INTENTIONALITY / RECIPROCITY: The Generator and Catapult of Mediated Learning Experience

Name of scholar/expert:

Gwendolyn D. G. Kinard, Ph.D.

About Dr Kinard

Gwendolyn Kinard’s professional journey includes earning a Bachelor degree in Chemistry, a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Public Policy Analysis with an Specialization in Education Administration.  She has professional teaching licenses from pre-school through High School in the disciplines of Chemistry/Physical Science, Political Science/Civics, and Special Education.  Dr. Kinard has certification as a Trainer of Trainers in Feuerstein’s Instrumental Enrichment, and has completed courses in Feuerstein’s Dynamic Assessment and Instrumental Enrichment-Basic.  She worked as an industrial chemist before entering the teaching profession and has been an educator and administrator at the pre-college level and an adjunct professor and researcher at the university level.


Professor Reuven Feuerstein created a powerful theory of structural cognitive modifiability (SCM), that lays the groundwork for mediated learning experience.  SCM proposes that: 1) a basic quality of being human is to be adaptable; 2) that each person can be modified, regardless of obstacles; 3) learning takes place through direct and mediated learning experiences; 4) learners are transformed or modified by learning experiences; and 5) this modifiability helps one to learn how to learn.


Humans are naturally equipped and motivated to learn through direct exposure to their environment (observe an infant or toddler).  An individual is a member of a group by reason of birth. Because there is an existence of stimuli within (“the self”) and without (“in the world”), the need for MLE arises.  Beginning with the nurturing of the infant with physical food and love, this interaction between mother and child, father and child, siblings (the nuclear family), and significant others (the village), the mediated learning experience can manifest itself.


This framework of interactions is shaped and characterized by culture.  Culture can be described as a complex and intricate system of norms, standards and control mechanisms to which members assign meanings, values and significance to patterns of knowledge, skills, behaviors, attitudes and beliefs.  Culture also includes material artifacts produced by human society and transmitted from one generation to another (Pai, Adler, 2001).


The transmission of culture from generation to generation is primarily the work of the nuclear family, but it is heavily influenced by the institutions and customs representing the society in general.  Human societies have a need to perpetuate their culture.  MLE, as presented by Professor Feuerstein, provides a powerful and dynamic tool to construct a bridge between home and school.


However, to understand how to use MLE to create the bridge, there has to be role definition of education and schooling.  I propose, that for the learner, education is fundamentally a cognitive process that originates and is nurtured by the home and village or community first.  Alex Kozulin (1998), states that generally, education is the process by which a novice acquires an individualized version of his or her group’s culture.” The larger society’s mechanism for transmitting culture is primarily through schooling.


So, the question emerges, how does Feuerstein’s MLE create a bridge between home and school for the learner?


What is intentionality/reciprocity?

The first criteria of Feuerstein’s MLE is that of intentionality/reciprocity.  Intentionality/Reciprocity is a part of the triad comprising the universal criteria of MLE (the other two are transcendence and mediation of meaning).  According to Feuerstein, these criteria are universal because they do not depend on the content nor the modality of mediation.  In other words, mediation at this level does not have to be restricted to speaking, it can be non-verbal, nor does it have to be cognitive, it can be emotional, or attitudinal.

Fundamentally, all mediated learning interactions must be intentional, and that intention is to transcend from the current situation or position of thought or action in the learner to a future desired state. The goal of these interactions must lead to transformation within the individual.

  • The primary conditions of an MLE interaction are framed through Intentionality and reciprocity.
  • The mediator, mediatee and the stimuli are transformed through intention.
  • The mediator is purposeful and carefully develops plans to motivate the mediatee(s) to share and engage in the purpose.
  • Effective intentionality/reciprocity catapults the MLE into deeper more enriched interactions between the mediator(s) and mediatee(s) and creates the path for the development of other MLE criteria.

Through intentionality, the mediatee or teacher creates an atmosphere that transforms mediatee/students’ mistakes into opportunities for deeper learning.


Why is intentionality/reciprocity important for better thinking and learning in the classroom?

The reality in the homes of so many children and also in general society is that mediation has not fully occurred, thereby producing deficiencies in the child’s intellectual, emotional, attitudinal, motivational and behavioral development.  Therefore, children are not prepared to engage in formal schooling because they lack the tools and competencies (skills, attitude and behaviors) to fully participate.

  • “A human mediator makes learning intentional…teaching strategies and principles entrenched in learning material rather than just facts and notions, and providing transfer of these cognitive strategies and principles to new material and new situations in different content areas and subjects”,(Gindis, 2003, p.210).
  • When the teacher has embraced and understands the importance of intentionality, their approach to lesson planning, lesson implementation and assessment is substantially enlightened.
  • When both teacher/mediator and student(s)/mediatee(s) share the same intention, the mediatee has a much better chance of full participation in the learning experience.
  • One of the major purposes of MLE is to correct deficient cognitive functioning or thinking skills. Intentionality/reciprocity initiates this mediation through the generation of powerful questions.
  • MLE is most effective in engaging student reciprocity through the selection of thoughtful and penetrating questions.
  • Intentionality/reciprocity provides an excellent opportunity for the building of relationships between teacher and student and student and student.
  • The student or mediatee becomes aware of the learning process through the intentionality of the mediatee.
  • Internalizing this awareness of the learning process leads to self-reflection (metacognition), insight, and to higher levels of modifiability.
  • Mediators/teachers can create a common language to improve school-home communications.

Parents and families can be invited to collaborate in preparing activities that improve home-school communication.

How can intentionality/reciprocity be applied in the classroom?

Through intentionality/reciprocity teacher, student and the learning content can be transformed into valuable life-long experiences.  Applications of intentionality in the classroom can be:

  • Relationship Building:
  • Through student pre-lesson and post-lesson reflections: KWL–what do you know, what do you want to know, what have you learned?
  • “Getting to know you” games
  • Small group collaboration on social and emotional learning activities, hobbies, interests, etc.
  • Classroom Climate Improvement
  • Planning for student roles and responsibility in planning classroom standards of behavior and class social (non-academic) activities.
  • Planning for student roles and responsibility in planning classroom academic tasks.
  • Increasing student engagement and participation
  • Creating rotating student leaders in academic and non-academic activities
  • Creating time for student reflection and discussion
  • Engaging students in debates on relevant issues and topics
  • Increasing student ownership for their own learning (agency)
  • Creating classroom and individual goals for learning and achievement
  • Scheduling time for individual student conferencing
  • Teaching students to ask thoughtful questions
  • Increasing students’ vocabulary and language usage [home and school language(s)]


 Intentionality/Reciprocity is the most fundamental of Feuerstein’s MLE criteria.  It is the generator of MLE and is implied across the criteria.

  • Its primary purpose is to transcend;
  • It must be informed and infused with meaning to be purposeful.
  • Intentionality/Reciprocity demands that the mediator create a learning environment that fosters a feeling of competence in the learner(s).
  • The mediator/teacher must intentionally model self-control and regulation of behavior through the delivery of well-planned lessons, activities, and assessments.
  • Intentionality/reciprocity necessitates sharing behavior of teachers and students, by the creation of partnerships in teaching and learning.
  • The mediator/teacher is intentional in conscious individuation by creating opportunities to value and address each students’ unique needs.
  • Goal planning naturally facilitates reciprocity when the mediator is intentional in understanding the critical role that goal planning has in student participation and their investment in their own learning.
  • The mediator must be intentional in creating learning experiences that are challenging and promote student reciprocity to the need for self- change.


There is no doubt that Feuerstein’s Mediated Learning Experience criteria of intentionality/reciprocity is a powerful and dynamic mechanism to generate the movement for transformation of not only learners, but teachers, parents and even communities.  Parents, teachers, school administrators and community leaders can become intentional in the need to choose an optimistic alternative, by engaging children, adolescents and adults in a feeling of belonging to create community in which all villagers become aware of oneself and others as entities of change.   Let it begin with you!


Visit our Tools and Recommended Reading pages for  recommended and applicable literature sources on this topic. 

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