Barbara Rogoff – children development and cultural learning

Barbara Rogoff is UCSC Foundation Distinguished Professor of Psychology. She is a Fellow of the National Academy of Education, Association for Psychological Sciences, American Anthropological Association, American Psychological Association, and American Educational Research Asociation. She has been Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Kellogg Fellow, Spencer Fellow, and Osher Fellow of the Exploratorium. She has served as Editor of Human Development and committee member on the Science of Learning for the U.S. National Academy of Science. She received the 2013 Award for Distinguished Lifetime Contributions to Cultural and Contextual Factors in Child Development, from the Society for Research in Child Development. Her recent books have also received major awards: Learning Together: Children and Adults in a School Community (Oxford, 2001, Finalist for the Maccoby Award of Division 7 of the American Psychological Association); The Cultural Nature of Human Development (Oxford, 2003; William James Book Award of Division 1 of the American Psychological Association); and Developing Destinies: A Mayan Midwife and Town (Oxford, 2011; Maccoby Award of Division 7 of the American Psychological Association).

In this short video (Worth Publishers) Rogoff explains that children are members of cultural communities. In order to understand child development, we have to see how they  learn the practices of their communities. This happens for children from Mayan communities in Guatemala, as well as for European middle-class American children in US. Children are learning the kinds of activities that are important in their communities.

The author notes that we (the adults) are members of our communities, but we take it for granted if we haven’t seen other variations that exists around the world in the kinds of cultural practices that people engage in and consider normal wherever their background is. If we’ve only been in one cultural setting is very difficult to understand your own culture. We are not aware of our own culture until we see alternatives in other places.

One of the important cultural differences that Rogoff observed in her research in US and Guatemala are the learning opportunities for children. If children from Mayan communities are involved in activities from an early age, in European middle class communities in US children are segregated from the adults setting. Mayan children have the community to explore, but US children have restriction for where they can go, with whom etc, and have little to observe of adult work.

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