The ESL Teacher & Personal Construct Psychology
by Kevin Burns
ESL Teacher & Personal Construct Psychology – What are the implications for the classroom?
I attended an ETJ Conference in Tokyo and David Paul asked this question during his lecture:
“How can we get inside the world of Japanese junior high school students?”
This got me to thinking. I have taught many junior high students at my school and at Keio. Did I get into their world?If so, how successful was I? I thought I did my best. But what did that mean and what did I accomplish?
Paul talked about Constructivist Psychologist George Kelly who was an avid anti-behaviorist. Kelly was a psychotherapist in the Great Depression years and he wanted to give people hope.
Paul felt if Kelly were here today, regarding what junior high students want, he might suggest:
“Why don`t you ask them?” If there is a problem, ASK.
Seems pretty simple doesn`t it? But how many of us do this?
Paul argued that if you get the students to explain why they are acting a certain way, you can begin to get inside their reality.
He went on to say that people tend to get trapped into a particular way of viewing things. Paul feels by asking questions that require deep thought that he can get into how weview our world, calling it “scary,” as he seemed to think thatpersonal construct psychology is very good at picking apart a person to show what makes them tick or more pointedly, how they think and indeed see the world.
Not how the world really is – but how they see it, their personal biases and opinions.
ESL Teacher – What is your Personal Bias?
You take this a step further and our personal bias will affect how we teach, view misbehavior or any number of things. For most of us it is probably difficult to step back to see some different strategies for handling problems.
Paul pointed out that Kelly said there are an infinite variety of ways to construct reality at any point in time. He termed this “Constructive Alternativism.”
As well, it is good to look at something from a totally different point of view.
Paul talked about how we might employ personal construct psychology to our advantage:
Roleplay with students who usually don`t do well in school. Tell them to imagine they are clever. They will do better.Indeed the research seems to support this.
The same people perform differently just by changing the situation. Again this is supported by the research.
One example of this is:
Girls do well in sciences and math at single sex – all girls schools.
(The thought being that girls relax and don`t feel they have to worry about impressing the boys. They can allow themselves to be less feminine but more scientific.)and
Boys are better at languages at single sex schools.
Paul argues that Construct Psychology is a science. From it you can figure out how you construct reality.
One interesting point Paul made is that psychologists feel that our natural state is To Learn.
Paul presented us with a Puzzle. He wrote on the board:
glasses, human, black hair, gorillas, married.
We all tried to shout out our answers. Paul made the point that to figure out the puzzle requires language. It creates a need to communicate.
Students try to express themselves – they need the language.We try to communicate, so we learn languages.