A HOLISTIC CURRICULUM AS 'LEARNING FOR LIFE': SCIENTIFIC PEDAGOGY

                                                          OF  DR. OVIDE DECROLY (1871-1932)

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 Doctor Ovide Decroly was a physician, a neuropsychiatrist, apsychologist and a professor at the University of Brussels. He is best known as a highly influential pedagogue and the pioneer of experimental pedagogy. Decroly founded two educational establishments based on the principles of human biosocial needs (Ecole Decroly). Decroly's method of study: he observed children at first hand in a milieu which suited them... an evironment which was conducive to the full development of their personalities, their capacities and their human potential. He introduced an educational methodology with the purpose of educating children 'for life and through life' ('pour la vie par la vie'). Decroly's 'method' was valid because it was not supposed to be connected with any political or social doctrine but was based on the biological need of the human organism - a social animal - to be able to adapt to the social environment...the human organism as a social animal must adapt to a changing social environment.     

 "The finest ideal for a generation is to strive that the generation that follows it may be able to live and enjoy more beauty and more happiness; it is to reduce the causes of misunderstanding, stupid prejudices, unnecessary suffering, useless conflicts. This is the ideal of education. Without it the very purpose of man's existence vanishes. If there were not the child to bring up, protect, to teach, and to transform into the man of tomorrow, the man of today would be meaningless and could disappear." "The child is the future. We shape him for the future." (Dr. Ovide Decroly)  

references   biography   principles

Biography of Ovide Decroly  He was born  July 23, l87l in Renaix, a small town in the Belgian province of East Flanders. His father was a worker of French origin.As a child he was greatly interested in the natural world of the countryside. His interest was encouraged by his family and especially his father who spent a lot of time with his children, working in the outdoors and at the same time demanding obedience and respect. His childhood interests in the natural sciences led to scientific interests and the medical profession in adulthood.

       As a medical student at the University of Ghent he engaged in laboratory research in experimental and infantile pathology and then published his observations with personal analyses which influenced his later work in education. From experimental research he learned that the fundamental rules of scientific investigation must be adhered to... one must abide by the concept of the 'experimental control' in order to draw valid conclusions about the behaviour of the invariable in any rigorous description of an experimental situation. For his research on the action of toxins and antitoxins on general nutrition (l898) he received a scholarship for a six-month study at the University of Berlin in pathological anatomy, neurology and psychiatry and then a year study in Paris in neurology and psychiatry. When he returned to Brussels, Belgium he became associated with the Neurological Clinic where he was in daily contact with handicapped children. It was this experience which inspired him to open his family home (1901) to mentally handicapped children and his New School was initiated at 47 rue de la Vanne and was later transferred (l9l0) to a rural setting with animals to raise, seeds to plant and harvest, and with many occasions to for the children to observe, and be active in real life. The school continues to function today.  Decroly's teaching was so successful that "many a time, so-called 'retarded' children were found to be more advanced than children of the neighboring official school." (A. Ferriere, "Transformons l'ecole", Bureau Internationale des Ecoles Nouvelles, Bale, Switzerland, l920) He was its doctor-director for more than thirty years. In l902 he was made in charge of the medical inspection of special education classes in the city of Brussels. He organized and directed the first psychological clinic for handicapped children. From his years of training Decroly came away with the conviction that a rigorous scientific formation was the only proper way to find solutions to the problems facing humanity... an ethic and a philosophy impregnated with science.

Decroly was particularly interested in the relationship of normal and pathological psychology and philosophy.

 In l907 he created a school for normal children The Hermitage School (l'Ecole de l'Ermitage) - a 'school for life, through life' ('ecole pour la vie, par la vie') still functions today. He realised that with the majority of children there is a latent interest in natural phenomena and this provides a wealth of subjects about which they can be led to think, talk, calculate and write about in the most normal and rational manner. In his time, Decroly had an international audience in the field of education. For successful results in schools of all kinds, he recommended an attentive and respectful attitude towards the originality of child - argued for the free expression of the child, his needs, and social harmony - an  argument based on his own scientific observations.

Decroly's holistic curriculum is based on the biological principles of human development... 'biological model' centered on the adaptation of the human organism to the natural and social environment:  The guiding principles of the the Decroly school in Brussels, are based on the recognition and respect for intrinsic human needs. Founded by experimental pedagogue Dr. Ovide Decroly (1871-1932), the school is for education for life. It is based on educational policies which which foster the maturation of intellect, of personal potential, of social intelligence, of individual capacities and sensitivites. Dr. Decroly's pedagogy is of significance to the definition of a rational basis for brain-based wholistic education.

Principles of the Decrolyen biological educative system... 'Decroly plan':

"To educate in its fullest sense is to create conditions in which the child can live - and is led by these conditions led to live-as fully as possible through each succeeding stage of his development, meeting and solving in his own experience the problems of each stage as it comes, and so gaining the power to meet and to solve the problems that await him in further stages. Such conditions it is for a school to provide". (Decroly cited by J.H. Badley, Dr. Ovide Decroly  ed. Albert Decordier, Amicale Rijksbasisonderwijs, Renaix, Belgium) 

The Decroly 'plan' is a biological model centered on the needs of the human organism for adaptation to the natural and social environment. 1.Children's needs are considered in terms of  the fact that the child is a behaving organism. 2.Consequently there is a rational biological basis for schooling 3. A rational curriculum is based on knowledge of biological needs which provide the themes for learning activities... survival needs for food and water, protection, defense. Cooperation in work is needed to satisfy the survival needs. In practice, each of these four fundamental needs of general interest are the object of study over several months of the school year. All the other activities converge on the central theme, the 'center of interest'. The four centers of interest are 1. need for nourishment 2. need for protection against the elments  3. need for defense against the various dangers to life 4. need for cooperation in work and development - important as a means for satisfying the first three needs... 'biosocial needs'.

The guiding principles of the Decroly school in Brussels are based on the recognition and respect for intrinsic human needs and 'metaneeds'. Founded by experimental pedagogue Dr. Ovide Decroly (1871-1932), the school is for education for life... it is based on educational policies which foster the maturation of intellect, of personal potential, of social intelligence, of individual capacities and sensitivites.

Self-preservation depends on productive work which involves skills of problem-solving and decision making; acquisition of food depends on knowledge of cultivation, preparation, nutrition etc.; acquisition of water depends on knowledge of ecology and successful defense depends on knowledge of biology, physiology, health protection etc.

The method uses a center of interest as a pivotal idea - an 'axis' of the curriculum - allowing for the expression of spontaneous motivation and at the same time serves as a springboard for gaining knowledge of the natural and social sciences. The stages of mental operations are followed in the learning process: first observation, then association in time and space and finally expression in written and verbal discussion. During the course of study, the program can be interrupted and time allowed for the pursuit of information regarding an important contemporary event which is presented in a manner appropriate to children's ages. Documentation in the way of objects for young children and pictures and texts for older children are collected by the children themselves, discussed and classified according to the prevailing themes of the center of interest. As a response to questions raised by children themselves, the method is successful in motivating children to learn. As a means of training children in the habit of consistent and integrating work, the method is successful in meeting the demands of intellectual study.

 The curriculum is based on children's instinctive motivation to satisfy the basic needs for self-respect and self-esteem in the process of mature growth or 'self-actualisation'. The curriculum includes opportunities for experiential enrichment through metamotivation to satisfy metaneeds.

The Decroly program is one which is designed around the biological needs of 'subjective biology' -the biologically based spiritual needs or 'metaneeds' of the value-life... the 'higher' pychological needs... as well as the physiological and basic psychological needs for self-esteem the 'ego needs'.

TO BE CONTINUED.....

We only understand when we create ourselves

 

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NOTES:

He explains himself briefly on the origin of his theoretical position but his pedagogical writings are significant in this regard. First he considers accomplished works, notably since the end of the eighteenth century, concerning abnormal children and takes interest in the studies of Seguin and Bourneville, the Abbe de l'Epee on the deaf and dumb, Valentin Hauy on the blind children, Pinel, Claparede, Condillac and Itard known for his attempt on the reeducation of 'l'enfant-sauvage' of Aveyron, France.

Establishments of scientific pedagogy were founded; l899 in Antwerp l906 in Liepzig; l9l2 in Geneva are some examples They were connected with universities. l9ll the first international congress of pedagogy with Decroly the president, activities interrupted by l9l4-l9l8 War l921 Congress an International League for new education was founded led to intense movement for the renovation of official schools; renovation of the school system. In Italy Montessori. John Dewey visited Turkey and schools adopted Decroly method. l896 The Active School-Dewey- inspirational idea for the American public

  Decroly 'method'... based on notion of 'globalization'...is brain-based pedagogy:Decroly's 'method' was valid because it was not supposed to be connected with any political or social doctrine but was based on the biological need of the human organism - a social animal - to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.

"The old education philosophy: children have to be 'taught' the values which adults admire. The 'new education' philosophy: to help children's auto-construction." "The new education is a revolution, but a revolution without violence. It is the nonviolent revolution." (Montessori, Maria. The Absorbent Mind. Translated from Italian by Claude A. Claremont. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1967. 215)  Montessori and Decroly were the founders of the 'new education' of the 20th century called the century of the child. Starting with the study of the 'abnormal' child, they combined techniques of their precursors with their own inventions. (Medici).

 Dewey - "How We Think" Global perception and mental activity (l'activite globalisatrice)

The fundamental purpose of education is 'learning for life'.

 Besse... synthesis of Decroly's work: reconstruction of his thoughts, ideas and principles on the basis of thorough reading and analysis of the texts of Dr. Decroly.

Avanzani: "Is there reproducibility of didactic models independent of their authors?"

Decroly inspired some of his disciples to reproduce the procedures which he initiated and others to promote his innovative attitude. Students of Decroly can adhere to either camp but in any even are of the conviction that in studying the past one is working for the future.

 Introduction: In his time, Decroly had an international audience in the field of education. For successful results in schools of all kinds, he recommended an attentive and respectful attitude towards the originality of childhood. The author proposes an argument - based on Decroly's scientific observations- for the free expression of the child, his needs, and social harmony.

 Decroly did not want to unify in one doctrinal synthesis the ensemble of his conceptions and principles of education and psychology. A picture of Decroly from his lectures, interests, his medical training and his own manner of facing reality - - It is in the role which he attributed to education, in the methods which he preconise to improve the functioning that we try to look for his theoretical position, if it is true that according to the expression of Auguste Lecompte, "every veritable system of education suppose the preliminary rise of a veritable philosophical and social doctrine which determine its nature and destination."("L'influence du positivisme dans l'oeuvre scolaire de J. Ferry", Paris, Lib. Riviere et Cie, l961, 255p)

It is in the role which he attributed to education, in the methods which he preconise to improve the functioning that we try to look for his theoretical position, if it is true that according to the expression of Auguste Lecompte, "every veritable system of education suppose the preliminary rise of a veritable philosophical and social doctrine which determine its nature and destination."("L'influence du positivisme dans l'oeuvre scolaire de J. Ferry", Paris, Lib. Riviere et Cie, l961, 255p)

 First fomulate a philosophical position as a basis for formulating a position of education and pedagogy.

 Decroly had faith in reason and the rational means of resolving problems. That is why education is the terrain for preparing for the future if it is conducted according to the right principles, which means that it is based on an objective knowledge and understanding of the child.

 Decroly's philosophical background for his theories on education...

 Decroly said education must be based on knowledge of progressive evolution of the young; one must regard the work from the point of view of the child... the aim of education should be the 'epanouissement de l'etre"

Decroly was influenced by Herbert Spencer, Comte

For a long time he contemplated the writings of the philosopher Herbert Spencer whose theses expose the foundations of an education finalisee par une demarche rationnelle et scientifique, and expressed the opinion that the most useful knowledge which children can acquire is science. Science in the sense of exact knowledge, (positive science by precise observation-see p.382 on Spencer Story of Philosophy by  Will Durant, Simon and Schuster, l926)

 These perspectives were combined with ideas of numerous pedagogues and psychologists of the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.

'Pains are the corellatives of actions injurious to the organism, while pleasures are correlatives of actions conducive to its welfare.' (Spencer Ethics)

Spencer admits that in our present culture many cases of 'perverted pleasure odf pain experience occur, and he explains this phenomenon by the contradictions and imperfections of society. He claims that 'with complete adjustment of humanity to the social state, will go recognition of the truths and actions are completely right only when, besides being conducive to future happiness, special and general, theya are immediately pleasurable, and that painfulness, not ultimate but proximate, is the concomotitant of actions that are wrong.' (page 52 Herbert Spencer, "The Principles of Ethics" Volume l New York, D. Appleton Co., l902)..

.Spencer parallels his theory of the biological function of pleasure with a sociological theory. He proposes that 'remoulding of human nature into fitness for the requirements of social life must eventually make all needful activities pleasurable, while it makes displeasurable activities at variance with these requirements.' (page l83 Spencer's Ethics) And further 'that the pleasure attending the use of means to achieve an end, itself becomes an end.'(Spencer's Ethics page l59

"In Spencer's Ethics we find one of the most comprehensive and systematic discussions of the pleasure principle, which we can use as an excellent starting point for further discussion. The key to Spencer's view of the pleasure-pain principle is the concept of evolution. He proposes that pleasure and pain have the biological function of stimulating man to act according to what is beneficial to him individually, as well as to the human race; they are therefore indispensable factors in the evolutionary process." (Fromm Man for Himself, Holt, Rhinehart, Winston New York l947 p. l77)

 The common effect of all these notions, to reach a better understanding of the child in order to elaborate a concept of education which respects the child's mental possibilities and the child's affective and physical needs. Everywhere one hopes to effectively mobilise the attention and the activity of the student. In order to reach these objectives, the school must adapt to the students, articulating the educational strategy starting from their interests instead of the preoccupation with the transmission of subject matter.A child-centered education  is proposed. The future of a people depends on the organization and the influence of the school ("C'est de l'organization et de l'influence de l'ecole que depend l'avenir d'un peuple." "Plaies sociales et remedes", Revue contemporaine, Molenbeek-Brussels, no.l, pp 2-6)

 AUGUSTE COMTE from Will Durant,Story of Philosophy, Simon Schuster l926: Auguste Compte associated with the beginnings of the "positivist" movement, born in Montpelier in l798. He idolized Benjamin Franklin and called him the "modern Socrates." He held the idea that social, like physical phenomena, might be explained by scientific rationality, and that one of the functions of philosophy (philosophical thought) should be to contribute ideas for the resolution of mankind's moral and political problems. Philosophy should focus on the moral and political problems of mankind. He wrote a five volume work entitled "Positive Philosophy" and a four volume work entitled "Positive Polity." He classified the sciences in the order in which the scientific method was applied to the study of the subject matter, thus mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and sociology. Historians could see three stages of development. At first,the subject was conceived in terms of problems explained by the will of some deity ("Will of God") and this was the theological perception. Next the subject was conceived in terms of problems explained by metaphysical abstraction (examples, Plato's "Ideas", Hegel's "Absolute Idea", stars moved in circles because circles were the most perfect figure). Finally the subject was conceived in terms of problems explained by precise observation, hypothesis and experiment. The scientific method was applied in the study of problems, which were then explained in terms of scientific theories and "laws" describing the regularities of natural cause and effect. Auguste Comte said that it was time for philosophers to abandon metaphysics and look to science; that philosophy was not different from science, but was the coordination of the sciences and its function was to improve human life. This was "Positivism." human history manifests the passage from theological to philosophical thought and then to "positive" or scientific reasoning. (Hence "positivists" and "positivism") Progress in human history is based on the growth of the capacity for reason to which scientists have contributed.

PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION

 AIMS OF EDUCATION FOR NEW SCHOOLS There have been many attempts by educationists to define the fundamental aim of education. These include l.learning to know 2. learning to do make a list of aims stated by people, say who, when and under what circumstances.

 A NEW MODEL FOR EDUCATIONAL THEORY AND PRACTICE Teachers must become facilitators of learning...for teachers to become facilitators, a new model for educational theory and practice is desperately needed. Brain research provides the evidence for a rational basis of brain-based learning and wholistic education. recognise childrem's biosocial needs growth need for motivation educate children according to the requirements of their basic biosocial needs. attempts to formulate 'aims of education' for 'the society' without regard or respect for the needs of those individuals who make up the 'society' are bound to fail. biological model: centered on the adaptation of the human organism to the natural and social environment,

The successful realization of a rational education depends on appropriately trained teachers.

 The method is based on children's biopsychological needs: the natural primary instincts for survival and self-protection, sustenance and food-getting the secondary instincts of curiosity, self-esteem, property ownership the social instincts.

This does not mean that teachers should subordinate their educational role to those children's immediate temporary interests which are not related to the intellectual demands of the learning process or the curriculum. ...guide teachers in their role as educators. (Decroly "La fonction de globalisation et l'enseignement" ed. Ecole Decroly l979)

According to Badley and the 'new schools',

"Ovide Decroly, psychologue et educateur" by Jean-Marie Besse, Editions Privat, l4 rue des Arts, Toulouse, France A synthesis of Decroly's work In the preface (by G. Avanzini) the author poses the question "Is there reproducibility of didactic models independent of their authors?" Writing on the basis of thorough reading and analysis of the texts of Dr. Decroly, he reconstructs his thoughts, ideas and principles. Decroly inspired some of his disciples to reproduce the procedures which he initiated and others to promote his innovative attitude. Students of Decroly can adhere to either camp but in any even are of the conviction that in studying the past one is working for the future.

First fomulate a philosophical position as a basis for formulating a position of education and pedagogy.

Research from the medical and pedagogic points of view on the abnormal is of great scientific and practical interest for the education and preservation of the normal. As hygiene was born from medicine, so mental hygiene i.e. preventative education against degeneracies and follies must arise mainly from medico-pedagogy. As our study of sickness has considerably enriched our knowledge of anatomy, physiology and biology, so a study of the abnormal must resolve a number of troublesome psychological enigmas and will help to unravel the marvellous mechanism of thoughts and feelings, of dreams and actions." (Ovide Decroly, "Le traitement et l'education des enfants irreguliers", L-mertin , Brussels, l925)  

 According to Badley and the 'new schools', THE FUNDAMENTAL PURPOSE OF EDUCATION IS LEARNING TO LIVE. "To educate in its fullest sense is to create conditions in which the child can live-and is led by these conditions led to live-as fully as possible through each succeeding stage of his development, meeting and solving in his own experience the problems of each stage as it comes, and so gaining the power to meet and to solve the problems that await him in further stages. Such conditions it is for a school to provide. ("BADLEY, J.H. from book "Dr. Ovide Decroly " Editor Albert Decordier, Amicale Rijksbasisonderwijs, Renaix, Belgium)

"Ovide Decroly, psychologue et educateur" by Jean-Marie Besse, Editions Privat, l4 rue des Arts, Toulouse, France A synthesis of Decroly's work In the preface (by G. Avanzini) the author poses the question "Is there reproducibility of didactic models independent of their authors?" Writing on the basis of thorough reading and analysis of the texts of Dr. Decroly, he reconstructs his thoughts, ideas and principles. Decroly inspired some of his disciples to reproduce the procedures which he initiated and others to promote his innovative attitude.

 In his time, Decroly had an international audience in the field of education. For successful results in schools of all kinds, he recommended an attentive and respectful attitude towards the originality of childhood. The author proposes an argument - based on Decroly's scientific observations- for the free expression of the child, his needs, and social harmony. Decroly did not want to unify in one doctrinal synthesis the ensemble of his conceptions and principles of education and psychology. A picture of Decroly from his lectures, interests, his medical training and his own manner of facing reality - It is in the role which he attributed to education, in the methods which he preconise to improve the functioning that we try to look for his theoretical position, if it is true that according to the expression of Auguste Lecompte, "every veritable system of education suppose the preliminary rise of a veritable philosophical and social doctrine which determine its nature and destination."("L'influence du positivisme dans l'oeuvre scolaire de J. Ferry", Paris, Lib. Riviere et Cie, l961, 255p)

"Ovide Decroly, psychologue et educateur" by Jean-Marie Besse, Editions Privat, l4 rue des Arts, Toulouse, France A synthesis of Decroly's work In the preface (by G. Avanzini) the author poses the question "Is there reproducibility of didactic models independent of their authors?" Writing on the basis of thorough reading and analysis of the texts of Dr. Decroly, he reconstructs his thoughts, ideas and principles. Decroly inspired some of his disciples to reproduce the procedures which he initiated and others to promote his innovative attitude. Students of Decroly can adhere to either camp but in any even are of the conviction that in studying the past one is working for the future. Introduction: In his time, Decroly had an international audience in the field of education. For successful results in schools of all kinds, he recommended an attentive and respectful attitude towards the originality of childhood. The author proposes an argument - based on Decroly's scientific observations- for the free expression of the child, his needs, and social harmony. Decroly did not want to unify in one doctrinal synthesis the ensemble of his conceptions and principles of education and psychology. A picture of Decroly from his lectures, interests, his medical training and his own manner of facing reality - It is in the role which he attributed to education, in the methods which he preconise to improve the functioning that we try to look for his theoretical position, if it is true that according to the expression of Auguste Lecompte, "every veritable system of education suppose the preliminary rise of a veritable philosophical and social doctrine which determine its nature and destination."("L'influence du positivisme dans l'oeuvre scolaire de J. Ferry", Paris, Lib. Riviere et Cie, l961, 255p) First fomulate a philosophical position as a basis for fprmulating a position of education and pedagogy.

(Spencer Ethics) Spencer admits that in our present culture many cases of 'perverted pleasure of pain experience occur, and he explains this phenomenon by the contradictions and imperfections of society. He claims that 'with complete adjustment of humanity to the social state, will go recognition of the truths and actions are completely right only when, besides being conducive to future happiness, special and general, they are immediately pleasurable, and that painfulness, not ultimate but proximate, is the concomotitant of actions that are wrong.' (page 52 Herbert Spencer, "The Principles of Ethics" Volume l New York, D. Appleton Co., l902)...

Spencer parallels his theory of the biological function of pleasure with a sociological theory. He proposes that 'remoulding of human nature into fitness for the requirements of social life must eventually make all needful activities pleasurable, while it makes displeasurable activities at variance with these requirements.' (page l83 Spencer's Ethics) And further 'that the pleasure attending the use of means to achieve an end, itself becomes an end.'(Spencer's Ethics page l59) (page 52 Herbert Spencer, "The Principles of Ethics" Volume l New York, D. Appleton Co., l902)..

"L'ecole pour la vie, par la vie et Ovide Decroly" by Jeanne Jadot-Decroly et Jean-Emile Segers , Brussels translated from book: Dr. Ovide Decroly, Ed. Albert Decordier, Amicale Rijksbasisonderwijs, Renaix, Belgium (78-85) According to Docteur Edouard Claparede, Dr. Decroly changed the school (in Belgium) dramatically. "...d'une prison de l'enfance, il a fait un petit paradis." Decroly was a medical doctor interested in neurology and psychtiatry who focused on abnormal children, "l'enfance anormal", named by him as "l'enfant irregulier" and defined as the child unable to adapt to familial and school environments, is consequently unable to fulfill a useful role in society and thus constitutes a potential burden if not danger to the society. He held that given the appropriate educational opportunities, the 'irregular' children could become normal, at least able to avoid becoming a burden of a danger to their their fellow human beings. To this end, he studied each case in order to find the cause of the child's retardation or anomaly. On the basis of this scientific research, Dr. Decroly proposed first, that the child be placed in an environment capable of stimulating and fostering the activities necessary for his adaptation to the milieu in which he would have to live upon reaching adulthood; second, that the goal to be reached should be proportional to the child's physical and mental capabilities. These pedagogical experiences and experiments led to his thorough understanding of the obviously innate need of the child to learn to adapt to the environment. He adamantly opposed the conditions of the Belgian traditional schools, constructed more like army barracks, in which teaching methods were rigid and authoritarian, and where children were perceived as lifeless beings. Instead he perceived of the classroom as a "pis-aller". As a result, the school which he created became a 'school for life, through life' (ecole pour la vie, par la vie). His school was situated in the country, with animals to raise, seeds to plant and harvest, and with many occasions to observe, and be active in real life. Decroly realised that with the majority of children there is a latent interest in natural phenomena, providing a wealth of subjects about which they can be led to think, talk, calculate and write about in the most normal and rational manner. ("Je me suis penetre de la verite I realized the truthg that with the majority of pupils, the latent interest for natural things, beings and phenomena,of que chez la majorite des eleves, l'interet latent pour les choses de la nature, etre et phenomenes, would make it possible find a n inexhaustible mine of subjects to permettrait d'y trouver une mine inepuisable de sujets capable with the capacity of serving as a pretext for thinking, discussing, calculating and writing about in the most normaland rational manner de servir de pretextes a penser, a parler, a calculer et a ecrire de la maniere la plus normale et la plus rationelle." He declared that the traditional school program, predomonantly preoccupied with the its aim of general knowledge, was at fault in failing to take into account the knowledge of child psychology. Decroly wanted to formulate a program which would incorporate this knowledge and which in the meantime a value like initiation to the intellectual heritage of humanity,"qui ait cependent une valeur comme initiation au patrimoine intellectual de l'humanite, which would be like qui soit comme un raccourci an abridged version of the experience of men and could serve as a means of general cuylturede l'experience des hommes et puisse servir de moyen de culture generale. He wanted to ... an ensemble of subject matter ble toserve as opportunities for teaching Il a voulu agencer un ensemble de matieres puvant servir d'occasions d'enseignement, qui exerce harmonieusement which at the same time would exercise the varied facultiles diverses facultes de l'enfant tout en le prparant aa comprendred les grandes lois de la vie et dela nature, et tout en mettant a sa portee les richesses scientifiques et artistiques accumules par les generations qui l'ont precede. Dans ce but, il s'est efforce de tenir compte de l'etat actuel de la science psychologiqde l'enfant d'une part, des necessites socialeset de l'ambiance dans laquelle l'enfant devra vivre dautre part. Il s'est pose la question suivante: 'Que doivent connaitre tous les enfants ; et quelles sont les connaissances pour lesquelles ils ont le plus d'interet?' Decroly repond: 'CE QUI L"IMPORTE LE PLUS D"ETRE CONNU PAR L"ENFANT, C"EST LUI_MEME EN TOUT PREMIER LIEU: comment il est fait, comment fonctionnent ses organes, a quoi ils servent, comment il mange, respire, dort, travaille, joue; comment fonctionnent ses sens et comment remuent ses membres, surtout ses mains, et quels services ils lui rendent; pourquoi il a faim, soif, froid, sommeil; pourquoi il a peur ou se fache; quels sont ses defauts et ses qualites." The basis of Decroly's pedagogy was self-knowledge and the reasons for self-knowledge. It is natural that a child wants to understand himself, the environment and the world in which he lives. This fundamental affective characteristic-the child's interest, sign of profound needs and feelings-provides the most effective lever for motivation in the learning process. The evolution of interest with development, extensively studied by psychologists, is therefore central to an effective means of education, with the different areas of subject matter connected to each other as well as to the child's experiences, thus forming an ensemble, an organic whole. Decroly considered the relevance of these studies to the formulation of a school program for six to twelve year old children. The causes for interest are not always the same and it is not always possible to know a child's reasons for a particular interest. For example, one's interest in a fruit could stem from a number of reasons depending on whether the purpose is to eat it, to draw it, to paint it, to study its composition, or to examine the structure. The evolution of interests is determined by several factors, notably the evolution of instincts and tendencies, intellectual capacities for the manipulation of symbols in speaking and writing, influence of the environment and experiences, education, imitation and habits. In formulating a program, the evolution of each particular child must be considered as well as the evolution of the child in general. Decroly based his program and teaching method on the essential needs which are common to all children such as the need for food, shelter, protection from danger, need for activity, for work, for recreation, and for adaptation to the group. In a setting with materials appropriate to the needs of their age, children are motivated by their latent interests to engage in meaningful learning activities. By way of imitation as well as appropriate organization of environment and activities, children could develop that most important habit - working with joy. Thus Decroly's program for schools, based on instinctive passion for knowledge and learning, was centered logically around the motivating interest of the child. With regard to the methods of teaching the subject matter, Decroly criticised traditional procedures, especially the divisions into disciplines, and the parcelling of time into units of a schedule which continually distracted the child's attention. Worse still, school life experiences were disconnected from real life experiences at home and in the world outside. In the traditional system, the child's role was to be an obedient listener and follow the instructions of an authoritarian teacher. Using traditional teacher centered methods of subject presentation, the child was denied the right to learn the means by which he could develop his own capacity for thought necessary for adaptation and survival to the social environment. According to Decroly's reasoning, the traditional methods effectively ruined the crucial factor for motivation towards effective learning - a child's spontaneous interest. He reasoned that if effective learning is the aim of education and if motivation is generated by the child's spontaneous interest, then for effective learning to take place, that interest must be maintained. He affirmed that the crucial factor for the effective maintenance of interest in the subject matter is the proper development of the child's powers of concentration. In order to be able to maintain their interest in the subject matter, children must be permitted and encouraged to concentrate on one idea, one theme, several related ideas or several related themes around a central interest. This principle is in conformity with principles of child psychology, according to which the various mechanisms of intellectual thought processes function, not in isolation, but simultaneously or in very rapid succession. Furthermore, in the normal development of cerebral mechanisms for sane and intelligent thought processes, the effective functioning of the neural circuits in the higher brain or cerebrum requires proper impulses from the lower brain which functions in the processing of information from the senses(Footnote from Korzybski).

 Decroly's reasoning for his method of teaching was the following: given that, for the child, the aim of education is effective learning; given that the crucial factor for the generation of motivation towards effective learning is a child's spontaneous interest; given that the crucial factor for the maintenance of the child's motivation is the proper development of concentration; then the most effective method of teaching would be one which maintains the motivation arising from the child's spontaneous interest. With such a method, school activities revolve around a central core of interest. Decroly called his method "la methode des centres d'interet" (the method of central interests).

 For the child in any democratic society, the aim of education is effective learning, which implies both the acquisiton of knowledege and the ability to think. Therefore it is logical to present subject matter using a format whereby the various school experiences are related to one central idea, theme or interest. In the process of effectively learning the required content of the subject matter, the child learns how to think.

 "The looking within for the real self is a kind of 'subjective biology' for it must include an effort to become conscious of one's own constitutional, temperamental, anatomical, physiological and biochemical needs, capacities and reactions i.e. one's biological individuality. It is also the path to experiencing one's specieshood, one's commoness with all other members of the human species. That is, it is a way to experiencing our biological brotherhood with all human beings no matter what their external circumstances.(185.. It should be possible to design an educational program around the instinctive needs of 'subjective biology', the 'metaneeds' as well as the basic physiological and psychological needs."  (Maslow, A. Psychology of Being. )

 "Obviously instinctive in nature, the basic physiological and psychological needs come under the rubric of 'subjective biology.' The similarly biologically based 'metaneeds' come under the same rubric although they are less urgent and weaker than the basic psychological needs. Consequently the education of the spiritual needs, the 'metaneeds,' can be fostered through the acknowledgement, encouragement and enforcement of the individual's instinctive yearning for truth, beauty etc., the individual's capacity for 'metamotivation.' The individual's capacities for experiential richness should be 'teachable.'"

 Education in Belgium was not yet compulsory when Decroly was suggesting that the methods in use at the time would have disastrous effects if they were implemented for compulsory education

 Decroly and the biological model: centered on the adaptation of the human organism to the social environment... biosocial needs.

 His 'method' was valid because it was not supposed to be connected with any political or social doctrine but was based on the biological need of the human organism - a social animal - to be able to adapt to the social environment.

 Decroly demonstrated the importance of the affective, emotional environment as children grow up and learn . Proper emotional development needs love... a necessary factor for the proper development of rational thought, confidence and courage.

 Decroly 'method' as brain-based pedagogy Dr. Ovide Decroly, Belgian medical doctor, psychologist and pedagogue asked the question "For the child, what is the aim of education?"

(The Active School and School Open on Life (l'Ecole Ouverte Sur La Vie)

 DECROLY METHOD AS A LOGICAL INNOVATION

 

References


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DECROLY METHOD AS LOGICAL INNOVATION The presentation and analysis of the Decroly method "depend on careful organization of ideas and unimpassioned arguments." What are some of the main ideas of the Decroly method and how can these ideas be effectively organized? What are 'unimpassioned arguments?' What are some 'unimpassioned arguments' in favor of the Decroly method? The Decroly method as a logical innovation because it is reasonable... based on 'reason' solving problems with rational means... scientifically - using scientific method...

Decroly had faith in reason and the rational means of resolving problems "...education is the terrain for preparing for the future if it is conducted according to the right principles, which means that it is based on an objective knowledge and understanding of the child."

 What are the criteria for qualifying the Decroly method as 'reasonable?' It is appealing because it has an "orderly, sensible probability of working."

The guiding principles of Decroly's method for teaching and learning are not based on some theoretical notions a priori, but on the nature and the needs of the child. The principles are always fresh and effective.

DECROLY METHOD AS A REASONABLE INNOVATION: The Decroly method is a pedagogical system based on principles of biology and psychology... reasonable because it is based on biological principles. The method is a biological model centered on the needs of the human organism for adaptation to the natural and social environment. The 'program' is organized around the child's characteristically wholistic perspective realized from the child's point of view... is philosophically valid, scientific and humane. The Decroly 'method' is brain-based pedagogy. The Decroly method tends to organize a narrow reciprocity between the needs and activities of the child and the environment. An individual is only validated to the extent that he can develop all his innate affective, intellectual and moral aptitudes but sain development and even any development, is possible if it is perpetually oriented towards the environment, regulated and controlled by the environment. The child's development must take place in the framework of the environment, and for the environment, that is to say at the heart of the environment to which he must adapt. Decroly drew these conclusions on the basis of his profound, healthy, and vigorous sense of reality. In the framework of the Decroly principles, what is meant by respect for the 'free' expression of children's curiosity and needs? The Decroly method comprising globalisation in teaching, centres of interest, successive learning processes of observation, association and expression, is based on scientific experiment and takes into account some of the characteristic aspects of children's mentality. In addition the school environment is arranged and equipped to favor the children's naturally spontaneous tendencies to be fully expressed. Decroly recognized the inherent risks of the practical applications of his principles. The method requires individual freedom of expression within a context of collective freedom. However it is important that teachers be instructed to appreciate the significance of 'freedom in education'. It does not mean allowing children complete freedom. Allowing the growing child complete 'freedom' meaning 'license' - as the word is commonly interpreted - could encourage children to express their negative tendencies: to be greedy, crude, rude, noisy, gossipy, restless, dirty, cruel, undisciplined, disobedient, rebellious, lazy and so on.

Consequently it is important for the development of children in a stable school setting that interests of the group have priority over individual interests. When there is conflict between individual and collective freedom of expression, it is in the interest of the individuals if the group's interests have priority. Yet allowing the growing child complete 'freedom' meaning 'responsible freedom' can and does encourage children to express their favorable tendencies, to be civil, polite, considerate, sincere, loyal, tolerant, kind, generous, self-disciplined, thoughtful, cooperative, hygienic, careful, industrious and so on. In order to favor children's constructive freedom of expression the educational environment must be designed, arranged and organized according to their developmental instincts, needs and interests. When children are free to exercise their own self-discipline and responsibility to themselves and their group, the problem of discipline is effectively managed. Allowing the child freedom means helping children to discover their world; it means helping them to discover for themselves what they can and like to do; it means helping them prepare the vocation of their future; it means letting them use their imagination; it means letting them be constructive and creative; it means letting them build something good from their own inventions. Teachers working in the context of principles which respect the freedom of children must be properly informed and trained in the rational guidelines of the 'method' which Decroly investigated scientifically and to which he and others were committed. Effective teachers respect children's humanity and their human needs, discourage and restrict children's negative and destructive tendencies, acknowledge and encourage children's positive tendencies. ...pedagogical principles based on experimental studies, he proposed a global, wholistic view of the questions of childhood and education. He emphasized that it is impossible to treat educational questions in a fragmentary fashion: like the adult, the child is a 'psychic whole' with different aspects of personality and character which are connected. To fully understand the child one must address the 'whole child'. (See p. 147)

("Qu'entend-on par education nouvelle et comment la realiser?", Vers l'Ecole Active, no.l0, pp. 145-151 l930) He based his psychopedagogical method on a solid foundation of the objective understanding of the child based on scientific observation. In view of the psychobiological need for the child to adapt eventually to the adult social environment, it is necessary to obtain information regarding the modes of learning specific to each developmental stage and chronological age. Taking into account the characteristic mental processes of each developmental stage, effective methods of a rational education can be designed to incorporate those activities which are conducive to the child's own objectives in thinking, in feeling and in working. In curriculum planning, the formulation of a general aim is bound to lead to failure. In designing a curriculum and an educational environment it is important to bear in mind that "a child is not what you want him to be but what he himself can be." "L'enfant n'est pas ce que l'on veut, il est ce qu'il peut" (cited by Xirotiris. E. "Les ecoles experimentales et les progres de l'education" Athenes, Alikoitis, l56 300p) A curriculum should be designed within the framework of two basic questions: the first, what does the child desire to learn as a child and what must he know as an adult? the second, at different stages of his development, what can the child learn with advantage? ("Psychologie du dessin", l'Ecole nationale, Bruxelles, vol. 5, no. l8, pp. 546-548) Decroly was interested in all aspects of the child's character and personality, including the genetic psychology, affectivity, intelligence and others. This wholistic view of the child along with his clinical experience and scientific investigation of the child were the predominant personal features which influenced his formulation of a psychopedagogical 'method' of education. As he reasoned, everything which contributes to a better understanding of the child must necessarily lead to an improvement of education and thence to an improvement in the quality of social life. Decroly was convinced that with a 'science of education' the scientist-pedagogue and educator could make a significant contribution to the improvement of humanity. ...of learning constitute a rational foundation for the formulation of effective pedagogical methods. With increased emphasis on the integrating factor of a global perspective, the different branches of school subject matter are perceived in terms of their interrelationships, increasing the effectiveness of the learning process. (Decroly "La fonction de globalisation et l'enseignement" ed. Ecole Decroly l979)

The representation or knowledge of subject matter can only be genuinely understood when the student discovers the understanding for himself without explanation. We only understand when we create ourselves. It is to Decroly's credit to have shown the common source for all the different types of expression: gesture, mimicry, drawing and language. With these forms of expression which he learns from the society, the child recreates and in his turn contributes to the society. Through the various forms of expression, the child learns to adapt and integrate into the society setting up a perpetual two way communication. The Decroly principles are applicable to the secondary level of education. Modifications should take into account the two characteristic traits of adolescents. First, the emergence of altruistic sentiments can be directed to the acquisition of knowledge of human beings in general. Second is the need of adolescents to understand the logical reasoning behind the information. Their observation extends beyond their immediate natural and social environment. They observe people of former times through their literary, historic and geographic activities, through sciences, technologies and civilizations. Young peoples' intelligence and sensibilities are enriched through the contact of the intelligence and sensibilities of people who lived before them. Secondary education studies should be the literary, historic, geographic, esthetic and scientific humanities. From Fasicule number 35, l983 of Documents Pedagogiques Ecole Decroly, Dreve de Gendarmes, 45 Bruxelles Article: The biological foundations of the system of Dr. Decroly by P. Brien, professor of Brussels University, taken from "La Semaine Pedagogique Dr. Ovide Decroly". Editor Labor, La Louviere l934

 The practical and philosophical conclusions drawn from the scientific work of Decroly, the "decrolyen principles of education", have their foundations in the knowledge of the biology of the human organism. Trained as a medical doctor, Decroly remained a biologist, applying his medical training throughout his career in the study of child development and pedagogy. In the same way that a naturalist would observe any animal in nature, he studied the child in order to understand the human organism.  In the same way that every organism is born into an environment, the child is born into a social environment. The growth processes of the human organism involve external environmental factors as well as internal genetic, physiological and psychological.The resulting interdependence betweeen the organism and its environment forms the basis of the decrolyen principles of education. With this solid biological basis, the pedagogical principles which he formulated can be adapted to new needs and circumstances. They do not constitute any rigid theory and continue to be original, flexible and fruitful. They remain valid and effective for each new generation of children and for children in different cultural and social environments. The growth of an organism depends on intrinsic organismal factors and external environmental factors. The organismal factors of interest to the educator are those connected with the child's psychology. An understanding of the child's psychological make-up requires objectivity and tenderness. Decroly's love for children explains the depth and practical value of his pedagogical conceptions. The environmental factors of interest to the educator are connected with the complex social milieu, comprising ethnic, moral, cultural, religious and economic values. The formulation of a valid pedagogy, involving a synthesis of biology, psychology and sociology, requires the educator's constant and intense investigation. Decroly conferred prestige on the educator's important role in society. Decroly's pedagogy is not individualist. It does not subscribe to any doctrine which assumes that the individual, and not society, is the aim of eduction. The maturation of the child is not perceived as a rare and solitary creation, but a natural process. The child naturally develops in harmony with the social environment, with the society, its functions, its laws and its capacities for individual freedom of action and thought. Decroly's pedagogy is not designed to be of service to some state, regime or political doctrine, but is based on the biological and social needs of children. Characteristically humane, his pedagogy is based on universal human needs and is applicable in any human society. In the context of his educational principle of organism-environment, Decroly understood that biology, psychology and pedagogy were interrelated. Developing in parallel, these three sciences had different languages, methods and points of view. Since the end of the nineteenth century, it has been recognized that both psychology and pedagogy can be understood only in the context of the fundamental biological concept of the species as a group of genetically similar individuals. Although human individuals exist as a function of the genetic legacy of the abstract human species, each child as an individual human organism has a unique genetic endowment. Children cannot be treated as a group for the implementation of some philosophical doctrine. Therefore, to educate the individual child means allowing that individual human organism to grow, live, and manifest his unique individual functions and capacities in a social environment. The aim of education is to favor and foster the harmonious and total growth of the human organism. For this reason, the psychologist and the pedagogue must think in terms of biology more than in terms of philosophy.

 The principles of the Decroly conception of pedagogy can be outlined in the following way: First, the teacher treats the children individually and with respect. Not only does each child have a unique genetic legacy and a unique preschool home environment, but goes though many changes during his development. The adult stage represents the synthesis of the preceding morphological, physiological, and psychological stages. Second, the great art of the educator is to match the pedagogy with the potentialities of each stage of the child's development. As a biologist, Decroly came to this conclusion from his studies of child develpment (psychogenese) which he did with the ingenious wisdom and perspicacity of the biologist when he analysed abnormal and backward children the psychic mechanism involved was called "syncretism" also known also as "globalizastion." The psychic mechanism of the young child and the animal follow the same process. Each has an approximate global perception which seems like an immediate and hasty generalization, with the difference that the generalization proper is conscious and is realized after thought and analysis. With the child and the animal, globalization is spontaneous and unconscious. He analyses in order to reach a perception of the concrete at a later stage. From this principle which modifies the classical concept of psychology, Decroly derived his famous method of "globalization" which is one of the characteristic features of his system. Third, in education, everything is directed towards the child, and everything radiates from the child ("C'est vers l'enfant que tout se dirige, c'est de l'enfant que tout rayonne"). His sensitive study of the life and growth of animals and children resulted in his method of "centers of interest" ("centres d'interet"), the most important and most original of Decroly's concepts. This method conforms so well to the nature of the psychic development of the child that one is astonished it took so long to discover it. To understand it required a naturalist pedagogue. Education methods using the centres of interest technique are adaptable to each individual student, allowing for variation in styles of teaching. The educational principles of Decroly are based on the concept of the biological interrelationship between organism and environment. An animal society, of whatever species, originates from the process of interattraction, an imperative need to live in contact with other members of the society, a sort of unavoidable tropism towards its fellow beings. The animal asociations which result from interattraction range from the group to the society. The social animal cannot develop or even survive if torn away from the group. Modern man of the human species is an intelligent social animal, with the scientific name of "homo sapiens" meaning "knowing man." The environment for the human organism and thus the developing child is a social environment. As a social being the child can only develop in the context of a group or society. It is here that the Decroly principles reach their highest moral and social significance. Social life is the result of a profound need, even a physiological need known as the process of interattraction. The child experiences this interattraction particularly for other children. Excluding older children and adults, young children form groups, which represent little worlds of activity, illusions, dreams etc. For their own physical and spiritual development, they formulate moral codes which are manifested as group ethics. As a biologist and psychologist, Decroly understood perfectly this imperative social need and the repercussions for education and pedagogy. In effect, the need for contact between members of the human society and the fundamental process of interattraction constituted the biological basis for the decrolyan pedagogical principles. In the Decroly school, the class becomes the social environment which the children create in the spiritual plane which is their own. If we return to the essential character of an animal society, we note that the interaction experienced by the members of the group leads to a coordinating interaction. As a result the society becomes a synthesis, and each animal no longer the same as when alone, lives and behaves as a function of the group. The quality of the interaction between the individuals depends on their psychological make-up. Animal societies are not always identical. Insect societies will be different from higher animal societies. As they are on different levels, they cannot be compared. For the same reason, the evolution of societies in different groups of vertebrates is a function of psychic development. Coordination and social life are most developed amongst the higher mammals. Amongst the higher mammals, the best organized societies are the human societies. The human society is graded into hierarchies, under the leadership of a chief. Members of the group work in collaboration towards the common goal which is the welfare of the individuals in the group. The society is consolidated by the development of the social conscience and the eminently social values of cooperation, courage and abnegation. The richer the psychological faculties of the individuals, the higher the level of social conscience. In the human species, the form of society and the social conscience vary according to the types of human beings. For the same type of human being, they vary according to the history and type of civilization. The social conscience and the force of human societies is a function of the spiritual development of the individual human beings. The "higher" the civilization, the "higher" the values and civic responsibilties of the members of the society. The education of children must be implemented in view of this "law". This is the main preoccupation of the Decroly school. Not only is the school a microcosm of the society, but it is an open social environment incorporated in the larger social environment into which chilren are born. The school integrates with the society, participating in the social activities, getting involved with the social problems, and contributing to social awareness and the social conscience. During his school education as the child grows and develops, his faculties of intelligence and sensibility mature and strengthen, and he learns through the appropriate pedagogical methods to adapt and contribute to the human society of which he is a self-respecting and responsible member. There is no conflict between the individual and society, no more than there is between an individual and his environment. Similarly, there is no conflict between the individual student and the social environment of the school, characterized by the awareness of each person's human dignity and respect for each person' s individuality. By way of the decrolyan pedagogical principles, each person's individuality is formed and strengthened in harmony with the society within the school, itself indispensable to the physical, moral and intellectual development of the children. As a microcosm of the society, the school is in a position of responsibility to the child and to the society. According to Decroly's ideal for education, as the personality grows, the social conscience grows with it in a way that the society is enriched and consolidated in the common respect for human dignity.