Saturday, November 17, 2007

Instructivism vs free learning - the cultural dimension

Walking through the university magazine I ran into a short comment in an article by a researcher just down the hall from me. I was especially amused as this added an extra perspective to instructivism vs. free learning debate which popped up (again) at the Onderwijsdagen.
The researcher in question, Mayo Aziza, is doing research on language learning under children from Turkish or Morrocan parents in the Netherlands.
Her comment is:
"Het Nederlandse onderwijs met zijn sterke gerichtheid op zelf dingen ontdekken werkt voor kinderen met een taalachterstand averechts. Die kinderen hebben behoefte aan instructie, maar dat past niet in onze onderwijsfilosofie."
I would translate this as follows:
"The Dutch education system, with its strong focus on discovering things for themselves has the opposite effect for children with a language deficit. Those children need instruction, but this does not fit in with the principles underlying our education."
To add to the debate I wonder whether we are taking the cultural dimension into consideration when we are thinking about different approaches to teaching and learning. There are people that argue that certain types of knowledge and skills can best be taught through instruction, whereas others are best discovered in a more free setting. I would like to argue for also taking the differing cultural background into account when defending the preferred educational model. There must be researchers out there that have been looking at this aspect in more detail.

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