The analysis of the educational institutions and the learning process from a behavior-science perspective makes it possible to distinguish between the learning contents and the structural-psychologic aspect of the instructional-educational interaction. The latter is characterized by the asymmetry of the teacher-student relation and the conjunct interrelation between the teacher’s and the student’s interests in knowledge.
The above distinction is imperative. It allows us to rigorously define the teacher’s role, which consists of planning the learning steps and reinforcing, with appropriate stimuli, the student’s behaviors oriented towards acquiring the knowledge transmitted. It also allows us to highlight three fundamental problems of educational institutions. (a) The first problem is the misconception that the interest in knowledge can be generated through punitive methods, used singly or associated with extrinsic rewards of an individual or a social type; on the contrary, punitive methods only consolidate the interest in memorizing. (b) The second problem is the circumstance that teachers can exercise deviant power wherever they hold status-roles expressing ideological interests, which cumulate with the educational status-roles and can be confused with the latter. (c) The third problem is the fact that an ideological conflict within the educational institutions may concern the transmission of institutionalized values; however, it makes no sense as far as the transmission of scientific knowledge is concerned.
Processo d’apprendimento e strutture ideologiche
[Learning process and ideological structures]
[Learning process and ideological structures]
- La contestazione permanente.
[The permanent protest]
- Sistemi pluralistici e sistemi collettivistici.
[Pluralist and collectivist systems]
- Il mutamento sociale nel pluralismo e nel collettivismo.
[Social change under pluralism and collectivism]
- La contestazione delle strutture scolastiche.
[The protest against the education system]
- La struttura psicologica del rapporto di apprendimento.
[The psychological structure of the instructional-educational relation]
- Apprendimento e punizione.
[Learning and punishment]
- Il comportamento discriminante.
- La relazione di strumentalità tra gli interessi nel rinforzamento secondario.
[The instrumental relation between interests and the secondary reinforcement]
- Esempi della corrispondenza tra rinforzamento secondario e interrelazione degli interessi.
[The correspondence relation between secondary reinforcement and interrelation between interests: some examples]
- La trasmissione delle informazioni e l’esplicazione del concetto di segno come rinforzatore secondario.
[Information transmission and the explication of the concept of sign as a secondary reinforcer]
- L’interrelazione congiunta e l’interrelazione disgiunta nel rapporto didattico.
[Conjunct interrelation and disjunct interrelation in the instructional-educational interaction]
- Gli effetti disfunzionali della punizione sul processo di apprendimento.
[Dysfunctional effects of punishment on the learning process]
- L’istruzione programmata.
- Il processo di apprendimento nelle strutture sociali di tipo ideologico; interesse ad apprendere e interesse a memorizzare.
[The learning process in the context of ideological social structures; the interest in learning and the interest in memorization]
- L’attività del docente nelle strutture didattiche di tipo ideologico. Il controllo della memorizzazione.
[The teacher’s activity within the context of an ideological education system. Control of memorization]
- Il significato ideologico della contestazione studentesca.
[Ideological sense in student protest]
- Strutture didattiche e strutture di potere.
[Education structures and power structures]
- Funzione didattica e funzione politica del docente dell’università italiana.
[Educational function and political function of Italian university professors]
- È possibile la società non ideologica fondata sulla scienza sociale?
[Is it possible a social science-based, non-ideological society?]
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Herrnstein R.J., Will, in: “Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society”, 1964, vol. CVIII
Mendelssohn K., Sulla via dello zero assoluto. Sviluppo scientifico della fisica delle basse temperature, Milano, Il Saggiatore, 1966
Millenson J.R., Principles of behavioral analysis, N.Y., Macmillan, 1967
Morris C., Segni, linguaggio, comportamento, Milano, Longanesi, 1949
Muenzinger K.F., Fletcher F.M., Motivation in learning. VI Escape from electric shock compared with hunger-food tension in the visual discrimination habit, in: “Journal of Comparative Psychology”, 1936, vol. XXII
Skinner B.F., The behavior of organisms, N.Y., Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1938
Skinner B.F., Walden two, N.Y., Macmillan, 1948
Skinner B.F., Teaching machines, in: “Science”, 1958, vol. CXXVIII
Skinner B.F., Scienza e comportamento, Milano, Angeli, 1971
Viale G., Contro l’università, in: “Università: l’ipotesi rivoluzionaria. Documenti delle lotte studentesche a Trento, Torino, Napoli, Pisa, Milano e Roma”, Padova, Marsilio, 1968
Whiting J.W., Mowrer O.H., Habitat progression and regression: a laboratory investigation of some factors relevant to human socialization, in: “Journal of Comparative Psychology”, 1943, vol. XXXVI
Zimmerman D.W., Durable secondary reinforcement: method and theory, in: “The Psychological Review”, 1957, vol. LXIV
Zimmerman D.W., Sustained performance in rats based on secondary reinforcement, in: “Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology”, 1959, vol. LII
1/21«The asymmetry of the teacher-student relation is inherent in the instructional-educational situation; one can change the content of the learning process but cannot eliminate the difference in roles (functions) between teachers and students. We will see, delving into the psychological analysis of the instructional-educational relation, that the teacher’s role is to program the learning phases and reinforce the student’s specific behaviors with appropriate stimuli.» IT
2/21«It should be noted that the distinction between the psychological-structural aspect of the instructional-educational interaction and the learning contents is of crucial importance: on the one hand, it highlights the contradictoriness of the student protest aimed at eliminating an interaction whose psychological basis can be analyzed from a scientific perspective; on the other, it allows us to figure out the real core of the problem of present educational institutions, which is the deviant power of teachers and the fact that teachers play within the school political status-roles which cumulate with educational status-roles and are usually confused with the latter.» IT
3/21«As seen, the punitive relation always entails a situation of frustration. Several factors characterize the concept of frustration: (a) the individual’s aspiration level, i.e., the degree of fungibility between the individual’s final interests; (b) the intensity level of the individual’s final interest corresponding to the frustrated or impeded instrumental behavior; (c) the frustrating stimulus.
When the individual’s aspiration level is rigid (i.e., the degree of fungibility between the individual’s final interests is low), the state of deprivation (the final interest) being frustrated does not disappear, despite the impediment barring the instrumental behavior. In the case of high intensity-level interests, the frustrating stimulus barring the instrumental behavior acts as an eliciting stimulus in relation to a corresponding emotional (elicited) behavior realized by the individual. This elicited behavior can be anxious or even aggressive. Therefore, the presence of an obstacle can determine emotional responses, which are manifested at the level of operant behavior.» IT
4/21«In current educational institutions, besides the frustration caused by exam checks, individuals may undergo permanent, or not easy to overcome, frustrations: this happens when they are socialized according to schemes dissimilar to the institutionalized ones expressed by the school. Here, the educational institution becomes an obstacle to the satisfaction of interests acquired by the individual in the environment where socialization took place, rather than a means to satisfy them. The result is a situation that, given its steadiness, can lead to openly deviant aggressive behaviors (actual deviation) against institutional structures.» IT
5/21«Apart from the case of the exchange, it is possible to identify a fundamental interrelation between the teacher’s and the student’s interests, particularly a conjunct interrelation. The teacher operates in a learning process by transmitting appropriate discriminative (verbal) stimuli to the student who has what we may call an interest “in learning” (I1); correspondingly, the teacher has what we may call an interest “in enabling the student to satisfy I1.” We denote with I’ the teacher’s interest. The teacher satisfies that interest if the student satisfies I1: that is, the satisfaction of I’ implies the satisfaction of I1 (and vice versa, because if the student satisfies I1, it means that the teacher has satisfied I’). Simplifying, we can say that while the exchange relation can give rise to a learning process, the latter entails a collaborative relation between teacher and student. Instead, when the relation between teacher and student is of a punitive type, their interests are disjunctly interrelated.» IT
6/21«To explain the learning process unambiguously, it is necessary to specify the student’s final interest to which “studying” is instrumental. In the above hypothesis, the student’s behavior is instrumental to a consummatory behavior related to the acquisition of the primary positive reinforcer provided by the teacher; namely, it is instrumental in obtaining a positive reinforcer extrinsic to studying. In this event, the primary reinforcement related to problem-solving is lacking in the learning process.
At first glance, we can say that the student memorizes information without assimilating its content because the only final interest of the student is to obtain a given reward (which is commonly a social reward: for example, a degree conferring prestige).» IT
7/21«The school learning process involves three fundamental factors:
(a) the interest in knowledge (interest in problem-solving) acquired during the socialization process;
(b) a set of instrumental behaviors, corresponding to the satisfaction of the interest in knowledge, which are related to a set of information to be learned operating as secondary reinforcers;
(c) a set of primary positive reinforcers, germane to the interest in knowledge, operating through the programming of teaching (consisting of a sequence of primary reinforcers).
Point (a) is about the deprivation state, point (b) is about the operant behavior, and point (c) is about the reinforcer.» IT
8/21«A fundamental mistake typical of the current educational institutions is to assume that it is possible to arouse an interest in knowledge through punitive techniques, either used singly or associated with extrinsic rewards of an individual or social type. However, as we have seen, these techniques strengthen only an interest in memorizing.
The modification of educational institutions implies, as a fundamental element, replacing the interest in memorization with an interest in knowledge. This replacement entails changes in social structures that go far beyond a change in the educational structures alone. As a matter of fact, an interest in knowledge must be acquired through the socialization process.» IT
9/21«In a pluralistic society, social structures are characterized in ideological terms; that implies that the consent on which institutionalized status-roles rest, resulting from conjunctly interrelated interests, is ideological. However, institutionalized interests can conflict with likewise ideological interests of groups of individuals acting in the pre-institutional social space. The prevalence of one ideology over the others derives from the greater social strength (consent), which legitimates the exercise of power against deviants. It is the only possible method of conflict resolution, the ideologies being subjective standpoints that cannot be rationalized and are unsuitable for empirical verification.» IT
10/21«In a pluralistic society, individuals are influenced by as many types of socialization as there are conflicting ideological interests. The conflict between institutionalized interests, on the one hand, and the interests of groups acting in the pre-institutional social space, on the other, is also found within educational institutions, as the school is the foremost apparatus tasked with carrying out the institutionalized socialization process. [...] Indeed, a conflict can occur within the school, as there may be students socialized outside, or contrary to, institutionalized ideological interests and teachers socialized in conformity with institutionalized interests. This conflict results in a disjunct interrelation between students who have no interest in acquiring institutionalized cultural contents of an ideological type and teachers who have an interest in transmitting information conforming to institutionalized interests.» IT
11/21«One could argue that, within educational institutions, conflict can only concern the transmission of institutionalized values (ideological interests) and not scientific knowledge. In the latter case, even though a student may not have an interest in scientific knowledge, it would be pointless to speak of an ideological conflict between institutionalized interests in transmitting scientific knowledge and the student’s deviant interests. Nonetheless, it is important to point out that there may be a conflict between those who ask for a given scientific discourse (a specific science) to be included in the institutionalized learning process and those who have an interest in excluding that science from teaching. This conflict not only occurred with reference to the natural sciences, which were long opposed within societies founded on ideological interests until the definitive success and acceptance of the Galilean revolution; it still occurs today with reference to the social science. Within strongly ideologized cultural contexts, the opposition against social science derives from a disjunct interrelation between (institutionalized) interests in the ideological analysis of social phenomena and (non-institutionalized) interests in the scientific analysis of social phenomena.» IT
12/21«A severe consequence of education institutions based on punitive methods is that, by reinforcing only the memorization behavior, they tend to lead to the extinction of the interest in knowledge even in those individuals who acquired this interest during the socialization process.» IT
13/21«Information transmission and problem-solving are inseparable in the learning process. However, as seen, the way this process takes place in current educational institutions is anomalous. Indeed, learning here is not related to an interest in knowledge (as it should be if the school functions were knowledge-oriented, i.e., oriented to the assimilation of cultural contents by students). Instead, it is related to an interest in acquiring social gratifications that allow individuals to occupy, based on their educational degree, status-roles to which they would not otherwise have access.
What happens is that the students assimilate a kind of information and learn to solve a kind of problems, which are related to the acquisition of social reinforcers (the student learns, for example, to pass exams with less effort, to curry favor with the teacher, to memorize the cultural contents transmitted).» IT
14/21«In a punishment-based education system, which reinforces memorization behaviors, checking the adequacy of the information transmission with respect to the student’s abilities is senseless. Thereby the teacher activity becomes a routine activity, and even the exam becomes a routine check on memorization.
So, the social function of the education system no longer consists in satisfying an interest in knowledge but an interest in acquiring social prestige. The student takes part in the instructional-educational interaction not to learn but to have the capacity to acquire social prestige. Obtaining an educational degree becomes the students’ final interest because the culture of our societies associates that document with a certain level of social prestige.» IT
15/21«Such a modification of social functions of the education system corresponds to a diversion of the instructional-educational relation, which tends to become a control relation for a formal requirement (memorization) that enables access to status-roles associated with social prestige. [...] From this perspective, the so-called “right to education” does not express an interest in that everyone can learn the cultural contents transmitted by the school. Instead, it expresses an ideological interest in acquiring the social prestige that the education system confers on students when they pass memorization checks (exams). The mass schooling system thus realizes the ideology of the equal right, for all individuals, to social prestige conferred by the educational system; it does not satisfy an interest in knowledge.» IT
16/21«The existence of ideological interests presupposes, in principle, the possibility that these interests will be challenged, still on the ideological level. This possibility is excluded, in principle, when scientific predicates characterize social structures. In the first case, the social dynamics occur through an ideology-based class conflict. In the second case, the social dynamics occur without conflict, as the change in interests results from the possibility of empirically verifying whether interests are compatible with the body of scientific knowledge.» IT
17/21«The phenomenon of power characterizes the ideology-based social structures (whether pluralistic or collectivist), namely the social structures based on a conflict of values (disjunct interrelation between interests not comparable with the scientific discourse). Power is, in fact, the means through which one ideology prevails over another, as the only way to solve a conflict of values is to measure the social strength of the conflicting ideologies, not being possible to use objective (intersubjective) criteria.» IT
18/21«In today’s societies founded on ideological interests, be they pluralistic or collectivist, the definition of the status-roles is based on values, and individuals must conform to a particular ideological culture (i.e., to a set of institutionalized conjunctly-interrelated ideological interests) to acquire these roles. That reverberates in the educational institutions, too. They are affected by the ideological characterization of the social context, not only with regard to the memorization phenomenon but also the transmitted cultural contents. Within an ideology-based society, educational programs must conform to institutionalized ideological interests.» IT
19/21«When the power related to a given status-role is not exercised in accordance with the institutionalized interests on the part of a group of individuals who hold identical status-roles, a conjunct interrelation between deviant interests takes place among these individuals; here, the group action is aimed at preventing the access to the status-roles based on any interest other than the ones common to the group. The fundamental conjunctly-interrelated interest of the deviant group is to preserve the discretionary scope of their status-roles; this can be achieved by ensuring that the status-roles are held by individuals who guarantee to exercise discretion in a deviant way, not in accordance with the institutionalized interests.» IT
20/21«The distinction between the educational function concerning the transmission of cultural contents (learning process) and the political function concerning the determination of cultural contents allows us to work out the meaning of the student protest. This protest seems baseless insofar as it tends to question the non-eliminable asymmetry of the instructional-educational interaction. However, it appears to be perfectly justifiable (within pluralistic societies with corporatist structures) when it claims participation in a political function within a system that would like to see itself as a democratic (i.e., pluralistic) one.» IT
21/21«The elimination of corporatist relations makes it possible to obtain the maximum functionality of the educational structures in terms of the possibility for individuals who have undergone diverse socialization processes to satisfy their interests within a pluralistic ideological system. However, it remains the fundamental limitation of the plurality of ideologies; this limitation entails the existence of societies based on conflict and competition and, hence, the renunciation of using social science to solve human problems.» IT