How Sociocultural Frameworks Can Be Used To Improve Academic Outcomes Literature Review

Length: 5 pages Sources: 10 Subject: Teaching Type: Literature Review Paper: #39990639 Related Topics: Liberal Arts, Academic Goal, Cultural Competency, Early Childhood Education
Excerpt from Literature Review :

Education as Cultural Transmission

School culture

Education and societal inequality

Synthesis and Analysis

Drawing Conclusions

Education as cultural transmission

Although the precise purpose of education remains in debate, what is clear is that the life lessons needed by young people living in the Amazon rainforests are far different from those needed by young learners in developed nations, so it is reasonable to posit that education can be viewed as a means of cultural transmission that is intended to impart what is regarded as important and valuable to future generations (Harris & Graves, 2010). Young learners in the primitive regions of the Amazon, for instance, would need to know how to hunt and fish for the right types of game and which plants were edible and which should be avoided. These young people would have little or no need (which is not to say desire) for knowing how to design a Web site or perform higher mathematics, and learning this information would detract from their ability to survive in the wilderness. Likewise, learning how to survive in the rainforest may be interesting for many young people in the West, but these survival skills would not significantly enhance their competitiveness in the 21st century workplace. In this regard, Hanley (2006) points out that, "Education to some is mis-education to others" (2006, p. 52).

Consequently, education can be readily viewed as a framework for cultural transmission and many authorities agree with this perspective. For example, according to Hanley (2006), "As with all institutions and human practices the meaning of education depends on the context and perspective. . . . However, from every perspective education is a cultural project" (emphasis added) (p. 53). Even in the most primitive settings, though, education as cultural transmission is not static but is rather a dynamic process wherein culture is constantly being constructed and reconstructed according to the prevailing values and norms that exist within a society as well as what is regarded as important and unimportant (Hanley, 2006). For instance, Hanley notes that, "What passes between the society, the institutions of education, groups and individuals is cultural knowledge. The valuation applied to certain knowledge and not to others is cultural. As educators and students teach and learn they are involved in constructing culture" (2006, p. 53). In modern educational settings, constructing culture is a reciprocal process, but school culture begins at the top with the principal and extends throughout the school, and these issues are discussed further below.

School culture

Although every school setting is unique in some way, there is axiomatic for all schools that if students are not learning they way they are being taught, they need to be taught the way they will learn. Unfortunately, far too many schools must place a higher priority on classroom management practices to provide a safe learning environment instead of inculcating the importance of developing the critical thinking skills that young people need to compete in the 21st century workplace and become informed members of society. Moreover, poor school cultures are deeply rooted and can be extremely challenging to change irrespective of the need. In this regard, Ohlson (2009) advises that, "School culture refers to the deep patterns of values and beliefs and traditions that have been formed over the course of the school's history and which are understood by members of the school community" (p. 103).

Notwithstanding its intractability to change, the growing body of evidence to date confirms that there is a direct association between a school culture and academic outcomes, and schools that that value effective teacher and effective leadership experience superior outcomes compared to their counterparts (Goldring, 2009). Some indications of a school culture that requires changing include disciplinary practices that employ excessive suspensions and other measures that detract from rather than contributing to the learning experience (Ohlson, 2009). In many cases, the targets of these disciplinary measures are minority and lower socioeconomic students who are already at higher risk of suboptimal academic outcomes and dropping out of school altogether (Ohlson, 2009).


Moreover, given the disparate manner in which the country's schools are funded, minority and lower socioeconomic students are also forced to do more with less, and it is little wonder that some of these students perform poorly in school and fail to achieve their full potential in adulthood (Valdez, 2011). Indeed, gender issues remain salient in the classroom and even white females in the nation's public schools are faced with inequitable treatment in the classroom compared to their white male peers, and these problems have been well documented for decades (Watson, 2012).

Taken together, it is clear that race, gender, class and ethnicity play a fundamental role in shaping the quality of the education that young people receive in the nation's schools today. Like school culture, though, these institutionalized inequalities in education have been built up over a long period of time, but the need to overcome these constraints to the provision of high quality educational services for all of the country's youth demands these actions today. In order to gain some additional insights that can facilitate this process, three socio-cultural frameworks that can be applied to the situations are discussed below.

Synthesis and Analysis

Despite the challenges that are involved in providing high quality educational services to increasingly diverse classrooms, educators such as Vygotsky maintain that many young people are entering the classroom ill-prepared to meet the rigors of their coursework due to poor self-regulation and these shortcomings are culturally based. Truly self-regulated young learners are flexible in their ability to respond to changes in their environment or new problems in ways that poorly self-regulated young people are not. In this regard, Leong and Bodrova (2007) report that, "For Vygotskians, it is critical that a truly self-regulated child does not simply follow the rules imposed on him/her by an adult but is also able to generate appropriate rules when facing a new situation" (p. 34).

Developing this skill, though, requires the ability for young learners to recognize intuitively when their behaviors are inappropriate as well as when the behaviors of others is inappropriate, and this ability is likewise culturally defined and must be regarded by educators in this fashion in order to effect meaningful changes (Leong & Bodrova, 2007). Although self-regulated behaviors improve with age and experience, to the extent that young learners are able to exercise self-regulation early on will likely be the extent to which they are able to maximize their learning experiences (Leong & Bodrova, 2007). In addition, educators can draw on other Vygostkian methods such as teaching within the proximal development zone to maximize what young learners are able to accomplish with assistance (Cicero & De La Cruz, 1999).

Likewise, educators can draw on a socio-cultural framework to examine how gender, race, ethnicity and class play a role in determining how young people make choices about their education and how these factors can limit their choices, even in an otherwise egalitarian society (Causarano, 2013). Similarly, social-cultural frameworks can be used to assess how context and the social construction of language affect the educational process in diverse classroom settings (Causrano, 2013). A socio-cultural can also serve to illuminate the types of professional training that is needed by classroom teachers who are faced with an increasingly diverse student body. For example, Moll and Arnot-Hopffer (2005) report that, "The crucially important sociocultural dimensions of learning [include] professional development that teachers need to address equity issues or for that matter, the needs of a multicultural student population" (p. 243). Perhaps even more importantly, a socio-cultural framework can help educators identify their personal biases that may adversely affect the manner in which they deliver educational services in the classroom and improve their cross-cultural competencies (Lee, 2010). In this regard, Lee advises that, "While the population of children in our schools is becoming more diverse, the demographics of teachers continue to be less diverse, and [there] experiences differ markedly from the diversity of children in their classrooms" (2010, p. 26). Moreover, a social-cultural framework can also help educators develop culturally relevant classroom offerings that better engage ethnic minority students in history and mathematics classes (Georgiou, 2011), as well as…

Sources Used in Documents:


Causarano, A. (2013, September 1). Literacy strategy journal: Planning literacy instruction in a liberal arts college. Journal of Education and Learning, 2(3), 111-117.

Cicero, A.M. & De La Cruz, Y. (1999, May). Teaching and learning creatively: Using children's narratives. Teaching Children Mathematics, 5(9), 544-551.

Georgiou, I. (2011, July). Sociocultural and historical elements in secondary mathematics. Mathematics Teaching, 223, 18-21.

Goldring, L. (2009, November-December). The power of school culture: Research show which traits of a school's culture most affect student achievement, and how schools can work toward positive change. Leadership, 32(2), 32-35.

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