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The problem, method and organization of research
Creating a theory of mental development in adolescence is one of the most urgent tasks. Without such a theory, a scientifically substantiated practice of not only communist upbringing, but also of teaching middle-school students - adolescents cannot be built. Theories of the mental development of a teenager should reveal the main neoplasm of this period, explain the process of its development, indicate the sources, conditions and driving forces.
Soviet psychologists have a lot of factual material regarding the age characteristics of adolescents. Studies have been published on individual private issues: ideals, interests, attitude to the literary heroes and actions of adolescents, features of the will, endurance and character of adolescents, some moral ideas. A lot of factual material has been accumulated by foreign researchers. However, in the works with which we were able to get to know, there is a lack of facts related to the formation of the main neoplasm of the teenage period of development, and data on the functional relationships that exist between the individual sides of development.
The object of the study that we conceived and started is the adolescent period of mental development; its subject is the occurrence of the main neoplasm of this period; the main problem is the sources and driving forces of the formation of a central neoplasm in adolescence.
Our initial hypothesis is the position expressed by L. S. Vygotsky that the main neoplasm of adolescence becomes self-consciousness formed at the end of this period, understood as a social consciousness transferred inside.
The study consisted of several stages. At the first stage, we primarily sought to accumulate facts characterizing the features of the emergence and development of the main neoplasm throughout adolescence under ordinary conditions of training and education. The facts should be as versatile as possible, because until the end of the study, it is not always clear which of them most closely characterize the main neoplasm of a given age period. A generalization of the facts gathered should either confirm, or amend, or reject the main hypothesis. Only after this, the transition to the second stage of the study becomes possible - a psychological and pedagogical experiment, i.e., the active formation of a neoplasm by creating the necessary conditions for the adolescent to assimilate social consciousness. Based on this, the theory of mental development in adolescence can be finally formulated.
Great difficulty is the choice of the path and method of research. Firstly, we rejected such methods in which the characteristics of a teenager are averaged, since we consider it incorrect to ignore the different 'pace of development of children. Secondly, we abandoned the organization of research on the principle of “slices”, “removed” at regular intervals in groups of adolescents of different ages (as in A. Gesell). Such studies make it possible to describe the points through which development passes, but do not provide material for characterizing the process itself. Thirdly, we decided not to conduct any kind of conversation, even in their experimental form. Materials collected in this way do not provide an opportunity to study and identify the actual behavior and activities of adolescents. Finally, fourthly, we rejected the idea of an experiment in its classical form, since we did not find an experiment adequate to solve the problem before us. The active transforming and formative experiment at the first stage of work was unacceptable to us.
When choosing a research method, we proceeded from the assumption that age-related features always exist in the form of individual developmental options. Understanding individual characteristics only as personality traits is incomplete. The child as a growing creature is always an individual variant of age development. The expanded gamut of individual options for age development in a comparative analysis can provide material for answering the question about the conditions for the formation of the main neoplasm. Therefore, we settled on the study of individual developmental options for adolescents and on a “clinical” study as the most appropriate for our tasks. Child psychology, so rich in facts about the development of certain aspects of the child’s psyche, is clearly lacking a “clinic” of child development.
By “clinical” research we mean a systematic and detailed study of the same children throughout the entire age period with a fixation of their behavior, activities and relationships with others in the main areas of life. Naturally, this requires the study of living conditions, education and training of the child. A description of the development of one child may be a study of developmental psychology, but its possibilities are limited. The requirement of evidence makes it necessary to study and compare the largest possible number of individual options. It is their comparative analysis to a certain extent that is able to bring such a study closer to experiment and help to separate individual symptoms from the actual processes of child development.
In Soviet psychological literature, we know only the research of N. S. Leites (1960) and L. S. Slavina (1958), carried out by this method. The method turned out to be effective in the study of mental giftedness, the causes of poor performance and indiscipline of children. An interesting and instructive experience of an in-depth study of the individual psychological characteristics of children is presented by L. I. Bozhovich (Psychological study ..., 1960). In this work, psychologists, together with the teachers of one of the boarding schools, identified the causes of difficulties in raising children. The focus was on the individual child and his individual psychological characteristics; for each child an individual characteristic was compiled. The data obtained were analyzed only within the data on an individual child. No comparisons of materials received about different children were conducted in this study.
We assimilated from these works everything that was useful for solving the problem posed in our study. The difference between our method was that a long, in-depth study of individual cases of development of children was only a means of obtaining material for subsequent comparative analysis. It is the method of comparative analysis that fundamentally distinguishes our study from that conducted under the direction of L. I. Bozhovich.
Thus, our research method can be characterized as comparative clinical: clinical - by the nature of the collection of material; comparative - by the method of its analysis.
The tasks and method determined the organization of the study. For a long systematic study of the individual development of children, we chose the V class of one of the schools in Moscow. In the fifth grade, children who are just entering adolescence are studying.
We studied students in a regular comprehensive school, rather than a boarding school, because in a boarding school children are deprived of the opportunity of constant communication with their families, as well as with a wide range of adults and peers.
It was very important for us to get the material specifically about the communication of children with others, since we
sought to explore the most diverse forms of behavior and relationships of adolescents.
In order for laboratory staff to establish the closest possible contact with the children being studied and to conduct daily monitoring, an extended day group was organized in the classroom. After preparing the lessons, the children were engaged in pioneering and circle work. The class teacher (who is also the leader of the extended-day group) worked in full contact with staff who studied children. All work plans were developed jointly; The basis was the work of the pioneer detachment. The council of the detachment directed all pioneering and club work. Each laboratory employee as a “consultant” and “assistant” of a link was attached to one link (there were three links in total). In addition, the experimenters worked in circles and led individual events. As a result of such an organization, researchers took an active part in the life of the class, links and individual children.
In the classroom, a lot of pioneering and circle work was carried out. The guys lived a busy life. Much time was devoted to discussing the actions of individual pioneers, preparing the planned cases, the course of their implementation and evaluation, at the detachment’s council, at the assembly meetings and at class meetings. Often held cool rulers. The joint activity of our employees with the guys in the preparation and conduct of this work made it possible to collect material about the most diverse aspects of their life, activities and communication, to observe the behavior of fifth graders in various situations.
In the class selected for study, by the beginning of the year there were 39 students. It was formed from two IV classes: from one class - 26 people, from a parallel - 11 and 2 repetitions.
The study of adolescents began at the end of their education in the fourth grade, and then continued in the fifth grade from the first day of class. The main method of material accumulation is a systematic detailed, everyday observation. Everything was recorded in the diary: observing students during lessons, preparing homework, pioneering, group work, various competitions; features of behavior and relationships with friends, teachers, parents; facts related to interests, plans for the future, attitude to oneself, claims and aspirations, social activity, reactions to success and failure, value judgments, all kinds of discussions, guys talk, disputes, cues.
Conversations (individual and group) were widely used with children, which, as a rule, were conducted in a natural setting and on a wide variety of topics (with working groups of children, a link, a detachment council, with the whole class). All sorts of material was provided by all kinds of discussions, as well as conversations between researchers and a teenager during the joint execution of
business. On some issues, discussions were held with all students in the class.
Throughout the school year, discussions were held with teachers. At the end of the school year, a history teacher gave characteristics for all students in the class. Teachers of arithmetic, foreign language and physical education gave characteristics for 10-15 students. Parents of many children visited school quite often. Any of their visits was certainly used to obtain this or that material about the child. At the end of the year, a conversation was held with the parents of each student about the changes that occurred with the child in grade V compared to grade IV.
On certain issues, surveys, experimental techniques, and children's compositions served as a means of collecting material. At the end of grade V, we organized a medical examination of all students by the staff of the Institute for Physical Education of Children of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the RSFSR. In addition to general data on the state of health, height, weight, etc., material was obtained on the stage of puberty of each child in the class we are studying.
To clarify the sympathies between the individual guys, their gravitation towards each other, as well as changes in the relationships and composition of groups, we used a sociometric technique. Three times (during the year) each student should name the three comrades with whom he would most like to: 1) sit at the same desk, 2) carry out a public assignment, 3) live in the same tent in the camp, 4) have it link. Before the end of the fourth grade, the children answered all questions, in the middle of the fifth grade - on the 1st, 2nd and 4th, at the beginning of the fourth grade - only on the 1st. The collected material was subjected to quantitative processing and qualitative analysis each time.
To determine whether a child has a sense of adulthood and a certain attitude towards himself and adults, experimental discussions were conducted with all students according to the method of T.V. Dragunova (1961). Thanks to this, we received materials on the attitude of the teenager to the facts of violation of certain requirements and standards of behavior, to grades, to some personality qualities, to girls (or boys), etc.
The class was offered two essay themes. The first is “Let's talk about ourselves”, according to which the children wrote about what positive and negative traits they see in themselves, how they relate to their shortcomings, and what they do in order to correct them. The material was not uniform in quality, but provided additional data on how adolescents evaluate themselves and whether they engage in self-education.
The second essay was called "On Friendship and Comrades." It had the following plan: 1) Which of the guys do you consider a good friend and why? 2) Who do you consider a bad friend and why? 3) What about your comrades offends you the most? 4) By
what reason could you stop making friends with a friend? We got interesting data in many respects. About 6-8 people wrote about some guys as good or bad comrades, which served as additional evidence of the presence of certain positive qualities or shortcomings in the respective children, and also reflected the attitude of these children in the team, the public opinion of the class. When assessing a friend, students justified their opinion, and this helped to understand the criteria for their assessment. Statements about grievances and the reasons for breaking the friendship contained information indicating moments in the relationship that cause affective experiences.
As a result, we received materials characterizing each student in all the main areas of his life, activity, and relations with people around him. Data on each student was systematized as an individual characteristic. The characteristic was discussed by the whole laboratory staff with the participation of the head of the extended day group and was, to a certain extent, the result of collective work. These characteristics were taken by us as a basis for comparative analysis.
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