APPENDICE

- La meritocrazia a scuola: un serio ostacolo all’apprendimento - F. Butera (2006)

La tesi sostenuta dall’autore è che la meritocrazia nuoce all’apprendimento in quanto crea un clima di confronto sociale tra allievi, studenti o altre categorie di persone in formazione, che minaccia il sé e limita le capacità cognitive richieste per apprendere. La meritocrazia è il principio di giustizia che postula che a scuola, così come in altri ambiti della società, ognuno debba essere ricompensato o valorizzato in funzione dei propri meriti. Secondo questo principio è legittimo dare voti più alti agli allievi o agli studenti che hanno migliori prestazioni e offrire attività maggiormente stimolanti a coloro che imparano più in fretta.

Il principio dell’eguaglianza delle opportunità consiste appunto nel rendere possibile che gli allievi meritevoli, cioè con un alto profitto misurato in voti, possano continuare gli studi, qualunque sia il loro ceto d’origine. Il successo di questo sistema è dovuto al fatto che esso introduce un principio di giustizia nell’ineguaglianza sociale, rendendola apparentemente più accettabile: se le opportunità sono le stesse per tutti, allora gli allievi che riescono meglio sono quelli che hanno sviluppato le competenze che rendono legittima la loro posizione di superiorità.

Un sistema basato sul merito porta gli individui inseriti in questo sistema a un processo di confronto sociale permanente. Il confronto sociale è la tendenza umana a valutare le proprie capacità in maniera relativa, utilizzando gli altri come termini di paragone. La meritocrazia, soprattutto quando diventa una norma sociale generalizzata, implica un funzionamento costantemente orientato verso il confronto sociale. Se la norma prevede che si venga premiati per l’eccellenza, allora bisogna tenersi informati in continuazione non solo sui propri risultati ma anche, anzi soprattutto, sui risultati degli altri. La meritocrazia mette l’accento sulla riuscita, in termini di posizione raggiunta, più che sull’apprendimento effettivo; infatti applicare il principio della meritocrazia vuol dire relegare la questione dell’apprendimento a un ruolo secondario, rispetto alla questione della riuscita.

La psicologia sociale, per trattare della relazione tra meritocrazia e apprendimento, trova origine negli studi sul confronto sociale. Secondo la Teoria del Confronto Sociale (Festinger, 1954) il bisogno di valutare il sé (self-evaluation) è un bisogno fondamentale, un meccanismo così radicato nel funzionamento umano da essere attivato in maniera automatica e inconscia. Questa tendenza alla valutazione di sé svolge una funzione adattiva; di fronte a questo bisogno di valutazione di sé, e non possedendo strumenti di misura oggettivi, le persone si valutano confrontandosi con gli altri. Gli altri diventano così la fonte d’informazione.

Perché il confronto sociale può essere utile all’apprendimento? Oltre alla motivazione fondamentale alla valutazione di sé (self-evaluation), esiste anche una motivazione al miglioramento di sé (self-improvement). Il miglioramento dei risultati scolastici avviene quando gli allievi si confrontano con altri allievi tutto sommato molto simili per risultati e non quando si confrontano con il primo della classe.

Come detto la meritocrazia pone l’accento sulla riuscita e si basa sul confronto sociale; il confronto sociale può avere effetti nefasti, se implica una minaccia per il sé, per cui è ragionevole affermare che la meritocrazia implica un confronto sociale minaccioso. Infatti una persona si sente minacciata quando la valutazione di sé la porta alla conclusione, conscia o inconscia, che i suoi risultati non sono all’altezza degli standard normativi per lei pertinenti (i risultati di altre persone, i criteri di riuscita in un dato contesto, le aspettative delle persone di riferimento). In questo caso le persone sono particolarmente preoccupate di ridurre la discrepanza tra la valutazione effettiva e gli standard di riferimento.

La minaccia nel confronto sociale rappresenta un impedimento all’apprendimento. In primo luogo, la minaccia provocata dal confronto sociale studente-insegnante induce una rappresentazione normativa dell’insegnamento, fissando l’attenzione degli allievi sull’obbedienza all’autorità dell’insegnante, più che sull’apprendimento. In secondo luogo, la minaccia provocata dal confronto sociale induce una rappresentazione competitiva delle interazioni sociali, limitando il potenziale benefico di queste interazioni. Solo l’uso dell’expertise da parte dell’insegnante può portare a forme di apprendimento durature. L’insegnante che usa le sue conoscenze, più che la sua posizione, crea l’interesse degli allievi, interesse che implica un trattamento profondo delle informazioni e una loro integrazione più radicata nel sistema di conoscenze.
Purtroppo nell’ideologia del merito, quello che assume importanza nella relazione con l’insegnante è il suo potere di elargire rinforzi positivi o negativi e di stabilire una graduatoria, quindi il suo potere di coercizione o di ricompensa, che porta a una mera obbedienza e talvolta a comportamenti antisociali.

È noto che l’apprendimento avvenga soprattutto per motivazione intrinseca; infatti è la motivazione intrinseca che induce effetti positivi sulla persistenza nel compito in seguito a un insuccesso, sul mantenimento di un comportamento, sulla performance, sulla soddisfazione, sul benessere, sugli atteggiamenti interpersonali positivi e sui comportamenti prosociali. Tutto questo in paragone alla motivazione esterna; e coercizione e ricompensa sono motivazioni esterne. La meritocrazia, promettendo ai partecipanti della competizione una ricompensa in termini di posizioni sociali dominanti, riduce le motivazioni intrinseche/autonome, quelle che predicono meglio un apprendimento profondo e duraturo.
La minaccia nel confronto sociale induce una rappresentazione competitiva delle rappresentazioni sociali, a sua volta nociva per l’apprendimento; per tre ordini di ragioni:

  • riduce il beneficio della cooperazione. Se in un compito cooperativo il confronto sociale si articola attorno alla complementarietà dei ruoli, la competenza del partner diventa un aiuto all’apprendimento. Diversamente se nello stesso compito cooperativo il confronto sociale viene orientato verso la valutazione delle competenze, allora la competenza del partner diventa una minaccia e un impedimento per l’apprendimento;
  • riduce il beneficio del conflitto socio-cognitivo. L’effetto benefico del conflitto socio-cognitivo è sotteso da uno scopo che spinge l’individuo a concentrarsi sul contenuto; lo scopo che spinge l’individuo a primeggiare sugli altri non solo elimina l’effetto benefico del conflitto socio-cognitivo, ma lo rende addirittura deleterio;
  • produce un effetto di focalizzazione. Una minaccia nella valutazione del sé porta le persone a riflettere sui mezzi per ridurre tale minaccia occupando una buona parte delle risorse attenzionali; questa distrazione induce una focalizzazione dell’attenzione sugli elementi centrali di un compito, portando l’individuo a tralasciare gli elementi periferici.

Quando il confronto sociale è minaccioso, si pensa troppo al proprio status e di conseguenza rimangono poche risorse attenzionali per occuparsi di ciò che si dovrebbe, o che si vorrebbe, imparare.

In altre parole:

  • la meritocrazia, in quanto confronto sociale minaccioso permanente, non permette di trarre beneficio dalla cooperazione; gli individui cresciuti credendo nell’individualismo non saranno in grado di approfittare del lavoro di gruppo, se non quando il gruppo è costituito da individui subordinati. Se si vuole veramente l’eccellenza, allora bisogna applicare l’apprendimento cooperativo;
  • la meritocrazia minimizza l’utilità del conflitto socio-cognitivo in quanto il progresso cognitivo viene dalla capacità di integrare le differenze; se questa integrazione non avviene perché le differenze vengono rifiutate e percepite come minacciose, allora avrà luogo il conformismo;
  • la meritocrazia, e le sue minacce per il sé, porta ad una focalizzazione percettiva e cognitiva. Preoccupati dalla sorte della propria posizione sociale, gli utenti del sistema meritocratico si ritrovano a corto di risorse per elaborare l’informazione che dovrebbe porre le basi della loro formazione.
     

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