Education & Evolutionary psychology

9 Mar

(This blog will lead on to next weeks blog)

Evolutionary psychology has been growing in strength over recent years. Kennedy (2006), an educational psychologist, however describes how evolutionary theory is yet to inform assessment and interventions in education. Over past decades psychological disciplines have been developed segregated from each other, and it is time for theories to be integrated (Buss, 1995). Technical terms and different assumptions have interrupted the development of research.

In schools, teachers are faced regularly with different distributive behaviour… rudeness, aggression, and refusal to co-operate. But teachers respond in different ways… what is the right way to deal with the misbehaving child? Pastoral and behaviourist approaches are what cause the separation. Bear (2009) compares two popular techniques:

  1. Positive discipline à Based on creating self-discipline by meeting the social and emotional needs of the child, establishing strong teacher-pupil relationships and promoting individual and collective responsibility. Avoids behaviourist-style rewards and sanctions.
  2. Assertive discipline à Based on clear rules, and applied rewards and sanctions, which become internalised by the student.

Establishing a balance of which approach to foster to a misbehaving child is unfortunately down to ‘professional judgment’, this could be a good and bad thing! Neither psychological theories nor research offer rationale for which approach is better applied due to the fact they are self-contained. In the majority of schools, the discipline generally exerted is punishment so that children comply with the individuals who have authority. Should this be the cause? What are we really teaching the children by doing this?

How can we move forward to knowing what discipline technique is correct? Should we be testing the theories on each other to find the right one or the best? Predicted by evolutionary psychology that it is probable that a group of psychological mechanisms has been developed to solve different problems. If applied under particular circumstances, conflicting theories could be appropriate (Buss, 1995).






4 Responses to “Education & Evolutionary psychology”

  1. elburns March 11, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    I believe you have brought up an important point here about the behaviour in the classroom. It obviously has an effect on individuals within the class and in the long run education. Studies have found that individually aggressive boys in highly aggressive classrooms are at increased risk of being rated aggressive by teachers Kellam et al (1998). Another study showed that with troublesome children teachers commented on their negative behaviours 80% of the time even though it occurred only around 60% of the time. The 40% of good behaviour is often ignored (Reid, 1993).
    Through the Incredible Years Programme, problem behaviour can be massively decreased through parenting and school programmes. Once teachers have been on this programme, they have increase use of direct commands, increase o patience and praise and more importantly lower non-compliant behaviours (Hutchings et al, 2007)
    Therefore it appears that praising good behaviour and ignoring non-compliant behaviour has a massive effect in the classroom. This may be the evolutionary change that teachers need to include in teacher training regime. (Kellam et al (1998) (Reid, 1993) (Hutchings, 2007)

    • cassharp March 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      Thank you very much for your comment. From personal experience in a classroom environment I always found that the children who were misbehaving were given attention but yet when they did something good this was not acknowledge. Brophy (2006) identified three basic principles that should be used in the classroom and one of these was that teachers should emphasizes what they expected from the students behaviour and learning and not place the focus on problematic behaviour and discipline problems.
      I appreciate that disruptive behaviour from students is a major issue, and that discipline has been rated as one of the most serious impediment to promoting effective teaching. I think we need to place a greater focus and appreciation on the students who do meet and exceed expectations. Often attention is diverted from these individuals, perhaps if academics celebrate their excellent conduct and provide them with the recognition they deserve, the misbehaving students may fall inline as they no longer are receiving the attention.

      Brophy, J. (2006). History of research on classroom management. In C. M. Evertson & C. S. Weinstein (Eds.), Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (pp. 17-43). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  2. parosc March 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    After reading you Blog I did some research regarding positive and assertive discipline, and found myself being pulled in the direction of being a supporter for positive discipline.

    The positive discipline (PD) approach is based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs(1920’s). It is built around the philosophy that “There are no bad children, just good or bad behaviours”. Adler (1870-1937) argued that spoiling children (kind but firm approach) would lead to both social and behavioural problems, however, he did believe in treating children with respect and Adler believed that this would encourage children to behave in a respectful way themselves.

    Studies of education programs using the PD approach aimed at parents and teachers have found a significant improvement in the behaviour of the students (Browning, 2000). Battistich (1999) research also found that teens taught with the PD approach, had improved academic performance, engaging with the material that students were given, students also had greater social skills and were less likely to engage in problem behaviours outside of the classroom. Students were less likely to take drugs, smoke, be violent or be involved in sexual promiscuity (Aquilono,2001).

    The PD approach is all about the child and how to be successful in a group, and maintaining respectful relationships. Where as Assertive discipline (AD) approach is based on authoritarian values and more about what the teacher wants, and their thoughts and feelings (Render, Padilla & Krank, 1989).

    • cassharp March 12, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

      Thank you for your comment I furthered researched into finding evidence on how positive discipline PD works. Only in the last few years has formal evaluation of Positive Discipline Schools in comparison to schools using different discipline programs begun. Research has however shown that where PD techniques have been implemented, the PD tools do show significant results.

      Platt (1979) interestingly did a whole-school implementation of classroom meetings study in a lower-income Sacramento elementary school. The study ran for 4 years. The results were excellent, suspensions decreased from 64 to 4 (annually), vandalism decreased from 24 to 2 episodes, and teachers found their classroom atmosphere improved significantly, along with behaviour, attitudes and academic performance! What more could a teacher ask for?

      Research has portrayed that children are “hardwired” straight from birth to associate and connect with other individuals. Not surprising that children who develop a have a sense of association and connection to their family, community and school are less likely to display disruptive behaviour.

      “PD is based on the understanding that discipline must be taught and that discipline teaches”

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