Volume:5, Issue: 3

Aug. 15, 2013

Developing interest in constructive communication as part of moral education in high schools
Polyakov, Sergey D. [about]

KEY WORDS: constructive communication, moral education, structure of an educational activity, students’ subjectivity, ‘structure of a communicative activity’, experimental work with high school teachers.
ABSTRACT: The author, a famous Russian academic, presents the results of a short research which allowed him and his team not only to better understand the nature and process of creating constructive communication but also to help high school students view this communication as a value among other important individual values.


As both research and pedagogical practice show, one of the results of moral education is a developed interest of high school students in the ways of constructive communication and their striving for acclaiming these ways. In this process, constructive communication among students may be considered an important value.

By the term constructive communication we understand such communication that allows to reach out for somebody and also to receive this person’s agreement with different partners and, particularly, to find ways out of different conflicts, which will satisfy all the parties involved.

Our research (Pyotr G. Averianov, Elena L. Petrenko, Sergey D. Polyakov, Inna J. Shustova) tends to answer the question, how a teacher can stimulate this interest and develop necessary skills (Averianov et.al., 2010). We base our experimental work on the stages of psychical development presented in the works of a famous Russian psychologist Daniel Elkonin, and the theory of the developing educational activity by Vasily Davydov.

According to Davydov, the development of any educational activity has the following structure and consists of:

  • An educational cognitive motive (as students’ interest to the ways of learning);
  • Creating a cognitive purpose in the problem-solving situation;
  • Defining vital characteristics and connections of the notion, an action of creation of a graphic model, depicting these characteristics and connections;
  • Applying the created model;
  • Reflecting on the results (Davydov, 1996).
  • The question for us was, how this learning activity could be better formed and developed?

Students’ ndividual educational activity first emerges and develops in their joint activities with a teacher – namely, in their joint analysis of a problem situation, in their shared creation of a graphic model of this phenomenon to study, and finally, in their combined elaboration of the rules. By the rules here we mean certain patterns of how to apply and analyze achieved results.

This idea was postulated by Lev Vygotsky (Vygotsky, 1999), an outstanding psychologist of the 20th century, and based on his understanding of  transforming inter-psychic developments into intra-psychic.

We asked ourselves a question, what if it is possible to apply the same Elconin-Davydov’s “structure of an educational activity” to moral education?

Elconin considered that the leading activity for teenagers, in other words, the activity which is most sensitive for their psychic development, was communication with their peers (Elconin, 1971).         

  • In our research we have substituted Davydov’s ‘structure of an educational activity’ by a ‘structure of a communicative activity.’ In our interpretation the structure of a communicative activity comprises of the following:
  • Students’ interest to the ways of constructive communication as the leading motive of developing such activity;
  • Creating a communicative purpose in the problem-solving situation;
  • Defining some vital characteristics and connections in a constructive communication;
  • Creating a graphic model, which these characteristics and connections;
  • Applying the created model to face communicative challenges;
  • Reflecting on the students’ work.

From the point of view of the “activity theory”, moral education should lead to elaboration of such joint communicative activity by the teacher when students develop an interest in discovering and applying the laws of constructive communication.

In order to elaborate this process and help it happen, a teacher:

  • Works in collaboration with students to create problem-solving situations;
  • Discovers challenges and  problems which occur in their communication,
  • Drafts in collaboration with students a model of successful interaction with them;
  • Converts this mode into the rules of successful communication;
  • Creates situations where these rules can be applied and needed;
  • Raises questions which allow students to interpret, comprehend, and reflect on the situations.

The result of such moral education is a personality of a student as a subject of his/her communicative activity. However, a student’s subjective standpoint can manifest itself in different ways.

As a result of our research, we have singled out four levels of developing students’ subjectivity in their communicative activities:

Level 0. A student is unaware of being instructed in communication in the process of the joint activity with teachers.

Level 1. A student concentrates on situations when his/her peers were instructed in communication in the process of the joint activity with the teacher, but considers his/her own activity low.

 Level 2. A student concentrates on situations of instructing peers in communication in the process of the joint activity, and considers his/her own activity high.

Level 3. A student considers applying communication laws in the process of the joint activity important for being discussed and used.

Originally, in our experimental research there were involved who eleven teachers carried out a program of a group activity aimed at creating special motivation of the communicative activity and acclaiming special actions.

The teachers who were the research participants went through a special training which allowed them to master theory and techniques of communicative activities.

The experimental research of that first phase was aimed at testing the hypothesis of developing high school students’ communicative activity as their ability to maintain effective communication with peers under certain conditions.

In order to analyze the results, we have elaborated a set of diagnostic methods that  allow to discover the degree of  students’ striving for acclaiming the ways of constructive communication.

Positive progress in students’ striving for acclaiming constructive communication was registered in 10 out of 11 experimental class groups. The result of this first stage is that the number of students, who consider both their participating in the joint activity and applying the laws of communication important, has increased.

Therefore, we can consider that moral education in terms of developing a communicative activity is possible by analogy with developing educational activity according to Elconin-Davydov.

But there are some other questions to answer and issues to resolve:

  • How stable is the phenomenon of developing students’ subjective standpoint in the process of carrying out an experimental mode of such joint activity?
  •  How does students’ value system change in the context of experimental research of communicative activity?

The next stage of our experiment included the analysis of the process of creating students’ orientation towards a constructive communication as a value while being involved in the organized group activity.

There were six teachers participating in this part of the experiment.

The diagnostic component of the experiment was extended. This time high school students carried out a set of diagnostic tests which revealed their interest in four groups of values connected with the content and the topic of the activity, ways of organizing this activity, typical values of the peers and, finally, personal values of the teachers.

The diagnostics of the level of the students’ subjectivity in the process of communicative activity and the character of their value systems was performed at the beginning and at the end of the organized activity.

The results of this part of the experimental work revealed the following:

  • Firstly, the results of manifesting communicative activity appeared stable. Positive dynamics remained present within all class groups.
  • Secondly, the comparison of the ranks of value systems before the activity and after it displayed the growth of the rank of the value system group connected with the way of communicative activity. (Rank 4 before the activity and Rank 1 after it!).

The system of ranks before the joint activity appeared as follows:

  • Rank 1 – peers’ values,
  • Rank 2 –teacher’s values,
  • Rank 3 – the content and the topic of the activity,
  • Rank 4 – ways of communication.

The system of ranks after the joint activity went as following:

  • Rank 1 – the way of communication,
  • Rank 2 – peers’ values,
  • Rank 3 - the topic of the activity,
  • Rank 4  - teacher’s values.

Thus, the results of this second part of the experimental work proved the possibility of stimulating high school students’ striving for acclaiming constructive communication as a value under certain conditions of an experimental group activity.

References

  • Averianov P.G., Petrenko E.L., Polyakov S.D.,  Shustova I.J. (2010). Rules of communication: the story of the pedagogical experiment. Moscow. (In Russian).
  • Davydov V.V. (1996). The theory of developmental education. Moscow. (In Russian).
  • Elconin D.B. (1971). Towards the problem of defining stages of children’s psychic development Issues in Psychology. 4, 6-20.
  • Shustova, I.Y., Polyakov, S.D. (2009). Children-Adults’ Community in educating high school students. Ulyanovsk.
  • Vygotsky L. S. (1999). Thinking and speaking.  Moscow.

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