January 14, 2019

Foundation IN *

BIRTH OF PSI.CO.M.

For a long time, the teaching of movement was portrayed and unfortunately in some cases also conceptualised as a set of algorithmically organized commands to achieve different motor aims.

The tangible effects of applying a motor-based approach in its strict sense on the locomotor apparatus further established this reductionist conceptualisation even among many professionals of the field. This vision not only deprived of the teaching of motor activities of its formative potential, but also within the school system it gave rise to the view of physical education as a complementary and often secondary educational device. Its characteristic “practice” has prevailed in defining its essence as an activity, which is the reason why past generations of children have been deprived of its formative added value – something that here we propose to recover.

This work acts as a testimony of our deep conviction: during development across the childhood years, ludic-psycho-cognitive-motor activity should be considered as a complex didactic tool for the cognitive development of the child.

In our view, the multidisciplinary links implicit in the epistemology of the PSI.CO.M. system contribute considerably to the overcoming of the Manichean contrast between knowledge and experience, between knowing and knowing-how.
This position, by now widely shared by the neurosciences, according to which “to experiment” and “to explain” (Guidano VF, 1990) are categories of knowledge linked by circular and reciprocal dynamics, is extensively used in the application of the PSI.CO.M. system .

Due to this and according to the above view, the PSI.CO.M. educational system considers both the core aspects of brain functioning and the instances related to the analogical and tacit dimension of knowledge.
In the PSI.CO.M. system, knowledge components merge functionally and harmoniously, converging in a didactic approach that allows the child within the appropriate context to experiment with its own body and thus acquire its own knowledge.

Evolution and motor development

The evolutionary history of human beings tells us that movement has played a fundamental role in our transformation towards the Sapiens species.

Thanks to physical movement, our ancestors could explore the world around them and come face to face with the limits their motricity imposed upon them, thus generating the motivation needed for the expansion of their range of movement. To reach inaccessible places in the surrounding vicinity, to move from one point to a more distant one, human beings faced the need to travel great distances and therefore the need to conceive alternative ways of moving around which, in turn, allowed them to overcome the limits of their motor functions.

Through different activities such as, using tools to access food (e.g. fruits which were out of reach) or by traveling on the backs of animals to move to more prosperous lands, human beings were able to expand their range of actions. Each time they faced an experience that required a new motor behaviour, they were immediately exposed to postural and motor conditions which generated new neuromuscular stimuli, but also produced a gradual expansion of motor abilities and the continuing development of the cerebral cortex.

If the study of the phylogenesis of movement can provide us with information about the evolution of modern man, the study of individual motor development can guide us in the elaboration of educational methodologies.
The theories of motor development that have taken place during the twentieth century are numerous. Among the main ones, it is possible to enumerate the following:
• The Maturational Theory of child development was developed by A.L. Gesell in the mid-1920s, and considered motor development as a genetically determined process.
• Piaget’s model, which emerged in the 1950s, considered that the child’s sensory and motor activities were conditioning his mental development.
• The Phylogenetic Model, according to which individual motor development transitioned through phylogenetic stages.
• Systemic models, in vogue during the 1960s, according to which motor development was the product of different dynamics between functional systems (some of these, even external to the individual).
• The Models of Information Processing, developed during the 1970s, following the ascendance of cybernetics. According to these, motor development is related with the capacity to conceive and progressively apply “motor programs” of increasing complexity.
• The Dynamic Systems model, which emerged in the 1980s, which attributes the circumstances of motor development on a variety of factors, by and large environmental and minimises the role of genetic factors.
• A very interesting theory on motor development is included within the Theory of Neural Group Selection (known as “Neuronal Darwinism”) [Edelman, 1987]. In this theory, the model of Dynamic Systems is very convincingly reconciled with the Maturational Theory of the nervous system.

The three motricities

What are motor skills? The Physiological definition according to which motricity is the ability to comply and control movements, coordinating them with each other, provides a partial answer to the question, so we think it would be useful to introduce a broader view.

In the study of educational systems that contain movement, we consider it important to make a distinction between the different types of motricities: motricity of the species, genetic motricity, and environmental motricity.

Motricity of the species

This is the set of innate motor aptitudes which distinguish each animal species. Each individual shares with the rest of its species, the morphological and functional characteristics of their corresponding locomotive apparatus and therefore, a typical motor potential. The motricity of the species mutates very slowly, therefore it is not susceptible to modifications from educational systems.

Genetic motricity

The one the genotype inherits from its ancestors. Genetic inheritance determines both the physical characteristics (anthropometric, muscular, etc.) and the functional propensities that differentiate each individual from any other of their species. As it is genetically determined, this type of motricity is also not modified by educational systems.

Environmental motricity

This is the fruit of each individual’s continued interactive experiences with its environment. It is reasonable to suggest that this is the motive manifestation of the ‘phenotype’. It is the area in which educational systems produce considerable effects, and therefore, the one that is of interest to us.

Summarizing

• We are all linked to our species’ motricity in exactly the same way.
• Each of us inherits from our parents characteristics and motor skills (among other characteristics and inherited skills) that make them unique.
• Education systems have the function of developing individual potential.
Educational approaches and movement:
While some educational approaches should be considered obsolete today, in the last hundred years the relationship between motor practice and individual development has been conceptualised and interpreted in at least three different forms:
• Movement Education:
Focus: technical knowledge
Instrument: exercise
Purpose: motor learning
• Movement-oriented education
Focus: wellness philosophy
Instrument: practice of motor activities
Purpose: psychophysical efficiency
• Education through movement
Focus: procedural conception of development
Instrument: movement
Purpose: development of individual potential

The PSI.CO.M Educational System is part of this last approach.
It is important to emphasize that “individual potential” above does not only concern motor abilities, but also the complete hereditary pool of latent capabilities and abilities of the child, which an efficient educational system aims to mature and evolve, according to Auxology and Developmental

Psychology

For a large part of the Twentieth century, the teaching of movement was separated from cognitive development which led to establish, even within schools, methodological practices centred on a divided conceptualisation of individual development. And as motor development was separated from cognitive development, it was necessary to introduce separate principles and methodologies. It may have been for this very reason that for a long time the variability of exercising was considered a rudimentary instrument.
The procedural and complex examination of development that has led us to the development of this material centres on the idea that harmonious and functional growth should aim for educational systems that know how to perceive the relationship between movement and cognition during individual development.

Since the only movements that do not involve encephalic participation are spinal reflexes, the idea that variability of exercise can guarantee an expansion of motor skills, when in fact the cortical and brainstem implications have not been taken into account, seems restrictive and, in a certain way, naive.

The need for survival and adaptation to the environment human beings faced in the course of their evolution led them to continually change their behaviour and habits; the neurosciences have well documented that each experience tends to leave a mark on the nervous tissue of the one who experiences it, by which the slow and continuous evolutionary adaptations have established the appearance in the human brain (and that of some higher primates) of zones specialized in the integration of data of a very different nature.

These are the polymodal association areas, parts of the cerebral cortex, in which information of diverse origin is integrated and elaborated. The main polymodal association areas are:

• The limbic association area, which is involved in behaviours related to the survival of the species, in emotions (and their neuro-vegetative consequences) and in mnesic processes (explicit memory).
• The posterior (parietal-temporal-occipital) association area involved in the processes of attention, in the organization of complex movements, in the orientation in space, in the integration of information from different sensory modalities, in language, etc.
• The anterior association area (prefrontal cortex), which is involved in working memory and executive functions.

Any system that claims to be complete must reflect the relationship between the domains of movement and knowledge, since the development of both of these is linked by circular dynamics and reciprocity.

We consider that motricity facilitates learning and acts as a catalyst for cognitive development; for this reason, we prefer to speak of a psycho-cognitive-motor educational system as cognitive input.

How many different skills do we call intelligence? While it is possible that intelligence has been the most studied psychic function of all time, it is thanks to the profuse efforts of the scientific community, during the last half century, that the most interesting research on the subject has taken place.

Generally, with the term ‘intelligence’, we indicate the ability to produce information in an acute, adaptive, ready to use way.

In fact, the term refers to a very varied set of skills that are very different from each other. In 1938, Louis Leon Thurstone already spoke of 7 “primary skills”. At the end of the 1960s, the American Joy Paul Guilford elaborated a model that distinguished between operations, products and contents expressed by the intellect.

Even if there are some differences among them, many of the models and theories on intelligence elaborated in the last hundred years have the systemic and multicomponent vision of the intellectual function in common.

In the early 1980s, the American psychologist Howard Gardner developed the Multiple Intelligences model that distinguishes between eight types of intelligence:

TYPE OF INTELLIGENCE:CETRAL OPERATION:
Linguistic-verbal intelligenceSyntax, phonology, semantics, pragmatics
Musical intelligenceTone, rhythm, intonation
Logical-mathematical intelligenceCounting, categorisation, relating
Spatial intelligenceDetailed mental visualisation, mental transformation of images
Corporal and synesthetic intelligenceBody control, grasping skills
Interpersonal intelligenceKnowledge of feelings, emotions, awareness of other people’s goals and motivations
Intrapersonal intelligenceKnowledge of feelings, emotions, awareness of one’s own goals and motivations
Naturalist intelligenceAwareness and classification of objects in the surrounding environment

This model effectively expresses the natural complexity of the intellect and allows us to anticipate how the educational system PSI.CO.M. could intervene in each of the different intelligences described above by Gardner.

For each of these intelligences to emerge, however, it is not enough that the brain regions and nerve circuits involved in its operation are intact.

An educational system must promote the experiential and explanatory dimension with interventions consistent with the different modules of the intellect.

Although during early childhood the brain is the protagonist of growth in regards to its volume which is higher than that of any other organ, in later childhood and in conjunction with the beginning of schooling, anatomic-functional changes occur with an equally impressive acceleration, until the complete maturation of the Executive Functioning (during and after adolescence). The role educational systems play in this phase is very important.

Executive Functioning (EF) comprises of an articulated set of skills. The EF can be defined as the set of higher order cortical processes, in charge of: anticipation, planning, coordination, inhibition, control and regulation of behaviour leaning towards achieving a goal. The EF processes which come into play are:

• Learning processes.
• Control and monitoring of one’s behaviour.
• Actions that require planning and decision making.
• Correction of errors.
• Execution of new actions and unique behaviours.
• Difficult and dangerous actions.
• Inhibition of automated or habitual responses.

AGEMAIN MODIFICATIONS TAKING PLACE IN EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING IN EACH AGE GROUP OF THE PSI.CO.M. EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
4-6
  • Inhibition control improvement
  • Attention control emerges
  • Cognitive flexibility increases
  • Strategy formulation improves
  • Working Memory improves
  • Planning skills improve and behaviours leaning towards the achievement of predefined goals emerge
  • Capacity to decide on terms of cost and benefit emerges
8-10
  • Cognitive flexibility improvement
8-11
  • Attentiveness improves
  • Sustained attention improves
  • Inhibition control improves
9-12
  • Efficiency and quantity of Working Memory increases and the capacity to resist interferences improves
  • Flexibility of thought improves
12 and above
  • Capacity for planning and adjustment improves
  • Capacity to apply behaviours to specific goals improves

Mnesic processes have played a fundamental role in the evolution of our species. Their efficiency allows the evolution and the preservation of an individual’s sense of identity. They are the basis of cognitive development.

With the use of the term ‘memory’, we stipulate the capabilities of a system which conserves information for its deferred use. In biological systems, such capacity is complex; furthermore, in the case of the human species, it is specialized, articulated in sub processes and organized hierarchically.

The time interval that separates the conservation process of an information until the actual moment of its use, indicates the underlying mnesic processes at play.

To retain any information, it is necessary to generate internal representations of the data to be memorized (mnemonic experience). This is achieved through four sub processes:
• Coding
The quality of coding falls under the motivation and performance of the attention systems.
[Specific temporal regions, medial temporal lobe] *.
• Registry
Implies the consolidation of permanently imprinted traces.
[Temporal lobe] *.
• Conservation
Stability of memories falls under the accuracy of the conservation processes.
[Specific temporal regions, medial temporal lobe] *.
• Recovery
The search and reconstruction of the elements that constitute memory. These various elements can be stored in different areas of the neocortex.
*[Cortical areas in parentheses refer to long-term storage processes].

The distinction between short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM), which was publicised by Hebb [1949], was later confirmed with the Modal Model of Atkinson and Shiffrin [1968], who put forward a hypothesis for the existence of a system of “memory repositories” in which information is preserved for short-term (memory buffer) or long-term intervals.

Following subsequent reformulations of this model, by other researchers, the concept of STM transformed and lost part of its original meaning; the process was conceptualised only in regards to its functional connotation, which is why it is preferred to speak of ‘Working Memory’ (WM), thus including the hypothesis shared by Baddeley and Hitch in 1974, according to which this type of Memory operates in the performance of contingent tasks.

WM is one of the executive functions that appears in a very early stage (around the 8th month of age) in standard human development (Senn et al., 2004), which in itself is evidence of the essential role WM plays in the human learning process. For this reason WM is assigned a fundamental role in the structure of activities of the PSI.CO.M educational system.
Furthermore, WM is essentially involved in all forms of school-related and other learning; such as, verbal comprehension, reading, arithmetic operations (especially in mental calculations).

WM develops two distinct functions which are fundamental in mnesic processes:
a) Keeps information temporarily available;
b) Develops stored information.
This is possible due to the integrated operation of its three functional components [Baddeley & Hitch]:
• The central executive system
• The phonological-articulatory loop
• The visuo-spatial agenda

The Central Executive System (or system of executive control processes) manages all data coming from two subsystems whose activity it integrates and coordinates.
The Phonological-Articulatory Loop specializes in:
• Maintaining the availability of verbal and acoustic information within a temporary reservoir of words and sounds.
• Repeating words in a loop.
• Converting visual information into words.
The Visuo-spatial Agenda specializes in:
• Conserving visual information.
• Developing that information.

Some experimental evidence suggests that it may play a role in the manipulation of mental images.

Operating Memory controls, manages and informs two subsystems:

VERBAL

Subsystem

Phonological-Articulatory Loop

(deals with words)

VISUO-SPATIAL

Subsystem

Visuo-spatial agenda

(deals with images)

CONSERVATION module

of phonological knowledge (phonological depository)

APPLICATION module

maintains representations in an active state thanks to verbal articulation processes (including sub vocal)

IMAGE CONSERVATION
  • of objects
  • of their spatial dislocation
Posterior parietal cortex

Broca’s area

It is suggested that the recovery of images involves the conversion of these images by the frontal and premotor cortex, into the parietal lobe, the temporal lobe, and the occipital lobe.

Therefore, when we encounter something worth acquiring, we tend to make a visual and an acoustic copy in the cortex.

If the information is visual, we attempt to store a copy in the Visuo-spatial Agenda and to name it repeatedly (mentally or aloud) by recruiting the modules of the phonological-articulatory loop to store the particular sonic characteristics and the verbal scheme.

If the information is directly verbal, we will recruit the Verbal Subsystem as in the previous example, and try to represent it with an image that allows us to archive this type of data, even in another area of ​​the cortex. The possibility of joining the data to be memorized with constructions that we already know (association) facilitates conservation. Naturally these processes are automatic.

One of the differences between WM and LTM lies in the diverse nature of the neurobiological processes which characterise them. WM is characterised by the activation of nerve processes and as such: it is an “electrical” memory that is inextricably linked to the efficiency of the attention functions; this insight is taken seriously into account at the level of the methodological proposal in the structuring of activities.

LTM, on the other hand, is the product of elastic, structural modifications of the cerebral cortex (it is no coincidence that it is the most evolved part of the human nervous system), which depends on multiple factors (among which, the efficiency of WM).

Thus, brain elasticity, i.e. the ability of the brain to be structurally modified, depends on lived experience. Therefore, if stimulating environments generally influence the child’s growth, educational settings and systems specifically designed to promote their development will lead to fruitful brain maturation and an optimisation of the child’s cognitive potential.

GENERAL SCHEME OF LONG-TERM MEMORY
CLASSIFICATION OF 1STSUBDIVISIONCLASSIFICATION OF 2NDSUBDIVISIONCLASSIFICATION OF 3RD  SUBDIVISION
EXPLICIT

Declarative, consciously available

[medial temporal lobe, diencephalon, neocórtex]

EPISODIC* Autobiographical

* Non-autobiographical

SEMANTIC* General notions* Events
IMPLICIT Non-declarative, automaticPRIMING [Neocortex] 
PROCEDURAL Motor skills, cognitive skills, habitual responses [basal ganglia, cerebellum, neocortex]
ASSOCIATIVE CLASSICAL CONDITIONING [amygdala, cerebellum]
NON-ASSOCIATIVE [Reflexes]
METHODSMAIN EDUCATIONAL AREAS
The traffic lightLearning of the basic notions of topographic anatomy, self-discovery of the body, imitation of postures and movements
Didactic Group S.E.L.L.Learning the observation of movement and the execution of motor tasks with variable cognitive input (multimodal association). Equifunctional lateralisation, promotion of socialisation and cooperative dynamics, education on rules, respect for roles.

Memory Sequential Motions

MSM

Development of Working Memory and of the necessary attention processes for its use.
Visualisation – Eye of the MindRecovery and increase of eidetic memory, development of visuospatial Working Memory, development of imagery.

Translating Postures and Movements

TPM

Imagery, consolidation / refinement of mental representation of postures and movements, refinement of proprioceptive, synesthetic, vestibular sensitivities.
Analogic Expressive MethodUse of analogies and metaphors for the symbolic representation of postures and movements and for the consolidation of their aesthetic and dynamic aspect.
Dynamic Postural MethodDevelopment of the mnesic systems (memory of movement), improvement of basic motor skills schemes.
DIDACTIC INSTURMENTS OF THE PSI.CO.M. EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS
PICTURE BOOKAn indispensable didactic instrument for the application of the PSI.CO.M. Educational System.
MOTOR SKILLS NOTEBOOKThis didactic supporting material offers to the child the possibility of applying the 7 methodologies when playing in any context (in the classroom, at home, etc.), while also involving other people (classmates, relatives).
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