Our October 27th Coffee Hour is devoted to discussion of strength-based education and ecological validity. It turns out that there were two quite different interpretations of both of these key terms among the participants. The central point – that almost all forms of psychological experimentation are context-creating was readily acknowledged, but it took a good deal of discussion to untangle different interpretations of how to take this circumstance into consideration. This begins to be addressed head-on around 1:04:30. We experienced a little difficulty getting Andrew connected (mea culpa), so it is perhaps you will want to skip to minute 15 when he appears.
I recognise the faces from our agreeable chat on Friday 28 October.
Looking forward to re-auditing the video record and maybe joining some further chatter.
This is an interesting question to me, about intended discontinuity, and maybe a good place to share some of my thinking since the coffee hour. It looks like others have taken up similar questions (e.g., Antti, below). Thanks again to everyone for that and this conversation.
In the paper, we agreed with Packer, Moreno-Dulcey, and many others that the intended discontinuity (i.e., a supposed “simplification”) of many developmental research methods may create rather than reduce representational problems between some children’s everyday lives and lab tasks. I think this is a concern very consistent with that I’ll call classical notions of ecological validity. We also argued that this kind of ecological invalidity makes it difficult to generate strengths-based developmental research evidence, or at least to do so reliably.
But, Mike, I think you’re right that the generalization aspirations of lab tasks are different than those of schooling. Intervention and change are explicit aims of schooling — even the kinds of schooling we think are positive — so its ecological invalidity might not be a problem from everyone’s perspective.
Of course, a number of very different motives could guide designed discontinuity between everyday situations and institutions like school, an apprenticeship of some kind, etc. For example, the purpose of home/school discontinuity among Indian boarding schools in the US and Canada was cultural erasure and children’s resocialization.
However, the cross-contextual discontinuities of “third space” or “expansive” afterschool programs like the Exploratorium example I showed are (1) not intentended to be subtractive or colonial, but rather to expand children’s notions of what’s possible and what they are capable of by building from rather than disconnecting from thier backgrounds, and (2) might be read as consistent with ideological aspects of children’s “everyday” ecologies, even if the material practices are in some cases discontinuous.
So, are both these cases of discontinuity also, by extension, cases of ecological invalidity? Is there something to which expansive, emancipatory, or utopian methodologies retain fidelity, perhaps validity, which differentiates the kinds of discontinuities they create from the kinds created, for example, by Indian boarding schools?
This question is related to what I’m after in wanting to press the concept of ecological validity to include “the future side of the culture coin,” and wanting to open/re-open the question of “valid in reference to what?”
Great that you could join in, Andrew. I am still having some difficulty parsing the issues.
Sticking to just ecological validity. I am providing a link that takes up the issue in what I believe to be relevant in the case of testing. It is a commentary on a set of articles, but pretty relevant. It includes, for instance this kind of example:
Robert has worried this bone a lot, too.
I’ll ponder the issues to allow others to join in if they wish.
Thanks, Mike. I certainly can’t claim to have things cleanly parsed! That’s been an instructive paper for me, appreciate you bringing it in here.
I do not want to get stuck in the past, Andrew. Both you and Meixi suggested a way to think about a new form of activity being an accurate
implementation of the kind of inclusive, prosocial, inclusive, form of activity that validly illustrates the kind of form you recommend on theoretical grounds and an institution which makes it acceptable/desirable to parents, kids, and researchers alike. The issue then is what kind of evidence, beyond face validity, to warrant your claim….. at least I think that is right.
I greatly enjoyed the discussion. Thank you Andrew for stimulating us with your inspiring paper and thanks everyone for the great discussion.
The discussion made me think about the role of continuity and discontinuity across contexts in ecological validity. I understand that there were good reasons for emphasizing the continuity between the participants’ everyday practices and the tasks in the laboratory experiments in the early work on ecological validity. However, I wonder if there are situations in which discontinuity across contexts might play an important role.
Research on learning across contexts has discussed instances in which participants might want to resist attempts to build continuity between formal settings and their everyday life (see review by Bronkhorst, L. H., & Akkerman, S. F. (2016). At the boundary of school: Continuity and discontinuity in learning across contexts. Educational Research Review, 19, 18-35). One example could be when their everyday practices (such as rap music) is defiant against formal school and authorities. Another example could be when they identify with opportunities that school brings, which help them to distance them from their everyday communities, which they might find depressing.
Possibly this is an irrelevant side track. This is an extension of my praise of ecological validity in Ola Erstad and his colleagues research on learning lives, in which they take individuals’ life across contexts as a unit of analysis to make sense of their learning in diverse settings of their lives. I guess this is somewhat similar to what Mike and colleagues did in their early work on literacy practices.
I appreciate your comment, Antti. I’m interested in the work of Ola Erstad that you referenced. Can you share any specific references? Thank you!
They have published a lot on the topic. This is perhaps the most comprehensive one: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/learning-identities-education-and-community-ola-erstad/1123425591
This is a journal article:
Antti, this is a very relevant concern for me as well, which I explored a bit above in response to Mike’s nicely provocative question, “Isn’t schooling supposed to be discontinuous…?”
The examples you give are important, where discontinuities may open options for resistance (e.g., rap music as counter narrative) or departure (e.g., schooling as a welcome “ticket out of here”). Here, it seems, ecological invalidity is precisely the intention.
I contrast these with the Exploratorium example, which to me is a program designed to expand possibilities for youth but also to be ideologically consistent with or at least compatible with (but, again, not limited to) where youth are coming from culturally.
Ecological validity might not be the best term for exploring this idea about “productive or emancipatory discontinuity,” but I haven’t found a better one and it seems the concept could be transformed as well.
This discussion of continuity and discontinuity lead me to think of Kris Gutierrez’s use of Third Space and hybrid language: that perhaps schools can create some continuities while easing people into what is less familiar. In my work with community college students, I am very aware of the discontinuities of the college with their communities but also with the schooling they’ve experienced previously. The paper’s use of the term ecological validity led me to focus on how a setting is perceived, which is relevant for my work because I see faculty and students alike understanding the purpose of college and the many activities within it in different ways.
The discussion made it clear for me that earlier uses of the term were directed to testing and exploring those differences might be useful, but I also think that further examination of how schools become meaningful and not is what many people need to understand if schools are to offer educations that allow more children to succeed—as long as we keep examining what success is for the different people involved.
There are no comments here.
This talk of whether continuity between home lives and school bringsto mind the observation by Tobin, Wu & Davidson (1989) in their delightful, early video-illustrated book, Preschool in three cultures: Japan, China, and the United States. They noted that while the American preschool (in Hawaii) made efforts to ensure continuity, encouraging parents to escort their child to the cloakroom and settle the child in before saying goodbye, the Japanese preschool did not allow parents inside the school and the child was expected to say goodbye outside before crossing the threshold into the separate domain of school.
Thus the developmental niche of the Japanese children included two micro systemic settings with less overlap than the settings of home and school in the American children’s niche. Both societies’ ecological systems distinguished between the activity settings of home and school, but in America, key participants (parents) commuted with the child between the two settings while in Japan they did not. I don’t think the greater home-school continuity of the American preschool rendered it more ecologically VALID than the Japanese preschool. It’s just that the ecosystems of the two societies differed in that particular respect of home-school continuity.
This is a fascinating example!
correction of first line:
“whether continuity between home lives and school is always desirable, or indeed a criterion of ecological validity…”
This is for me a very productive example, from a study I admire deeply.
Across the coffee hour conversation and these exchanges, it has seemed to me there is a “something more” to ecological validity than representativeness or a kind of “look and feel” similarity. This is why we cited Bronfenbrenner’s distinction between superficially “naturalistic” and “ecologically valid” research.
So, in Japan in the 1980s, it may have been the case that parents’ developmental aspirations for their children involved dexterity across social and cultural contexts that were not limited to the family and home. That is, this multisided “discontinuity” was perfectly continuous not with children’s present circumstances but with the future side of parents’ values and aspirations.
Thanks, Andrew, for clarifying how your proposed framework could accommmodate the sharp home-school discontinuity signalled in the Japanese case study by the convention that parents dropped their child at the threshold of the school.
You mention the possibility that those “parents’ developmental aspirations for their children involved dexterity across social and cultural contexts that were not limited to the family and home”. So, the dropping off at the threshold convention was understood by parents as conducive to development of dexterity in communting across contexts.
I can buy that, but I don’t see such “continuity” with “the future side of parents’ values and aspirations” as well captured with the notion of “ecological validity”. I agree that parents values and aspirations deserve attention in a nuanced account of the ecosytem. But it seems to me more parsimonious to capture the aspiration for children to develop cross-context dexterity as part of an attitude towards social change that acknowledges differences and discontinuities between sociocultural contexts as significant (and perhaps necessary) features of the world and preparation of children for handling them as adaptive.
Such “dexterity” was characterised by Gumperz in his account of discourse strategies in bilingual speech communities as “situational code-switching”.
I think many parents in rural subsistence communities favor such compartmentalised specification of context-appropriate behavior as a way of surviving in an ecosystem undergoing rapid social change. In such communities in Zambia, children are encouraged by their parents to master the language of national power (English) in the context of their participation in school and in the urban industrialised economy, but expected to use the community’s local language for communicating with their grandparents and other elders when interacting with elders on home ground.
Lara Beatty’s allusion above to Guttierez’s account of hybrid language “to create some contunities while easing people into what is less familiar” is reminiscent of the advocacy by some contemporary, sociolinguistically sensitive educators in southern Africa of encouraging teachers to tolerate translanguaging in early grade classrooms. Eg
Banda, F., & Mwanza, D. S.(2017). Language-in-education policy and
linguistic diversity in Zambia: An alternative explanation to low
reading levels among primary school pupils. In M. K. Banja (Ed.),
Selected readings in education (pp. 109–132). Lusaka, Zambia:
UNZA Press. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/
I discussed this a bit in the following paper:
Serpell, R. (2020). Literacy and Child Development in a Contemporary African Society. Child Development Perspectives, 14 (2), 90-96. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12363