by Meir Ben-Hur
Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) that was developed more than forty years ago enjoys a worldwide reputation for its success with low-performing students. Feuerstein's work has seriously challenged the belief that intelligence is fixed and cannot be changed. He added the early childhood version, FIE-BASIC, as a tool to further expand the application of his theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability to preventing learning problems. The recent results of the FIE BASIC project in Alaska supports Feuerstein's claims, as well as the emerging brain research, that learning problems may be prevented through early, developmentally appropriate, intervention.
FIE BASIC consists of a set of playful learning activities that that help Pre-K-3 teachers "mediate" the development of children's basic concepts and thinking skills according to the same theories of cognitive modifiability and mediated learning that have made long existing (FIE) program so successful. It includes10 instruments taught over 2-4 years. Short descriptions of these instruments follow:
Tri-Channel Attentional Learning involves children in exploring the characteristics of geometric shapes (squares, circles, triangles, various polygons, segmented irregular forms with elements to be counted, sequenced, etc.) first through the tactile modality, then through drawing, and ultimately visually. The tasks are presented in sequential order from simple to complex. This task is conceived as a way to prevent and remediate a variety of difficulties underlying learning disabilities and attention deficits.
Orientation in Space (two levels) helps children develop an operational vocabulary that is related to orientation in space. Tasks present familiar but increasingly complex scenes, and the learner is asked to identify positions in the space and talk about them using specific vocabulary, including: up/down, above/below, inside/outside, in front of/behind, above/below, and ultimately right/left.
Organization of Dots engages children in projecting virtual relationships in an amorphous cloud of dots to form specific geometrical forms. The resulting products must conform to given forms and sizes in changing spatial orientation. The exercises become progressively complex as the child gradually overcomes the challenges of conservation, representation, and precision.
From Unit to Group facilitates the development of the cardinal concept of numbers. In this set of activities the child must divide a cloud of dots into equal-size groups. The concept of group gradually takes on variations of form, color, heterogeneity, and configuration. The variations encourages the emergence and flexible applications of the concept of number as group. In this context the child also constructs the operations of addition and multiplication with complete understanding of the commutative and associative properties.
Identifying Emotions capitalizes upon the relationship between emotional and cognitive states. The child is asked to recognize emotions from pictures of facial expressions and connect them with illustrated scenes that are likely to cause them. The exercises are made increasingly difficult by the gradation of possible causes among given scenes. One choice is always irrelevant, but the others vary in terms of emotional intensity. Thus, the challenge for the child is to reason about their chosen link between cause and emotional consequence.
From Empathy to Action involves the child in reflecting upon empathic reactions to given situations where a person (or animal) is in trouble: "What should one do to help in such situation?"
Preventing Violence builds on what the child has learned in the earlier instruments to develop self control and regulation of behavior, search for meaning (understanding the nature of a conflict between two children), and planning behavior.
Compare and Discover the Absurd facilitates children's comparative behavior. The motivation to compare is generated by the presentation of incongruity and humor. It requires that the child identifies what is unusual or unreasonable in a given picture. The relevant determinants of the absurd are initially limited to size, shape, direction, and quantity. The more progressive tasks involve also the consideration of weight, age, and function.
Learning to Question for Reading Comprehension is designed to prepare the child for reading comprehension by mediating the development of the question asking skills. It develops the cognitive functions of comparing, analyzing, summarizing and hypothesis making. Mediation with this instrument emphasizes impulse control, precision, and the feeling of competence.
Use of Instrumental Enrichment in the classroom is contingent upon a strong, two year long teacher preparation program that includes workshops and continued technical assistance.
Alaska Early Education FIE-BASIC Project Changes Children's Minds
The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (EED) recently released preliminary assessment results from the three-year Alaska Community Preschool Project (ACPP) funded by a U.S. Department of Education "Funds for the Improvement of Education" grant. The project is done in collaboration with the International Renewal Institute Inc. (IRI), an Illinois-based company that disseminates the early childhood and upper grade (4-12) versions of Instrumental Enrichment (IE) throughout North America. The Alaska project involves seven communities that volunteered to develop models for increasing early cognitive based intervention in urban, rural and remote Alaskan settings.
The project serves 250 children in Bethel, Hoonah, Juneau, King Cove, Minto, Sand Point and Unalakleet. Each community developed its own application and evaluation of the IE program using variety of assessment tools. The following preliminary results from three communities have been released:
One community provides FIE BASIC to three, four and five year old preschool students who were pre- and post- assessed in motor skills, concepts and language development using the DIAL-3 screening. In only five months, children showed growth in all areas. Concept development and total score growth was statistically significant. This community also used the Brigance assessment tool for all children entering kindergarten. The mean score for all children was 68.24. The mean for the IE-BASIC children was 92.34. The range for all children was 24-100. The IE-BASIC children ranged from 70-100. The standard deviation for all children was 20.63 while the standard deviation for the IE-BASIC children was 7.
Another community provides the program in a multi-grade classroom (pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade). They use the Star Early Literacy assessment and the AGS Early Screening profile for pre- and post- assessment. The intermediary data was segregated by age groups. The pre-K group showed over one year's growth in the first five months; the kindergarten group showed almost two years' growth in seven months; the first grade group showed almost one year's growth over seven months. The results indicated statistically significant growth in verbal concepts, logical relations, visual discrimination, and basic school skills and significant growth in basic school skills
Another community reported the results of the program with three, four, and five year old pre-k students only. The DIAL-3 screening analysis showed growth that is significantly larger than normal in motor, concept and language development. Significant differences were noted between the group that received little or no IE and the group that received moderate to full IE instruction (the mean total score of 36.1 without FIE, and total mean score of 63.1 for the FIE group)
The project is now in its third year, expanding to include additional communities. Data is continuously gathered as the project is being modified to address the specific issues related to implementation and assessment of progress.
In addition to serving as a senior international trainer for Feuerstein's Institutes around the world, Dr. Meir Ben-Hur has lead the development of ICELP's training centers in North America, and written books, book chapters, and numerous articles on Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment. He is currently involved in the preparation of teachers and dissemination of the new version of FIE for early childhood.
Since his first meeting with Reuven Feuerstein, Meir's special interest has been in bridging of Feuerstein's learning theory and programs into mathematics education. He his work on this relationship has been published in the series titled Pathways to Mathematics Achievement, a recent ASCD publication titled Concept-Rich Mathematics, and numerous articles. He leads IRI's development of the Math Achievement Advantage Program, coordinates IRI's achievement research model, and directs teacher training programs.
Meir can be reached by phone at IRI: (877) 203 1473, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
© December 2006
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