04 SES 06 A, Basic Rights
Parallel Paper Session
This paper explores two aspects of development in relation to children’s learning: cognitive developmental theories and the human development paradigm. In doing so the aim of the paper is to put forward first a critique of how developmental theories have been applied to construe what and how children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities learn; second to put forward how the human development approach can broaden our understanding of development; and third to suggest a way in which both types of development can be brought together to foster a valuable and meaningful education for all children.
As it is now commonly accepted, cognitive developmental theories structure learning capacity into a hierarchical set of stages in which children master more and more complex learning skills until they achieve the formal operational stage in adulthood. Conversely, the human development paradigm refers to an approach that has developed from, and together with, the capability approach (Sen, 1999; Nussbaum, 2010). According to the human development paradigm, human beings are the end of development (UNDP, 1990) and thus, as Sen states (1999), development is about broadening the capabilities, that is the real freedoms, people have to do and be what they have reason to value. The capability approach stresses the importance of achieving valuable and valued functionings, on the one hand, and promoting environments which broaden the choices of which capabilities to foster. Along these lines development is the result of a dynamic interplay between the learner the educator, and other environmental factors in which learning is not detached and devoid of the learner’s capacities for development and entitlement to learning. Rather learning is viewed as both a functioning and a capability with both intrinsic and instrumental value (Robeyns, 2006).
The way the staged approach to learning has been applied to construct a notion of the capable learner is initially critiqued. It is argued that the application of psychological theory, both behavioural and cognitive, to the development of pedagogical approaches has been determined more by the need to normalise and control than to nurture and educate. Deeply cast in the notion that children with disabilities and SEN are outside the norm, this approach to learning has shaped not only teaching practice, but also the mind, fears and expectations of many teachers.
Bellanca, N. Biggeri, M. and Marchetta F. (2011), “An extension of the capability approach: Towards a theory of dis-capability”, ALTER, European Journal of Disability Research 5, pp. 158–176 Biggeri, M., Ballet, J., and Comim, F. (eds) (2011), Children and the capability approach. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Nussbaum, M. (2010) Not for profit: Why democracy needs the humanities, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Robeyns, I. (2006) Three models of education: Rights, capabilities and human capital. Theory and Research in Education, 4(1), 69-84. Sen, A. (1999) Development as freedom, Oxford: Oxford University Press United Nations Development Porgramme (UNDP) (1990) Human Development Report. OUP: New York.
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