Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

'Trojan Horse" Teaching

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

'Trojan Horse" Teaching

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

"The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be only sustainable competitive advantage." Arie de Geus

This statement, logically and emotionally linked with Bacon's "Knowledge is power" becomes more and more popular. Yet understanding that knowledge is power in general and a base of economics nowadays can result in hiding knowledge and, occasionally, in disorientation, if the competition is strong. Similarly, the awareness of the crucial importance of teaching/learning may cause advanced strategic behavior. This behavior includes the counteraction to the competitors' learning and the so-called "Trojan horse" teaching, in which a "teacher", ostensibly helping his or her rival to learn something, really teaches useless or disadvantageous things (Poddiakov, 2001). This type of behavior may be an object of interdisciplinary research. It relates to theories of conflict, human capital, agency, knowledge management, strategic behavior and Machiavellianism, and to social and educational psychology. Let us consider some of the approaches.

On the one hand, G.S. Becker's theory analyzes how human capital is increased by education and training (Becker, 1964). Aim-directed teaching is of great importance for education and training. The teaching is conducted under the leadership of educators, instructors, and other persons, who give learners recommendations, advice, methods, techniques of work, etc. On the other hand, in the theory of agency it has been shown that if an advisor (an agent) and a client have incongruent, conflicting goals, the agent can display self-serving behavior (an "agency problem"). "Physicians, nurses, clinical psychologists, teachers, lawyers, CPAs, financial advisors and other service-oriented professionals are supposed to use their specialized knowledge and skills solely in the best interests of the patients, students or clients who have placed themselves (and some of their resources) in professional hands in exchange for the professionals' promises to act on their behalf" (Johnson, n.d.). Yet an advisor can deliberately to stimulate a client to make a decision, which is not good for the client, but good for the advisor (Bonaccio, and Dalal, 2006; Eisenhardt, 1989; Jonas, and Frey, 2003).

This moral hazard concerns informal situations as well. For example, J. Valsiner (Valsiner, 2000, p. 288) analyzes advice-givers' behavior aimed to their own profit in intra-gender group competition. The concept of moral hazard in strategic advice-giving resonates with V.A. Lefebvre's theory of conflict. "The opponent's doctrine is imposed on the opponent by teaching him" (Lefebvre, 1977, p. 118). To win over a rival, it often suffices, and may even be preferable, to shape a certain image of a bridge-head in the rival. It works not only in armed conflicts, but also in economics, high technologies, sports, etc.

We have not found publications on the applicability of the concept of moral hazard (or of the approach to doctrines imposed on competitors) to the situations in which teachers consciously disorient their learners. Paradigms of teaching / learning, like "enlightening" activity generally, seem incompatible with considering the participants of this activity as possible rivals that can use the strategy of Trojan horse teaching. This gap should be bridged.

We suggest the following statements. Development of individuals, social groups and societies is under the influence of two opposite and interrelated types of social interactions: (a) support of, and (b) the counteraction and inhibition of learning, instruction, education and development, caused by different reasons, including economic ones. Learning and development, related to counteraction, are not isolated and exceptional but a fundamental psychological and educational phenomenon. A blow to the abilities to learn and acquire competence in new activities and domains is the most effective means if one wants to make a competitor inadequate in the technological and social world (Poddiakov, 2001). …

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