Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adult Development Theories, Education, and Waiting for Superman to save us all...

            This past week we learned about Adult Developmental Theories.  Erik Erickson, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Sigmund Freud and many others were a part of it.  First, I would like to set forth something about my beliefs.  I choose Lev Vygotsky as my theorist that I can most identify with.  Here is a section of my discussion about him from class:

Lev Vygotsky, creator of the Sociocultural Theory of development felt discovering the zone of proximal development, and utilizing it in education was the best way to teach children. “The difference between the level of solved tasks that can be performed with adult guidance and help and the level of independently solved tasks is the zone of proximal development.”[i]  The theory was developed during war torn Russia in the 1920s.  He “believed social interaction and culture led to the best cognitive development. Vygotsky wanted to know where a child could be; not where a child is developmentally.” (Ch 1, pg. 15)  His theory also introduces the concept of ‘scaffolding’, where a teacher or mentor gives assistance to a child to complete a task, but does not do more than is necessary.  His theory opened up the pathways to schools in Russia to educate their children based on these principles. However, it was suppressed under Stalin’s Rule. Even in adult development we can see Vygotsky’s work.  Each task that we learn for a new job or even in returning to school emphasizes the need for ‘scaffolding’.  We build upon our skills by being mentored or taught by others.  Jerome S. Bruner, a social psychologist who became involved with education in the 1960s, was influenced by Vygotsky's concept of "scaffolding.”  He developed a new theory of cognitive development through the MACOS (Man: A Course of Study) project, bringing Vygotsky’s work to America in a new theory.

Vygotsky’s work of ‘scaffolding’ and the zone of proximal development is exactly what I believe should be the first priority of education.  Today, the educational system, at early ages ‘teaches to the tests.’  I find this concept frustrating.  Since many students will not reach their potential due to the gross lack of misjudgment in using this method.  Vygotsky believed in the potential of a student, not merely ‘where they are now’, but rather ‘where can they be’.  Education has changed dramatically. When I was in school during the 70s and 80s the way we learned was much different than my daughter experienced.  While I was rewarded for my accomplishments with Advanced Placement and Honor courses providing a level of challenge reaching my potential, her high school removed all of these courses due to budget cuts.  The other big factor in education today is what I call (and many psychologists in the field) ‘over diagnosis.’  Many children are being diagnosed with learning disabilities, particularly Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) when they may be simply not challenged, and therefore ‘bored’ of their school work.  This is a sad fact in today’s educational world.  ADHD soared in the mid-90s. “The 700% increase in psycho stimulant use that occurred in the 1990s justifies concern about potential over diagnosis and inappropriate treatment of child behavior problems.” [ii] Thus, creating an environment where everyone, including children have a label, but I ask, is it accurate or is it the product of over diagnosis? Vygotsky would see the potential in a child and work through ‘scaffolding’ to reach it.  We seem to see a problem in American children and work towards medication to get rid of it.

            Having said that, what do you think?  Is Vygotsky the way to go?  Or should we continue to teach our children within the education system’s version of where they are now, not where they could be?

            I find the system of education extremely frustrating today as indicated above.  There is so much need and room for improvement.  I was informed by one of my friends that a new documentary Waiting for Superman has come out in theaters.  I am anxious to see this film and what they have to say about education, who’s to blame, and what can be done. Also, I found a BBC news clip about Finland, yes, Finland.  Apparently they have the best educational systems in the world.  Interestingly enough, they use ‘scaffolding’ in it.  Here’s that clip:

            Here is the trailer about the new documentary, Waiting for Superman:  Enjoy!  

            Here is a review on the film also (in case you were interested):,8599,2021951,00.html

            Until next time…

[i]Daniels, Harry (Author). Introduction to Vygotsky.  London, GBR: Routledge, 1996. p 172.

[ii] Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Quizzes, papers and college...oh my!

It's was a trying week (last week).  I don't know why but sometimes I feel like life just hits you out of nowhere and you are powerless to stop the momentum.  Sometimes we can 'muddle' through and sometimes we are fighting it, kicking and screaming, however it always seems like we learn a lesson.  This is the story of mine.

Last week, I took the second week quizzes for my college class.   We learned all about developmental theories and the theorists who created them.  It was challenging, interesting and even a little fun.  (Well, maybe more than a little.  I have a difficult time talking about school being fun, because I let all those ‘downers’ from high school ruin it for me.  Anyway, it was lots of fun. I loved it!)  We had two quizzes that we had to take.  One on the topic of the week, Theories of Development and one on our Writing essay due in three weeks.  It’s called our ‘Reflective Paper’.  I told you about that, I think all ready.  So here goes, the problem started for me when I sat down to take the quiz.  I have horrible test anxiety and since I got a 90 on the last test (Yes, I wanted a 100%, if I can’t be perfect, why bother.  I am trying to learn to curb this problem), I was worried.  So I took it.  I couldn’t understand what happened.  I got 90 again.  I checked all my answers and I consulted my friend, a psychology professor and clinical psychologist.  This is his field and he knows these things.  Where do I go wrong?  Apparently, I hadn’t.  The answer was wrong and no correct answer was given.  I had answered none of the above to the question, because I couldn’t find the correct answer either.  Well, he went into “it’s a problem’ mode and it needs to be fixed, so I went into overload mode.  Now, I had to email the instructor and tell her that their quiz was wrong. I gathered my facts, taken from our book, and about a million psychologists out there and sent it all to her.  Then waited… (and freaked out!)  You see, I am always worried about teacher retaliation on students who are diligent and bring up problems.  (If any of you have a story about this to share, I would love to hear it!)  I can’t see her, I don’t know her, and I will never meet her (being an online student, of course), but now I was worried about what she would say about me, how she would react, etc.  And not just worried, very, very anxious.  I stared checking email every hour or more.  Nothing.

Second day comes. I take the second quiz (About the writing essay).  You would not believe it?!   Another problem.  One question has answers that are confusing to the instructions we were given.  Two separate instructions (one from the universities writing lab, the other from my instructor) and they contradict each other.  How is this possible????  Now, I’m upset and really worried.  I can’t send her another email about this?  Can I?  My loving, wonderful husband was with me when this came down and he suggested (I love him!) calling my academic adviser about the problem.  I did.  About an hour or so later I get a phone call. (I was in Christmas Tree Shop at the time – long story).  He agrees that it’s a problem, the university does not take these things lightly and please would I write an email to my instructor outlining the problem and send him a copy.  When I got home, I did just that.  Yea!  Sent him both emails about both problems, all done.  Feeling a little better now, because my adviser was not pleased about the errors and felt I was correct in pointing them out.  I had validation.  Now, I’m just waiting for the return email from my instructor.  And waiting…I get a reply.  Yea!  I get a point for one of the quizzes.  Then I send back an email saying thank you and I hope she got the other email I sent.  And then another reply and Yea! I get a point for that.  Ok, all’s good, except I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Is she mad at me?  Uncomfortable?  Too busy?  Not happy? Because the first email was friendly.  You know, hi, thanks, etc.  The second email was very short.  I realize this was a crazy thing to have two quizzes have two issues, but I didn’t do it.  So here comes my ‘freak out’ (as usual):  What if she doesn’t like me because I did that?  Or…no, I don’t want to think about it. 

As I was writing this blog, I realized I’m being irrational.  In looking over the emails again, the first one was friendly and helpful.  The second one was short, yes, however it doesn’t sound as bad as I first thought.  Guess I was ‘raw’ from doing all that emailing and researching to back up my claims.   Now, the only thing that preys on my mind is, should I tell the other students about the quizzes?  After all, if they got something wrong because of this, shouldn’t they be corrected, too?  Or should I leave that up to the faculty and staff of the college.  And even more so, the quizzes I think are computer generated and are randomized, so everyone might not have gotten these questions.  To make this long story finally end.  I am in my third week of classes.  Yea!

That’s it for now. I said I would be open and honest on this blog.  So there it is. 

Until next time…

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reflective Assignment...

"I never know what I think about something 
until I've read what I've written on it"  
William Faulkner

This is how I feel today.  In my new class (going into our 2nd week) I am supposed to start developing my Reflective Paper.  This paper is in essence a nightmare.  I love to write and I have already written the outline, a draft and find some resources.  Okay, so maybe I've becoming anxious again, but honestly, write about my entire life experience to this point and then include what my future goals are?  Are they crazy?  My life experience as with everyone is vast, complicated and interconnected.  This paper which should be about 7-10 pages long (maybe, because no direction was given on that), has to include all of these things and be reflective on my life so far.  I would rather go across hot coals with bare feet at this moment.  Reflecting is great in small doses and such, but to reflective on my entire life!!!!  This is torture.  Not to mention, what really bothers me is the fact that I keep finding negative things that pushed me forward. The positive things I have experienced like my husband and our daughter and friends are there as well, but they seemed overshadowed by my parents, my childhood and such.  Okay, so how do I outline this?

As you can probably tell, I'm a bit frustrated.  I can sit at the computer for hours and still be no where closer to my assignment being done than if I didn't sit here.

That quote above is so much my thought do I know what I think about my life until I read what I wrote.  Unfortunately, I haven't really written it all.  I wrote a draft that I don't like and an outline that is unrealistic to jam into a paper.  So now what?

I am going to break away for a while and not think about it.  Perhaps have a drink and calm down.  Watch a movie or something.  I need to get away from this reflecting on my life 'stuff'.  Maybe, I will gain a better perspective later or tomorrow...I hope so.

On another note, our daughter, who is 18, burned her hand at work and had to be taken to the emergency room last night.  She will be fine, the burns are bad, but not extreme.  I was happy for that much.  I feel so bad for her that she has trouble swallowing medication, like aspirin, to counteract the pain.  My heart goes out to her.  My little girl.  I hope she is feeling better soon.  Luckily today she was not in pain anymore so that's good, but the entire experience has been frustrating to her (with Worker's Comp rules).  She is a strong person though and will get through this. Every day I remember how fortunate I am to have such a loving, wonderful husband and that we have such a loving daughter.  All of that makes the frustration of this assignment go away.  Just wanted to express my feelings about that.

Until next time...