Using Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Framework to Design Support Systems for Education and Special Education: Learning about Thought Systems

Using Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Framework to Design Support Systems for Education and Special Education: Learning about Thought Systems

Gabriela Walker (University of South Dakota, USA) and Elizabeth Pattison (Ashland University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0034-6.ch002
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Abstract

Principles of Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Theory were reviewed to examine potential uses for classroom teachers and re-imagine Bronfenbrenner's System's Theory into a series of novel frameworks that could be practically applied to students' lives and experiences outside of the classroom environment. This interpretive review offers educators and families novel conceptual frameworks intended to foster deep understanding of individual students and to provide practical tools to visualize and navigate the unique web of human relationships and support available outside of the classroom. Fourteen newly created “systems theories” are briefly presented here.
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Background And Main Focus

Bronfenbrenner (1979) set up a system model for understanding human ecology, starting from the microsystem representing the developing child, to the mesosystem encapsulating “interpersonal structures in the form of dyads and N+2 systems” (p. 209), the exosystem consisting of one or more settings, and to the macrosystem referring to cultures and subcultures. “The ecological environment is conceived as a set of nested structures, each inside the next, like a set of Russian dolls” (p. 3; see Figure 1), in which “environments are not distinguished by reference to linear variables but are analyzed in systems terms” (p. 5), i.e. multi-systemic.

Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory is a theory rooted in the belief that a child develops interactively, in response to various levels of environmental relationships and influences. This model situates the child at the center of the world, and it considers the child as an active participant in his/her learning and development. The various human and institutional relationships available to the child are envisioned as a series of systems layered concentrically around the child, similar to a Russian Matryoshka doll (see Figure 1). These systems influence the child directly (the microsystem formed of immediate relationships) and indirectly (the Mesosystem – pertaining to second-degree interactions about the child among interested parties; the Exosystem – regarding contextual events that affect the microsystem; the Macrosystem – consisting of cultures, policies, economies, etc.; and the Cronosystem related to time lapse) (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Friend & Cook, 2013).

Figure 1.

Brofenbrenner’s Ecological Framework

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