the theory / Developmental Channels
Muska's term, Developmental Channels, (DC) refers to the various pathways through which all people learn and grow, how we develop as human beings. These developmental channels – physical, social, emotional, cognitive, moral/ethical, and sexual – are comprised of a limitless array of possible human attributes. Attributes are also referred to as human characteristics, or: our personal traits, behavior, behavior patterns, personality, idiosyncrasies, etc. The sum total of our attributes defines our personhood.
Attributes, personal characteristics, can be good, bad, ugly, wonderful, kind or cruel. They can be permanent or temporary; they can be destructive to self or others; they can be inspiring and heroic. The astonishing diversity, variability, and complexity of humanity are produced by the infinite combinations of attributes on the various DCs. It is true that no two people are exactly alike; no two people share the exact set, intensity, consistency, inconsistency or combination of attributes.
Attributes are always expressed through our behavior, and behavior is always the result of a decision.
Our decisions direct our behavior, and our behavior displays the attributes we are guided by. We kick a dog; hold the door for a person; we wait without honking for a pedestrian to cross the walkway; we hit a pedestrian and run. We procrastinate; we are compulsive; we gather data before making conclusions; we constantly express our opinions as facts. We love people and need them; we work well with others. We shy away from people; we don't work well with others. We steal; we hurt; we hate; we love; we show compassion. Human attributes and the combination of human attributes are infinite. Our actions, our behavior, reveal the human attributes we choose to live by at that moment. Most profoundly is the fact that given the right circumstances, each of us has the capacity to display or to resist behaving using any of the attributes.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable features of human beings is that we can make changes in the attributes that guide our behavior. People change--sometimes for the better; sometimes for the worse. People can make choices about the attributes that direct their behavior. Two examples:
1. The baby boomers of the 1960s collectively displayed a set of attributes that directed their behavior on each of the DCs. Generally speaking, the hippies created a counterculture, abandoning rules and regulations of the establishment and creating their own social communities. As they supported a more spontaneous and diverse lifestyle, they altered social mores, physical appearance, cognitive experiences and emotional needs. They redefined the ethical code of behavior. They traded Sinatra for psychedelic rock.
Today, most of the baby boomers do not live according to the social mores or behaviors of the 1960s. They have selected different attributes on the various DCs to guide their current behavior. They changed their behaviors.
One set of human attributes generally does not sustain us for a lifetime. We are confronted with life-changing events, new experiences, fads, and appropriate and inappropriate possibilities. With each new event, our attributes on the DCs adjust.
2. Military boot camp initiates young men and women to adopt a set of attributes that are necessary for survival in time of combat. Combat behaviorally activates and reinforces the absolute necessity and importance of the survival attributes. Re-entering into civilian life requires a heroic adjustment by these men and women to relinquish many of the attributes that were once critical for survival but now, in civilian life, are unacceptable. Transition from one set of attributes to another rarely occurs overnight and in many cases, assistance is required in the readjusting process.
One pattern of attributes that work in one stage of life will not work for all stages of life. Change is fundamental, and changing one's life occurs when attributes change. The ability to change is a gift.
Knowing the relationship between the DC and the vast array of attributes is critical for understanding different T-L approaches. Every T-L approach promotes a set of attributes that are deemed desirable for learning and growing. In pedagogy one teaching approach is always in competition with another teaching approach. This process of adopting one teaching approach, one set of attributes, for a period of time only to replace them by another teaching approach is referred to in the Spectrum as the Versus approach. The Spectrum is a framework that offers a Non-versus approach to understanding alternative teaching approaches.
The versus approach pits one teaching approach (set of attributes) against another. Historically one teaching approach receives recognition and "rules" the pedagogical arena for a period of time before another idea "takes over." Each of the following established T-L approaches have been at one time on pedagogy's center stage because they promoted desirable, needed attributes for the time. However, the current conversation focuses on different sets of attributes. For example: Socrates believed that pupils could actively participate in the T-L process via a questioning and answering process that led students to discover content or realize the limits of knowledge. Jean Piaget identified his cognitive Hierarchical Classification. Higher-lower thinking movement gained recognition and moved the conversation about how students should be engaged in thinking. The right brain/ left brain movement offered support to thinking differences. These T-L approaches identified a set of attributes that dismissed the value of memory and encouraged schools and textbooks to promote the use of higher-order-thinking questions and activities.
Indirect Teaching also promotes shifting the cognitive action to the learners and defining the role of teachers more as facilitators than disseminators of instruction. Constructivist teaching gained pedagogical influence for its promotion of active, independent students involved in critical thinking to build their own knowledge rather than passively receiving information. Each of the above teaching styles promote a set of attributes at the expense of other attributes; each of the above discourage lecture and memory attributes.
Some approaches like Cooperative Learning suggest that working with others, activating the socialization process, stimulates and more productively engages thinking. Others produced T-L approaches that promoted individualized learning. Today's technology promotes self-directed learning with an immediate feedback system for students and teachers. Kahn Academy is such a program. This program, unlike relatively all programs, focuses on subject matter with the only caveat that classroom lectures should be avoided (flip-flop approach) and that individual computer practice with feedback develops learning more effectively.
All of these approaches and the thousands of other T-L approaches presented in the literature support a specific set of attributes, but none are complete in developing the full range of attributes on each of the DCs. Muska observed that "although the various teaching approaches were worthwhile and legitimate, none were complete in addressing the multiple needs and skills necessary for successful acquisition of content or complete in developing the wide range of human attributes". Each of the T-L approaches above and in the literature praise specific attributes but reject other attributes. This Versus approach is not helpful for the evolutionary development of pedagogical theory. The foundation of the Spectrum theory is based on the Non-Versus approach not the Versus approach; therefore, it does not exclude T-L possibilities but rather shows the relative learning relationship of one idea to another.
In summary the Spectrum delineates evolutionary or gradual processes:
1. for experiencing minimum to maximum decision making;
2. for experiencing a wide range, rather than a selected range, of human attributes that concern physical responses, social interaction, emotional growth, intellectual involvement, and ethical development; and
3. for establishing a theory that includes alternative ideas by showing the relative position of one T-L approach to another.
Subject matter is static--it sits on the library shelf. Teaching is the evidence of learning. If content is to be learned it needs the human dimension. The question always facing pedagogy is, “What kind of learning should be used when teaching content?” The answer always reverts to the selection of human attributes along the DCs. Therefore, the pedagogical question is, “Which attributes and how frequently should selected attributes be infused into the learning process?” It is the DCs that bind us as a human species with incredible options, combinations, latitudes and ever-changing possibilities that serve to generate the variations within our species. Our humanness is shared, but that which we choose to highlight on the DCs shows our uniqueness and our differences. Deliberate selection of teaching styles with their decision structure and attributes reflect our human possibilities.