Tuesday, May 15th, 2012: The Case of Nature Vs. Nurture: A Critically Evaluative and Argumentative Essay in favor of Nurture

Recieved a “DISTINCTION”

Critique recieved: 

Your argument has been presented with clarity. There is a highly competent use of the essay genre and your referencing is very good.

All ideas in the paper flow logically; the argument is identifiable, reasonable, and sound. You have anticipated and successfully defused counter-arguments. Your work displays critical thinking and avoids simplistic description or summary of information, and you have made thoughtful conclusions based on the presented research

You have clearly related evidence to “mini-thesis” (topic sentence) and there has been excellent integration of quoted material into sentences.

Essay: By Kimberly Hall

The Case of Nature Vs. Nurture

A Critically Evaluative and Argumentative Essay in favor of Nurture

 About.com Psychology, defines Nature vs. Nurture as a debate on “the relative contributions of genetic inheritance and environmental factors to human development”, and adds “some philosophers such as Plato and Descartes suggested that certain things are inborn, or that they simply occur naturally regardless of environmental influences” (Cherry, 2012). In other words, are certain people genetically predisposed to be successful and achieve tremendous academic success or is it a result of an enriched environment? Thus, this essay will critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Nature vs. Nurture debate within the confines of genetic inheritance, physical environmental factors, emotional environmental factors and socioeconomic status (SES); and argue that Nurture is equally, if not more, important than Nature.

In education, Nature usually refers to the genetic aspect of the Nature Vs. Nurture debate; therefore, this essay will begin by exploring the weaknesses and strengths in the genetic inheritance argument. Many genetic research results suggest that genetics make up for a substantial amount of students academic achievement (Walker, Petrill, Spinath, & & Plomin, 2004). In a study on the disregard for rules within children, Petitclerc (2010) suggests that “genetic factors accounted for most of the stability in disregard throughout early childhood” and that “preventive interventions should take an intergenerational approach, targeting at-risk families as early as possible” (Petitclerc, 2010). This study reveals a weakness in its case, because if the previous statement is true, then it stands to reason that regardless of genetic factors, environment will have an impact on a child, and therefore requires immediate positive intervention or guidance (Petitclerc, 2010; Miller, 2012).

Conversely, in a paper by Plug and Vijverberg (2003), they state that parental IQ is an important factor in explaining a child’s school success. Their research found that about 70-75 percent of the ability for school achievement, measured by IQ, is determined by Nature. While this data is undeniable, the rest of their research is flawed and inconclusive as it is teeming with weak arguments for the case of Nature. They contend that Nurture does not seem to play a dominant role in academic achievement, but then go on to explain that parents who are siblings create similar household environments for their children because of the way they were brought up together and not necessarily because of genetic inheritance. Furthermore, they maintain that a large amount of money is spent on creating nurturing environments for students to flourish but that it’s wasted on genetically advantaged students. They further claim that while the “school environment may help the less able children to overcome their disadvantage”, “the ability of the next generation of children is still unequally distributed” (Plug & Vijverberg, 2003). On the contrary, in another paper, Silcock (2008) discusses Stephan Pinker’s belief, that because we are human, we are all inherently more or less the same. But then describes tabula rasa, a theory which suggests that the mind begins as a blank slate; and that according to this notion, everything that we are and all of our knowledge is determined by our experience. Silcock (2008) asserts that too much of education is based around this thinking, when in reality genetically inherited traits which include mental maps and tips on anything will automatically assign an advantage to one person over an another at birth (Silcock, 2008).

While behavioural geneticists commonly claim that DNA accounts for 30-50 of our behaviours, the remaining 50-70 percent is best explained by environment (Jensen, 2009). Consequently, this essay will now examine Nurture in relation to the aforementioned debate by considering the physical, emotional, and socio-economical aspects involved.

In a study by Uline & Tschannen (2008), they demonstrate that the physical state of a school is a predictor of student achievement. They list the specific building features shown to be related to student achievement as building age, climate control, indoor air quality, lighting, acoustical control, design classifications, wall color, smell and overall impression (Uline & Tschannen-Moran, 2008). In addition, they add that teacher attitudes and behaviors are related as well, as teachers are less likely to show enthusiasm for their jobs and to go the extra mile with students to support their learning when they teach in buildings they judge to be of poor quality. This brings up the matter of resource support within the teaching practice, which is commonly an issue in teaching as a profession. In this same study, teachers were asked to assess the degree to which they had the materials, support and supplies they needed to accomplish their teaching duties, and data revealed that high negative scores corresponded with those of low building quality and limited school budgets. Uline & Tschannen concluded that there is a link between the quality of school facilities, resource support and student achievement in English and mathematics (2008).

It seems self-evident that the kinds of buildings that children and their teachers inhabit will affect not only what they learn but also the ways in which they learn (Upitis, 2004). This statement falls in line with the common misconception that educational theory is based only on approaches into the mind of a child, when actually much more is involved, including environment. In a study by Upitis (2004) theoretical approaches that have given attention to physical elements that affect learning, were examined to illustrate that in early childhood, there is a focus on how architecture shapes and teaches children. Upitis (2004) goes on to discuss how Reggio Emilia teachers believe that the best environments for children are rich, complex, support relationships between people and ideas, and have a strong aesthetic appeal for teachers and students alike (Upitis, 2004). Similarly, every aspect of a Waldorf school, “the wooden furniture, pastel colors, natural lighting, and the presence of natural objects in the classrooms, as well as the outdoor spaces, has architectural and pedagogical significance” (Upitis, 2004). Upitis (2004) goes on to point out Dewey’s description, of what he called the “utopian” school, as a place with large grounds, gardens, greenhouses, “open-air” interiors; he implied “the importance of having a variety of workspaces, easy access to books, and the feeling of a “well-furnished home” (Upitis, 2004). He also stated that in relation to schools, the matter was “not with issues of pedagogy or teacher method or administration, but with physical space” (Upitis, 2004).  Consequently, it is clear that educational theories also agree that there is a strong relationship between human development and the development of educational theory, and concur that Nurture is important in academic achievement for the student and in practical in-class approaches for the teacher.

It is “reported that students who become more self-aware and confident about their learning abilities try harder, and that students who motivate themselves, set goals, manage their stress, and organize their approach to work, perform better” (Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Walberg, 2004). In addition, a study by Park (2004) provides substantive evidence that positive life satisfaction develops positive youth development further supports the Zins, Weissberg, Wang & Walberg’s findings, that if a child is emotionally happy, they will achieve better marks in school therefore attaining positive academic achievement. Research has also found that self-empowerment programs improved the health conditions of their participants. Results concluded that more programs like these were detrimental in helping the community better themselves, their SES, and their overall health (Tsey & Every, 2000). These findings make a strong case supporting the idea that self empowerment can change a persons outlook on the world around them, thus opening doors of opportunity. Connecting this theory along with the findings of Zins et al. (2004), and of Park (2004), proves that if one addresses the emotional aspect of children’s lives, it will in turn make positive changes in their academic life, supporting the theory that Nurture is an important factor in academic success. This is substantiated by The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, who found that problem-solving skills and maintaining an even temperament is difficult for children of parents who fail to challenge and nurture their intellectual development (Cleckley, 2012; Jensen, 2009). Thus, parental involvement has been found to be positively and significantly related to student achievement (Kirby & DiPaola, 2011; Jensen, 2009). This suggests that environmental factors, including teacher bias, play a role in academic achievement of children, but research concludes that biological and hereditary factors still play a huge role in the strengths and weaknesses of students’ learning (Jensen, 2009; Kirby & DiPaola, 2011). Researchers say that although some people may be born with genetic advantages, these advantages can be lost if not nurtured and refined, which may decrease a child’s intelligence. They further argue that not only can genetic advantages can be lost, but genetic disadvantages can be gained through particular up-bringings and lifestyles (Jensen, 2009; Karmiloff & Karmiloff-Smith, 2011)

This essay has weighed the evidence for and against Nature and Nurture in regards to the Nature vs. Nurture debate. Firstly, making a firm case, genetic inheritance research claim that genetically inherited traits will automatically assign an advantage to one person over another at birth (Silcock, 2008). The weakness that this essay has found in the case of Nature is that there are limited studies on the implications of inherited advantages in regards to academic achievement. Additionally, the case for Nurture is strong as there are many findings that support it, like those that demonstrate that the physical state of a school is a predictor of student achievement. Also, studies confirm that emotional and socio-economical factors can have a positive or negative affect on academic achievement in children, regardless of genetic inheritance. These findings are significant because they establish that anyone regardless of IQ, given a supportive and positive environment for learning, can do just as well, if not better than someone who is genetically advantaged. In conclusion this essay has successfully argued that Nurture is as important, if not more important than Nature in regards to academic achievement in children.

Reference List

Cleckley, M. (2012). How Anxiety & Depression in Parents Affects Children. Retrieved 4 28th, 2012 from eHow Health: http://www.ehow.com/facts_5526358_anxiety-depression-parents-affects-children.html#ixzz1tIGNmGRA

Jensen, E. (2009). Chapter 2. How Poverty Affects Behavior and Academic Performance. In Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It. ASCD.

Karmiloff, K., & Karmiloff-Smith, A. (2011). Nature of nurture? Nursery World , 111 (4265), 22-23.

Kirby, M., & DiPaola, M. (2011). Academic optimism and community engagement in urban schools. Journal of Educational Administration , 49 (5), 542-562.

Miller, N. (2012, February 19th). DNA is not destiny. Sunday Age , p. 13.

Park, N. (2004). The role of subjective well-being in postive youth development. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science , 591 (1), 25-39.

Plug, E., & Vijverberg, W. (2003). Schooling, Family Background, and Adoption: Is it Nature of Is It Nurture? Journal of Political Economy , 111 (3), 611-641.

Silcock, P. (2008). Towards a biologically informed primary school practice. Education 3-13: International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education , 36 (2), 161-169.

Tsey, K., & Every, A. (2000). Evaluating Aboriginal empowerment programs: The case of Family WellBeing. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health , 24 (5), 509-514.

Uline, C., & Tschannen-Moran, M. (2008). The walls speak: the interplay of quality facilities, school climate, and student achievement. Journal of Education Administration , 46 (1), 55-73.

Upitis, R. (2004). School Architecture and Complexity. Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education , 1 (1), 19-38.

Walker, S., Petrill, S., Spinath, F., & & Plomin, R. (2004). Nature, nurture and academic achievement: A twin study of teacher assessments of 7-year-olds. British Journal of Educational Psychology , 74 (3), 323-342.

Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R., Wang, M., & Walberg, H. (2004). Building Academic Success on Social and Emotional Learning. What does the research say? New York City, NY: Teachers College Press.

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