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UNDERGRADUATE PREPARATION FOR ADMISSION



TO A PRESERVICE PROGRAM IN TEACHER EDUCATION



QUES. Should students applying for admission to a preservice program in teacher education be required to have taken some course or courses in the social and behavioral sciences regardless of the nature of their undergraduate degree?

ANS. Since the students we train are to be teachers automatically certified upon graduation to teach in this province, and since they will be teaching children and youth, not simply Math or English, should they not be required to know something about the people, the culture and the society in which they will be teaching? A basic understanding the social and behavioral sciences would appear in this case to be an appropriate prerequisite for admission to a teacher education program.

QUES. What subjects are traditionally included in the category of social and behavioral sciences?

ANS. A panel(1) recently commissioned by the American Association for the Advancement of Science suggested a list of subjects they considered would comprise a common core of learning that all students should acquire in psychology and the social sciences. This panel named the fields of developmental and social psychology, sociology, economics, statistics, mathematics, political science, public opinion polling, cultural anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, speech and language, psychiatry, psychoneurology, cognitive science, history of science, ethics and science journalism.(2)

QUES. Does the Report of this distinguished Panel say anything that might be useful in our review of the Educational Psychology program at FEUT?

ANS. Two points in the report are worth noting in response to this question:



* that North American students are falling behind other countries in science, math and technology;

* that we need to teach our students to be more systematic in assessing so-called common-sense conclusions about people and society.

QUES. Did the Panel arrive at any recommendations about what should be included in a curriculum for basic social and behavioral science literacy?

ANS. Several subjects were given special mention. First is PERCEPTION.(3) Members of the panel noted that "human come to know the world through sensory receptors...." The panel pointed out that it is important for an educated person to know that incoming information is greatly filtered and coded by the sensory system and that the processing involved is complex and not a single, linear transformation.

Another important important subject is COGNITION. Here the student would learn that cognitions are variously described as attitudes, ;beliefs, concepts, feelings, images, propositions, prototypes, schemas, symbols, thoughts, and so on.

CONSCIOUSNESS is also mentioned as a subject of importance. The report describes consciousness as a state of awareness of only a selected portion of the individual's memories, psychological processes and sensory input. Skills like walking and running, once learned, become largely automatic, permitting a relatively uncluttered consciousness to deal with the immediate demands of living.

LEARNING is another important psychological process to understand. Instruction in learning should include the principles of reinforcement as well as punishment and Pavlovian and operant conditioning.

THE CONCEPT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH AND ADJUSTMENT should also be understood. Norms of adjustment vary from culture to culture; this is important knowledge; and these norms can be broadly or narrowly defined and also can change over time. Psychological stressors (like threats, disappointments, demands for major changes or orientation, or behavior to adapt to new situations) interact with the individual's endocrine, immune, visceral and nervous system in determining vulnerability to disease.

THE CONCEPT OF PSYCHOPATHOLOGY should also have an important place in the general curriculum of the educated graduate. Behaviors, thoughts and emotions are likely to be judged as psychopathological when they are sufficiently problematic for the individual or society that the individual becomes dysfunctional, requiring some kind of special attention. Practising teachers soon become aware the kinds of dysfunctional behavior that can occur in the classroom thus posing special problems for the teacher and the school system.

Understanding of the principles of EVOLUTION as they apply to the development of the individual from infancy to childhood, adolescence and adulthood is also a matter of significance for understanding behavior. Here the mechanisms of survival, the relative importance of heredity and environmental determinism should be understood. For example, that what we inherit are not traits but the potential to develop certain traits under certain conditions, thus leading to a great diversity among individuals, posing a special challenge to the teachers who have to deal with large groups of children from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Questions must be addressed such as are there many human characteristics that universal at different stages of development? Are individual attributes relatively stable, like intelligence and certain temperamental or personality characteristics? Or are they too subject to change to the extent to which the environment encourages or discourages their development or maintenance? To what extent can the teacher influence these universal or personal or cultural characteristics of individuals? The teacher needs to understand that development in normal children is characterized by the regular appearance of a set of universal qualities at particular ages, that the role of the environment in development is also important For example, if the environment fails to provide specific kinds of stimulation at the right time, appropriate biological and psychological development may fail to occur.

And finally the panelists agreed that the social and behavioral sciences must inform questions of good and evil. No other issues are as important. To quote the Report, "As part of their instruction in the social and behavioral sciences, students should be helped to recognize - and to appreciate the subtleties of - the moral and ethical implications and consequences ;of different courses of action and inaction."

1. 1The Panel was headed by Mortimer H. Appley, president emeritus of Clark University in Worcester, Mass., including psychologists Jerome Kagan, professor of developmental psychology at Harvard and R. Duncan Luce, distinguished professor of Cognitive Science at the University of California at Irvine.

2. 2It is interesting to note in reading Erindale College's 1988-1989 Principal's Report that student enrollment in the social sciences is approximately one and one-half times greater than enrollment in the humanities and slightly greater than enrollment in the sciences.

3. 3For more information, the report Project 2061 can be ordered from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1333 H St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20005.