Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mind in the Making- Perspective Taking

Most of us are about to get very busy trying to develop classroom communities that can solve conflicts peacefully. We're all about to spend time coaching children through problem solving skills in hopes that doing this can minimize any physical and verbal aggression in the classroom that is oh-so-fun to deal with when you have a million other things to do.

Mind in the Making shares research by Larry Aber of NYU that shows a focus on problem solving isn't actually the solution to the childhood frustrations that get aggressive (Galinsky, 87). Before a child is ready to use problem solving skills he or she must first be able to take the other person's perspective and identify the person's intent. 

When some children get into conflicts with peers they immediately assume a hostile attribution bias, where no matter what they are convinced the other child is out to get them. As educators we can help these children stop and go through what Aber calls an appraisal process. We can help train our students to to step back and interpret the actions of others before making basic assumptions.

As teachers we can help children go through attributional retraining (Aber's term), where we help children look for clues in order to interpret another person's intentions and take that person's perspective. We need to help them realize that they do not immediately have enough information to appropriate assess the situation and must consider more information before they can determine "whether it was an an accident or a hostile act" (87). 

As an early educator this is huge- before we can begin to help children identify problem solving steps we first must help them take perspectives and appropriately assess the situations around them. It fits in with what Responsive Classroom teaches, as well as the Patterns of Thinking theory. Taking perspective is essential for children to be able to understand and interact with the world around them (and here in DC it would be nice if some adults tried it as well...)

One of my awesome former (*sniff*) colleagues read this chapter and immediately got to work on figuring out how to include perspective taking in her beginning of the year curriculum. She found this list of books that are recommended to use with teaching these skills. I'm excited to dive into this list and see how I can interweave them into my existing curriculum. 

Any other books out there that are perfect for teaching perspective taking?


Anonymous said...

Here's another perspective (not necessarily in conflict with what you suggest): kids may arrive in K without good ability to assess others' motivations (I sure had no clue). But we can hope that they've learned to let small slights roll off their backs. Much of the conflict in classrooms comes from children with very short fuses, who have learned at home or elsewhere that they must respond to every irritation as if it were a crisis. How do we help these children to turn down the volume on their urge to retaliate (whether or not they correctly guess the other child's motivations?

organized chaos said...

What I took from the book's discussion of the research is that helping children take perspective is what leads to them turning down the volume on their urge to retaliate. If we teach them to look at the other person's motivations then they are less likely to need to retaliate. From my own experience I've seen that children do seem to respond when you encourage them to look at one another's faces during a conflict and discuss how each person feels. I'm interested to try this in more depth to see if it will help with that retaliation inpulse.