Cultural Capital in Education – What can be done in the classroom

Theory is splendid but until put into practice, it is valueless.” (James Cash Penney). An educational example, “Yes, I understand what to do sir.”

The introduction of new theories, skills and attributes is difficult because students struggle to get to grips with practicing new theories. As an educator this is where the true value is added. So, how do we move from the theory of non-cognitive development to implementing it into practice?

From Policy to Practice

The continual debating by political panels, educational theorists or interjections from third parties leaves untested theories. The classroom teacher, unknown to them, has been involved in developing new policy. They are now expected to put this policy into practice. Like the students they will struggle, but in this case there is no one on hand to support them. The theory is forgotten as true mastery has not been attained. A reactive response develops to throw together evidence of practice. (For example, marking books in my PGCE and NQT year). So how do we support the implementation of non-cognitive development into the classroom?

Simple answer, bring teachers into policy development. Over the past month I have been involved in 4 different policy networking events, where the general theme has been on non-cognitive development in students. Buzz words were flying out left, right and center. Yet, every time I found myself able to relate to strategies used in the classroom, that exemplified the non-cognitive traits. Offering a critique to proposals based on evidence shifted the direction of conversation from the “policy buzzworder’s” to myself. This demonstrates the value of those in the classroom.

Implementing non-cognitive skills?

A Head teacher from a local school told me, “the schemes of work in their school center around the kind of people that would be successful in University or vocational qualifications” and backwards plans from this vision. When I am developing a scheme of work, I think about the non-cognitive skills and learning objectives I want the students to develop. For example, I have recently planned and finished a unit of work on Metals and their Reactivity. The non-cognitive focus is to develop independence, self-reflection and choice (I’ll be blogging about this next week). This was alongside the academic learning goals. By orientating yourself to focus on the kind of students you want, the activities begin to tailor themselves.But, failures, critiques, alterations and improvements have been important to support the reflective development of this teaching strategy.

This is where the problems lies, there is no accountability for non-cognitive development in the classroom. Therefore, the risk:benefit ratio is useless, because it not worth risking progress to develop new systems of non-cognitive learning. Consequently, teachers can not relate to the policy that is trying to be implemented and their opinions become less valued. It’s easy to see the paradox we are caught in. So where does this leave us?

College of teachers…

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Cultural Captial in Education – Incorporation into policy

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I want my horse to drink to survive, but I can not force the horse to drink water. This is true in education, a teacher can establish a learning environment for a pupil to be successful, but can not force success into a pupil. There must be a want or desire to do so. So how do we develop desire?

The Problem

Policy makers only focus on observing feedback which shows the strongest or clearest correlation which implies causation. (“Rule 1 of stats club never talk about stats club. Rule 1 of stats club, correlation doesn’t imply causation”). For example, greater attendance results in better attainment. True, but as the Young Foundation (2012) identifies this does not identify the true value added. True values are the personal attributes a student develops to increase their attainment, perseverance, confidence or a want for success. Rarely have I heard of someone not wanting success and being successful, we all have a degree of consciousness. If high academic attainment links to high performance, and this to personal attributes, where in policy are we planning to develop this?

Simple answer, not at all.

Developing soft skills (Non-cognitive skills)

It is these skills that define who we are and how we behave and the futures we make for ourselves. The Young Foundation (2012), EPI (2014) and FEA (2015) all support the idea that the developing non-cognitive skills is crucial to underpin academic and life success.

Outcome Model example:

  • The outcome model links the benefits of developing an individual’s non-cognitive skills (intrinsic and extrinsic) with benefits for both them and society. (This seems like a win-win situations, there are limitations).
    • Individual achievements of behaviours – Want to develop key skills to build their own success.
    • Social and emotional capabilities – Core skills that allows the person to develop their own desires.
    • Inter-personal relationships – Good parents and community contributes.
    • Benefits to society – Strong independent individuals who are not reliant on the state to support their success.

So, if there is clear evidence what is being done to introduce these concepts into educational policy?

The difficulty is identifying a clear correlation between good non-cognitive skills and academic and life success. West (2014) published a conflicted study that shows no linked between the non-cognitive skills and academic performance. Yet, the Young Foundation (2012) has clear evidence to identify a positive relationship between student’s emotional well being and socio-economic background. Policy decisions based on qualitative information is not reassuring. But, after reading reams of threads and literature there is a body evidence all pointing in the same direction that can not be ignored.

Recommendations for policy

The future directions of policy need to make an active effort to collect data through longitudinal studies and develop tests to identify the non-cognitive development of an individual over time. Hold Ofsted (hopefully in the future a college of teachers) accountable for ensuring that schools have effective systems of developing non-cognitive skills within their pupils. By not doing anything, the power of a student to make their own decisions academically and later on in life will continually shift reliance and dependence on others for support. Establishing a link between non-cognitive skills and academic performance has never been more important in a developed society.

In the future all the horses will have the appropriate non-cognitive skills to see the importance of drinking. The same will be true for our education system, students who have a desire for success.

References

West (2014) – http://cepr.harvard.edu/cepr-resources/files/news-events/cepr-promise-paradox.pdf

Fair Education Alliance (2015) – http://www.faireducation.org.uk/report-card/

Economic Policy Institute (2014) – http://www.epi.org/publication/the-need-to-address-noncognitive-skills-in-the-education-policy-agenda/

The Young Foundation (2012) – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/175476/Framework_of_Outcomes_for_Young_People.pdf

Cultural Capital in Education

Schools should be seen as centres for improving the academic and cultural capital of it students. To my knowledge there is no policy that currently exists to develop or support the cultural richness of our students. For example, a student who attends private school has a variety of cultural and academic experiences to engage in. Parents hold the school accountable because they want their child to have these experiences. My school is sponsored by a top University, this establishment also holds the school accountable because they too want students who have had a variety of experiences. Why are state schools not held accountable for cultural capital? It’s clear that top institutions want well rounded culturally rich students. But, those from low socio-economic backgrounds struggle to gain similar experiences due to financial or guidance limitations. What is the Government going to do to address this?

The definition of cultural capital is, “Cultural capital is the ideas and knowledge that people draw upon as they participate in social life. Everything from rules of etiquette to being able to speak and write effectively can be considered cultural capital.” (Crossman, 2010). This phrase considers the development of social and practical skills that allow a person to take part and function in society. In modern democracy an individual would need strong social capabilities to be successful. This means that part of one’s success in society is dependent on their social/cultural capital.

Cultural Capital categories:

  • Embodied – concious or passive inheritance of certain behaviours or skills. Skills influenced by the environment and life that an individual leads. For example, colloquial dialect. A modern society also expects basic life skills to be develop in these avenues as well, focusing for example.
  • Objectified – physical objects of science or art owned or appreciated by an individual. Only by those who have developed strong embodied understanding of history and art.
  • Institutionalised – recognition of culture. For example, institutions provide qualifications for individuals.

Societies responsibility for develop cultural capital in all individuals is important. Embodied education is the responsibility of parents and carers. Objectified and institutionalised education is the responsibility governments and community leaders. In middle class households parents and carers continually support the embodied development of their offspring. Parents from low socio-economic community struggle to find the time to support their child in a similar way. What is been done to support the development of embodied education in these individuals? What is being done to support the embodied development of parents who were also deprived?

Society has a responsibility to support all individuals enhance their cultural captial. Government policy linked to cultural capital in education is difficult to find. I found myself constantly being referred to cultural education (DfE, 2013). The report identified that cultural education was important. To support cultural education more funding to objectified, arts based charities has been increased. The kind of students who will take advantage of these opportunities are the mobilsed middle class. There is little evidence of supporting increased mobiltiy in all individuals. For example, how a pupil thinks, talks, problem solves, socialises, concentrates, believes, aspires, plans, prepares, organises, repairs a bike, plays chests or develops other non-profitable skills that, as we all know, are important but not supported.

For those indivdiuals from low-socio economic backgrounds more must be done to support their embodied cultural development. Liberate their ability to fairly operate in a social society. What are we doing to support these individual’s? To my knowledge, nothing! That is an injustice.

Crossman, 2010. http://sociology.about.com/od/C_Index/g/Cultural-Capital.htm

DfE, 2013. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/226569/Cultural-Education.pdf