Sunday, 12 November 2017


A different analysis
From a different age

When Conductive Education first 'landed' in the UK as a public issue in the late eighties it butted up against a special educational system where questions of instructional technique (the word 'pedagogy' was never heard) were still a leading professional concern.

Behavioural approaches particularly were very much to the fore among special educators and educational psychologists

Following a visit to the satellite institute in Kiskunhalas, in 1990 educational psychologist John Presland wrote a letter to The Conductor magazine –

Dear Editors,
One of the problems that I have found with Conductive Education is the absence of a reasonably comprehensive theory to help me understand what is happening.
On a recent visit to the Pető Institute in Kiskunhalas, my observations suggest that almost everything could be interpreted in terms of something that has had a major influence in schools for children with severe learning difficulties in our country (i.e. a different population from that provided for by the Pető Institutes).
For instance, Conductive Education establishes general aims (orthofunction, integration) and derives more specific objectives from them (sitting, standing, walking etc.). It utilises task analysis – the analysis of a complex task into smaller items to be mastered in sequence. I saw many examples of what we would call prompting (i.e. such methods of guiding children in the action required for learning as verbal instruction and explanation, demonstration and gestures indicating action, and physically moving parts of the body in the ways required. Their systematic use of praise could be interpreted within our concept of reinforcement as some consequence of behaviour use in a planned way to change the frequency of a behaviour. The building of one task upon another in Conductive Education echoed with our own concern to teach in such a way that the results of learning transfer from one situation to another, so that generalisation of the learning occurs.

Overall the impressive work that I observed seemed to have much in common with approached which I have described (Presland, 1989), which were based on a combination of research findings, practice in schools for children with severe learning difficulties, and the work and writings of physiotherapists. Could it be that a combination of our theory and Hungarian practice could bring benefits to both countries?
     John Presland, Wiltshire School Psychological Service
To an outsider (as I now am), at least within the United Kingdom, it looks like the concerns of 'special educational needs' have replaced those of special education – with concerns for behaviour in the sense of 'challenging behaviour' now very much to the fore, and bureaucratic time-wasting seemingly sucking the soul out of everything. Conductive Education in this national context anyway, does not stand up and butt explicitly against education, special or otherwise, in any visible context.
That is a shame, for everyone involved. After all, back in the nineteen-eighties the concerns of the pioneers were very much involved with replacing the then system of special schools and by implication the superstructure of ideas that came with it. This not a unique position by all means behaviourists, early integrationists and others wanting major changes in the existing system in their particular ways.
It just might have led to such a creative and innovative future. As Mária Hári used to say around that time, 'There are many roads to Rome', and other paths might have emerged. In the event, there were bigger, more powerful social forces at work, and this was not to be. Oh well, so it goes.
Presland, J. L. (1989) Paths to mobility in 'special care': a guide to teaching gross motor skills to children with very severe learning difficulties, 2nd edition, Kidderminster, BIMH Publications
Presland, J. L. (1990) Letter to the editors, The Conductor, vol. 3, nos 1-2, p. 8

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Anonymous Andrew Sutton said...


I have just seen Conductive Education looked at by Adrienn Oravecz in terms of constructivist education...

See the presentation by Adrienn Oravecz on page 481 of of the Abstracts of the XVII. National Education Studies Conference, held at Nyíregyházi University on 9-11 November:

Sunday, 12 November 2017 at 18:11:00 GMT  

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