Wednesday, 7 November 2012


A few notes

I have been recently asked what I mean by this phrase that I concocted nearly twenty years ago in part response to a request to express a psychological principle or two that I could see in Conductive Education (the other that I came up at the same time, I recall, was 'teaching trying').

In subsequent years I found the concept a useful explanatory tool, not least for conductors in training, one open to considerable elaboration. Nowadays it turns up on the Internet from time to time and I have also seen and heard conductors explaining their work in the same sort of terms.

One sees the process (though nor the term) embedded in András Pető's early account of teaching a child to walk (paras 29-33 of his notes to students 'Themes for the examination', 1950).

There is of course nothing uniquely 'conductive' in this formulation of pedagogic help in teaching and learning. Among other things, it has an obvious parallel is the Behaviourists' fading. Unique or not, however, seems an essential component of any practice that lays claim to following the conductive tradition.

The verbal form of the phrase that I have used to describe this principle derives directly from the US special-educational and legislative principle of 'least restrictive environment'. 

An informal statement of principle

I have no formal statement of the pedagogic principle of least necessary help. Here are a few informal thoughts:
    Least necessary help means that, at any given point in the process of conductive pedagogy and upbringing, learners' progress will be maximally ensured by providing the least help necessary to undertake a task and achieve a satisfactory goal.

    As a corollary, as a learner begins to master a task with practice and persistence, the teacher should carefully lessen or change the amount and/or the nature of the help necessary to maintain this process.

    Withdrawal of help may be quantitative (i.e. giving less help) or qualitative (e.g. a shift to a less intrusive and/or different kind of helping).

    When a task has been wholly learned, and help can therefore be  completely withdrawn, then the process should be recommenced at a higher level, incorporating what has been learned, with a new task/goal.

    This is therefore a dynamic process, continuously changing goals and methods as a result of what it achieves at any given step along its way. It is not a programme.
Inter alia one may relate this  to a properly dynamic description of L. S. Vygotskii's zone of next development, to conductive observation and to dynamic assessment.

A previous posting around the same theme


'Themes for a symposium' may be found on pp. 121-133 (in English) and pp. 237-157 (in Hungarian) of the recently published book András Pető:

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Blogger Rony Schenker, OTR, PhD, Tsad Kadima, Israel said...

Thanks Andrew.
For many, the principle of 'Least necessary help' = minimal usage of aids (walkers, wheelchairs, AAC, inserts and adapted chairs, etc.), what you have probably meant by saying "intrusive kind of helping".
What I wish to claim is that there are times where 'least necessary help'≠ minimal usage of aids, therefore one has to be very cautious in defining the term and using the principle.
Let's relate to AAC (Augmentative and Assistive Technology) for example,which might have might be described by conductivists, as an 'intrusive kind of helping' that prevents the child from developing speech, in other words, too much of help > counterproductive > developmentally destructive. Paradoxically, numerous studies have shown that in many cases, by providing AAC speech actually develops. In this case,choosing AAC is in fact, providing the least necessary help.
We also have to note that the principle of LNH is also inherent in the process of teaching the use of 'intrusive helping'. Be it academic, social, high tec or low tech, "the learners' progress will be maximally ensured by providing the least help necessary to undertake a task and to achieve a satisfactory goal".

Thursday, 8 November 2012 at 19:48:00 GMT  
Anonymous Andrew said...

Also see:

Saturday, 10 November 2012 at 16:07:00 GMT  

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