Essay: Barbara Rogoff – the theory of cultural nature of human development

Barbara Rogoff is one of the founding professors of psychology at the University of California Santa Cruz. In 1977, she received her Ph.D. from Harvard University. Dr. Rogoff conducts research that is based on human development and the relationship between learning and an individual’s cultural community. In 2003, she published ‘The Cultural Nature of Human Development’ in which she argues that cognitive development is not dependent only on skill and development but also collaboration with other people in everyday life.
Through research, Dr. Rogoff attempts to explain the theory of cultural nature of human development by arguing that child’s development and its learning process should be guided by participation between the child and an adult within a specific community. This theory focusses primarily on two patterns with the first being an analysis on age-segregation and grading of children from their communities. This is characterized by learning through lessons out of context of target activities. The pattern is common in middle-class American and European communities. Secondly, she looks at the inclusion of children in various community events. Learning occurs through observing and taking apart in ongoing cultural community activities. This is common in Indigenous American communities.
Indigenous-heritage and European-heritage children of North and Central America show disparities in the way that they pay attention to and learn from events that surround them, and collaborate in ongoing community endeavors. Children from the Indigenous communities keenly observe and participate in ongoing events that are not meant for them. Learning is organized in ways which provide children with a wide access to community activities that they are expected to eventually engage in in the future. This is called intent community participation. However, in middle-class Western communities, children have restricted learning opportunities. They are usually excluded from many activities of their communities. Instead, the young ones are often involved in lessons that often do not include opportunities of observing, and occur outside the context that allows them to make use of the skills that they have been being taught.
This therefore implies that extensive schooling may provide an organization of learning that produces the same results as intent community participation. Participation in schooling can be harmonized with various features of the middle-class life. Children should be taught responsibility by allowing them to choose their activities. Such activities can then be creatively used by educators to teach literacy, math, and other different areas of the curriculum. Additionally, the community should be made more involved with their children. This is through laying of emphasis on collaborative work between parents, teachers and the children in order to incorporate cultural processes in children’s leaning.

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