07/27/07  (susheyer)  [0 Comments]

Nothing new: socio-economic (dis)advantages of students

While preparing an article for the ePortfolio conference, I came across a finding by Lev Vygotsky, the Russian social development theorist, in a book called "Understanding Vygotsky". Already in the 1930s, Vygotsky found that pre-school children with high IQ scores were the ones that came from "privileged" backgrounds, where there were plenty of books and their parents read stories to them. Even though the concept of IQ-score-measuring may be controversial, these results reminded me very much of the PISA study findings, here an excerpt from one of the documents:

"In most countries, disadvantaged students appear to put in just as much effort as their advantaged peers and are at least as likely by age 15 to see the point of studying to get a good job. Where their motivation falls most clearly short, however, is in their intrinsic interest in reading. This may well be a result of less stimulating home environments, with fewer resources such as books. Engagement in reading has been shown to be of crucial importance in overcoming social disadvantage: students from less advantaged families who read a lot and enjoy it tend to outperform those with more home advantages but less reading engagement (OECD, 2002b; Guthrie and Wigfield, 2000)."
(Source: Learners for Life: Student approaches to learning, Results from PISA 2000, p. 62; Emphasis added by Susanne Heyer)

It is curious that we haven't reacted accordingly a long time ago, if this knowledge of socio-economic disadvantages has been known for such a long time (almost a century by now!). At least, the PISA results study offers suggestions how to improve the school setting to reduce the socio-economic disadvantage of some students by explicitly helping them in adopting self-regulatory learning strategies, comprehension-oriented strategies like combining new and existing knowledge and conscious checking of things that need yet to be learned in comparison to the learning goals. Hopefully, teachers everywhere strive to take up these suggestions and offer even more strategies on how to tackle this problem.