luckmanns distinction between primary and secondary socialisation. Through primary socialisation the child becomes conscious and acquires knowledge of the social world, and at the same time acquires a social identity through this consciousness. In Leontievs terminology the child acquires the meaning of objects in the social world. Accordingly, when the child has objective meaning he/she has an idealised conception of the properties, connections, and relationships, disclosed through cooperative social practice (Leontiev, 1978, p. 85). Leontievs description corresponds well to Berger & Luckmanns conceptions of an objective world, which the child acquires through primary socialisation. Personal sense is the subjective significance or interpretation of an objective meaning. Leontiev writes:

    If in the consciousness of the subject external sensitivity connects meanings with the reality of the objective world, then the personal sense connects them with the reality of his own life in this world, with its motives. (1978, pp. 92-93)

    Through secondary socialisation the child becomes conscious of his social world as one out of several he can experience as a context changes. The child becomes conscious of his world as a world that gives personal sense according to his/her motives, but at the same time it still contains objective meaning that can be shared with others.

    A relatively tight connection between objective meaning and personal sense is needed if disintegration is to be avoided. The child requires some integration and continuity between the social world and his/her personal world. This integration becomes difficult for children living in two different cultures, a minority culture and a predominant culture, if the child does not get some explicit help with the process of integration.

    Schooling, as a kind of secondary socialisation, should try to support integration and continuity between the minority childs primary and secondary socialisation. This can be done through multicultural

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    teaching that acknowledges a range of concepts, yet often this kind of teaching lacks relevance for the children. Other considerations might be:

    How do children from minorities become acquainted with the

    dominant culture of their country? How can they be supported in keeping their original language, cultural

    traditions and values? How can the school adapt its teaching content and methods to the

    characteristic of these childrens communities?

    The Two Teaching Experiments

    The aims of the two teaching projects the after-school project with Puerto Rican children and the school project for Palestinian boys were to give the students an understanding of ways of life in two different countries in different historical periods before and after the main immigration/flight.

    The goal of the history instruction was to help children acquire an integrated image of the central concepts of history that could then function as tools for understanding and analysing their own historical and present day society. Acquired theoretical knowledge in the form of core models can be characterised as mental tools that can be used to relate scientific concepts to the childrens personal life experiences (Hedegaard, 1999).

    In the Puerto Rican project, the goal of the teaching was twofold. First, the aim was to make the children pay attention to the connections between societal resources, family life, and living conditions in Puerto Rico and New York City at the beginning of the twentieth century. Secondly, the aim was to help them to apply that knowledge to present-day living conditions in their own East Harlem community in New York City.

    In the Palestinian project the aims were first to make the children pay attention to the relation between nature, way of living, and society in the Middle East countries and in contemporary society, and secondly to bring this knowledge to a historical consideration of each community in order to make explicit the dramatic changes that have taken place across historical periods.

    Teaching Method: the double move in teaching

    The teaching method can be characterised as a double move between the upper and lower zone of the proximal development of both the single child and a class of children.

    The upper level of the zone of proximal development includes normative and motivational aspects of development. In a school class the D

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    direction of development is guided by instruction of scientific concepts specified as important both by curriculum plans and by the teacher. Through instruction, scientific concepts should be related to and become part of the childs everyday concepts. Leontiev describes the relation between scientific and everyday concepts in the following way:

    The degree to which the child masters everyday concepts shows its actual level of development, and the degree to which it has acquired scientific concepts shows the zone of proximal development. (Authors translation, 1985, pp. 47-48)

    To teach within the ZPD demands that the teacher relates the knowledge and skills children have acquired in daily life through day-care and the home with knowledge belonging to different subject domains. At the same time the teacher has to work with a whole group of children and understand how to relate to the ZPD of the whole group.

    The application of a ZPD approach to school teaching is possible because children who start school have some common knowledge through the traditional practices of the community. Secondly, the instruction itself has the potential to construct a shared zone of proximal development as the teacher guides childrens explorations and children cooperate in the exploration of a subject.

    There is, therefore, a double move between subject matter knowledge, and knowledge from everyday family and community life (Hedegaard, 2002). The principles of the double move teaching method are that the teacher guides the instruction from the general conceptual relations of a core model of the subject of social history and at the same time draws on childrens fund of knowledge (Moll & Greenberg, 1990). The teacher structures the activity in the class by formulating tasks for researching the childrens community and history (Hedegaard, 1995). Practical activities such as museum visits, neighbourhood analyses, watching (or making) films, interpreting pictures and reading novels become important activities connected to specific tasks. The aim is to use general subject principles as a core model to mediate childrens research activities as they undertake a specific task.

    The After-School Project with Puerto Rican Children

    Puerto Rican children are often stigmatised at school. In order to strengthen their educational proficiency, we believed that it was necessary for them to have a positive concept of their membership of the Puerto Rican community in New York City. We hoped that this would lead them to form more positive attitudes towards attendance and school work in general. Since the children belonged to a primarily Puerto Rican community we thought that teaching about the history of this community

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    would give them insights into the positive aspects of belonging to this community and make them feel positive about their own cultural identity.

    The history-teaching programme described here ran for one school year. Fifteen children between 8 and 12 years of age attended the programme. The programme was located in a community centre in East Harlem where a literacy programme for adult women also took place.

    The children had bilingual family backgrounds and the after school club offered them the opportunity to do extra homework to support their school work. The teaching programme was offered as an extra activity 2 days a week.

    Teaching was organised around three topics:

    living conditions in Puerto Rico in the early twentieth century (when immigration first began);

    living conditions in New York City for the first immigrants; living conditions in the present Puerto Rican community in East

    Harlem.

    These topics were chosen because we expected that:

    subject matter knowledge, which connects to the childrens own history and present community might improve motivation to learn subject matter;

    connecting knowledge of family life and of the values of Puerto Rican families with subject matter in school would improve Puerto Rican childrens concept formation and skill acquisition in reading and writing. Literacy as a skill also has content and through working with content that is objectively meaningful, and makes personal sense we expected that this would promote literacy as well as historical knowledge.

    The way that social history as a discipline defines a problem area was presented to the children using a series of questions: What are our roots? What are the characteristics of the society we live in today? How do we relate to this society as members of a Puerto Rican community? The problem formulation period was followed by a second phase in which the children were initiated into research techniques to investigate how living conditions and family life were connected in a Puerto Rican community in the Island of Puerto Rico during the old days (before immigration) and how the relationship between living conditions and family life had changed for todays Puerto Rican community in East Harlem, New York City. We created tasks that allowed the children to explore these relationships by examining the Puerto Rican traditions of family life and the resources that different communities had available to them to create a good life. D

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    For example, we used:

    pictures of family life in Puerto Rico at the turn of the century to contrast with family life and work in New York City;

    interviews with parents about living conditions in the old days in Puerto Rico/New York City;

    novels and films about childrens life in Puerto Rico and New York City.

    All sessions were recorded using participant observation and by collecting the outcomes or products of childrens tasks.

    The evaluation was written as a narrative that described the interaction between the teacher and the children and among the children. I will illustrate this through descriptions of four teaching sessions, where two come from the exploration of conceptual relations from the research phase (sessions 8 and 11).

    Goal Formation Period

    The two main goals were:

    to help the children understand that they were to have an active part in formulating and exploring the problem area;

    to let the children together with the teacher formulate the content area as research questions.

    First Session: interaction between teacher and students

    Researchers, parents and the teacher introduced themselves. Then the teacher asked the children if they know what they were going to learn about. One child answered, Learn about our community and different ages.

    The after-school activity was introduced as The Young Scientists Club. The teacher asked the children what a scientist was. The children characterised this as a person who explores things, finds new things, builds new things and invents things. The teacher responded by characterising the children as young scientists who were going to use the computer to explore things. Then the teacher asked, When you are young scientists and exploring things, where can you find information? The children had difficulty answering this question. One child said, You get stuff put into your brain. The teacher asked again more directly, Where do you get information from? The children then gave a long list of sources where they could get information from such as; reading, teachers, parents, books, computers, people, TV, radio, newspapers and from ones mind.

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    The teacher asked, What can we get information about? A child said, society (a central concept in the teaching). The teacher then asked, What is society? Some children characterised it as a neighborhood. One child described it, As being together. The teacher defined it as Everything related to people. She then introduced the concept of ancestors and explained that the problems they were going to explore were, Who we are, where do our ancestors come from, where do we come from? She continued by saying, We will talk about our ancestors to find out about how we live today.

    The next activity was to read and discuss a picture book about a girl in Puerto Rico. The session ended with the children being allowed to choose books about Puerto Rico from a collection the teacher had brought with her.

    Fourth Session: interaction between teacher and students

    A child formulated very clearly and briefly what they had worked on the last time. He said, We talked about scientists and our ancestors. It turned out that only a few of the children had remembered to do the task of interviewing a relative about what kind of jobs their ancestors had in Puerto Rico. Therefore, they were told that they still had the task to do for the next session. Gregory explained the task to the group since there were some children who had not attended the previous time. He also suggested that the newcomers should fill in the questionnaire about what they wanted to explore. This example demonstrates a child starting to use the teachers activities as a model for his own activities and interactions with other children.

    Then the teacher gave the children the opportunity to reiterate their understanding the aims of the investigation. When she asked what they were researching one child said, Who we are. The teacher extended this to include, and where we come from.

    The children were given three more pictures depicting the old days in Puerto Rico. These pictures showed three different types of work (cigar rolling, farming and basket weaving). The dialogue focused on living conditions and work. The teacher wrote on a chart the childrens descriptions of living conditions in the old days under a heading: Living conditions in Puerto Rico in the old days, and underneath she wrote:

    poor clothing; houses look like garbage cans; lantern use for lights; women sew by hand; working in the field.

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    The computers were introduced that day and the childrens task was to draw ancestors or something related to their ancestors lives on the computer. This task was not completed because the children spent time trying out the different drawing functions on the computer to find out how they worked.

    Researching Family Life and Living Conditions in Early Twentieth Century Puerto Rico

    Over the next period the children started to have some idea about what research to do and what to work with. These ideas formed the basis of a research task that dominated activities over this period. The teacher organised the childrens research around the core conceptual relations of family life and living conditions. Later the children were able to use these concepts as intellectual tools for analysing complex problems connected to their daily life.

    The main goal during this period was to give the children an idea of how to research a problem area. The first task was to help the children to undertake interviews, to reflect on them and conceptualise the results. The second task was to help them formulate and make primarily connections between living conditions and family life. The aim was to help the children to understand the basic interdependence of these two aspects of life, so that a change in the one could be seen to influence the other. In particular, the children needed to understand that social and material conditions influence the size of and traditional relationship within a family. Conversely, they needed to understand that the size and structure of the family influences social and material conditions.

    Eighth Session: interaction between teacher and students

    The session began with individuals sharing ideas. One child described how, as part of an interview, he had asked his grandmother how much a shirt would have cost in the old days. After some general comments from the children, the teacher asked what task they had been doing on the computer. One child said that they had been drawing, how we live and how they live. By this he had meant how people in the old days lived in comparison to today. At this point the teacher introduced two new categories living conditions and family and asked the children to define them. Afterwards, she introduced the task for that day, which was to practice interviewing.

    The teacher demonstrated this by interviewing one of the parent helpers. She pointed out that the general topic of the interview was living conditions and family, and then she asked a question about each of these topics, such as Who lives in your house? and How much free time do you have? D

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    The teacher had prepared a series of questions around these two topics for the children to ask when they undertook their own interviews. Children were organised into pairs with a sheet of paper with the questions on it and asked to interview each other as the teacher had demonstrated. One child in the pair was asked to conduct an interview about family life and the other about living conditions. The children became deeply involved in the task and the lesson went well. The children were given the task to write as many questions as they could about living conditions and family life in the old days in Puerto Rico. These questions would be used again in the next days interviews. The teacher asked the children to provide some examples before they started their task. The children suggested that they could ask about:

    how much things cost; how the buildings looked, how people dressed; how many people were in a family and if they had had electricity.

    The children wrote their questions either on a sheet of paper or on the computer.

    Conceptualising the Interviews about Living Conditions and Family Life

    Eleventh Session: interaction between teacher and students

    In the last session these questions were used by teachers to interview parent helpers about family life and living conditions. The teacher summarised the results on a chart. She then presented the group with computer drawings of two families. One was a small family with two children and the other was an extended family with five children. The small family symbolised families in New York today; the big family symbolised the family in Puerto Rico in the old days.

    The word symbol was discussed and explained. The teacher had also brought a large piece of cardboard and started to write the interview questions relating to family life in the middle. On one side was a column for the answers to the questions about family life in the old days in Puerto Rico and on the other side was a column for the answers to the questions about family life in present day New York. Another piece of cardboard was used for answers to questions about living conditions their houses, heating, electric appliances, water, the production of clothes, cooking, cleaning, shopping and child care. As the children came up with the answers to the questions the teacher wrote them into their places at the cardboard.

    A child suggested that the computer task for that day should be to make drawings to illustrate the old days in Puerto Rico and today in New D

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    York from the information summarised on the charts. The teacher accepted the suggestion.

    The main points I want to illustrate with these examples are that the children, through this teaching experiment, learned research methods, while learning core concepts of the subject area of social history. This contributed to their awareness of the interdependence between core concepts, and gave them the ability to move between general concepts and specific examples.

    The School Project with Palestinian Boys

    The school project was offered to boys who came from a Danish public school and who had experienced several years of frustration. They were between 12 and 15 years of age and had been in Denmark for about 5 or 6 years. They had become labelled as learning disabled boys with serious behavioural problems. When they started the school project, all of them had problems with reading and writing Danish, and even greater problems with reading and writing Arabic, which was also taught in the school. The school had started as a prevention project to keep the boys off the streets and to keep them out of trouble. At first, eight to 10 boys had attended and this had risen in the second year to 16. These children had an insubstantial knowledge about their country of origin Palestine. They had been born refugees, as had several of their parents. Furthermore, their knowledge of the Danish society was also meager. Their parents have had little opportunity to teach them since they were almost all unemployed, living on welfare payments. Their parents therefore had a marginal relation to the Danish society.

    The boys had experienced between 5 and 6 years of schooling of which most had been unhappy and, at times, brutal. Therefore, when they started the project their cultural knowledge and sense of identity was vague.

    In spite of this, the consultant persuaded the school board that teaching, rather than social containment should be the primary objective. My hypothesis was that these boys could be taught, and that learning and motivation could be developed because education was highly valued within Palestinian culture. Furthermore, I supposed that their violent behaviour up until that time had been developed as defences to cover up their lack of school competence. I assumed that the disciplinary problems could be overcome if we created a school day suitable for these boys.

    Furthermore, we presumed that these boys, at the age of early adolescence were searching for a platform that they could relate to as they considered who they were and what they wanted for the future. We presumed therefore that is was important for them to have experiences that would allow them to respect themselves as Palestinian young people D

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    with a future in Denmark. We decided to be forward looking and to draw on a theory of teaching that worked from an understanding of the zone of proximal development instead of being backward looking and working with a theory that privileges the past and would emphasise the boys traumatic family experiences. We ascribed considerable importance to their parents opinions about the school and their support for the boys schooling. We wanted to involve the parents, especially the fathers, in the boys school day. When contacted, the fathers were willing to come to the school and a fathers club was created located at the school. Yet we did not succeed in drawing on them directly as resources for the teaching.

    The primary task was to teach the boys to read and write using content that they could understand. Therefore, we did not start by using ordinary schoolbooks; instead the boys created their own words and sentences. The content was taken seriously and the boys cultural background was made an explicit aspect of the teaching.

    The problem formulation phase of history teaching employed similar questions to those used in the after school club, such as, What are our roots, What are the characteristics of the society we live in today, and How do we relate to this society as Palestinian boys with a future in Denmark?

    The teaching succeeded in motivating the boys to attend school and carry out school work. When interviewed, 6 months after the school started, these boys who had been considered beyond teaching by the public school system, asked for the school day to be extended. Their request was granted and they continued to attend regularly unless they were really ill. A year later, they once again asked for more teaching. Two years after the school project had been initiated, the council evaluated the project so positively that they decided to make the school permanent.

    Within the first 2 years the boys had improved beyond recognition, their motivation was high, as was the level of learning of subject matter. They came to master reading, writing and mathematics to a reasonable degree. They could read easy novels and write short letters. Their mathematics skills reached the age-related norms. However, after 2 years their knowledge of Danish and Palestinian history was still weak.

    Discussion of the Two Experimental Teaching Projects

    I interpret the result of these teaching experiments as support for Vygotskys theory that teaching involves the interaction of everyday and scientific concepts. On the one hand, the acquisition of subject matter knowledge extends the meaning of everyday knowledge. On the other hand, subject matter concepts can only be understood and become functional for the child if they build on the childs everyday knowledge. If teaching succeeds in relating these two types of concepts the child will D

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    be able to use subject matter knowledge as tools for analysing, and reflecting on his or her everyday activities. Subject matter knowledge thereby becomes integrated with the childs everyday knowledge, and develops into functional concepts in which form and content define each other.

    These projects provided an important step in helping us to understand how the dialectic relationship between abstract and concrete aspects of a conceptual system can be combined with personal experience to become part of a persons conceptual understanding. His or her conceptual understanding of the physical and social world combine with subject-based concepts to bring about a transformation of personal (social) identity in the same context. Emotional experiences, as well as motivation provide an impetus for the acquisition of knowledge.

    Adult role models are important, first, as someone with whom the child can identify and, secondly, as a mediator of subject knowledge (Elkonin, 1993; Berger & Luckmann, 1966). This raises questions about the role of parents and teachers as objects of identification and about the emotional relationships between home, teacher and children. Further understanding of this relationship is needed in order to outline a fuller picture of how conceived subject matter knowledge is transformed into everyday active knowledge.

    In the project with the Puerto Rican children the main problem was the childrens negative feelings about being Puerto Ricans. This was hypothesised to be the primary reason for their negative experiences of schooling and negative attitudes towards school attendance and school work.

    Through the teaching programme, the children became acquainted with aspects of their cultural heritage and acquired some knowledge of their own past. Through this, they encountered positive aspects of their community. This knowledge contributed to their social identity in a positive way. I will conclude that in the project we succeeded in changing childrens motivation to learn.

    In the project with the Puerto Rican children, as well as in the project with the Palestinian boys, the research problem was about how to combine everyday knowledge with subject-matter concepts. The teaching experiment with Puerto Rican children was used as a source of inspiration for the teaching experiment with the Palestinian boys. However, it was not possible to transform the material used with the Puerto Rican children directly into material suitable for the Palestinian boys. Difficulties related not only to cultural differences; the Palestinian boys also had a different level of experience with their own culture.

    The way that the central concepts of history were made meaningful to the children in the two projects differed. We were able to use narratives and interviews with the Puerto Rican children from the start. In contrast, the Palestinian boys had to learn to listen to novels and, D

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    although they enjoyed being read to, it took several months before they were able to talk about the content of the novels. In both projects, children interviewed people about living conditions and work. Interview activities proved to be very motivating for children and were successful in both projects. However, after conducting the interviews the Palestinian boys did not find it easy to remember and draw on what they had found. In contrast, the Puerto Rican children often spontaneously made references to, for example, an old man they interviewed and what he had told them. There may be several reasons for this difference. One interpretation is that everyday knowledge, as Vygotsky pointed out, can be of different complexity within different areas and the Palestinian boys experiences with any material connected to their own culture were so meager that it had to be reconstructed within the school setting. The Puerto Rican children had much more daily contact with the Puerto Rican way of life, values and personal relationships. These aspects were publicly available to them through family and street activities, and through contact and visits to families in Puerto Rico.

    School childrens motivation and cognitive development depend on their experiences of everyday, as well as scientific concepts. Therefore, the activities that children take part in together, and with other people in everyday family routines and activities, in leisure activities, as well as in study activities all influence how they experience school. If development is to be achieved these activities have to take place within the ZPD. The aim of teaching within the ZPD is to support students to acquire theoretical knowledge that can relate to everyday events and experiences, so that this knowledge becomes integrated into a coherent conceptual system and therefore can function as mental skill.

    Subject matter knowledge and everyday knowledge can enrich each other within the ZPD. Everyday knowledge is the precondition for learning subject matter knowledge and throughout the learning processes the development of everyday knowledge does not stop being important. On the contrary, subject matter knowledge has to become integrated into everyday knowledge through educational activity, if it is to surpass the school walls and influence life outside school as useful knowledge.

    This article has been concerned to demonstrate how adults can influence and instruct through eventful teaching, which relies on a cultural-historical theory of knowledge.

    Correspondence

    Mariane Hedegaard, Institute of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Njalsgade 88, DK-2300 Copenhagen K, Denmark (mariane.hedegaard@psy.ku.dk).

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    Theory and Practice in Action Research some international perspectives

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