Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Democracy Education and the Promotion of Collectivist Pedagogy

Karen L Bohlke, Student, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership & Change

Collectivism and individualism are widely recognized as the most important aspect of culture and communication impacting the highly human relational fields of psychology, social work, and education. In the field of education, collectivism is attracting recognition as a determinate consideration impacting educational outcomes, classroom management, and the purpose of teaching and learning, particularly relevant in light of increasing economic inequity, institutional racism, and the decline of social cohesion. Collectivism affirms interdependence, other-interestedness, mutuality, equity, and care for holism and sustainability, which includes ecological sustainability and embraces communitarian values (Hofsted 1980, Triandis 1989, Lodge, 2009).

The purpose of this study was to contribute to the development and promulgation of pedagogy promoting collectivist world-view. It examined the impact of Democracy Education pedagogy, a self-transformation through social participation approach to teaching and learning developed at the Institute for Community Leadership (ICL). The research draws on 16 years of programming provided by the ICL, in 62 predominately low-income, racially diverse, urban, rural, and tribal school districts of Washington, Oregon, California, and Florida. Former student and teacher participant survey data was collected and analyzed for transformative and emancipatory relevance. A mixed method, quantitative and qualitative research approach provided a complementary, iterative-analytic assessment, optimizing elaboration, illustration, and clarification. A survey measuring collectivism and individualism (Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk, & Gelfand, 1995) was included in the student survey.

The research findings support the hypothesis that collectivist worldview can be taught and learned. Evidence of increased collectivism was found in correlation to increased length of time student participants were in the Democracy Education program. Above average collectivist scores were registered by 86.4% of the student respondents. This indicated a high associational value favoring teachability and learnability of collectivism. The study illuminates conduct, character, and consciousness affiliated with collectivist worldview and documents the impact of their acquisition. Analysis of impact was organized around four themes: significance for the individual learner; educational method and practice; educational philosophy and worldview; and the relationship between collectivism and individualism. Collectivism is weighed as an essential consideration for the sustainability and advancement of democracy.

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