**Please refer to Lesson Plan #6 and Lesson Plan #7 for recommended class discussion, class activities, and homework assignments that utilize the following theories while addressing the issue of Violence in America.**
Lesson Plan #6: Lawlessness and Animal Farm
The following lesson will apply Lev Vygotsky’s and Jerome Bruner’s theories of cognitive development. Importantly, both psychologist’s theories emphasize the importance of the child’s environment, or culture, in the learning process. Lev Vygotsky is particularly known for his work in Social Development Theory, which has formed the basis of Cognitive Psychology research over the last several decades (McLeod, 2014). Likewise, Bruner is also seen as a champion in the field of Cognitive Psychology. Bruner’s “Three Modes of Representation” has come to be a widely accepted theory of how information and knowledge is stored (McLeod, 2012). Bruner is also recognized for his contribution of the “scaffolding theory” and the “spiral curriculum.” Scaffolding is the way each individual learner builds on their own knowledge. And the spiral curriculum is the idea of teaching subjects individually and then returning to those subjects taught together as a whole – a type of synthesis learning. Most importantly Bruner believed that students could learn any level of material (even at a young age) with the proper instruction – at the dispense of a good teacher.
Vygotsky proposes “that child development takes place very differently in different historical circumstances” (Blunden, 2011, p.1). Hence, no two people’s learning processes are exactly alike. Our cognition is a construct of our unique individual experiences. The individual self is created upon the foundation of social interaction. “Development is culturally determined” (Blunden, 2011, p.3). Through this social interaction we have moments of revelation which propel us into cognitive progression. For Vygotsky human beings pass through a series of phases punctuated by crises (Blunden, 2011). These crises are awakenings or the active recognition of the process of “neoformation” that is occurring. Neoformation is the restructuring of mental states based on new knowledge. The process of neoformation is constantly at play in the psyche. It is through neoformation and our social interactions with others that we become liberated cognitive individuals. The theory is two-fold, in order to form personal cognition we must first engage in relationships, and out of these relationships comes the individual self.
Vygotsky perhaps illustrates his theory best by alluding to human beings in infancy. Blunden summarizes Vygotsky: “An infant may be quite happy having its mouth stuffed with food ... up to a point, but they soon feel the need to have a say over what is put in their mouth. They need to disrupt the situation in which absolutely everything is done for them. So, this ability to perceive new needs does not yet mean to be able to satisfy them, both because they do not yet have the ability and because the adult carers do not treat them as a child who has the ability. They are stuck in this situation which they have begun to see as a restriction, even though it is the situation in which their needs are being met” (Blunden, 2011, p.2). A baby in infancy is fully dependent on others. We, as humans, enter into the world in a social state of complete reliance. We then form our individual selves through time and through the epiphanies or crises of neoformation. Blunden continues to elaborate on Vygotsky’s theory by stating that in order to become aware of new possibilities “[the child] must in some way be able to visualize a different role for themselves. The conditions for becoming aware of such a role are created by the current social situation of development” (Blunden, 2011, p.3). This “visualizing” is the self-actualization of the acquisition of new knowledge and the application of that knowledge for cognitive progression. This is the basic learning process which all human beings are constantly undergoing. Similarly, Jerome Bruner takes a culture-centered approach to cognitive development. In “Life as Narrative” he asserts: “Given their constructed nature and their dependence upon the cultural conventions and language usage, life narratives obviously reflect the prevailing theories about ‘possible lives’ that are part of one's culture … The heart of my argument is this: eventually the culturally shaped cognitive and linguistic processes that guide the self-telling of life narratives achieve the power to structure perceptual experience, to organize memory, to segment and purpose-build the very ‘events’ of a life” (Bruner, 2004, p. 694). The act of becoming a truly independent autonomous individual depends upon the social culture within which one belongs. To ‘organize memory’ and build cognition one must be in relation with others. What better text to present as an allegory for culture and society in general than George Orwell’s Animal Farm? Animal Farmrepresents the individual’s interconnectedness to the group and the changes that can occur within different cultures. From a purely theoretical standpoint, Animal Farmcan be seen as a metaphor for Vygotsky’s notion of “neoformation.” The animals of Animal Farmencounter several crises in their struggle for autonomy. But, even when freedom is seemingly reached a new crisis (power struggle) amongst the animals themselves erupts. The natural course of human nature can be equated to that of the psyche – a cyclical process of contention and liberation; of confronting an obstacle and overcoming the challenge; of encountering a crisis and finding liberation; of facing the unfamiliar and being enlightened; of unknown to known.
The following lesson is meant as an introduction to the politically charged text Animal Farm. By studying this text, students will understand why environment and culture play such important roles in our learning processes as human beings. And, how a just society of fairness – one that accommodates the differences of the many – is the most ideal type of culture to strive to achieve, whether it be a nationwide government or a high school classroom. References Blunden, A. (2011). Vygotsky’s Theory of Child Development: Talk by Andy Blunden at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Retrieved April 3, 2018, from https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/wits/vygotsky-development.pdf Bruner, J. (2004). Life as Narrative. Social Research, 71(3), 691-710. McLeod, S. (2012). Simply Psychology: Bruner. Retrieved April 3, 2018, from https://www.simplypsychology.org/bruner.html McLeod, S. (2014). Simply Psychology: Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved April 3, 2018 from https://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html Lesson Plan #7: Genocide and Vygotsky The range of “functions which the child is able to master without assistance” and the “functions which the child can manage if given assistance” is known as Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (Blunden, 2011, p 8). This is an important theory for teachers to understand and can be effective to help students’ cognitive development rather than just memorize information. Vygotsky stated that “the only good learning is that which is in advance of development” (as cited in Scott & Palincsar, 2009). It is not only important to match learning with what will develop a child’s cognitive, but to be most effective, teachers must take into consideration that there are “ a variety of internal developmental processes that are able to operate only when the child is interacting with people in his environment and with his peers” (Scott & Palicsar, 2009). In an attempt to develop 9thgraders cognitive processing about genocide and the severe nature of the effects of genocide, the students will participate in a four part activity that will 1) give teachers insight as to their current stage of development (without assistance); 2) provide further information; 3) allow for two question and answer periods related to genocide; and 4) pair students up with a more capable peer to further advance their development (Scott & Palicsar, 2009). The purpose of a two day, four part activity is to provide students with a mix of information and academic support to achieve their full potential of learning. Peer and McClendon (2002) claim that “educators must provide appropriate support through structured activities in which students can interact with other students and faculty members to reach the highest level of development (p. 137). Additionally, by reviewing students’ writings on their existing knowledge of genocide and then their writings after their peer discussions, teachers will be able to see parts of students’ life narratives guided by “culturally shaped cognitive and linguistic processes”, which Bruner (2004) argues eventually “achieve the power to structure perceptual experience, to organize memory, to segment and purpose-build the very ‘events’ of a life” (p.694). No two students have lived the same life. They come from different cultures and backgrounds and may have a different understanding and comprehension of genocide depending on their culture; therefore, in reviewing the writings, teachers will see these differences. The life narratives may be more present in students who have personally been affected by genocide, such as students of Jewish decent, Armenian heritage or from who have ties Rwanda. Although many students who have personal connections, beliefs, or emotions towards genocide, in providing their written opinion on genocide, teachers will also assess how students construct themselves within the life narrative. Furthermore, what will be illustrated through the homework writing assignment, which will be assigned after 30 minutes of information videos and class discussion, including a peer session, is that all students will have a version of how they interpreted the “story” of genocide events. This supports Bruner’s (2004) statement that “any story one may tell about anything is better understood by considering other possible ways in which it can be told” (p. 709). The students will take their previous knowledge and the information they have come to learn and find what they consider, a better way of telling the story. The final written assignment will be illustrative of both intuitive thinking and analytic thinking. There will be some information in students’ writing that comes from the information obtained through the videos and peer discussions and which have be obtained through some type of process – analytic thinking (Bruner, 1976). There will be other parts of students’ writing that writers will be unable to identify how they came to their conclusions, other than the knowing what they were responding to – intuitive thinking (Bruner, 1976). In end result of the class activity supports sociocultural theory and the use of “non-traditional methods of instructing and evaluating student learning” (Peer & McClendon, 2002, p. 139). The activity itself takes more time than most teachers would like, but creates an effect approach to a sensitive issue. References Bluden, A. (2011). Vygotsky’s theory of child development. Ethicalpolitics.org. Retrieved from https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/wits/vygotsky-development.pdf. Bruner, J.S. (1976). The process of education. Cambridge, US: Harvard University Press. Bruner, J. (2004). Life as narrative. Social Research, 71(3), 691-710. Peer, K. S., and McClendon, R. C. (2002). Sociocultural learning theory in practice: Implications for athletic training educators. Journal of Athletic Training, 37(4), p. 136-140. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164414/ Scott, S. and Palincsar, A. (2009). Sociocultural theory. In E. M. Anderman and L. H. Anderman (Eds.), Psychology of classroom learning: An encyclopedia. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/sociocultural-theory