What's Happening in Character?

My Son is Not My Dog

Posted by Marvin Berkowitz on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 @ 08:11 AM

By Marvin Berkowitz, Ph.D.

It was early in my career when I first had to confront the idea of how we think about kids. As an undergraduate at the University of Buffalo over 40 years ago, I took Willis Overton’s developmental psychology class, which focused on a chapter he was writing with Hayne Reese on what they called “models of man.” It essentially explored the assumptions about fundamental human nature implicit in the leading psychological theories of the day. And it starkly contrasted a behaviorist (mechanistic) approach from a constructivist (organismic) approach. The former sees the person as a recipient of external inputs (experience) that accrue molecularly. People are not initiators of interactions nor interpreters of experience, merely the passive recipients of and responders to what the world does to us. And development happens smoothly as these bits of experience add up, much like the formation of a stalactite in a cave. It is largely a mechanical cause and effect process. The great thinkers in this tradition are B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov.

Quite differently, the constructivist approach sees the child as an innate meaning maker. Even the newborn infant interprets experience. And initiates interactions with the world simply to help make sense of it. We develop not in straight lines but in spurts and steps and in stages that may be more different in kind than in amount. We are innate scientists trying to make sense of a complex world. The great thinker in this tradition is Jean Piaget.

So which are we? What is our true nature?

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Topics: intrinsic motivation, PBIS

Rules and Incentives

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Oct 28, 2013 @ 08:10 AM

Second in a series by Rebecca Bauer, a graduate of a School of Character, who is now chronicling her student teacher experience.

Like most classrooms, we spent a good deal of time the first week discussing rules. We brainstormed a list together. The lead teacher wrote up a consolidated version and then every student signed it. We asked each student to choose the rule they thought was most important and to write a sentence about why it was important. One student did not finish in time and took his work out with him to complete it during recess. The boy decided that the most important rule was to listen.

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Topics: character education, student teaching, intrinsic motivation, PBIS