Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - January 24, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta
The Lethbridge Herald, Monday, January 24, 1972 Language mastery determines learning By MRS. K. TSUJI Raymond Elementary According to psychologist Ar- thur Staats (language, learn- ing, and cognition) language learning underlies, or is much ol what we consider to be man's intellectual or cognitive nature. Basil Bernstein in his article from The Psychology ol Lan- guage, Thonght and Instruc- tion. talks about the wide range ol individual differences in the learning abilities of school chil- dren and he suggests that the kind oC language spoken by children determines how they will earn and what they will learn. Then, although language cannot be isolated as the only cause for learning difficulties, it certainly must be considered a major one. It is therefore im- portant to focus upon the parti- cular uses of language that may affect the learning pro- cess. According to linguists, most children have solved the gram- matical and syntactical com- plexities of language by the age of five. However, a large number of children will not have reached top growth in lan- guage development by the tame they enter school. A great many things can cause diffi- culty in developing the skills and abilities necessary Cor lan- guage growth, including such broad areas as socio-economic status, race, sex, age, geogra- phic and cultural factors. Marion Monroe a reading specialist, says the quality and quantity of oral language de- velopment depends upon things like: The poverty or richness of the child's environment. The width or breadth of ttieir experiences. Concepts they have devel- oped in their contacts with oth- SAME PRINCIPLES She goes on to saying the ex- cellence of their language de- pends upon the quality of ver- bal interaction within their en- vironment Another reading specialist, HuneH Stauffer, as well as psychologist Art h u r Staats. emphasize the thinking processes that go along with verbal development. They feel that for children to acquire concepts and words to represent them, certain intel- lectual functions most be used. Necessary intellectual functions listed by Stauffer are deliber- ate attention, logical memory, abstraction and the ability to note likenesses and differences. According to Staats all learn- ing language included de- pends upon the same scientific principles. He lists definite be- haviors that he feels are basic to language development. The list includes the quality of at- tentional behaviors (looking where directed the extent of Imitative behaviors, fflie quality of working behaviors, tiie repertoire of verbal stimuli (instructions) that would con- trol children's behaviors. The transition from oral to written language is usually easy for children, who hear standard English spoken at home and who have been read alound to since infancy. For example, the child who does not hear academic En- glish and uses phrases like, "Them kids ain't play may have problems learning to read a sentence beginning with "Those boys because he would never start a sentence of his own in that way. These children, who probably have not had book experiences at home, must go .through the transition from oral to written language in school. Some children, depending upon their backgrounds, have a different kind of language de- velopment. It may be a code that is powerful direct and vi- tal, but if it is unlike the lan- guage used in school there may be fewer things that transfer to school learning. In fact, the language of these .children may be so different from the academic English in the readers, it may be a major cause of difficulty in learning to road. Basil Bernstein says that this type of child often fails to master language as a device for acquiring and- pro- cessing information. These are the uses of pri- mary importance in school. Bernstein uses these compara- tive conversations to illretrate his point. (Psychology of Lan- guage, Thought and Instruc- tion: 1. Mother: hold on tight; child: why? mother: bold on tight, cMW: mother: you'll fall; child: why? mother: I told you to hold on tight didn't I? (2) Mother: hold on tightly, darting; child: why? mother: if you don't you wilt be thrown forward and you'll fall; child: mother: because if the bus suddenly stops you'll jerk forward on to the seat in front, child: why? mother: now dar- ling, hold on tightly and don't make such a fuss. The point being made is that children from certain back- grounds have learned a lan- guage that is adequate for meeting social and material needs "not for obtaining and transmitting information, for .monitoring behavior, or for carrying on verbal reasoning." The task for the teacher, it they are to do as Ronald Ward- bough says (Reading, a Lin- guistic Perspective) is "to sys- tematically relate the two lan- guage systems for the child, not to try to change the first system a doubtful goal or of making it like the second system an impossible TO WORK Many students go directly fnto offices from the business eoucatFon de- partment of high schools. Favored place on curriculum Science education By ERIC MOKOSCH Associate Professor Science Education University of Lethbridgc Since the launching of Sput- nik I, in the late 1950's, science education lias occupied a pro- minent and favored' place as far as monetary and human re- sources for curriculum de- velopment are concerned. Though the'main ferment ori- ginated in the U.S.A., improved .communication networks and vast dessemination mechan- isms soon brought major sci- ence curriculum developments to Canada. Fortunately most provincial- of edu- cation have not wholly adopted some programs to the inclusion of others; rather, an effort was usually made to develop local curricula choosing particularly suitable units from one project or another and discarding oth- ers which were lacking ID tbe same way. The stage was set, then, for science teaching and learning in the 60s. "Old" courses had been updated to make them more acceptable to scientists at the universities; a major proportion of former high school 'content was now taught in junior high school science and, of course, a concamitaat "lowering" of content occurred from junior high to science. Not only content, how- ever, was affected. The "new" curriculum also called for a major reorienbation in the approach to teaching and learning of science. The labor- atory approach was hailed over the more traditional lecture- demonstration approach in high school; the inquiry approach variously known as "learning by "discovery" or the "process" approach was to be emphasized throughout espe- cially in elementary and junior high school science. Both of these "new" empha- sis, the upgrading ot content and the importance or learning science in a manner commen- surate with the way In which the scientist of course were "sciences" into the science eurriclum mainly through the efforts of tip level scientists. It is not surprising, there- fore, that the so-called new cur- ricula in science appealed mainly to the university-bound, high ability students in science courses. The vast majority of students did not have the abil- ity nor the motivation to study science in the expected rigor- ous manner and tlierefore turn- ed to other subjects of more immediate concern and appli- cation. One of the devastating results naturally has been the drastic drop in enrolments from that expected, especially in the phy- sical sciences in both sec- ondary and post-secondary in- stitutions and the concomitant increases in enrolment in tbe social sciences and humanities. SWINGING BACK Fortunately the pendulum is swinging back (as it miKt and always does) to the point where there is an emerging trend in science education to move from rigour to relevance Sci- ence courses at least at the secondary level in Alberta, are being developed keeping the average student (tbe vast ma- jority) as well as the above av- erage in mind. Unfortunately changes in emphasis are imple- menled very slowly, as are most changes in education, bvt some recent developments at tbe department of educatiM level point to tbse emerging trends. First, at the gi-ade 12 level, evaluation has shifted from being wholly determined by de- partmentals to a SO per cent- 50 per cent arrangement ia most subjects whereby tbe fi- nal mark is determined 90 par cent by a departmental and M per cent by the teacher. This system is already in effect am biology, English, social studies and modem languages and will quite likely soon be the case ia 1 and physics. Second, the new junior high school science program (now in its tiurd year) has made it and In tact encour- ages, the teacher to develop a science curriculum tailor- ed to me need] of bis his own abilities and leguunm 'Gone are the days of every classroom in Alberta studying -the same chapter at Ihe same time. An accompanying mnovatiaB at the junior high school level has been tbe development ft local options. Though opUooi are proving a little troublesome to implement, their existence is clearly an attempt to give schools and mm freedom to develop comes and and approaches which will w- -tice (heir students to puraae science m future years. The roost important develop. ment at the di.-partmwrtal level and one that incorporates above two has been the devet- -opment of a new set of objec- tives for secondary school sci- ence in Alberta.