Sudha Govindswamy Sunder - Alliance for International Education

Cultural values and student
expressions in an inquiry-based IB
Bernstein’s Theoretical Framework
S Govindswamy Sunder
Sudha Sunder
Staff and Curriculum Development Coordinator
Universal American School, Dubai- American IB World School
70 different nationalities in student body
Curriculum Consultant- concept-based trainer- consult with international schools in
curriculum development
Completing my EdD dissertation- University of Bath UK
Teacher perceptions in school-based curriculum development initiatives
S Govindswamy Sunder
Focus of this paper
Does culture influence the way we teach and
– Though we understand learning as a cognitive process, few of us would
contest the notion, that culture influences the way we teach and of
course, the way we learn.
– How sensitive are we to this when we teach, particularly in the context of an
inquiry-driven IB classroom, where knowledge is socially negotiated and
S Govindswamy Sunder
Home Culture VS School ‘learning culture’
How sensitive are we, as teachers, to the fact
that some students continue to be challenged
with clashes between the 'home culture' where
questioning and debating with 'authority' is not
acceptable, but in the 'learning culture' at
school, this is an 'expectation'?
S Govindswamy Sunder
Unpacking the questions…how?
…through Bernstein’s theoretical framework
• Classification and Framing
• Restricted Code and Elaborate Code
(acknowledge the challenge in terms of the
complexity of Bernstein’s theories, particularly in
relation to other concepts developed over time…)
S Govindswamy Sunder
Why Bernstein?
Bernstein (1975) formulated theories bottom-up:
• Micro to Macro
• Analyzing classroom interaction- which I believe is very
“ An approach that sought to write the rules of educational processes; then to
link them to larger structural conditions and finally, to place this analysis in
the context of the larger educational and policy questions of educators”.
(Sadovnik 2001, p.5).
Acknowledge that Bernstein did not generate these theories in the light of international education
Nevertheless very powerful in terms of unpacking classroom dynamics
S Govindswamy Sunder
Strong and weak Classification
According to Bernstein (1971), “classification”
indicates the “degree of boundary” that is
maintained between different things in the
“Where classification is strong, contents are well insulated from each other by strong boundaries.
Where classification is weak, there is reduced insulation between contents, for the boundaries
between contents are weak or blurred. Classification thus refers to the degree of boundary
maintenance between contents.” (Bernstein 1971, p.49; emphasis in original).
S Govindswamy Sunder
Strong Framing
Where framing is strong, the teacher controls,
what is taught/learnt, in what sequence/order,
the time allocated to differing parts of
instruction and the legitimacy (correctness) of
the learning is assessed by the teacher.
– Here, the locus of control for all aspects of
curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation
(assessment) reside with the teacher- traditional
teacher-centered education)
S Govindswamy Sunder
Weak Framing
Where framing is weak, control over the
selection, sequence, pace and criteria of the
pedagogic interaction are in the control of the
learner. In this case, the rules that regulate
behavior and instruction are invisible or implicit
to the learner (Bernstein, 2000).
S Govindswamy Sunder
IB ProgramsClassification and Framing
Could be argued that..
• IB PYP- MYP- Weak classification and framing
• IB DP- Strong classification and framing
S Govindswamy Sunder
Code Theory
• Bernstein analyses one of the ways in which
the dynamics of social class affects learner
outcomes in school
• … the language patterns of working-class and
middle-class families and children
S Govindswamy Sunder
Social class and learner outcomes
• Bernstein argues that the form of language
use of working class (who speak a ‘restricted
code’) as contrasted with middle class
students (who speak an ‘elaborated code’), in
part explained their comparative performance
at school.
S Govindswamy Sunder
“Education cannot compensate for
• Bernstein (1971) argues that the language of
working class children is context specific: it is
locked into specific relationships in particular
social situations, and it is predictable.
– Because it is context specific, Bernstein calls it a
“Restricted Code”.
– This is contrasted with ‘middle class’ language, in
which meaning is more abstract and universalistic,
which he calls the “Elaborated Code”.
S Govindswamy Sunder
The “restricted” code does not refer to
restricted vocabulary, and the “elaborated” code
does not entail flowery use of language...
S Govindswamy Sunder
The theory that social class relationships shape the structure of
Social class is…
Working class
Middle Class
Spoken language is…
Context bound
Less context bound
Meanings are…
Principles are…
The Code is…
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence.
Restricted Code…
Elaborate Code…
Inhibits orientation to symbolize intent in Facilitates orientation to symbolize intent
a verbally explicitly form
in a verbally explicit form
Org. structure regardless of complexity is
wholly predictable and hence very
Less predictable…more complex and
S Govindswamy Sunder
Elaborate codes and success at school
– Bernstein’s research argued that working-class
students had access to their restricted code(s) –
but middle-class students had access to both
restricted and elaborated codes, because the
middle classes were more geographically, socially
and culturally mobile.
– middle class children thus have access to the
language codes required to be successful at school
whereas working class children do not
S Govindswamy Sunder
Elaborate codes for educational
– Bernstein suggested that schooling rewarded
formal language.
– “..if you can't handle elaborated code, you are not
going to succeed in the educational system”
S Govindswamy Sunder
In the culturally varied IB classroom
• Inquiry-based IB classrooms– Here, the learner takes responsibility for
determining what they learn (curriculum), how
they learn it (pace, sequence), when they have
arrived at a legitimate end to the learning
– the context of cultural constraints
how do some students achieve this, particularly
when they have access only to “restricted codes”?
S Govindswamy Sunder
Points of Reflection
• How “restricted” are some students from expressing
themselves, and why?
• Particularly in terms of some cultures?
S Govindswamy Sunder
Students’ Restricted Code
• It is about the embarrassment which many students may feel when
asked to express themselves (speak in class) in an elaborated-code. Do
some cultures experience this more than the other? And why?
• It is about the reassurance and security often achieved through
‘restricted codes’..
S Govindswamy Sunder
Teachers’ restricted code
“Remember that when teaching the
misunderstandings may come not from your use
of elaborated code, but from your use of your
restricted code, adapted to your own speech
community (jargon, abbreviations, etc.), rather
than a properly and appropriately elaborated
code” Atherton J S (2013)
S Govindswamy Sunder
Role of the teacher
• How can we as teachers facilitate the
movement from the students’ usage of
restricted code to elaborate code..
S Govindswamy Sunder
Discussion and Questions
• Thoughts and input from audience
– Do we agree or disagree and why?
– Any thoughts to tackle the issue?
S Govindswamy Sunder
• Not suggesting that every educational problem
has a solution
Sometimes being aware of this helps to a large extent
Being aware of our own restricted code as teachers
Mother tongue- involvement of parents
• Discussion boards
• Software platform that help students articulate and develop
their thoughts in complex and abstract ways
S Govindswamy Sunder
Atherton J S (2013) Doceo; Language Codes [On-line: UK] retrieved 29 September 2014 from
Language Codes
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives
Bernstein, B (1971) Class, Codes and Control vol 1 London; Paladin.
Bernstein, B. 1971. Education cannot compensate for society. School and Society: A sociological
reader. Cambridge: Open University), 61-66.
Bernstein, B.,1971. On the Classification and Framing of Educational Knowledge. In M. Young (Ed.),
Knowledge and control (p. 47-69). London: Collier-Macmillan.
Bernstein, B., 2000. Pedagogic, Symbolic Control and Identity. Oxford, England: Rowman &
Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Douglas, M (1973) Natural Symbols Harmondsworth; Penguin
Labov, W (1969) "The Logic of Nonstandard English" reprinted in P Giglioli (ed.) Language and
Social Context Harmondsworth; Penguin 1990
Sadovnik, A. R., 2001. Basil Bernstein (1924-2000): sociologist, mentor and friend. In P. Aggleton, J.
Brannen, A. Brown, L. Chisholm, J. Mace & S. Power (Eds.), A Tribute to Basil Bernstein: 1924-2000.
London: Institute of Education.
Language Codes
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives
S Govindswamy Sunder

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