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Dorris on Bame's Theory
   An Eco-Cultural and Social Paradigm An Eco-cultural and Social Paradigm for Understanding Human Development: A (West African) Context  Dorris E. Ngaujah Biola University Human Development and Learning (DE803) Dr. Dennis H. Dirks Fall 2003 Introduction In understanding how the human person develops and learns, the age–old debate over nature versus nurture has been challenged by the growing body of contemporary wisdom affirming the latter’s profound significance. Theorists and their theories--that have attempted to study humans in isolation--devoid of their embedded culture and specific socialization, have been critiqued, analyzed and found wanting. Many  psychologists in the past have raised the issue of the developmental environment as a determinant in the overall development of the individual. However, psychology, being a science of the Western worldview, and its mainstream gatekeepers has insisted on studying the individual as though he or she develops and comes into full maturity of self without being affected by the social and eco-cultural environment in which the development occurs.  Not all Western psychologists and human scientists, though, are so naïve and lacking in intellectual prowess, for some, those affiliated with Critical Psychology and Cross-Cultural Psychology, have dared to acknowledge that the social context of the individual in fact, determined the very experimentation (the methods, tools and tasks) researchers used to determine development. Consider: The use of a paper and pen to answer researchers’ questionnaires is a western socialized construct. The problem with Western theories is that they are just that—Western theories. Consequently, the assumption of universality—the belief that the findings (or the results) of studies done in narrow and unique cultural contexts (though few have been done with the socio-cultural context in mind) are universal and applicable to all human contexts--is fraught with error, misconceptions and misinformation. As a western minority person and as an experienced traveler and novice teacher, I am keenly aware of the inapplicability of some popular development theories to my own sense of development and to certain people groups I have had the privilege to visiting in Africa. With eagerness, I have sought to know what theorists and/or educators from the African continent had to say about human development (and learning) in their own context. So I was delighted to discover the writings of the theorist I am presenting in this paper. He is a psychologist from the West African country of Cameroon, trained in his native country, in Nigeria and in the United States who posits the imperative that human development in Third World (a term no longer in vogue in the 21 st  century) countries is to  be understood and investigated quite differently from human development in the West. He argues “Western worldviews and social reality that organize and inform research differ markedly from those of Third World cultures” (Nsamenang 1992b:16). His name is Augustine Bame Nsamenang (preferably called, Bame). His  professional and academic work is identified with Critical Psychology and his theory of   Eco-Cultural and Social Paradigm 2human development embraces a biological, ecological, sociological, political and cultural  paradigm. His book,  Human Development in Cultural Context: a Third World Perspective  is an expose of the “characterization of ontogeny as a cumulative process of integration within the community and clan [that] differs in theoretical focus from the more individualistic accounts proposed by Freud, Erikson and Piaget” (Serpell, 1994:18) In this paper, I will attempt to articulate 1) the impetus for such a different way of understanding human development, 2) Bame Nsamenang’s nine-stage theory, 3) a synopsis of his empirical studies done with Nso children of his country, and 4) his  perceived shortfall of effective psychological studies in his and other African contexts. Subsequently, I will suggest how Bame’s theory and those of other critical and/or social theorists inform the cross-cultural education and missiological communities. Lastly, I will attempt to show what biblical and/or theological integration came be made from this  particular view of human development. Definition of Terms 1. Apprenticeship (used metaphorically)   is an activity in which novices advance their skills and understanding through participation with more skilled partners in culturally organized activities. The extended value of the apprenticeship model is that it includes “more people than a single expert and a single novice: the apprenticeship system often involves a group of novices (peers) who serve as resources for one another in exploring the new domain and aiding and challenging one another” (Rogoff 1990:39). 2. Ecology of human development involves the scientific study of the progressive, mutual accommodation between an active, growing human being and the changing  properties of the immediate settings in which the developing person lives as this process is affected by relations between these settings and by the larger contexts in which the settings are embedded. It includes reciprocity (Bronfenbrenner 1979:21-22). 3.  Ecological environment  (Bronfenbrenner 1979:22-26) is conceived topologically as a nested arrangement of concentric structures, each contained with the next. These structures are referred to as the micro-, meso-, exo-, and macrosystems. a)   Micro-system  – a pattern of activities, roles, and interpersonal relations experienced by the developing person in a given setting.  b)   Meso-system  - comprises the interrelations among two or more settings in which the developing person actively participates (such as for a child, the relations among home, school, and neighborhood peer group; for an adult, among family, work, and social life). c)   Exo-system  refers to one or more settings that do not involve the developing person as an active participant, but in which events occur that affect, or are affected by what happens in setting containing the developing person. d)   Macro-system  refers to consistencies in the form and content of lower order systems (micro-, meso-, exo-) that exist or could exist at the level of the subculture or the culture as a whole, along with any belief systems or ideology underlying such consistencies. 4. Ecological experiment  is an effort to investigate the progressive accommodation  between the growing human organism and its environment through a systematic contrast  between two or more environmental systems or their structural components, with a   Eco-Cultural and Social Paradigm 3careful attempt to control other sources of influence either by random assignment (planned experiment) or by matching (natural experiment). The purpose of which is “not hypothesis testing but discovery—the identification of those systems properties and  processes that affect and are affected by the behavior and development of the human  beings” (Bronfenbrenner 1979:37-38). 5. Ecological transition occurs whenever a person’s position in the ecological environment is altered as the result of a change in role, setting, or both (Bronfenbrenner 1979:26). 6. Ecological orientation to research emphasizes the subjects definitions of the situation and accord far more importance to the knowledge and initiative of the persons under study (Bronfenbrenner 1979:32). 7. Experienced  as used in micro-systems is used to indicate that scientifically relevant features of any environment including not only its objective properties but also the way in which these properties are perceived by the persons in that environment . . . . Very few of the external influences significantly affecting human behavior and development can be described solely in terms of objective physical conditions or events: the aspects of the environment that are most powerful in shaping the course of psychological growth are overwhelmingly those that have meaning to the person in a given situation” (Bronfenbrenner 1979:22). 8. Human Development  (in the environmental context) is the process through which the growing person acquires a more extended differentiated and valid conception of the ecological environment and becomes motivated and able to engage in activities that reveal the properties of, sustain, or restructure that environment at levels of similar or greater complexity in form and content (Bronfenbrenner 1979:27). Biographical Information A. Bame Nsamenang presented a paper--a chapter from the book, Sibling and Peer Relationships that he co-authored with Dr. Ashley Maynard at the Workshop on Cultural Pathways at UCLA in Los Angeles, California in June this year. For the 2002-2003 school year he had been at Stanford University as a visiting lecturer and researcher at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences as a CASBS fellow. Presently he is back home in Cameroon where he serves as the Director of the Human Development Resource Centre, a center he founded in 1995 (ECDVU 2003:7) in Bamenda, N.W. Province. He is also the Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Guidance & Counseling at the University of Yaoundé 1 (E.N.S.). Bame was born on August 23, 1951 in Kitiwum, Kumbo in Cameroon. His earlier education was parochial leading to completion of his O levels in General Education. He worked as a health care provider for three years, then, passed his A Levels in Geography. In Nigeria, he studied at the University of Ibadan and received his Bachelor of Science with Honors in Undergraduate Nursing in 1979. A year later, from the same university he completed the Master of Education in Guidance and Counseling. He was accepted in the Ph. D. program for Clinical Child Psychology and received that distinction in 1984. As a Fogarty fellow, Bame studied and lectured at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for three years at Bethesda, Maryland in the U.S.A. from 1987 – 1990. As mentioned above, most recently he served as a scholar in residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences,   Eco-Cultural and Social Paradigm 4Stanford, CA, where he completed a major book draft, Cultures in Human Development and Education: Challenge to Growing up African , now under consideration for  publication. Bame worked as a nurse before going into clinical counseling. While working on his Ph. D. he began to reflect on the inadequacy of developmental theories to make assumptions about development in his hometown, among his own people. I realized from my graduate years at the university of Ibadan, Nigeria, that the social reality and goals of human development and education  presented in standard textbooks in education and psychology were somehow different from my perception and experience of them in African societies . . . .I became wary of their relevance to African realities (Nsamenang 2000:94). His sensitivity to the Eurocentric nature of mainstream psychology and the fallacious assumptions of psychology to address how people in Third World countries sensitized him to the influence and scholarship of several critical psychologists, among them were Supo Laosebikan, Robert Serpell, Michael Lamb, Moghaddam, Patricia Greenfield, Barbara Rogoff, Michael Cole and Colleen Loomis. Seeding his thinking on human development generally, is a long line of social psychologists including such names as Urie Bronfenbrenner, Jaan Valsiner, Gustav Jahoda, Charles Super and Sara Harkness, and John Ogbu, to name a few. In explaining why he wrote his book,  Human Development in Cultural Context: A Third World Perspective, Bame asserts, “I took issue with the assumptions and fallacies that undergird research and scholarship in psychology, including the lack of clarity about whose mind and behavior psychology studies and developmental stages based on  biological maturation” (Nsamenang 2000:95). Motivation for an Indigenous Perspective on Development Bame’s focus was born out of the need for a theory of human development that gives more attention or as much attention to the milieu in which a person is developing. He realized that the theories he had studied and the conclusions made by the theorists could not be validated in his environment, nor could the schema or stages advanced by certain theorists fit his experience. Bame builds on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological treatise on human development and the implications of the ecological environment’s impact on human ontogeny. In his evaluative statement below, Bronfenbrenner scathingly debunks traditional developmental experimentation. In 1979 Bronfenbrenner stated, “it can be said that much of developmental psychology, as it now exist, is the science of the strange  behavior of children in strange situations with strange adults for the briefest possible  periods of time”(1979:18-19). Here Bronfenbrenner was referring to Larson’s (1975) studies done between 1972 – 1974 in which 76% of 902 studies were done in the laboratory paradigm, 17% with pencil and paper and only 8% done under observational studies. Bronfenbrenner further asserts “the understanding of human development demands more than the direct observation of behavior… it requires examination of multi- person systems in interaction . . . [with] aspects of the environment beyond the immediate situation containing the subject” (1979:21). In the introduction to his book,  Acquiring Culture: Cross Cultural Studies in Child Development  , Gustav Jahoda (1988:29) wisely outlined the need for looking at
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