Parents, pedagogy and context

I spent the better part of the day yesterday pondering a great book by Kevin Marjoribanks called Family and School Capital: Towards a Context Theory of Students’ School Outcomes. The essence of the theory (without meaning to trivialize the complexity of the analysis) is that parents bring social and cultural capital togehter with family background and structure to the learning context, while schools similarly bring social and cultural capital through individual teachers and the school community, a school community history and structures for learning activities. Additionally, these elements interplay and the whole creates a context that can predict student success.

I also read George Siemens’ post yesterday, Pedagogy First? Whatever. in which he also talks about context in learning. I wanted to explore this use of context. Was it the same? Siemens was talking about the conditions for choosing the appropriate educational technology for a learning situation. He contends it is not pedagogy first, but rather context that drives the decision. So can this description of context add to the theory?

In his post, Siemens says: “Resources, expertise, technology, needs (of learners, educators, society), and funds impact what we choose to do.” This is the context for the selection of technology.

Marjoribanks states “effective teachers flourish in schools that minimize organizational and curriculum controls” (p. 137), in other words, effective teachers create effective learning strategies based on the context with which they are presented.

The context theory proposed by Marjoribanks explores several dimensions of family and school capital that create context for school success. Marjoribanks definition of school capital mirrors that of family educational capital: it is framed on the social and cultural context of the school. Siemens adds resources, expertise, available technology and funds to the dimensions of the theory.

Siemens description of context extends the meaning ascribed by Marjoribanks, but goes to the same point. It’s not pedagogy first that determines students’ school outcomes, it’s context.

Marjoribanks, K. (2002). Family and School Capital: Towards a Context Theory of Students’ School Outcomes. Dordrecht, The Netherlands, Kluwer Academic Publishers.