A simple class management plan for beginning teachers

The following is part of an assignment for my study to become a teacher through CQU. It’s written as a letter/report/web page, an odd mix of genre.

The letter

Dear First Year Teacher,

Having traipsed through the foothills of early teacher education I have been tasked by the Principal to prepare a simple plan for you and your fellow beginning teachers around the topic of behaviour management. My first step is to redefine the problem and prepare a simple plan about class management. The point of this change is touched on below.

So, why should you read this plan? Well, if you are anything like the beginning teachers that participated in the 100 research studies reviewed by Veenman (1984), then class management and discipline are amongst your greatest concerns about teaching. Almost thirty years later Kratochwill (2011) found that this level of concern remained for new teachers. Stroiber (Stoiber, 1991) suggests that for many new teachers, effective class management is seen as the key to success. More broadly, Rose and Gallup (2006) report of surveys over a number of years where the general public list class management and student discipline amongst their major concerns about schools.

Beyond these concerns, is the impact class management has on students. A review of the literature by Wang, Haertel, and Walberg (1993) found that class management has the largest effect on student achievement from a list of 228 variables. Similarly, Sugai and Horner (2008) argue that the link between academic outcomes and behaviour is clear. Failed class management negatively impacts upon students. Gregory & Ripski (2008) draw on insights from a number of researchers to show that students who are suspended are more likely to have low achievement, receive future suspensions, experience dissatisfaction and alienation, drop out, become involved in the juvenile justice system, and later spend time in jail.

Given class management is so important, then how can a novice teacher provide assistance? For a definitive answer you will have to ask the Principal. My answer is that the following simple plan is not a case of you being provided with “the” simple answer to class management. This plan is simple only in that it has only five steps. Five steps designed to scaffold you in the act of developing your own answers to the challenge of class management.

This approach directly recognises the inherent complexity of class management. A complexity which means that there is no magical silver bullet, no universal panacea for class management. I cannot give you the solution. What works for me, in the classes I teach, at the school I teach at, on the days and times during which I teach, will almost certainly not be appropriate for you. In fact, it is unlikely that I can even give you a solution. Instead you need to develop a solution that recognises the inherent complexity and nature of you, your students, and your context. This approach resonates with the perspective seen in Stroiber (1991) that teaching is more than simply the implementation of effective procedures but is instead an on-going process of complex decision-making. This simple plan is intended to help you make a start and continue improving at this complex decision-making process.
Each of the five steps in the simple plan is described in more detail in the following sections. In summary, the five steps are:

  1. Define class management.
    How you define class management will directly influence what you see as being included in and excluded from class management and how you perform it.
  2. Know yourself, your students and context.
    The effectiveness of class management techniques depends entirely on who you are, who your students are, and the nature of the learning context.
  3. Bring the learning.
    Appropriate and effective learning and teaching are a central component of any class management plan. For good class management you need to create a good learning experience.
  4. Adopt some techniques.
    Based on the above, you need to select from the numerous sets of class management techniques those that work for you and your context.
  5. Reflect and return to step X.
    Throughout your teaching career you need to continuously reflect on what is happening in class, why is it happening, and what might help improve the experience. The outcomes of this reflection should then be used to revisit any of the previous steps and try again.

 

Define class management

Interest in class management (and related terms) is not recent. Figure 1 (click on the figure to see it larger) shows that rate of mention of related terms in a collection of books archived by Google Books. Class management begins being mentioned in the 1850s and is defined in a number of different ways. For example, Holbrook (1872, p. 133) offers this

In these lectures on School Management, as accomplished chiefly in Class Management, I have endeavored, by presenting the real aims and ends of school training, the formation and fixation of correct habits,

Incidence of class management and related terms
Figure 1. Incidence of class management and related terms from Ngrams

Since then many different perspectives on class management have been taken. Powell and Todd (2004, p. 2) identify perhaps the most common perception when they suggest that for many teachers (and the popular media) behaviour or class management is “solely concerned with establishing control over disruptive students”. McCaslin and Good (1998) offer a related perspective when they descibe how class management is typically seen as ensuring students respond quickly to the demands and goals of the teacher. Many authors, including Evertson and Weinstein (2006) identify the apparent contradiction between this “teacher as controller” perspective of class management and modern views of learning that encourage student independence, understanding, problem solving, and active participation.
As an alternative to the discipline or control definition of class management, Evertson and Weinstein (2006, p. 4) offer this definition

We define classroom management as the actions teachers take to create an environment that supports and facilitates both academic and social-emotional learning. In other words, classroom management has two distinct purposes: It not only seeks to establish and sustain an orderly environment so students can engage in meaningful academic learning, it also aims to enhance students’ social and moral growth

This is the origin of the word class management, rather than behaviour management. In addition to this change, I have changed “classroom” to “class” to remove from the teaching context the notion of a particular, physical room.

Beyond offering a more inclusive perspective of the task. Class management also suggests a move away from a focus on authoritarian or disciplinarian views of the task. This is particular important due to the potential, negative outcomes of a displinary focus. Sugai and Horner (2008) cite a number of authors to show that when punishment becomes the primary approach, negative side effects can include: increases in antisocial behaviour, more coercive interactions among adults and students, and a decrease in academic achievement and social behaviour. Evertson and Weinstein (2006, p. 4) argue that the question is not only whether or not you have achieved order within a class, but it also as important to consider how you achieved that order.

Beyond a simple scale between the disciplinary/control and environmental perspectives of class management, there are numerous different theoretical and conceptual perspectives on class management and related issues. Table 1 and Figure 2 provide overview of two different collections of perspectives. Whatever the model, perspective, or definition of class management you adopt, it is important to understand that your adopted view may well have limitations and that there are alternatives.
Gregory & Ripski (2008) describe how teachers vary in the philosophies and perspectives they have about how best to exercise authority and maintain classroom order. Being aware of examining different perspectives may provide useful insight. This is especially important for novice teachers who, as argued by Martin (2004) use their prior and somewhat limited knowledge as the initial scaffold for understanding what role they can play in class management and how they interpret the behaviour of students.

Table 1 is used by Powell and Tod (2004) to provide a summary of the variety of different theoretical perspectives that have been applied to understand and respond to off-task behaviour. It clearly shows how the perspective taken can reveal (or hide) different insights and possibilities.

Table 1. How off-task behaviour might be explained and addressed.
Frequent behaviour Theory Explanation examples Action
Off-task Behavioural Child is getting more attention by being off-task Reward on-task behaviour
Off-task Cognitive Child things he is unable to do the task Encourage child to reappraise task, identify what parts of the task he can do, etc.
Off-task Affective Child fears failure. Circle time to build self-esteem; offer increased adult or peer support
Off-task Biological Perhaps the child as ADHD? Refer for medical assessment
Off-task Developmental Child is not ready to work independently Allocate learning support assistant and set a more suitable learning challenge.

Adapted from “A systematic review of how theories explain learning behaviour in school contexts”, by S. Powell, J. Tod, 2004, Research Evidence in Education Library, p. 16.

Figure 2 (click on the figure to see a larger version) offers another perspective on the various models that have been used to view and understand behaviour. In presenting the diagram in Figure 2, Conway (2009, pp. 130-132) offers a brief description of each of the different models. Conway (2009) does describe the behavioural model – with its focus observing behaviour and then responding without examining underlying causes – as previously the most relevant approach to education. With the ecological and sociological taker a broader, more eclectic approach drawing on the other models.

Conceptual models of behaviour
Figure 2. Conceptual models of behaviour. Adapted from “Behaviour and support management”, by R. Conway, 2009, in Education for Inclusion and Diversity, A. Ashman, J. Elkins (eds), p. 131.

It’s complex

Another perspective of behaviour management, one that informs the ecological and sociological models from Figure 2, is that of complex adaptive systems (CAS). This perspective challenges the current dominant approaches to organisational theory and practice that assume a certain level of predictability and order (Snowden & Boone, 2007). Kim and Kaplan (2006, p. 37) describe complex systems as being

comprised of populations of interacting entities where the overall system behaviour is not predefined but rather emerges through the interactions of its entities.

Powell and Todd (2004, p. 17) echo this perspective when they describe learning behaviour as “complex, diverse, based on interactional processes and has multiple valid outcomes”. The observation by Schon (1984) that the rigid application of principles or theories is not sufficient since each teaching situation is unique mirrors the perspective provided by CAS. It seems likely that insights from CAS would prove useful in thinking about class management. The following video from uses a children’s birthday party to describe the differences between a CAS approach and two alternative approaches.

 

Know yourself, your students and context

Having clearly identified how you view class management, the next step is to generate insight into yourself, your students, and the context within which your class operates. It is this knowledge that will guide the subsequent decisions you make with this plan.

Yourself

The type of person you are, your abilities, knowledge, strengths, and weaknesses are form part of the toolbox you have to draw upon for class management. They also help define the boundaries within which you can operate. As a beginning teacher your specific knowledge of class management may be limited, hopefully a problem that this plan is helping to address. But you should be aware that there are some common consequences of this. Martin (2004) suggests that a novice teacher is more likely to adopt existing norms in an attempt to “fit in”. Fogarty, Wang, and Creek (Fogarty et al., 1983) suggest that beginning teachers are more sensitive to student behaviours that disrupt teacher plans, rather than being able to identify and respond to cues from the whole class.

While you may be limited in experience, what you do bring to the classroom are your existing strengths, weaknesses, and character. Being aware of these and the impact they have on class management is important. Instruments evaluating learning styles or personality types may be useful. Keeping in mind that these instruments have some weaknesses, but do retain some value. For example, Platsidou and Metallidou (2009, p. 324) identify validity and reliability problems with two learning style tests, but still suggest that they remain useful for encouraging self-development. Are you an introvert? An extrovert? An auditory or spatial learner? Your answers may betray a preference that influences both your learning and your approach to class management. Your answers should also encourage on-going self-development to both build on your strengths and improve your weaknesses.

Students

For many authors (Jones & Jones, 2001) the primary purpose of class management is being able to encourage deep learning by responding to the specific needs of both individual students and the class as a group. Marzano and Marzano (2003) found that the quality of the relationship between teacher and student is the keystone of class management. With high quality relationships reducing discipline problems by 31%. Laupa, Turiel, and Cowan (1999) argue that decisions made by adolescents to obey commands are dependent upon the quality of their relationship with the source of the command.

Being able to respond to student needs and developing high quality teacher-student relationships both require you getting to know both your students and how they interact as a group. Strategies for getting to know your students range from viewing academic transcripts, class observation, in class activities, and talking directly with students, their parents, friends, and other teachers. The better you know the students, the better you can respond to their needs and build effective teacher-student relationships.

Your context

As a formal learning site, all schools are likely to have an established set of assumptions, expectations and routines. This is particularly the case around issues of class management and discipline. As a teacher at a school you are expected to meet those expectations, so being aware of them is key. At this school these expectations are outlined in the staff manual available from the staff network drive. A few important points include:

  • There are four levels of inappropriate behaviour with specific examples at each level.
  • The first level remains the responsibility of the classroom teacher, the second involves the appropriate House or Academic Dean, the third the Assistant to the Principal – Students, and the last level the Principal or Deputy Principal.
  • Escalation to higher levels occurs due to either the severity of the misbehaviour or through repetition.
  • Where possible teachers are expected to deal with behavioural problems within their class and where possible help students make better behaviour choices and when possible determine the consequences of their actions.

Beyond these, the staff manual offers a range of recommendations for action and explicit specification of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

 

Bring the learning

For many people teachers, due to their role, are authority figures. Figures to be respected and taken note of. From this perspective students are expected to see teachers as legitimate authority figures and follow their directions. Gregory and Ripski (2008) cite numerous authors who suggest that this assumption no longer holds, if ever it did. They draw on insights from sociologists to argue that the legitimacy of authority is negotiated within the context of social relationships. From this perspective, whatever authority students cede to you will arise from their perceptions of you, the school, and the learning experiences you create for them.

Arising from this is the argument that an essential component of your class management plan must be to create effective and appropriate learning experiences for your students. The advice from this plan is that creating these exciting, effective, and appropriate learning experiences should perhaps by your prime aim. It is why the five steps of the plan could serve just as well as a simple plan for learning design or personal development of a teacher. Class management, learning design, and personal development are not seen as separate tasks.

 

Use some techniques

It is not uncommon to see discussions of class management focus on the sharing of techniques. An indicator of this tendency is the prevalence of lists of such techniques amongst the results of Google searches on topics such as “class management” and “behaviour management”. Rather than create another such list, the following is a list of lists (some of which are in turn lists of lists) of class management techniques. It will probably date fairly quickly, but that’s no problem. By this stage I’m sure your teacher education studies has taught you how to use Google as effectively as I can.

Some initial pointers include:

The following are worthy of special mention:

  • Classroom Management.
    A website aimed at University staff, but which still provides value for staff at the primary and secondary level. Some explanation to accompany the techniques.
  • A 55 minute video of a workshop on class management techniques.
  • A website put together by a CQUni student that gives a good introduction to the topic of behaviour management.

The assumptions behind this simple plan agree with the observation by Powell and Tod (2004) that having a collection of techniques is a necessary part of a teacher’s toolkit, but it is not sufficient. Having identified and prepared a collection of techniques that match with your perspectives on class management and your teaching context is an important first step. But it is necessary to keep reflecting.

 

Reflect and return to step X

Some of the techniques you’ve adopted will not work, some will work at different times. It is important that you continue reflecting on what has happened and making changes to your perspectives of class management, yourself, your students, and your teaching context. The purpose of this step is to encourage you to do this. Reflect upon what happened as your tried your techniques and use that insight to revisit the earlier steps, change your mind, and try again. This plan argues that on-going reflection is an essential component of not only class management, but also your development as a teacher.

Gratch (1998) suggests that experienced teachers do not simply master teaching skills, but instead continue to learn about teaching through continued reflection and improvement of practice. Stoiber (1991) found that reflective practitioners were better able to analyse problems and had more positive attitudes to solving class management problems than a group taught prescriptive principles. On the other hand Marcos, Sanchez, and Tillema (2008) find numerous problems with reflection, including a significant distance between what is said and done and questions about exactly what reflection is, however, they also find that it is reasonable and desirable. Finding the time and energy to reflect while teaching can be difficult, but effective reflection and subsequent change in practice is essential.

Another essential component of this step is communication. Gratch (1998, p. 220) draws on numerous authors on teacher socialisation to describe teachers as working in isolation, rarely requesting assistance, unlikely to feel able to tell another teacher to do something different, and avoiding discussion of pedagogical practice. Given the complexity of class management, reflection in isolation is liable to narrow future possibilities. Instead, it is important to communicate with your peers. Talk with teachers, both within and outside your school, and talk with a range of people from outside the profession. Perhaps more importantly, listen to a broad array of perspectives and be prepared to use those perspectives to modify your perspective and practice.

In conclusion

The design of this simple plan in class management has helped me develop some personal insights and reinforce the indivisibility of good teaching and class management. It has reinforced for me the importance of an on-going process of reflective practice to change, and hopefully improve, my teaching. I hope you have gotten some value out of it.

Good luck with your career in teaching.

David.

References

Conway, R. (2009). Behaviour and support management. In A. Ashman & J. Elkins (Eds.), Education for Inclusion and Diversity (3rd ed., pp. 123-166). Frenchs Forest, NSW Australia: Pearson Education Australia.

Evertson, C. M., & Weinstein, C. S. (2006). Handbook of classroom management: research, practice, and contemporary issues. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved from http://books.google.com.au/books?id=WQGuQxJ5o4EC.

Fogarty, J. L., Wang, Margaret C, Creek, R., Taylor, P., Fogarty, J. L., Wang, Margaret C, et al. (1983). Descriptive Novice Study Teachers – Thoughts of Experienced Interactive and and Instructional. The Journal of Educational Research, 77(1), 22-32.

Gratch, a. (1998). Beginning Teacher and Mentor Relationships. Journal of Teacher Education, 49(3), 220-227. doi: 10.1177/0022487198049003008.

Gregory, A., & Ripski, M. B. (2008). Adolescent trust in teachers: Implications for behaviour in the high school classroom. School Psychology Review, 37(3), 337-353.

Holbrook, A. (1872). School management. A. S. Barnes. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=4JVDAAAAIAAJ.

Jones, V., & Jones, L. (2001). Comprehensive classroom management: Creating communities of support and solving problems. Library (Vol. 1968). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Kim, R. M., & Kaplan, S. M. (2006). Interpreting socio-technical co-evolution: Applying complex adaptive systems to IS engagement. Information Tech, 19(1), 35-54.

Kratochwill, T. (2011). Classroom management. American Psychological Association. Retrieved June 8, 2011, from http://www.apa.org/education/k12/classroom-mgmt.aspx.

Laupa, M., Turiel, E., & Cowan, P. (1999). Obedience to authority in children and adults. In M. Killen & D. Hart (Eds.), Morality in everyday life: Developmental perspectives (pp. 131-165). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Marcos, J. J. M., S‡nchez, E., & Tillema, H. (2008). Teachers reflecting on their work: articulating what is said about what is done. Teachers and Teaching, 14(2), 95-114. doi: 10.1080/13540600801965887.

Martin, S. (2004). Finding balance: impact of classroom management conceptions on developing teacher practice. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20(5), 405-422. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2004.04.002.

Marzano, R. J., & Marzano, J. S. (2003). The key to classroom management. Educational Leadership, 61(1), 6-13. Wadsworth Pub Co.

McCaslin, M., & Good, T. L. (1998). Moving beyond management as sheer compliance: Helping students to develop goal coordination strategies. Educational Horizons, 76(4), 169-176.

Platsidou, M., & Metallidou, P. (2009). Validity and Reliability Issues of Two Learning Style Inventories in a Greek Sample : Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory and Felder & Soloman’s Index of Learning Styles. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(3), 324-335.

Powell, S., & Tod, J. (2004). A systematic review of how theories explain learning behaviour in school contexts. Research Evidence in Education Library, (August). London. Retrieved June 2, 2011, from http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&btnG=Search&q=intitle:A+systematic+review+of+how+theories+explain+learning+behaviour+in+school+contexts#0.

Rose, L. C., & Gallup, A. M. (2006). The 38th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the publicʼs attitudes toward the public schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 88(1), 41. PDK International. Retrieved June 7, 2011, from http://www.kappanmagazine.org/content/88/1/41.short.

Schon, D. (1984). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.

Snowden, D., & Boone, M. (2007). A leaderʼs framework for decision making. Harvard Business Review, 85(11), 68-76.

Stoiber, K. C. (1991). The Effect of Technical and Reflective Preservice Instruction on Pedagogical Reasoning and Problem Solving. Journal of Teacher Education, 42(2), 131-139. doi: 10.1177/002248719104200206.

Sugai, G., & Horner, R. (2008). What We Know and Need to Know about Preventing Problem Behavior in Schools. Exceptionality, 16(2), 67-77. doi: 10.1080/09362830801981138.

Veenman, S. (1984). Perceived Problems of Beginning Teachers. Review of Educational Research, 54(2), 143-178. doi: 10.3102/00346543054002143.

Wang, M. C., Haertel, G. D., & Walberg, H. J. (1993). Toward a Knowledge Base for School Learning. Review of Educational Research, 63(3), 249-294. doi: 10.3102/00346543063003249.

Supportive Learning Environments – Week 7

So, onto behaviour management and this week, Challenging Behaviours.

In a couple of weeks I have to put together a 2000 word report outlining a management plan for a beginning teacher. This is a start of that process. Am already feeling the tension between the well-meaning theory and the constraints of practice after only 2 days of EPL (embedded professional learning, i.e. prac teaching).

Challenging behaviours

Mmm, the textbook chapter while containing some good information seemed to be really poorly structured, at least in order to help novices get a sense for the topic. I keep coming across this in education related literature. Am wondering if this is due to a dissonance between me and the structures used by education folk, or whether some education folk are really bad at structure.

It seems Bill Rogers is a bit of a name in the area, at least in Commonwealth countries. It was interesting to come across a couple of YouTube videos – like the following taking a gentle (perhaps not so gentle) poke at his approaches.

Okay, onto a more academic introduction with Chapter 1 of

Jones, V.F., & Jones, L.S. (2001). Comprehensive classroom management: Creating communities of support and solving problems. (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Which starts witha collection of quotes expressing the importance of classroom management, not surprising given the topic of the book. This is probably the pick (god I hate secured PDF documents preventing copy and paste for sections)

The findings show that teachers who approach classroom management as a process of establishing and maintaining effective learning environments tend to be more successful than teachers who place more emphasis on their roles as authority figures or disciplinarians. — Good and Brophy (1994)

Wang, Haertel & Walberg (1993) – meta-analysis of factors influencing student learning identified classroom management as the most important factor…..a lot of US-based research showing discipline (or the lack thereof) a major concern for parents, teachers etc….now more citing that violence, intimidation etc does occur in schools….and now increase in students “talking back” and decrease in parents supporting teachers….teachers become victims of crimes (male teachers more likely)..1997 list of behaviours that happen most of the time/fairly often:

  • Schoolwork/homework assignments not completed – 71%
  • Behaviour the disrupts class – 58%.
  • Talking back/disobeying – SO% (not that’s not a type the poor OCR on the scan produces S, which is probably meant to either 2 or 5, based on surrounding figures, must be 5).
  • Truancy – 41%

Mmm, stating the obvious? Teachers find aggressive behaviour that interrupts classroom events as most stressful.

And here’s a unsurprising, but somewhat troubling quote (p. 7)

Simply stated, students’ learning is directly related to classroom order.

I’m somewhat troubled by the notion of “order” and its negative connotations in terms of removing creativity etc.

Some discussion of social factors leading to behaviour problems….but schools and teachers can make a difference….a quote that suggests that prevention of failure at school encompasses prevention of delinquency….research suggesting schools/teachers make a difference in skills…but also a downside from Wayson and Pinnell (1982, p. 117)

When discipline problems occur in school, they can more often be traced to dysfunctions in the interpersonal climate and organisational patterns of the school than to malfunctions in the individual. In short, misbehaving students are often reacting in a predictable and even sensibel way to the school as it affects them as as they have learned to perceive and react to it..better behaviour may be taught more easily by alterning patterns of roles and relationnships in the school organisation than by viewing and treating the student as a pathological problem.

And here’s mention of the authors’ 1981 model

in order to facilitate positive student behaviour, schools must attend to the issues of

  1. creating personally positive, supportive environments.
  2. meeting students’ need for meaningful academic tasks.
  3. and using discipline methods that incorporate the 3Rs
    • Recognition of wrongdoing
    • regret or emphatic understanding of why the act was inappropriate
    • reconciliation of relationship

..scary quote..”the majority of students in US schools have, at some time in their school history, experienced altreatment by an educator to the extent that the student has experienced symptoms of stress” (Lambert, 1990; Hyman & Perone, 1998).

More interesting research from Stanford (Phelan, Davidson & Cao, 1992, p. 696)

We find that, despite negative outside influences, students from all achievement levels and sociocultural backgrounds want to succeed and want to be in an environment in which it is possible to do so.

Onto social context, e.g. students with strong potential to have behaviour problems have low social skills. A class context can be seen as containing high risk/anxiety for these students…large group of peers, new activities etc.

Discussion of successful schools, a series of schools in Germany employed the following

  • Homegeneous home group.
  • 6 teachers had the same group of 85-90 students for 6 years and responsible for entire education.

Good results. Similar in work from Deborah Meier which had 2 hour interdisciplinary classess, had exhibitions of projects…more real world.

Ahh, I was wanting this – different conceptions of classroom management

  1. The counselling approach.
    Focus on what to do after the student misbehaved. Understanding problem, helping students understand etc. Focus on psychology, counselling.
  2. Behaviouristic methods.
    i.e. behaviour modification techniques e.g. ignore inappropriate behaviour while reinforcing appropriate behaviour, writing contracts, using time out procedures…..state clear expectations, quietly and consistently punish disruptive students, get group reinforcement for on-task behaviour.
  3. Teacher-effectiveness research.
    The current move to prevention. Focus on 3 sets of behaviours to influence student behaviour and learning
    1. skills in organising and managing classroom activities.
      ..reference to Kounin 1970 book (1100 citations on Google scholar) Discipline and Group Management in Classrooms which showed through video-tape analysis little difference between “good” and “bad” classroom managers after bad behaviour. But significant difference before…reinforced by other work, including later work that showed how much of the ground work was laid during the first few weeks of school, in both primary and secondary schools.
    2. skills in presenting instructional material.
      Mention made of Hunter’s ITIP program. Misc other mentions of good practice, including: cooperative work including Teams-Games-Tournaments approach, learning styles type approaches
    3. teacher-student relationships
      Two approaches: influence of the frequency/quality of teacher/student interactions; and, personal, affective dimension of relations. Communication of high expectations arises here.

And as you expect, once there are three separate approaches that seem to cover the topic, the solution is to combine them all….”An integration of approaches”. And evidence of these can be seen in the school I’m doing EPL at. Also evidence of evolution of each approach – e.g. the adoption of more cognitive behaviourism…self-management etc. The third approach has been criticised for being an exercise in control through routines, downplaying relationships.

And here are the five knowledge and skill areas for effective implementation of comprehensive class management

  1. Based on current class management research and theory, and on personal and psychological needs of students.
  2. Depends on positive teacher-student and peer relationships that create communities of support.
  3. Involves the use of instructional methods that facilitate optimal learning by responding to needs of individual students and the class.
  4. Using methods that involve students in developing and committing to behavioural standards that create a safe community and clear classroom organisation.
  5. Requires use of a range of counseling and behavioural methods that involve students in examining and correcting their inappropriate behaviour.

And later on some argument about instructivist versus constructivist approaches.

And onto teacher training…a number of studies have found that preservice teachers feel poorly prepared in classroom management (Goodlad, 1990; Wesley & Vocke, 1992)…..the diverse collection of class management approaches leads to most teacher training presenting theoretical approaches and providing tips. Suggested there are problems with this approach

  • Little research evidence for many of the models (e.g. assertive discipline, teacher-effectiveness training, Adlerian-based approaches) presented intexts.
    Emmer and Aussiker (1987) review suggests “only limited support for teacher training in models”.
  • Focus on isolated models emphasising responding to disruptive behaviour suggest misbehaviour is inevitable.

Comprehensive models, as above, seen as important. Also points out the importance of assistance (e.g. other teachers) when problems continue.

Pygmalion effect

And onto a part of this reading

Rogers, B. (Ed.) (2004). How to manage children’s challenging behaviour. London: Paul Chapman

by the same Bill Rogers the above video was lampooning just a bit.

Which currently seems to be a long-winded way of saying that staff expectations, often based on frustration, have a self-fulfilling tendency. Is my “expectation” of Rogers being influenced by the video above and my own cynical nature?

And another reading

Little, E. (2003). Kids behaving badly: Teacher strategies for classroom behaviour. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Nothing particularly ground breaking.

Starting on a “student diversity report”

Ahh, the life of a student. No sooner is one assignment completed, is another one underway. In this case, one I’ve essentially ignored/forgotten about until a week out from being due.

This post documents some early thinking about how I’m going to start my “Student diversity report”. The assignment description essentially boils down to

You are to examine forms of diversity and select one to discuss in a report.

The audience for your report is a beginning teacher.

Your report is to identify the characteristics and ways to manage this diversity in a school setting.

So the task is to write a 2000 word report that can help a beginning teacher identify and effectively handle a particular type of diversity within a school setting.

The meta questions

I find myself struggling with “meta-questions” when faced with most of the assignments in this program. For example, if I were truly trying to help a beginning teacher learn about a particular form of diversity, wouldn’t I use some other approach than a 2000 word written report, including correct scholarly referencing? Seems an awfully “un-diverse” way of achieving the goal.

For this assignment, as for some of the others, I’m trying to quieten these questions and focus on the pragmatic task of submitting what is asked for. A task I am not always successfully achieving.

Type of diversity?

The first question is which form of diversity should I select? One approach was to select a form of diversity that I’m likely to experience as a new teacher. Hence the report can at the least serve one real life student teacher, me.

A while ago I used the Australian governments “My Schools 2” website to compare the three schools I had listed as my preference for Embedded Professional Learning (EPL – i.e. prac teaching). In the end I wasn’t allocated to either of those three choices. But I still retain an interest in teaching at one of the schools. One of the defining features of that school is that, according to MySchools, 21% of the student population are indigenous students. That’s compared to 1% and 4% for the other two schools.

So, at this stage, I am going to focus on indigenous students as the topic for this report.

I am especially interested because I have heard second-hand reports that at least one teacher of the school is “tired of being a babysitter”. My interpretation of that is that the students are simply not engaging with school, and teaching has become a task of ensuring they don’t do too much damage to themselves or others during class. When I heard this, I was wondering how/if a report like this could help.

Other questions

Which brings me to a range of other questions that arise from the task

  • What is “manage this diversity” understood to entail?
  • What is currently being done in schools/school systems?
  • What is the state of research in this area?
  • What would a beginning teacher need to know?

Manage diversity

The Queensland Department of Education has this web page on Managing Learning for Diversity which talks about “skills necessary to provide an inclusive program”. But it does seem to focus mainly on students with a disability.

Possible structure. I do, however, like the structure for one of the parts of that site – Assessment, Curriculum, Environment, Planning, Reporting, Resources – seems a potentially useful way (if only indicative) of structuring what a beginning teacher might need to know. i.e. what might I have to change to X, to better support Indigenous students? This is part of the “Teaching and Learning” part of the site, which is described as “the core business of schools and teachers”.

Working with teams. The same website includes the idea of Working with teams. i.e. that there are multiple professional roles involved in helping out with diversity. A key part of the report should probably be to identify what people can help.

Current work in schools and school systems

There are at least two types of information sources to look at to see what is currently being done:

  1. School websites for local strategies.
  2. State-based departments of education.

Indigenous education – Queensland

The Queensland Department of Education has a site on Indigenous education. Aside: This page notes that ATSI students make up “more than 8 per cent of the total student population in Queensland state schools”. Interesting to note that the school I mentioned above had 21% of the school population being Indigenous. Related quotes from this page

Improving the educational outcomes of Australia’s Indigenous people is a priority for education both nationally and within Queensland. Every day, in every classroom, we want every student learning and achieving.

This seems to be the page that points to all the relevant state projects and resources.

The Victorian Education Department site on Managing Diversity looks to be a bit more useful.

Now the What Works website looks particularly interesting. It appears to come from a subsidiary the Victorian Commercial Teachers Association (VCTA) – a teacher union?

This is a great resource and will inform the final report.

This site from the Qld Department also looks good, especially in terms of awareness raising.

The Queensland Catholic Education Commission has this page, includes a summary of various government moves.

Ahh, which takes me to the Qld government’s Close the gap plan, which seems to be the most recent, relevant government policy. From this page there are links to other related pages. The Close the Gap plan has three key targets

three key targets: to halve the gap in Year 3 reading and numeracy by 2012 and to close the gap in student attendance by 2013 and in Year 12 retention by 2013.

State of research?

Need to check the textbook and class resources on this question. Will also need to do a literature search, at least a small one to see what insights can be gained.

The QSA has this site

What does a beginning teacher need to know?

If the primary purpose of a teacher is to enable students to improve their learning, then it would appear that a report like this should offer concrete advice on how to modify teaching to better suit ATSI students. The structure mentioned above might help.

There’s also the question of “global” versus “local” advice. A starting teacher would be most interested in information specific to the school they would be teaching in. So such a report should tend to focus on the specifics of the local context as well as not repeat information that is already available. The tension between the dual purposes of this assignment (demonstrate my understanding of diversity and be something useful to a beginning teacher) shows here.

Questions and tasks

From searching all of the above, I think I have a neat

  • Double check that indigenous students is a valid example of diversity for this assignment. No worries.
  • Do a bit more searching and add to the collection of bookmarks on the topic
  • Skim the textbook again to gain a more “academic” perspective on the question of inclusion, managing for diversity and general strategies. Look to link current planned structure with what is found there.
  • Specifically search for online networks that can be joined/harnessed on this topic.
  • Figure out a structure for the report.
  • Start filling in that structure with appropriate material.

Supportive Learning Environments: Week 3, 4, 5 and 6

And now begins a couple of weeks catch up, and hopefully getting up. The following is reflection on weeks 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the course on Supportive Learning Environments I’m studying.

Culture, Society and Difference – Week 3

The focus questions given for the week are

  1. How do our sociocultural values shape our attitudes towards groups of people?
  2. What are the limitations of stereotypes?
  3. What is the relationship between stereotyping and prejudice?
  4. How do racism and discrimination evolve?
  5. Should diversity be accommodated or celebrated?

Already I am thinking of the point about human-beings being pattern-match intelligences . It seems that stereotypes and prejudice are examples of pattern matching, rather than rational decision making at action. We’ll see.

Definitions

So, we’re asked to write down the following words (with some space in-between, as if the net gen would be using paper!) and write down meanings we associate with them. I feel the immediate need to do some Google work to develop a more formal meaning before expressing my current opinions. Will ignore that for now.

  • Stereotype – an abstract template/description used to describe characteristics deemed common to a group of people, often used as the basis for decision making/treating that group all the same.
    Am wondering what the difference is between this and archetype?
  • Prejudice – a negative belief about someone that arises from a particular characteristics, rather than actual knowledge of the individual.
    I find this meaning particularly weak and ill-informed. Though it matches okay with the provided definitions.
  • Racism – a belief that a particular race/group of people are in someway inferior to another.
    I missed the idea that racism believes that different human races have distinctive characteristics.
  • Discrimination – actions against a person or people that disadvantage them and are based on a particular characteristic(s).

There’s more reading from the textbook, but no

Indigenous students – Week 4

Focus questions

  • What are your own attitudes towards Indigenous peoples?
  • Why has there been an acceptance of poor learning outcomes for Indigenous students?
  • How can teachers attempt to meet the needs of Indigenous students better?

First off is a set of slides outlining what teachers need to know about indigenous students. At the root of all this is the perspective that it doesn’t appear any different from “good teaching”. i.e. every student is different, value and engage with that diversity. There then appears to be a slight tendency to somewhat “stereotype” indigenous students. i.e. that there is some collective set of characteristics that they all have. Though those characteristics are never really mentioned in specifics…

There’s also a pointer to a MACER report on indigenous education. It has a very “Waiting for Superman” section in which it bemoans that lack of challenge to teachers about the on-going lack of improvement fo indigenous students. While not entirely dismissing the problem of some teachers, this response seems to go a bit far and seems to ignore the influence of socio-economic status. i.e. it is known (and oft-repeated) that a low SES environment has significant impacts on learning outcomes + a large % of indigenous students come from low SES backgrounds, which seems to suggest that SES status is a significant contributing factor here. Certainly schools and teachers should be doing more, but there are other needs as well. The report does pick this up a bit now.

There is then a DEST funded study on self-identity for indigenous students. Perhaps not so surprisingly was the finding that self-identity “is complex and multi-faceted: varies with context; it has multiple dimensions that are valued differently by different individiuals…”. But some commonality around “kinship group, sense of history, language, traditional practices, and place”

Students with high support needs

Focus questions

  • What range of characteristics may be associated with students who have ‘high support needs’?
    Basically anyone who requires an additional level of support in order to effectively participate in school. But it does appear likely that they have to fit into one of the established categories. Which is the problem facing folk with dyscalculia. Given that “high support needs” students are defined by disability categories, one answer to this question is to list those categorise: ASD, SLI, HI, II, VI…
  • How do you feel about including these students in your classroom?
    Uncertain, but then I’m uncertain about most aspects of teaching at the moment. Mainly because I haven’t done it yet. It’s a mystery. Obviously, one feeling is that teaching will be hard enough without also having to deal with someone who has “high support needs”. Mostly because it adds yet another level of novelty to the process. After a bit of experience, this would be somewhat lessened, but I imagine the perception of workload would remain. As with all things it seems to depend on the specifics of the context. i.e. having a student with high support needs within a school where this is an accepted practice, would be somewhat easier than some alternatives.
  • How can the teacher feel prepared to accommodate high support needs?
    This appears to mirror good teaching practice. i.e. know your students, know what resources are available, build collaborative networks within and outside the classroom/school

Apparently an area of education replete with acronyms, though I’m not finding too many areas of education that aren’t.

  • EAP – Educational Adjustment Program.
    A program of resource distribution used to support high support needs students. Such students have to fit within one of the categories of disability.
  • IEP – Individualised education plans.
    Based on an EAP, map out what will be done for the student.
  • The categories are
    • II Intellectual Impairment
      IQ of 70 or below. Question: This raises the point about IQ. I thought that IQ was not a measure of fixed intelligence, just intelligence as it currently stands. That it can be improved. In the explanation, the diagnosis seems to focus on genetic problems as the cause.
    • ASD Autistic Spectrum Disorder
    • SLI Speech Language Impairment
    • HI Hearing Impairment
    • VI Visual Impairment
    • PI Physical Impairment
    • IAS – II/ASD

This is where I feel that I am missing something, a slide I’m looking at lists the following three tips for inclusion

  • Find out the specific needs of the student
  • Identify resources available to you
  • Foster social networks and learning activities that encourage interaction and participation by all students

These look like fairly good guidelines for teaching in general.

Inclusive strategies

So, onto some actual classroom strategies to deal with this. Already starting to seem like general good practice.

Focus questions

  • What strategies can be used to cater for a range of abilities?
  • What implications are there for assessment procedures when catering for a range of abilities?
  • What are the potential benefits for students when they participate in cooperative learning?
  • What role does the teacher play in cooperative learning?

A powerpoint slide covering various collaborative strategies- peer teaching etc – and now onto reading Chapter 4 of the text. Oops, that should be chapter 7.

And now an online resource on collaborative learning. It gives an interesting spectrum of learning approaches

  • Co-operative – working together to accomplish shared goals.
  • Competitive – work against each other to attain grades such as an A, which only a few students can attain.
  • Individualistic – students work by themselves towards learnings goals unrelated to those of others.

What about a “network” approach? Somewhat individualistic but connected to the work of others?

Mmm, interesting suggests Lewin refined the notion of a group to incldue

  1. Essence of a group is the interdependence among members.
  2. An intrinsic state of tension between group members to motivate them toward accomplishement of the desired common goals.

Ahh, and now Deutsch suggesting three types of interdependence: positive, negative and none.

In formal cooperative learning teachers’ roles are

  1. Make pre-instructional decisions.
  2. Explain the task and cooperative structure.
  3. Monitor learning and intervene to assist
  4. Assess learning and help students process how their groups functions.

Suggests different approaches: informal cooperative learning, cooperative base groups.

And now 5 essential elements for good cooperation

  1. positive interdependence.
  2. individual and group accountability.
  3. Promotive interaction.
  4. Appropriate use of social skills.
  5. group processing.

And goes onto to summarise large body of research findings showing the benefits of cooperative over competitive and individual approaches to learning.

And now a reading

Conway, R. (2001). Adapting curriculum, teaching and learning strategies. In P. Foreman (Ed.) Integration and inclusion in action (2nd ed.), pp. 262-310. Southbank, VIC: Nelson Thomson Learning.

Week 2: Supportive Learning Environments

Two courses down, two to go. The following summarises study and thoughts for week 2 of the Supportive Learning Environments course.

Attitudes and perceptions

Unliked the PCK course, it doesn’t appear that this course offers an overview of what we’ll be covering, at least not beyond the title “Attitudes and perceptions”.

It does appear will be spending more time on the Dimensions of Learning. And if I knew DoL better I would probably have recognised the topics title as being Dimension 1 of DoL. It appears I have more to internalise. We do get some focus questions

  • How can the teacher create a positive classroom climate?
  • How can the teacher encourage positive attitudes towards classroom tasks?
  • What significance do the emotional/social aspects of school life have on learning?

In terms of reading 29 pages of DoL.

DoL – Dimension 1 – Attitudes and perceptions

Not all that surprisingly, the chapter on DoL#1 has two main sections

  1. Help students develop positive attitudes and perceptions (PA&P) about classroom climate.
  2. Help students develop PA&P about classroom tasks.

Funnily enough matching the first two focus questions. Each of these major sections get divided further into sections and then strategies.

PA&P and classroom climate

  1. Help students understand that A&T about classroom climate influence learning.
    Including that it is a shared responsibility (teacher and student) to keep attitudes positive. Given that I have a questioning nature I often come across as cynical of negative, hell when folk get really silly I will be cynical and negative. Shall be interesting to see how I go with encouraging and maintaining positive attitudes. I especially dislike the “example” in the margin of a primary school principal resorting to motivational posters.

    So strategies include giving examples either based on my experience, hypothetical or of famous people using positive attitudes to improve learning and get them talking and thinking abou it.

    Feel accepted by teachers and peers – the next grouping of strategies

  2. Establish a relationship with each student in the class
    i.e. show that you know them and their interests.
  3. Monitor and attend to your own attitudes.
    Avoid bias either way toward students. Oh dear, practicing a form of positive visualisation (Matty Hayden eat your heart out).
  4. Engage in equitable and positive classroom behaviour.
    This one seems to be the practical implementation of the previous one. Various tactics to include all students. e.g. meet the eyes of all, move around the room, give enough wait time…
  5. Recognise and provide for students’ individual differences.
    A no brainer.
  6. Respond positively to students’ incorrect responses or lack of response.
    i.e. if they feel you think they are stupid for being wrong this builds fear of failure into them. Helping my 6yo son with his homework the last couple of days has highlight the importance of this to me.
  7. Vary the positive reinforcement offered when students give the correct response.
    Too much praise can be a problem, some students don’t like it. Various alternatives given.
  8. Structure opportunities for students to work with peers.
    i.e. good group work and encourage feelings of acceptance. Emphasis on the good.
  9. Provide opportunities for students to get to know and accept each other.
    i.e help them break out of the existing social networks and establish new ones, offer opportunities throughout the year. I can see how many of the suggested strategies could be problematic in some contexts.
  10. Help students develop their ability to use their own strategies for gaining acceptance from their teachers and peers.
    Separate strategies, though a lot in common, for teachers and students. Get students talking about strategies and approaches.

    Experience a sense of comfort and order

  11. Frequently and systematically use activities that involve physical movement.
    Keep ’em moving.
  12. Introduce the concept of “bracketing”.
    Essentially the conscious process of putting aside distracting thoughts to focus on something specific. e.g. after lunch, putting thought about the fight that happened until after class. Various strategies to get the students to engage in this practice.
  13. Establish and communicate classroom rules and procedures.
    Factory/assembly line setting much? The idea is that regularity/order help learning. The students knowing what to expect. Get them involved in setting etc.
  14. Be aware of malicious teasing or threats insight or outside of the classroom and take steps to stop such behaviour.
  15. Have students identify their own standards for comfort and order.

I have to admit to some reservations about the focus on acceptance. I can see how being an outcast is likely to be detrimental to learning, but this push for acceptance might have its own problems.

PA&P about classroom tasks

Learners must

  1. Perceive tasks as valuable or interesting.
  2. Believe they have the ability and resources to complete tasks.
  3. Clearly understand what they are being asked to do.

Strategies include

  1. Help students understand that learning is influenced by A&T related to classroom tasks.
    Slight modification of 1st strategy above. In fact, almost a direct copy.

    Perceive tasks as valuable and interesting

  2. Establish a sense of academic trust.
    i.e. students have consistent experience with you the teacher as someone who always sets tasks that a valuable or interesting.
  3. Help students understand how specific knowledge is valuable.
    So, again some commonality. Get the students to identify the connection. Relate it to real life. Preview latter tasks where “all is revealed”.
  4. Use a variety of ways to engage students in classroom tasks.
    Show interest as the teacher, anecdotes, student choice, authentic tasks…
  5. Create classroom tasks that relate to students’ interests and goals.
    Gives an example of a student inventory which asks questions like, if it were possible: what would you like to do? Where would you like to go? What period of history would you live in? What projects are you working on? What would you like to work on?

    Believe they have the ability and resources to complete tasks

  6. Provide appropriate feedback.
  7. Teacher students to use positive self-talk.
    Mmmm, get students to turn ‘I hate this class’ into “I love this class”, even if they don’t believe it.
  8. Help students recognise that they have the abilities to complete a particular task.
    Essentially strategies to show them they have done the preparation, got the knowledge.
  9. Help students understand that believing in their ability to complete a task includes believing that they have the ability to get the help and resources needed.
    i.e. make it okay to ask questions or for help.

    Understand and be clear about tasks

  10. Help students be clear about the directions and demands of the task.
  11. Provide students with clarity about the knowledge that the task addresses.
  12. Provide students with clear expectations of performance levels for tasks.

So, my first experience with DoL. I can see the value, there is nothing new here, but it is structured in a way to help, especially if used consistently across an organisation. I can, however, see how it could become another straight jacket and another set of expectations to be gamed.

What next

Mmm, seems the guide might be missing something. It’s referring to something from the text, but doesn’t say what.

Oh well, question asked on forum, moving on.

The key to classroom management

Now onto this article by Marzano and Marzano – “The key to classroom management”.

Some focus questions

  • According to this article, what is the keystone for all other aspects of behaviour management?
    A Marzano (2003) study found the quality of student-teacher relationships to be the keystone. Teachers with high-quality relationships ahd 31% fewer discipline problems etc.
  • List the characteristics of effective teacher-student relationships.
    Not teacher’s personality, or that the student sees the teacher as a friend. Instead characterised by specific teaching behaviours: show appropriate levels of dominance; exhibit appropriate levels of co-operation; and, are aware of high-needs students.
  • What is meant by “appropriate levels of dominance”? Can you link this approach to other teaching styles described in earlier models that we have studied?
    Where dominance means the ability for the teacher to provide clear purpose and strong guidance regarding bother learning and student behaviour.

    There are connections with some of the strategies in DoL#1, but also elsewhere (e.g. “Time on task” and “High expectations” etc. in the C&G 7 Principles)

  • What are some of the key strategies teachers can use to maintain this “appropriate level of dominance”?
    Establishing clear behaviours expectations and learning goals, and exhibiting assertive behaviour. With various strategies listed under each of those.

On the importance of what teachers do

Research has shown us that teachers’ actions in their classrooms have twice the impact on student achievement as do school policies regarding curriculum, assessment, staff collegiality, and community involvement

And classroom management is one of the most important jobs. With one meta-analysis found it had the largest effect on student achievement.

Does bring up the notion of flexible goals in “appropriate levels of cooperation”.

Awareness of high needs students

Defines 5 categories and some sub-categories of types of high needs students

  1. Passive students – refrain from criticism, reward small successes, safe classroom climate
    • Fear of failure
    • Fear of relations
  2. Agressive students – behaviour contracts, immediate rewards/punishment, …surely more than that?
    • Hostile
    • Oppositional
    • Covert
  3. Attention problems – teaching skills and basic concentration, help with task decomposition, reward, peer tutor
    • Hyperactive
    • Inattentive
  4. Perfectionists – encourage more realistic standards, help accept mistakes, opportunities to tutor others.
  5. Socially inept – counsel about behaviours.

Social and Emotional learning

And now a Powerpoint set from CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning).

Some focus questions

  • How similar or different do you believe this to be from the Australian context?
    In terms of how well the statistics match the Australian context I really couldn’t say. Anecdotally (i.e. solely on my limited experience) I would not be surprised. Given the apparent prevalence of SEL programs in Australian schools (e.g. Queensland it would appear likely.
  • What are some of the practical ideas for how to solve problems with students in a collaborative way?
    There doesn’t seem to be a direct response to this question in the powerpoint. There are a range of ideas mentioned in the DoL literature.

One of the core beliefs of CASEL is the “create a responsible society member” purpose of schools.

15-20% of US students experience social, emotional and mental health problems. 25-30% have school adjustment problems. Rising to 60% in low SOE districts. Link between this maladjustment and later serious problem behaviours. 70-80% of students not getting right mental health services. More stats on risk behaviours (28.3% had 5 or more alcoholic drinks in a couple of hours) and development assets (e.g. 24% think teachers care about me)

Some additional questions arise from the CASEL claims about the ability to “to recognize and manage emotions, develop caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations effectively” as skills that can be taught.

  • How do you respond to such claims?
    To some extent I see these skills as similar to other skills. i.e. it can be learnt and taught. However, they are not the types of skills traditional thought of in a school setting, a setting that tends to place emphasis on the academic or cognitive skills. Given the existence of programs like this it would appear obvious that many people think it can be taught and CASEL’s basis on scientific research gives that assumption some rigour. I think one reason such skills are likely to be more difficult to teach is that not as many folk have set down to analyse these skills and develop insights that can be understood and taught. I imagine this is the purpose of organisations like CASEL.
  • Do you think it is the responsibility of teachers to try to foster these skills in the students they teach?
    Yes, if only because students with those skills will be able to learn much more effectively and be “easier” to teach. If you accept the “prepare good citizens” purpose for school then that provides additional support for the idea that it is the responsibility of teachers to foster these skills.
  • What have your own attitudes and perceptions been towards formal education?
    I have generally succeeded at formal education, played the game. Though my initial forays into undergraduate education suffered due to some poor attitudes and perceptions. 20+ years on, I am wondering how the difference in attitude and perceptions will play out in this program. Being somewhat older and somewhat more opinionated, I have had to (at times) make an effort to be a little more open and reflective on issues that I would generally have ruled out.
  • Can you recall particular teachers who helped you develop positive attitudes? If so, how did they achieve this?
    No, but I think that says more about the length of time since I completed formal education and my memory. Rickie’s slightly repeated use of the “resist impulsivity” DoL mantra during the residential school did cause me to reflect a bit on my behaviour.
  • To what extent is the teacher responsible for the establishment of a positive classroom environment?
    Fairly significant, given the hoped for greater level of knowledge and the responsibility for creating the learning environment I would see the teacher as being largely responsible. That said there remains some responsibility for the student, the parents and especially the school administration (and possibly others) in contributing to both the class environment and the broader environment in which it operates. No classroom environment is an island.
  • What is your reaction to the strategies suggested in Dimensions of Learning?
    There is nothing new there. I was aware of much of it. A small number of the strategies I find a little questionable, but hold my final conclusions in abeyance. Simply getting students to say positive things is not, to me, sufficient. Another reaction is that much of the research evidence supporting these strategies is getting quite old. It makes me wonder if there is more recent research that changes or expands the nature of these strategies.

Supportive Learning Environments: Week 1

So the practice is established, I am aiming to write a single blog post per week, per course as part of my studies to become a teacher. This post if for week 1 of the supportive learning environments course.

Managing diversity

The first 6 topics are around this topic. Everyone is different, the teachers job is “maximise learning gains for all your students” (sounds like what would be a very TFA sentiment), but it’s the task of other professionals to diagnose and treat. It appears the focus here is on gaining an in-depth understanding of one form of diversity.

Rights and responsibilities

Topic 1 is rights and responsibilities. Oh look, it’s a Word document.

Rights as in, who has a right to an education? What type of an education? Responsible, as in Who is responsible for providing that education?

My thoughts

Yet another course that starts with asking me what I think. I recognise that this is meant to be activating and making concrete my current knowledge about this topic. Just like good constructivists are meant to do. However, I do wonder about the efficiency and efficacy of this approach.

Are there academics reading our responses to ascertain how knowledge level in order to customise the course and its teaching? I doubt it. Will we be asked to reflect back on our answers at a later stage in the course? We’ll wait and see.

At least in this course, I feel they’ve done enough to briefly introduce the subject so that when we do answer, we are at least vaguely in the right ball park.

The questions

  1. Does everyone have the right to a primary education? A secondary education? Post-secondary?
    In general yes, but I’m sure folk can find examples where most people would be leaning towards now. e.g. does a serial killer have the right to a post-secondary education?
  2. Do students with high support needs because of physical and/or intellectual impairment have the right to be included in mainstream education?
    My initial thought would be now. They have a right to education. But whether that means being included in mainstream education, that should probably depend on the specifics. Then why am I somewhat troubled by that?
  3. Do students with gifts or talents have the right to be catered for in the education system or should parents seek private tuition?
    Again, they have a right to an education. What right they have to a state supported education is another question. But again it comes down to specifics.
  4. Do students in educational settings have the right to learn without interruption from disruptive students?
    To some extent yes, but that depends on the definition and source of disruption.

Am wondering if these are educational or political questions? There are always going to practical limits.

An introduction

Some Powerpoints – with notes – to give an overview.

Ahh, I see your going into academic definitional distinctions

  • Outcome right – essential to maintain a reasonable quality of life.
  • Opportunity right – a desired outcome, but not essential.

So, the Australian policy is primary and secondary as a right for all.

This is an interesting quote from Reid (1995, p14)

social justice in our society depends upon significant changes being made to the social and political structures that create and maintain injustice

in terms of there almost certainly being some interesting alternate perspectives on what structure do or don’t maintain justice and how to change it.

So, they have a right to education, but what type? Current intent is an inclusive education

Inclusion relates to the provision of appropriate educational experiences to meet the needs of all students in regular schools and classes

All students should have the right to feel accepted and valued by peers. That troubles me somewhat, is this regardless of their actions? Not who they are, but what they do. Perhaps this will be balanced by the responsibilities side of things.

Responsibilities

  • Teachers (learning managers in the terminology adopted by the program) are responsible for: managing diversity and adopting positive classroom management strategies.
    Why does the term “manage” bother me in this context? There is a network of support to enable this.
  • Students – need to be expressed in terms of school and class rules.

Here’s a point that interests me

Research shows that middle class families form more proactive relationships with schools that those who are socially disadvantaged (Ashman & Elkins, 2005).

There is a strong chance (I hope) that I’ll be working in a school with a significant proportion of students from households from a lower socio-economic grouping. I see the role of parents as essential, how do/should a teacher connect with these parents?

Ashman and Elkins

There’s a first. I’m actually being directed to read one of the set texts by the course guide. Oh, it’s actually 2 chapters (60 pages) I have to read.

p96-97 argues that what the teacher does in a classroom is almost the bottom of a necessary “hierarchy”. The broader school and societal context, policies etc need to be conducive. The advice on inclusive teaching sounds very much like the constructivist advice, i.e. : engage with diversity of students; encourage active involvement; use assessment practices that target achievement of all; encourage mutual respect. Easy to say.

A few pages talking about what is available, then we get onto resources, including websites:

Discussion about how curriculum frameworks can be modified for student cohorts – e.g. indigenous, ESL etc.

So, the questions were meant to reflect upon

  • What definition of inclusion would you give?
    p6 “inclusion is about belonging, about being rightly placed within a group of people, and having the rights and qualities that characterise members of that particular group”.

    An inclusive school on the other-hand (p92) “bring together the human, physical, technological and education resources that provide opportunities that enable all students to achieve positive learning outcomes”.

  • What impacts arise from “positive discrimination”?
    Mmm, doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the chapter, not in the index….

Onto chapter 3, thinking about these questions

  • What is collaboration based upon?
  • Who else can provide assistance?
  • Why do some parents assume a position of subordination?
  • How essential is parental involvement in education?

Haven’t come across much on the questions yet, but the discussion about the evolution of systems from “special” schools through mainstreaming through to inclusion is troubling in that at no stage does it address the fact that they year-based progression factory model on which formal education is based is completely at odds with the type of flexibility and responsiveness that is required to provide “access for all”.

Well, I couldn’t find anything in chapter 3 that connected with those questions. Mmm.

Knowing names

And now to read

Dixon, M. & Sanjakdar, F. (2004). Holding the gaze: Teachers noticing and naming students. in Mary Dixon et al. (Eds.). Invitations and inspirations: Pathways to successful teaching. Carlton, VIC: Curriculum Corporation.

Knowing names is one of those tasks I fear I’ll be bad at. Should be interesting to read. Of course, it appears to be focused on a more abstract vision of naming (i.e. linked to labelling). The practical losing out to the theoretical?

This reading is to be framed in the context of the following questions

  • Why do we use labels?
    Without having read the reading, I would answer that to some extent it is human nature. It is my understanding that we are pattern-matching intelligences. i.e. we don’t see all the details we recognise patterns. Labels are largely identifiers of patterns. We respond based on what patterns we perceive. It helps deal with the complexity of the world.
  • What are the potentially negative effects of labelling?
    The authors argue that such labels “tell us little about the individual student and their learning abilities”. Agreed. It’s a drawback of categorisation/generalisation that you gain benefits from grouping many objects into the one group, but at the same time you ignore the specifics. Any abstraction (e.g. a map) tends to lose information, that loss of that information can have significant negative effects.

    From the authors, such categories “lower our sight, misdirect our vision and mislead out intentions. Labels are limiting”. The suggestion is that there are multiple ways of seeing a child, labels prevent employing those multiple ways.

  • What can be learned from Clarissa’s story?
    The danger of labels. The value of getting to know the student(s), questioning assumptions and engaging with their differences/interests.
  • What challenges and opportunities are implied in the notion of discovering the individuality of the students?
    Opportunities from above, challenges might include: the inherent diversity, the difficulty/workload this entails, the constraints of the system…

What do Ashman and Elkins say about labelling? – well, where did they say it? This question is not connected to anything we’ve done. It’s defined in chapter 6 (according to the Index) and the limitations in chapter 7. THey define it as the categorisation of people on the basis of a disability or impairment. Disadvantages include

  • it is divisive
  • Issues around people missing out on categorisation and hence support
  • student failure prior to categorisation
  • a focus on a deficit approach

There is more to do, but have decided to skip it as I need to get onto other work.