Thinking across Cultures

By Donald M. Topping; Doris C. Crowell et al. | Go to book overview

38
Teaching Thinking in Subject-Specific Contexts to Disadvantaged South African Communities
Merlin C. Mehl University of the Western Cape Jack Lochhead University of MassachusettsSouth African education is presently characterized by large numbers of students who, judging from the poor results in their first year at university as well as in the school-leaving examination, are not equipped to meet the academic requirements of first-year university courses. This is especially true in science-related disciplines. During the last 7 years, a growing interdisciplinary research group at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), a black university in South Africa, has been attempting:
1. To understand the constructions which students from a third world context bring to the study of various disciplines;
2. To determine the cognitive reasons for the poor academic performance of these students; and
3. To develop suitable instructional materials based on the above determinations.

To date, suitable materials have become available in the areas of physics, accounting and geography.

The Constructivist perspective is now widely accepted by researchers in science education ( Linn, 1986). It is abundantly clear that people bring to their study of any discipline many concepts which they have derived from their interaction with the world. Efforts to design special instruction that considers such preconceptions have been reported by Trowbridge and McDermott ( 1981), and Hewson ( 1981).

One of the most effective programs aimed at educationally disadvantaged persons was designed by Feuerstein et al. ( 1979, 1980) in Israel. All of Feuer

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