Friday, March 07, 2008

When Is Cheating Really Cheating?

I find the whole discussion of private speech in the book Awakening Children's Minds fascinating because Pamela has so little of it. Lev Vygotsky found a link between social speech and private speech, which makes sense because Pamela's lack of social speech as a young child would explain the lack of private speech. One quote from Laura's book makes me go "Ouch!" (page 81),
Other observations of children's language concur that social and private speech have common roots. For example, the most socially interactive preschool and kindergarten children tend to use the most private speech. . . When an adult places barriers between young children, such as cardboard screens or upright books that prevent easy visual access (a practice that, as noted in Chapter 2, American teachers often use to keep children from seeing one another's work), both social speech and self-guiding utterances that might be helpful in mastering a task diminish drastically.
My mind gets all twisted in thinking through this. I attended a college that kicked out students for cheating! Clearly, copying another person's work and passing it off as your own is cheating. I think you must give credit where credit is due when submitting work as your own. However, in the real world, people work together; they collaborate and share ideas in nearly job you can imagine. In my first semester of an electrical engineering class, I became lab partners with a football player who excelled at the hands-on work. We made a great team because I excelled at the theoretical calculations and write-up. By some miracle, we ended up in the same class for second semester and teamed up again. Is it cheating when children work together while learning new tasks that should not be graded anyway? Is it cheating when parents scaffold a child doing homework? What is a parent to do when their child develops the habit of frustration because the parent feels guilty about scaffolding?

Why is private speech so important? Vygotsky discoverd that the rate of private speech doubles when young children face obstacles in their learning. While older children do not react in this way, "they usually pause (as if to think) and quickly redirect their behavior" (page 83). He asked older children about their thoughts, and they described inner thought that matched the private speech of younger children. Private speech is the foundation of the soundless inner speech we use to guide our actions when solving problems. This reflection of social speech allows children to regulate their behaviors. Children keep tasks within the zone of proximal development through private speech in the same way that adults encourage children with their warm social communication while scaffolding. In short, private speech is one form of self-regulation.

Right now, when she feels stuck, Pamela engages in social speech, not private speech. To verify my assumption, I ignored her today when she started verbalizing her struggles with math and language arts. She repeated her statements several times, getting louder, and then looked up at me to see if I was paying attention to her. I quickly realized that Pamela intended these verbalizations to be social speech and not private speech because she was not satisfied until I responded!

Pamela's lack of private speech fascinates me because I am not sure whether she has already advanced to soundless inner speech or is still mastering the social speech that will become private speech (and eventually inner speech). Time will tell!


nunya said...

Wow, what a great site you have! I can't wait to get through the whole thing - so much good information!


walking said...

Ramble on back anytime!!! :-)

I lived near St. Mary's City for a year and in Annapolis for four years. I have very fond memories of Maryland!