Sunday, 18 July 2010

Further evaluation from Sizanani Village

Paradigm example
Innovative work merits innovative research

Another of those apparently joint Dutch masterates, published in English on the Internet...

Velzen, J. M. van, Mathot, A. F (2010) The evaluation of the Conductive Education program and the Cognitive Stimulation program in a home for children with developmental disabilities in a rural area in South Africa, University of Utrecht.
Introduction: This research evaluated the effectiveness of two developmental programs given in the Sizanani Children’s Home for disabled children in Bronkhorstspruit, South Africa.
  • The Conductive Education (CE) program focuses on motor functional skills to create more independency in daily life activities. This follow-up study measured the development of those skills in the children and young adults at Sizanani Children’s Home in the period from April 2008 to November 2009. Next to this, it was measured whether this development is moderated by the level of gross motor functioning in April 2008.
  • The Cognitive Stimulation (CS) program was an 8-week program focusing on stimulating the cognitive abilities.
  • The CE program is evaluated in a longitudinal research (N = 39), in which the functional skills were assessed with the Functional Motor Assessment Scale (FMAS), the Level of intervention Observation Instrument (LOI) and the Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory (PEDI).
  • The CS program consists of an experimental group (N = 12), in which the participants received two times a week cognitive stimulation by play intervention in a social context, and a control group (N = 9), in which the participants received no play intervention. The possible cognitive effect of this program has been assessed with the Play Observation Scale (POS; Vos & Van Westrhenen, 2009) through the observation of play performance. This instrument is based upon Piaget’s (1962) classification of successive stages of play and was, in the current study, adjusted to make it more sensitive. Furthermore, the CS program has been optimized to enlarge learning opportunities by introducing a guideline of encouragement in play.
Results: A significant improvement was found between April 2008 and November 2009 in functional skills according to the FMAS and the dressing subscale of the LOI, but not according to the PEDI and the feeding subscale of the LOI. Also, no further improvement was shown from April to November 2009. In addition, the level of gross motor functioning in April 2008 was not a moderator for the effect of the CE program. The results after the 8-week CS program showed a significant improvement in the level of cognitive play performance, as well as a significant interaction effect between time and condition.
Conclusion: The effect of the CE program on the development of the motor functional skills was only proved partly in the current study and the level of gross motor functioning of April 2008 was not a moderator for this effect. The CS program proved to be effective, with a significantly more improved cognitive play performance for the group that received play intervention than for the group that did not.

Hardly classic experimental design, though it would be remiss not to mention this study for that.

But who did what, how and to whom – and why?

Now there are some fascinating research questions for you, of possible considerable value both to the Village and to the rest of the world of Conductive Education (both North and South).

The full report from Utrecht no more than hints at the fascinating things going on at Sizanani. They are not to be illuminated by way of the paradigm being exercised in this study.

While the possibility of more appropriate quantitative methods is being explored might I suggest (not just with specific respect to enquiry of Sizanani Village but to those generally who struggle with 'CE-research') a little peep into the thousand-odd pages of the following:

Denzin, N. K., Lincon Y. S. (2000) Handbook of Qualitative Research (2nd edition), Thousand Osks, Sage

That for starters, accompanied by careful consideration of the qualitative-quantitative research cycle as one way into creating productive research questions and socially useful research models.

Double Dutch

And yes, I have read the complete published report. So can you, at:

It sets out on an unfortunate foot:

...the Hungarian child neurologist and educationalist Dr. András Petö. His viewpoint was that motor disabilities like CP are learning disorders, and that children, given the correct teaching, could learn to overcome these at the highest level of the cortex.

No source is given for this and one has to wonder through what technical means this implausible information on András Pető's views was derived. Ouija board perhaps. It then goes on to an equally unlikely account of what L. S. Vygotskii meant by the zone of next development and an understanding of  'play' that bears no relationship with what Vygotskii wrote. Sources are given, from the American neo-Vygotskian school.

(In the case of Vygotskii of course no Ouija board is required as he and his circle bequeathed a major written record and, despite all the political problems, left a thriving scholarly heritage. In a  Dutch universe that is apparently parallel but unconnected to the one from which this study hails, Dutch scholars have provided a major window on to this Soviet world of thinking.)

In the study under consideration, as often happens, it is in the event no matter what either Pető or Vygotskii actually thought or did since, once their respective false icons have been referentially unwrapped, they are set to one side to play no further apparent part in proceedings.

All this may be taken as implying that I do not regard this study too highly. 'A strength of this CE study, its authors write, 'is the use of reliable and valid instruments...' That is as maybe. It is not clear whether there are any others and meanwhile Conductive Education chalks up yet another research reference, albeit yet another methodologically inadequate one that concludes... er, nothing really. No, I do not regard it too highly, or Conductive Education's continuing subjection to such conceptualisations in the world of academe.

More research is needed, as they say, and no doubt there will be many other such evaluations, making similar impact. Meanwhile, the Sizanani Village CE project is one of the most tantalisingly interesting CE initiatives anywhere in the world, especially for those concerned with the promise of Conductive Education in the developing countries – 'tantalising' because it is never described in detail its own right, as a pedagogy, but only as subject of research such as this. We may never know more.

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