Culture as a basic means of education and human development, main theories

Culture as a basic means of education and human development, main theories

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  • 1 What do we understand by culture?
  • 2 The cultural scenarios and contributions of Elkonin
  • 3 Individual and historical development: Michael Cole
  • 4 Learning, culture and development according to Hatano and Miyake
  • 5 Culture, school and everyday knowledge

What do we understand by culture?

Culture is understood or basically means 'cultivation' or 'nurturing'. Cultivate, more specifically, has other meanings:

  • Give the land and plants the necessary work to bear fruit.
  • Put the necessary means to maintain and deepen knowledge, treatment or friendship.
  • Develop, exercise talent, ingenuity, memory, etc.
  • Exercise in the arts, sciences, languages, etc.

In sum, culture is closely related to individual development and seems inseparable from the action of growing up.

The culture is related to a set of ways of life and customs that characterize human groups.

But it is not enough to say that culture is the medium where we develop human beings. Culture decisively guides all our development processes and it is necessary to deepen the processes that explain this relationship.

The cultural settings and contributions of Elkonin

Human development is conditioned not only by biological capacity, but also by the historical traditions in which culture surrounds the child. Everyday practices acquire, therefore, a decisive role in explaining the course of development.

The child's life can be considered as a process of exchange of roles and development ongoing strengthened by their experiences with the cultural environment. Children create and co-build the social world and commit themselves to their activities.

The zone of the next development of a child is related to each of the different stages of child development proposed by Elkonin, while, in each one, there are changing demands that come from the social context.

Development stages and demands of the social context. Source: Elkonin (1971) and Hedegaard (1996).

But we can still dig a little deeper and take into account, on the other hand, that schools and other daily learning contexts, which define development from culture, are of relatively recent creation and have given rise to the practice of segregation; that is, children are separated much of the day from the activities of adults.

According to Elkonin, "the social practices of the Western world segregate childhood into specific universes have contributed to the formation of the social world of children, as something relatively independent of the elderly."

Elkonin talked about the non-adaptability of children. This means the importance of adopting a perspective in which the child is an active agent that forms their relationships and attitudes through others. This fact should be taken into account by institutionalized educational agents.

Individual and historical development: Michael Cole

Cole, a very representative American researcher of the sociocultural perspective in developmental and learning psychology, presents the culture as a "supraindividual wrap" that surrounds us and gives us instruments to interact with the world. It is here that the individual and historical development of people and social groups occurs. It is these cultural actions of individuals, also immersed in more concrete contexts and interwoven with the activity, that allow us to transform the world.

"For a long time the notion of culture has included a general theory of how development can be promoted: creating an artificial environment in which optimal conditions for growth are provided to younger organisms. This requires improved instruments. over generations and designed for the special task they must develop. So close are the concepts of things that grow and the instruments that the word with which culture can be designated is that of shared plowing "(Cole, 1996, p 143).

Cole likes the metaphors, with those who come to explain what culture is and how it should be understood in relation to development. It is referred to as a garden where children are protected from the toughest aspects of the environment. A garden is the link between the microcosm of the individual plant and the macrocosm of the outside environment. The garden, in this sense, relates culture and context and thus provides us with a framework from which human development can be understood.

Cole (1991) points out what he considers the basic postulates of a sociocultural approach in the study of the human mind from the perspective of its development and education. Humans, this author tells us, they differ from other animals in the sense that they are culturally mediated, develop historically and are the result of a practical activity.

Education is considered as a specific context of activity in which human beings, in specific cultural circumstances and in certain historical stages, develop.

Learning, culture and development according to Hatano and Miyake

What can the historical-cultural perspective contribute to the understanding of the relationships between culture, development and learning? Hatano and Miyake (1991) have approached this issue and, in their opinion, the starting point of the approach is twofold:

  • The interaction with other people and artifacts have an important role in learning and development of the mind.
  • Microenvironment in which the individual learns is affected by broader contexts, for example, the community.

Culture is seen as the natural environment in which people develop and from which they learn.

Culture, school and everyday knowledge

Hatano and Miyake (1991) specify the contributions of the sociocultural perspective in the study of learning and development in three points. His comments are especially significant when we ask the question that human development can be mediated, in certain cultures, by school learning. First, knowing the cultural environment of the learner allows us to better understand the learning process and therefore control it. This is qualified in a triple sense:

  • Knowing the culture of those who learn allows pose situations that are similar in multiple contexts, especially when educators set specific goals to achieve.
  • Knowing this culture, it is possible to access more easily the knowledge that people acquire in formal and informal learning situations which can serve as the basis for formal educational situations. In any case, although this starting point can have a facilitating effect, since new knowledge is more significant for the subjects, sometimes it includes erroneous components that are not always easy to eliminate.
  • In trying to institutionalize certain types of learning, We will only succeed knowing the beliefs that people involved in the process have about it; perhaps only some are acceptable in this context.

According to Hatano and Miyake (1991), the school must take into account the predominant culture and, in addition, consider the "relevant cultural dimensions in the learning goal" and express them in cognitive terms.