Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Conductive Education and Feuerstein

I will be in Israel next month, to take part in the Twentieth Anniversary Conference of Tsad Kadima, the Israeli Parents’ Association for Conductive Education.

This will not be a Conductive Education conference as such but, organised in collaboration with the European Bobath Tutors’ Association, it concerns cerebral palsy – in its social and temporal dimensions.

The particular fascination of Tsad Kadima and its practical work over the last twenty years has been for me its stress and focus on children as members of their families – and its unique achievement of creating services that recognise children’s and families’ broad-based and long-term requirements for upbringing rather than simply programs or provision. Tsad Kadima’s concerns and some of its achievements are well represented in the extensive conference programme, published on the Internet.

I am told that it is not too late to book!

The published programme does not, however, include details of a late-entrant contribution, a key-note address by Reuven Feuerstein, which addresses a theoretical point of ultimately even greater and wider significance, reminding me of how and why I stumbled across Conductive Education in the first place. He will talk about the parallels and congruence, practical and theoretical, between Conductive Education and his own Structural Cognitive Modifiability. Such parallels, with Feuerstein’s system and with others, have been ignored by the conductive movement at large, to its serious detriment.

For me, Feuerstein’s brush with Conductive Education offers a rare manifestation of a dimension of thinking and practice that astonishingly, in the twenty-first century still follows a largely underground existence in Western psychology and education. Conductive Education, Feuerstein, Vygotskii, the troika and the whole cultural-historical school, Zazzo and Paour, the people around ‘dynamic assessment’ and ‘cognitive education’, even Piaget and Inhelder if you try to see their intervue clinique through other than blinkered Anglo-Saxon eyes, have commonalities at the meta-theoretical level with enormous potential implications for the future of humanity.

Conductive Education and Cognitive Modifiability therefore represent part of a wider meta-theoretical community, albeit an atomised one with no common voice or image. Reuven Feuerstein will be speaking about how these two systems at least might synthesise, to create more that the sum of the parts.
This is what he will say…


Conductive Education and Structural Cognitive Modifiability

A common trait and an added component


Reuven Feuerstein


During my first encounter with a brief presentation of the Pető System and Conductive Education, that occurred through the much appreciated intermediary actions of Dr Andrew Sutton, I was struck by the close affinity between the Conductive Education program, and the theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability and its derived applied systems. The belief in modifiability common to the two programs was a very powerful basis for the intervention programs developed and applied by both systems. The theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability was then considered as addressing itself mostly to the behavioral and mental aspects of human activity, including of course the conceptual and operational activities of the human being, and to the emotional-motivational element, but without the possibility of modifying those neuro-physiological processes that affect the mobility of the individual muscular-skeletal system – the disability of children with cerebral palsy. The idea that modifiability can affect the motor system has not only been a great surprise but has enabled us to perceive the concept of modifiability as being much broader and much more inclusive than we ever thought possible. It empowered the concept of modifiability as felt by us over the last two decades. Our belief in modifiability, once limited to cognition and behavior, has proven to be extended to the neural system, that is no less plastic than behavior itself. Modifiability is a phenomenon of human change affecting the neural-skeletal-muscular system, the cognitive system, and the neurological system.

This propensity of modifiability affecting all the three systems also requires application of interventions oriented to the three systems. Mediated Learning Experience, which in Conductive Education has proven to be a source of ingenuity and creativity, enabling invention of an unlimited number of forms of interactions between the conductor and the child, is certainly the key to the source of success. It seems to me, however, that the system has to be coupled with a strong cognitive component, which is no less necessary for the child with motor difficulties, to enable Conductive Education to be applied effectively to children whose deficiency is not limited to the neural-skeletal-muscular but also involves cognitive, intellectual and mental processes.

During my long discussions with the late beloved Dr Mária Hári, former director of the Pető Institute, we actually planned the possibility of mutual enrichment, by bringing in the components of each system, the conductive and the structural cognitive, as a way to turn modifiability into a multi-dimensional, multi-system mode, bringing the human being to a level of modifiability which will permit full adaptation to life and its requirements.





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For details of Tsad Kadima’s Twentieth Anniversary Conference, go to:

http://www.myreg.co.il/tsad-kadima/ (in English and Hebrew)

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