Author Archives: Dr. Darrin

Group Roles and Size in the Classroom

Working in groups is a part of the educational experience and, naturally, the real world. For educators, understanding the roles within a group and how size can affect performance is vital so that educators can put students in situations where they can succeed. We will look at the roles within groups and their size in this post.

Roles in Groups

There are at least three different roles in groups, and these are all based on what a member chooses to focus on as a member. These three roles are task-orientation, relations-orientation, and self-orientation.

Task-oriented group members are focused on getting things done and achieving group performance goals. Often it is hard to find task-oriented students, but high-performing students may fill this role in a group. Generally, focusing on the task can irritate peers who believe that other things are essential. However, when the work is not done, it can also lead to friction with the task-oriented person.

Relation-orientated members are focus on the social harmony and cohesiveness of the group. They are focus on being sure that people are happy. Completing the task or achieving the mission is secondary to the socio-emotional state of the group. Task-orientated members might call relation-orientated members “slackers” or non-performers. However, if work is what makes everyone happy, a relation-orientated person will work for the sake of harmony. It seems like most students fit this role.

Lastly, self-oriented individuals only care about their own goals, even at the expense of the group. They only see the group in terms of what they can get out of it. Such individuals can be high performers or social loafers. What makes them unique is their motivation to benefit themselves. Task and relationship-oriented members often do not even see these people as team players and have some disdain for them when their motivates are exposed.

Success with a group requires having a balance between task and relation-oriented people and avoidance of self-oriented people. A teacher may want to avoid a group where everyone is relation-oriented because nothing will get done as everyone is focused on the people’s happiness. A group that is is heavily task-oriented or has a minority of relation-orientated people may have success. Any combination of self-oriented people can be a problem unless the other group members can get them to buy into the group’s mission.

Group Size

When forming groups and determining their size, a teacher must think about how the size affects performance. The size of a group is relative. What is a large group to one person is a small or medium group to another. However, despite this ambiguity, certain things tend to happen as a group’s size is modified.

When a group becomes larger, the interaction between members decreases due to the higher number of relationships. In addition, the cohesiveness or strength of the group also goes down as people have less personal responsibility. Other things that decline include satisfaction while absenteeism and social loafing increase.

This indicates that smaller groups may be better as they increase all of these dimensions that have already been discussed. For students who are already struggling with maturity and performance. Smaller groups may be critical for academic success. If groups get too big, the lack of individual accountability could become a problem.


People are people just as students are students. When working groups, they have different motivates and reasons for being there. As a teacher, it is crucial to find the right balance between the various roles in a group and the group’s size needed for success.

Groups types and the Classroom

Groups are an essential part of the classroom and learning experience of students. As teachers, we often form groups and or even disband them. In this post, we will look at the different types of groups that develop in a class and the reasons students join groups.

Types of Groups

The types of groups that develop organizationally can be defined in terms of two dimensions: formal vs. informal and permanent versus temporary. This means that there are four potential types of groups which are listed below.

  • Formal and permanent
  • Formal and temporary
  • Informal and permanent
  • Informal and temporary

Formal groups are usually set up by the teacher, while informal groups develop naturally due to student preference. How long a group lasts often depends on the purpose of the group. We will now go through each of these four group types in detail.

Formal & Permanent 

Formal and permanent groups are called a command or functional groups. The teacher develops this type of group to complete a specific long-term task. Examples of this would include assignments, projects, or even teams for sports competitions.

Formal & Temporary

Formal and temporary groups have the same criteria as formal and permanent groups. The main difference is how long the group is together. Therefore, the difference between the first two groups is how long the group will exist. In addition, what is considered permanent or temporary will vary from teacher to teacher and from student to student.

Informal & Permanent

Informal and permanent groups are also called friendship groups. The purpose of this type of group is for socializing and generally having a good time. This type of group will develop naturally without the influence of the teacher. However, sometimes this type of group’s interest can clash with the teacher’s goals in the classroom when socializing becomes too important.

Informal & Temporary

Informal and temporary groups are also called interest groups. These groups often last as long as the members have a similar interest—for example, a book club or a study group.

Reasons for Group Membership

There are several reasons why people join groups. The teacher creates formal groups, but for informal groups, there are distinct reasons.

Socializing is the main reason for group membership. Students are social creatures like everyone, and they enjoy each other and even the teacher at times. Therefore, students will join groups just to appreciate being around each other.

As mentioned previously, students will join groups to enjoy various shared interests. Some activities require more than one person (i.e., basketball), which provides an opportunity for an informal group to develop to pursue this shared interest.

Sometimes groups are joined because of proximity. Students who may not become members of the same group may do so because of physical proximity. For example, students from foreign countries may socialize together because they share the same foreign experience that local students do not.

Lastly, protection is another driving factor for joining groups. The perils of high school and even college can be filled with experiences of bullying and taunting. Nothing helps to quell such negative experiences, such as having a group of friends who will protect you from such treatment. Of course, some students join groups not so much for protection as for the opportunity to torment other students.


Group types are just ways for teachers to be aware of another unique dynamic of students’ social experience. Some groups are top-down while others are bottom-up. In addition, the motivation behind joining a group can vary from student to student. Either way, understanding this can help teachers to help students.

Robert Koch: Proving Germ Theory

Robert Koch (1843-1910) was a poor country doctor in Germany. One day his life took a new direction when an epidemic struck the local farm animals. The culprit was anthrax. Even though Koch was a doctor for humans, he decided to study this disease that is commonly associated with animals.

The Germ

Anthrax is a disease that can strike suddenly and seemingly without warning. Animals will be healthy one day and dead the next. It was also possible for the disease to sicken and kill humans. There was no cure for the disease outside of killing the animals.

Koch began his research on anthrax with a microscope his wife had given him and no other equipment. If he needed something, he would make it himself or use common everyday items such as dinner plates. As Koch examined the blood of the dead animals, he continued to notice the presence of a bacteria in the blood of the dead animals. He never found these bacteria in healthy animals.

At this time, there was still controversy over whether germs caused disease. Therefore, it was not clear if the bacteria were causing anthrax. This means that Koch had to investigate more closely as to what the bacteria in the blood meant. To confirm his findings, Koch conducted an experiment.

The Experiment

The experiment involved growing anthrax outside of the blood. Then the cultured anthrax was placed inside living mice. The mice were killed by anthrax with their blood containing the bacteria. This was the proof Koch needed that anthrax was the killer.

Koch also found that the bacteria could survive outside a liquid in a state Koch called spores. In this state, anthrax could survive extreme conditions—this helped to explain how contagious the disease. Killing animals was not enough. They needed to be burned or buried deep in the ground to prevent infection.

Sharing Results

The next step for Koch was to take pictures of the bacteria. Then he decided to share his findings. Koch was an outsider to academic life, and working in the countryside did not warrant the respect he needed at this moment. Nevertheless, he contacted a university, and they agreed to let him share his results. Koch didn’t lecture; instead, he repeated his experiments at the university. Students and teachers saw the mice die along with the pictures of anthrax.

The impact was unquestioned. Koch had shown that germ clearly caused disease. This laid to rest what was, at one time, a controversial idea that unseen microbes could make people sick. These ideas are far removed from what Galen was proposing several thousand years ago.


Koch did not necessarily find a cure for anthrax. Instead, he was able to confirm the theory of germs. This may not have been the goal, but it was a significant contribution to medicine that convinced skeptical experts. The person who would defeat anthrax was Louis Pasteur, the same person who developed germ theory.

James Lind: The Scourge of Scurvy

Scurvy was at one time a serious problem for sailors who spent a long time at sea. Scurvy, which means “scaly skin,” causes weight loss, fatigue, bleeding gums, and tooth loss. The underlying problem is a weakening of the connective fibers that hold the body together.

During the 1700s, the British empire spread worldwide and required a massive navy for commercial and military reasons. Scurvy was wearing down the strength of the empire.

Naval Doctor

The answer for scurvy was found by James Lind (1716-1794), a Scottish physician. He began his career as a surgeon in the British navy and was surprised by the amount of suffering that scurvy was causing in the navy. As Lind started to examine this problem, he began to see the context.

During this time, voyages on ships for sailors could last more than a year. Storing food was always a problem for such long trips. Most food was dried and or preserved with salt. There was almost no access to fruits and vegetables. Lind began to suspect that the lack of fruit and vegetables was a contributing factor in scurvy.

To confirm his suspicion, Lind conducted an experiment. He created several different groups of sailors suffering from scurvy, and he gave each group a different diet. He found that the group of men who were given oranges or lemons could recover and return to work. This indicated that there was a relationship between scurvy and citrus fruits.

The Test

The famous explorer James Cook heard of Lind’s work. Cook wanted to explore the Pacific Ocean. The problem was such a trip would take over four years. This meant that the risk of scurvy would be high for him and his crew. Cook as Lind what he could do, and Lind recommended taking citrus fruits and stopping at ports whenever possible to purchase fresh food. With this advice, Cook made his trip and outline several countries along with parts of Antarctica.

Despite the success of citrus fruit in addressing scurvy, British navy leaders and other medical professionals were not supportive of Lind’s findings. It was mainly a matter of pride as the navy thought it provided the best food possible for their sailors. It would take ten years for them to implement the changes proposed by Lind regarding the use of citrus fruit.

Medical professionals were also doubtful of Lind’s recommendations. This was during a time when there were still question about the connection between diet and disease. This skepticism continued for much longer than the doubts of the navy.


Lind had found the answer for scurvy, but he did not know why citrus fruit helped to prevent or cure this disease. The reason why eating citrus fruits found this works about 100 years later. It was found that the body needs vitamin C. Scurvy was a sign that someone was a deficiency in vitamin C. When food is preserved through drying, salting, it destroys vitamin C. It is important to remember that sometimes the answer doesn’t necessarily have to be understood at the time that it is used.

Performance Appraisals and the Classroom

Performance appraisals are commonly associated with a supervisor assessing the performance of a subordinate. However, performance appraisals can also be used in the classroom to provide students with feedback about their behavior and academic progress. We will look at the uses and problems of performance appraisals in the classroom as well as how to avoid common mistakes.

Uses of Performance Appraisals

Performance appraisals can be used to give students feedback about their progress in terms of behavior or academics. In addition, Appraisals can provide students with insights into their strengths and weaknesses. For example, a student might be solid academically, but the teacher may notice they struggle with interacting with others.

Appraisals can also be useful when determining rewards among students. Depending on the employed system, this can be one of many ways to assess honor and praise for students. Lastly, appraisals can help teachers be aware of what they need to do to help students academically or in other areas that need development.

Problems with Appraisals

There are several problems with appraisals. These problems may not all apply to the classroom but are common when performance appraisals are conducted in other settings such as business.

First, there can be problems with the instrument. The tool used to perform the assessment must be assessed for validity and reliability. Another common concern is something called the central tendency error. This happens when a teacher gives everybody a score in the middle and thus makes all students average. This is an example of a human error rather than a problem with the instrument itself. Teachers must remind themselves to recognize both excellent and abysmal performance.

An equally dangerous trap teachers may fall into is strictness or leniency error. This happens when a teacher is too mean or too nice, which can skew scores. Being too strict hurts excellent students while being too lenient rewards poor-performing students.

The halo effect involves giving good or bad scores in one component of an appraisal and continuing this scoring in another element. For example, if a student has excellent leadership skills and is marked highly for this. The teacher may also mark this same student as excellent in other categories when there is no evidence to support this.

The final two problems are recency error and personal bias. Recency error involves only remember the latest behavior of the student to the exclusion of older actions. Suppose the student is having a good day this beneficial. However, if a student has struggled recently for whatever reason (personal, health, etc.) and the teacher does not think of the overall trend, this can be detrimental.

Personal biases happen when a teacher does not get along with a student, which affects the scores the student earns in an appraisal. It is often not popular to speak about this, but all people have varying capacities to tolerate each other’s behavior and attitudes, and sometimes the clash of personalities rather than performance can influence how teachers assess a student.

Overcoming the Problems

Outside of validity and reliability, the majority of the problems with performance appraisals involve the human aspect. This means that the appraisers need to be aware of the mistakes they could make and make a conscious effort not to make these common errors as they can have a negative effect on students.

This means that teachers need to be aware of these pitfalls so that they do not make them. As such, necessary awareness is required to ensure that appraisals are fair and accurately measure the teacher’s perception of a student’s performance.


Everything that a teacher does has to be weighed in terms of pros and cons. Performance appraisals are another tool that a teacher can use in their classroom to provide feedback and support for students. However, a teacher must be aware of the drawbacks to using such a tool, which does not mean that the device should not be used even if it has some disadvantages.

Andreas Vesalius: Learning by Doing

Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) was an influential English-Belgian doctor of the 16th century. He came from a medical family as he had several family members who were doctors, and his father was an apothecary (pharmacist). Vesalius decided early in life that he wanted to follow the family tradition of medical practice.


At the age of 17, Vesalius went to university. He studied at at least three different universities. The first was the University of Paris. While in Paris, Vesalius was able to attend lectures by the famous Jacobus Sylvius. However, Vesalius grew bored over listening to Sylvius read aloud the books of Galen. Vesalius believed in a more active learning approach to doing medicine rather than listening to it. In other words, Vesalius thought that the teacher should do the dissections rather than only talk about them.

Due to war, Vesalius continued his studies in Belgium at the University of Louvain. While at Louvain, Vesalius found a human skeleton that he was able to observe and learn from. He also noted some discrepancies between the human skeleton he possessed at the teachings of Galen. For example, Galen claimed that the breastbone has seven segments, but Vesalius could only find three segments in the human skeleton. This discrepancy is because Galen dissected apes and not humans.

Vesalius’ next school was Padua University in Italy and perhaps the most prestigious school in Europe at the time. In Padua, Vesalius completes his education and becomes a faculty member at the tender age of 22.


Vesalius’ teaching was revolutionary at the time. He believed in doing the dissections himself in front of the students. Many people thought that the book was enough to learn anatomy, and there was no need for dissections. However, students loved Vesalius’ demonstration-style approach, and his classes were packed with up to 400 students.

Having such a large class led to other problems. It was hard for students to see the dissections. This was before videos and LCD projectors. Another problem was the dead body. After a day or two, the body Vesalius was dissecting would begin to rot. To solve these problems, Vesalius started making drawings of his dissections that students could study.

As Vesalius continued teaching, he began to make corrections to the works of Galen. This was unspeakable given the status of Galen. However, Vesalius could not find several of Galen’s observations in animals in people. These corrections were put into a book by Vesalius with help from an artist. Other doctors objected to Vesalius’ modifications and the use of an artist. However, artists often knew more about the body than doctors as they wanted their drawings and paintings to be as realistic as possible, which meant knowledge of anatomy.

Vesalius’ reforms were too much for his colleagues. He was attacked continuously, and he took things too personally. In addition, his books were so popular that people pirated them, which meant Vesalius never received much profit from his innovations. Eventually, all this became too much for Vesalius, and he would leave teaching and eventually died somewhere around 50 years of age.


Experiential learning was Vesalius’ main gift to education in his field. Before Vesalius, teachers talked about the body. After Vesalius, teachers showed the body to their students. This shift from talk to action created a much more engaging learning experience. Such an approach benefited many students much to the chagrin of other teachers. Vesalius gave his students practical experience versus head knowledge, which is critical when working with living people.

Intro to Critical Race Theory

Critical race theory is a framework used by many to see the world in terms of race and power. Based on postmodernism, this concept is a significant influence on how many people see the world today. Primarily this relates to the difference in power and privilege between people who are white and black.


Some proponents of critical race theory believe that race is a social construct developed to maintain the supremacy of white people. In addition, color was also at one time used to justify slavery. However, many also say that race is central when dealing with any issues of power and oppression. A significant problem is that it is difficult to define precisely what critical race theory is, and as with all definitions, there is no consensus.

Other significant tenets of critical race theory are the idea of white supremacy and white privilege, which means that people who are white have certain advantages due to their skin color. Another tenet is the need to give people of color a voice. By voice, it may mean being a part of decision-making and sharing grievances from oppression.

A final central tenet of critical race theory is the idea of intersectionality. Intersectionality is the idea that a person can be a member of more than one oppressed group. A classic example of this is a black woman. Such a person may experience oppression due to their race (black) or sex (female). As such, you can add more and more groups if a person continues to fight them based on the traits that are a part of their being.


There are at least two types of critical theorists, and these are the materialists and the postmodern. The materialist look at how economic, legal, and politics affect race and may be considered to align more with communism. The postmodern focuses more on linguistics, deconstructing discourse to find power imbalances, and searching for implicit bias. Examples of what the postmodern critical race theorists do is look for things as microaggression, hate speech, cultural appropriation. These terms are used every day to attack people on social media. For example, being surprised that someone who is black is married because of the high out of wedlock birth rate would be considered microaggression by some and maybe even hate speech by others. The postmodern camp is generally more common today.

Both of these schools of thought have in common that they both dislike or even hate liberalism with its focus on incremental change. For example, many view Martin Luther King Jr as a liberal because he wanted to downplay color and focus on character. In critical race theory, it is all about color first and then some consideration of character.

Another trait of agreement is the view of knowledge as a social construct. This means that the marginalized groups determine what is true and not some external standard such as science or religion. To determine who is right, look for which group is more oppressed in a particular situation. This can be insanely confusing if it is taken seriously.

Even when there are attempts to end racism, this is viewed with suspicion by critical theorists. There have been accusations that white people give rights and opportunities to blacks only when it benefits them. In addition, legislation that is anti-racist supports racism. If these two beliefs are commonly believed, it makes it difficult for there ever to be any solution to justice and oppression.


Critical race theory is one of many schools of thought that has seized the minds of many. People who adhere to this worldview see race and oppression in most aspects of life. When a person sees problems of oppression everywhere, it is natural to wonder how they can have any sense of happiness or peace.

Goal Theory and the Classroom

Goal theory is almost a self-explanatory term. Essentially, goal theory states that people are motivated when they have goals. This seems obvious, yet many people do not have goals and thus often lack motivation. As such, goal theory can be useful for people who lack motivation or who perhaps need help in clarifying the goals they have but cannot achieve.

Principles of Goal Theory

There are several principles related to goal theory. First, as has already been stated, is that people perform better when they have goals. Second, and this one needs explanation, the goals must be personal goals that the person wants to achieve. It is hard to be motivated by someone else’s goals. Goals must come from the individual. Many students struggle in school because all the goals come from the curriculum or teacher and rarely from the student. When all actions are coming from the top down, and it could lead to a loss of motivation.

A third principle similar and related to the second is that people have to commit to the goal(s). In other words, it cannot only be in the person’s head but must be followed with action. Procrastination is a sign of a lack of commitment. Such behavior is seen by everyone when they make a goal, maybe a reasonable goal, but never actually do anything to make it happen.

The fourth principle of goal theory is that challenging goals encourage better performance than easy goals. A struggling helps people to perform better, whether adult or child. In the classroom, goals need to elicit moderate to hard struggle because this motivates a student to push themselves. Of course, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and this means that goals should be challenging but attainable; otherwise, people will give up and be even less motivated.

Fifth, goals need to specific rather than broad. This is a good point. However, different people have different views on broad and specific. Determining whether a goal is broad or specific can be done by assessing a person’s ability to achieve the goal if it is not apparent to the person what they need to succeed. This means that the goal may require refinement in the form of breaking a goal into several subgoals, defining what it means to complete the goal, or setting boundaries such as a timeframe in which the goal is pursued.


The consequences of setting goals are not necessarily negative. When adults or students achieve goals, there is a sense of satisfaction in achieving them. Achieving goals brings a sense of autonomy and even self-actualization as a person sees that they can do something and have an impact, no matter how small, on their environment.

There can also be rewards when involving goals. Students can be given various privileges fr achieving goals. This is a more extrinsic matter, but providing external rewards can be beneficial for students on occasion.

There are also problems with goal setting. When goals are set in one area, other areas may be ignored. For example, a student set a goal of doing their math homework at the exclusion of other homework. To achieve this one goal meant to create problems in another area.

Another problem is when goal setting is abuse. An example of this is when a child sets goals that are easy to achieve their real goal of being lazy. It takes experience on the part of a teacher to know when the students’ goals are reasonable and not too hard or too easy.


Children need goals. It breaks the learning experience of school into small measurable steps that they can achieve little by little. These goals must be negotiated at least partially so that students have ownership in the process. When this is done, cooperation may be achieved.

Ignaz Semmelweiss: Cleanliness

Ignaz Semmelweiss (1818-1865) initially went to university to become a lawyer. However, a friend invited him to a lecture and medicine. Becoming fascinated with medicine Semmelweiss switch his studies to become a physician.

Death in the Maternity Ward

In 1844, Semmelweiss graduated from the University of Vienna as a medical doctor. After graduation, Semmelweiss accepted a position as a doctor at a charity hospital for poor women. The hospital had two wards. One ward was for training doctors, while the second ward was for training midwives. For some strange reason, pregnant women would beg to be sent to the midwife ward to have their baby.

Semmelweiss was curious about this but could not get a straight answer from the women about why they preferred midwives to medical doctors. Eventually, he heard rumors that people believed that more women died from the doctors than the midwives. Semmelweiss began to investigate this. He found that about 1% of the women who went to the midwives died while about 25% of the women who went to the doctors died. In other words, it was safer to go to a midwife than a highly trained medical doctor for childbirth.

Many of the women who died among the doctors died from childbed fever, a type of infection. Semmelweiss was trying to figure out what was causing this infection. During this time, one of Semmelweiss’ best friends died. His friend died from childbed fever. What made this strange was that Semmelweiss’ friend was a man and had not had a baby.

The Problem Found

It turns out that his friend had been performing an autopsy one week before his death on one of the many women who had died from childbed fever. During the procedure, the careless student accidentally nicked Semmelweiss’ friend’s finger. The injury caused some minor bleeding, which eventually led to the infection that caused his death.

Semmelweiss figure that childbed fever was contagious and that doctors were spreading this infection around through uncleanliness. It was common for a doctor to go from the morgue to the operating room to visiting patients while wearing the same blood-soaked clothes. On the other hand, the midwives never performed autopsies (they weren’t qualified) and always made sure everything was clean.

Semmelweiss concluded that doctors needed to wash their hands and keep their clothes clean. When he shared this with his colleagues and students, they thought it was embarrassing because being clean was for midwives. After all, they were doctors. Others thought this was a joke. The hospital administrator called Semmelweiss’ idea foolish and claimed there was no budget for the soap and water Semmelweiss was wasting.

Success and Failure

With time, and through Semmelweiss’s stubbornness, the death rate fell from 25% to 1%. In line with the midwives’ results. The administrator called the decline a coincidence, students claimed that Semmelweiss was calling them murderers, and they disagreed with him. This all was happening in the mid 1840’s at the beginning of Semmelwiess’s career.

Despite the 1840ss benefit of handwashing, the students and the leadership continued to resist Semmelweiss’ innovation. This eventually led to Semmelweiss leaving the hospital. Once he was gone, the handwashing stopped, and the death rate soared again. However, the doctors did not care as long as they did not have to wash their hands like midwives.

Handwashing was not accepted as standard practice until the late 1860s. This means that this basic idea of cleanliness was ignored for about 20 years by the medical establishment. Semmelweiss was never able to see this happen as he died in the mid-1860s from an infection he received from cutting his finger during a surgical procedure.


A central lesson drawn from this story is how slow people are, despite their intelligence, training, and experience, to change. The doctors thought they knew what was best based on social conventions rather than evidence. They were more worried about looking like doctors (bloodstained clothes and dirty hands) than working to save lives. This is not unique to doctors as people often will fall victim to their pride. Fortunately, most of us do not deal with life and death daily, so our shortcomings do not have the same impact on people.

Christian Eijkman: Fighting Beriberi

Berberi disease was the scourge of settlers sent to Asia by the Dutch East India Company. The mysterious illness led to general fatigue, inability to eat, heart weakness, paralysis, and death. Beriberi got its name from the locals and is translated as “cannot.”

At first, the Dutch East India Company contacted Robert Koch, the physician who did groundbreaking work on anthrax, to come to Asia and help. Koch claimed he was too busy and recommended his former student Christian Eijkman (1858-1930) to help with this problem.

Enter Eijkman

Eijkman, who was Dutch, was a part of a medical team that went to Java (Indonesia) to battle with beriberi in 1886. At this time, Germ theory was all the rage in the medical world, and many people thought that germs cause all disease. Eijkman came to Java with his assumption that there was some sort of microbe that was making everyone sick. Success would involve finding the microbe and eliminating it.

As Eijkman began to work, he noticed that the hospitals had clean beds and good food, with beriberi as a significant problem. Outside the hospital, the locals lived in squalid conditions with inadequate nutrition but no beriberi. Eijkman began to wonder what was the difference.

Eijkman looked at the water, blood samples, and even more closely at the food. After some time, the other doctors on the medical team with him left out of discouragement. Eijkman stayed behind. Money was becoming a problem, and he knew he could not stay much longer.

Enter the Chickens

Eijkman decided to conduct an experiment in which he would take blood from a beriberi patient and inject it into a chicken. Eijkman fully expected the chicken to develop the disease. However, the chicken did not get sick, to Eijkman’s surprise as this contradicted Germ theory. This led Eijkam to the conclusion that germs do not cause beriberi.

However, with time the chickens did actually get sick. Yet they also recovered, which furthered confuses, Eijkman. Eijkman asked the cook what did he feed the chickens. The cook replied that he usually feed them brown rice. During the week that the chickens were sick, he used white rice because all the brown was going. One week later, he switched back to brown rice, and that was when the chickens recovered.

Eijkman confirmed this observation with additional experiments. He also found that the locals ate brown rice while the settlers ate white rice. Something in the brown rice protected a person from beriberi that was lost when the rice was processed to be white.

Enter the Rejection

When Eijkman shared his results with the hospital, the leadership thought it was ridiculous. Everyone was convinced that only germs caused disease and not diet. Eijkman’s breakthrough was ignored for years before US doctors tried it in the Philippines with great success.

Further research found that the husk of rice contains a vitamin called thiamine. This vitamin was inadvertently removed when the rice was processed. Soon it was found that other diseases are caused by a lack of vital minerals and nutrients such as goiter,


For his hard work and persistence, Eijkman won the Nobel Prize in medicine. When he first made his discovery, it was mocked, but decades later, he received the highest award possible in his field.

Equity Theory and the Classroom

Equity theory essential tries to explain how people view their effort versus what they received in return for their effort. A more straightforward way to state this is that people monitor whether they think their situation is “fair.” Students, especially children, are positively obsessed with fairness

In equity theory, inputs are anything that person believes they are contributing to further the organization. It could be experience, performance, education, time, etc. For children, many of the examples listed so far may not be applicable. For students, inputs might be appropriate behavior, completing assignments, staying on task, etc.

Inputs & Outputs

Outputs in equity theory can involve pay, working conditions, job status, achievement, etc. Outcomes are essentially what an individual thinks they are getting back from the organization in return for the inputs. Outcomes for children can be such things as special privileges, good grades, praise, etc.

According to equity theory, what happens over time is that people compare the inputs to the outputs over time to see if they are balanced and fair. If they are people are satisfied, if not there could be problems. How we decide what is reasonable is by comparing our input to output ratio with someone else’s. These people are called referent others.

Returning to the classroom, children determine what is fair not so much by some external standard but by how they are treated when looking at how others are treated. If one student does not have to do homework and another does, the student who has to complete the task can only say it’s not fair compared to the student who did not get the assignment. If both were required to do homework, they would need a different argument than comparing themselves to each other.

The Results of Comparing

Three situations can result from the comparison of one’s self to others according to equity theory. When people believe the input to output is fair, it is called a state of equity. When a person is convinced that their inputs are less than the outputs when comparing, this is called over-reward equity. When the inputs are more than the outputs, this is an example of under-reward equity.

If people feel over-rewarded, they seldom complain or show concern for this. This is similar to what can be seen in children who are favored in one way or another. An exception to this may be if the over-rewarding causes social tension. Then some people and many children may sacrifice the excess reward to regain harmony and group acceptance.

In terms of under-reward, people tend to become frustrated and focused on the injustice of their situation. One practical solution is a passive-aggressive one and involves reducing the inputs. If working long hours is not being rewarded, a person can reduce their hours to the minimum. By doing this, they can gain time that was not reaping any additional salary or praise. Children will also work less if they are not convinced it will make a difference in their academic performance.

However, one common problem people had when they compared themselves to others is that they tend to overrate their performance and underrate their peers’ performance. This means that a large amount of frustration people have is their misperception of the situation. Therefore, it may not always be fair to address another person’s or student’s sense of unfairness.

Points for the Classroom

There are many ways a teacher can be fair or unfair. However, two common problems are marking assignments and classroom management. If these two teaching duties are not done in a fair and balanced way, there could be push-back from the students in terms of their views of equity.

Teachers have to be careful about how they approach marking or grading. Tests that are considered too hard can lead to problems of under-reward. Subjective assignments, such as essays that need grading, require tools such as rubrics to increase the consistency of the marks.

Policies must also be consistently enforced. If there is a penalty for late assignments, it must be applied every time and not based on one’s emotions or situation. It only takes one exception to encourage everyone to demand the same. Otherwise, it is not fair. When it is necessary to discipline students, the penalty must fit the crime regardless of who was involved. In general, when exceptions are made, it can lead to problems, and when inconsistency reigns supreme, it can lead to the same frustration as found in under-reward.


Being fair is an expectation of teaching but is not always easy. Students, like employees, want to work in an environment that is considered fair. Therefore, teachers need to be aware of the consequences of unfairness and how it may manifest itself in the classroom.

Independent Learning through Asynchronous Instruction

The current state of education has provided educators with an opportunity to teach in a whole new way. Most teachers have decided to teach remotely, which involves primarily teaching through a video conferencing tool such as skype. However, some teachers have chosen to be a little more adventurous and use asynchronous learning through prerecorded videos, which allows students to learn independently.

This post will go over the pros and cons of using prerecorded videos and tips for how to be successful when using this approach.


There are several benefits to going entirely into e-learning with prerecorded videos. The most substantial benefit, and this post’s theme, is the benefit of students becoming totally independent learners. When students are expected to log in, watch videos, and complete assignments without supervision, it provides them with an experience of being almost totally in charge of their learning. For many students, this is an unusual experience. Most students are used to the teacher being right there to share content, motivate, and provide instantaneous informal feedback. As such, students cannot learn on their own in many situations.

For many teachers, education aims to develop students who can learn independently without the teacher after their students. People are looking for individuals who can acquire information and judge its validity based on their thought processes. Developing these skills needs to be guided, but there is also a benefit to a sink and swim experience.

A second significant benefit of prerecorded videos is the avoidance of zoom fatigue. Remote learning has its own set of challenges and among them is how draining the experience can be. When students are expected to sit through a live lecture online, it is hard to stay focused. We have all fallen to the temptation of checking emails, surfing the web, or even merely logging in and walking away during online meetings or video conferencing.

With prerecorded videos, this is no longer a problem. Students watch 10-15 minutes worth of videos, complete some activity and move to the next video. If they want a break, they can take it whenever they wish in-between videos or even during the videos by hitting the pause button.

A final benefit of prerecorded videos is the engagement. When making prerecorded videos, it is often possible to insert questions during the video that the student has to answer. Having to answer these simple questions forces a student to pay attention and be engaged. In a regular classroom, a teacher might ask one student a question while everyone else is disengaged. With prerecorded videos, everyone is asked the question and responds appropriately to earn the points they want for their grade.


There are naturally some drawbacks to an entirely asynchronous experience. The biggest problem may be student frustration. Most students have never had such an experience, as mentioned earlier. This can lead to a shock experience for students who are new to this. They may conclude that the teacher is not doing their job or does not care etc. However, when the experience is over and everything is explained, students are often more supported by this type of learning when they see the skills they have developed.

A common problem for the teacher is not having a strong sense of how the students are doing. Of course, the teacher marks assignments, but something is unnerving of not answer questions directly or seeing that look of confusion on a student’s face when they do not understand. Many teachers cannot tolerate this and will use videoconferencing just to be in “touch” with the students. This is not wrong, but a unique opportunity for developing autonomy is missed in such a situation.

Another problem is that students take longer to do everything when they have to do it themselves. This leads to a perception that the teacher has given more work when the content is asynchronous, even if the teacher timed how long it should take to do something. It is important to remember that now all students have to do everything themselves, and this heightened responsibility gives the impression of more work. This needs to be explained to the students, so they do not overreact to the autonomous learning process.

Perhaps the biggest drawback is something that mainly affects the teacher, and this is the massive amount of preparation that goes into planning and developing prerecorded videos. Unless you have help, a teacher will have to do the following to make prerecorded videos

  • Plan all content for each video
  • Determine the approximate length of each video
  • Edit videos when necessary
  • Make sure not to go over the lecture hours in a given week of the syllabus
  • Upload videos
  • Embed videos into the LMS
  • Insert the questions into the videos to encourage interaction
  • Mark all related assignments

Most of this is already part of the job. However, with videoconferencing, there is more of a free flow to completing much of this as it is happening in real-time. AS such, the amount of prep work can be too much for many people to do alone. However, once it’s done, the content only needs minor revisions and can be useful for awhile.


Here are some tips to help students have success with asynchronous learning.

Set a schedule. Encourage students to study during the regular class time that was set aside in the course schedule. They are already used to this, and it will help them to manage their time. Of course, they can complete assignments whenever they want as long as they complete them before they are due.

Be Strict. The teacher must make sure the students are moving together through the content. This means that assignments need to be submitted on time. It is easy for students to be spread out with different people working on other chapters or weeks in the course, and the teacher has to keep track of people who are all over the place. In addition, once a student falls behind several weeks, there is little hope they will catch up.

To alleviate this, assignments from last week should be submitted during the current week so that students are up to date. Therefore, a ruthless late policy is needed to motivate students to stay current on assignments. It is also necessary to contact students when they do not complete assignments so they know they are being held responsible.

Give feedback quickly. Students are alone and isolated. They want to do how they are doing, and it is the teacher’s job to provide this. Therefore, the teacher has to be updating the grade book weekly as this serves as a form of communication with the students. This helps the teacher know how everyone is doing so that struggling students can be contacted through messaging or email for follow-up.

Communicate Frequently. Constant communication is needed when teaching 100% asynchronously. When students ask questions, they should be answered immediately, especially during regular business hours. The teacher also needs to provide frequent announcements to the class about major assignments are adjustments to the course. Teaching online means being at your desk and dealing with inquiries in real-time because this establishes a presence in the online learning environment.

Fix problems Fast. If something is not working in the LMS or the course, the teacher needs to immediately deal with this. Remember that frustration grows fast when students are alone like this, and it is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure everything is running smoothly. Let the students be your eyes and ears for broken links and other tech problems while you address how to solve them.


Online learning provides an opportunity for students to learn in a way that is unfamiliar to them. A natural extension of this point is that online learning is a new experience for many teachers. This medium of instruction provides students with a chance to learn independently and for the teacher to focus more on being a facilitator of learning rather than the controller of it.

Joseph Lister: Fight Against Infection

Joseph Lister (1827-1912) dreamed of becoming a physician. When he entered college in 1846, Lister saw the powerful effect that ether had on people who needed surgery. After this experience, Lister decided to focus specifically on becoming a surgeon.

During this time, surgery was still hazardous. Progress was being made in regards to the problems of pain during surgery. However, the main concern now was with an infection after surgery. Lister removed a simple mole from a man’s face before his wedding only to have the man die from an infection. This led Lister to question the benefits of surgery if death by infection was the result.


Infection at this time had reached almost epidemic proportions. Anywhere from 40-80% of surgery patients died from infections. Infections were so bad that one hospital was threatened with being burned to the ground if things did not improve. Many doctors still believed Galen that infection was good. They even went so far as to encourage the development of pus (a sign of infection).

Lister was seeking a solution, and he received insights from treating broken bones. Broken bones are either simple or compound. Simple fractures are broken bones that do not break through the skin. Compound fractures are broken bones that pierce the skin. Lister observed that people who suffered simple fractures rarely develop infections, while those who suffered compound fractures commonly developed infections.

Lister suspected that simple compound fractures lead to infection because the broken bones are exposed to germs in the air. This idea came from Louis Pasteur’s work in Germ Theory. Lister determined that if he can find a chemical that kills germs, he can save lives from infection.

Many Solutions

Lister, with the help of a friend, decided to try carbolic acid to kill germs. Soon, a boy came to his office with a compound fracture of his leg. Lister fixed the leg and applied the carbolic acid to the wound to prevent infection. Fortunately, the boy recovered, and there was no infection.

Carbolic acid was not Lister’s only innovation. He also washed his hands before surgery rather than after. In addition, when tying arteries, he would soak the string in carbolic acid before tying the arteries shut. When performing surgery, Lister never wore old blood-stained clothes but always clean white ones. Lister could even get hospitals to stop using old bandages and donated ones and only use sterile, fresh dressings. Many hospitals hated the cost of clean bandages.

Lister’s success at reducing infections was so impressive that many doctors thought he was lying. In the hospital with a fatality rate of 80%, when they adopted Lister’s method, they reduced the death rate to 0.5%. This naturally saved the hospital from being burned to the ground.

One innovation that was made was boiling surgical tools rather than dipping them in carbolic acid. Lister tried this and stated that it didn’t matter as much the method as long as the germs were killed. Regardless, Lister’s methods created a new form of surgery called antiseptic surgery.

Carbolic acid was terrific, but it still had problems. For example, it was harsh on the skin even though it was a mild acid. Chemists came up with new solutions. Joseph Lawrence developed one antiseptic that killed germs without harming human flesh. He named it Listerine in honor of Joseph Lister.


Lister is considered by many to be one of the most excellent surgeons of all time. His contributions lay in his revolutionary insight into saving human life in a reasonable, cost-effective way. His impact is still felt to this day whenever someone has to face the stress of surgery.

Herzberg’s Motivator-Hygiene Theory in the Classroom

Fredrick Herzberg developed his theory on motivation based on the work of Maslow. Traditionally, Herzberg’s approach has been applied in the world of business and management. In this post, we will explain Herzberg’s theory and show applications of it in the classroom.

Motivator-Hygiene Theory

Herzberg’s theory suggests that there are two sets of needs for individual workers: motivators and hygienes. Motivators can be a person’s sense of achievement through performing various functions that are a part of their job. People often need to grow as a function of their career, and this is what motivates them. Hygienes are things people want to avoid and are associated with pain in one way or the other. For example, dealing with poor leadership is something most people want to avoid and is an example of a hygiene factor.

Additional examples of motivators can include recognition for hard work, which will often inspire people to continue working hard. In addition, anything that leads to the development of additional skills that are causing growth is often associated with motivators.

Additional examples of hygiene include such factors as pay, working conditions, and supervision. In other words, a challenging job with low pay will probably lack motivation because of the low salary. The same can apply to a great job with poor working conditions or terrible supervision. We all know people who left meaningful and engaging occupations because these hygiene factors caused too much dissatisfaction.

However, removing bad hygiene does not make a job great if the motivators are not there. In other words, hygiene and motivators must be positive, but they are not enough in many situations.

In the Classroom

For the teacher, they need to be aware of motivators and hygienes as the deal with their students. Examples of things that motivate students are praise, engaging classwork, making the curriculum relevant, and autonomy. Younger children are often more motivated with less effort when compared to older such as teenagers.

In terms of hygiene factors, classroom management is perhaps one of the most significant factors. If a teacher cannot maintain order in a just and reasonable way, even highly motivated students will quickly turn off to learning. For older students and college, the marking of assignments can also become demotivating if the teacher is not clear in their expectations and communication. Lastly, the teacher needs to show an example of expertise and organization as students have much higher standards for their teacher than they often have for themselves.


Herzberg’s theory can be another way of viewing classroom management. Teachers often deal with the same problems as managers, just with individuals who are not adults. As such, some of Herzberg’s ideas may be useful, but some may not be, but looking for additional insights into managing students is never a bad idea.

William Morton and Anesthesia

William Morton (1819-1868) was a New Englander who, as a boy, wanted to be a doctor. However, he was poor, and this dream became unrealistic financially. Therefore, Morton switched his goal to becoming a dentist. He soon married but kept his ambition of becoming a doctor one day.

From Dentistry to Medicine

As a dentist, Morton developed one of the best sets of false teeth of his day. The only problem was that in order to use the false teeth, he had to pull all the teeth in someone’s mouth. Naturally, people did not like this idea, not so much because they loved all of their rotten teeth, but because they did not want to experience all of the pain of losing so many teeth at once. Rather than thinking his false teeth was a terrible idea, Morton began to look for a way to lessen the pain medically so he could pull teeth.

From the money he made as a dentist, Morton went to medical school. He enrolled at Harvard medical school. While at the school, Morton witness an amputation. During the surgery, the patient was writhing and screaming in agony. This was disconcerting for many students, including Morton. This experience convinced Morton to focus not just on painless dental surgery but to remove pain from all surgeries.


Morton’s first attempt at anesthesia was with ether. Through the help of a friend Charles Jackson, he quickly realized that diethyl ether was the best choice for putting people to sleep. Morton experiment on animals and finally on himself to see if the gas would work. Next, Morton used the gas to put a patient asleep while pulling a tooth. Morton then proceeded to pull the tooth out, and the patient was shocked to see that the tooth was removed while he was unconscious.

Morton’s next goal was to use his methods on actual surgery. To do this, he had to convince the head of the Massachusetts General Hospital to use ether. The doctor was concerned about his reputation if something went wrong but granted permission.

The Operation & End

On the day of the operation, Morton put the patient to sleep with ether, and the doctor was able to perform the surgery without a problem. When the patient awoke, he said he felt no pain. With this success, the practice of anesthesia spread all over the USA and Europe.

Morton patented his idea but never really receive compensation. The actual process was easy to copy, and many doctors did it without permission. In addition, one of Morton’s friends, Charles Jackson, claimed that he invented Morton’s method. This battle with a former friend cause Morton to spend most of his time proving that he was the inventor of this method.

The stress of this battle took a toll on Morton’s health, and he would die from a stroke. His enemy Jackson would suffer a similar break down in his mental health. Thus was the tragic end to two men who made a significant contribution to medicine.

Steps Towards Anesthesia

We will take a look at the history of pain and how doctors try to nullify this problem through various procedures. In particular, we will look at two pioneers in this work who are Humphrey Davy and James Simpson.

Pain has always been a pain when doctors have tried to treat patients. At one point, doctors tried opium to deaden the pain. Opium worked but would often leave the patient addicted to the drug, which was not feasible. Other doctors tried alcohol. Alcohol did not work either when the surgery or procedure began, and the patient was screaming in agony.

The next approach involved speed. The faster the doctor could cut and pull, the better. Before anesthesia, surgeries often lasted less than 5 minutes, and some doctors could cut off an entire leg in less than a minute. Naturally, complex operations were impossible under such circumstances. At this point, it was clear that whether drugs, alcohol, or speed was used, an alternative was needed to help patients with pain during medical procedures.

Humphrey Davy

Many doctors in the 18th century believed that various gases could help patients deal with pain. This lead to the development of pneumatic hospitals. This is where a young man named Humphrey Davy worked as a teenager in England. After being exposed to the power of gases as a teenager, Davy became a druggist before switching entirely to chemistry.

As a chemist, Davy worked for the physician Thomas Beddoes to develop new gases. This was both challenging and dangerous because Davey had a foolish habit of smelling his new gases rather than testing them on animals first. Such a practice as this nearly killed him several times. Eventually, he would become disable and almost blind from his careless experiments.

Despite his disregard for safety, one of Davy’s discoveries was what we call today laughing gas or nitrous oxide. Davy gave talks and lectures on his work and helped him to become somewhat famous in England.

Davy suspected that his laughing gas might be useful for surgery. This turned out to be false as laughing gas was not strong enough. However, dentists have used laughing gas for pulling teeth as the gas is a strong enough sedative for that kind of procedure. The goal of painless surgery was partially solved, but further help was needed to complete this mission.

James Simpson

The next step in this journey was taken by James Simpson, another young man from England. Growing up poor, Simpson’s family invested everything in him to go to college and medical school. Eventually, not only was Simpson a doctor, but he also was a college lecture of medicine.

Simpson heard that in the US, doctors were using ether as an anesthetic. Simpson tried this but had problems. Ether did not act the same from patient to patient, it smelled terrible and was highly explosive or flammable.

To deal with these problems, Simpson switched to chloroform. Chloroform solved all of Simpson’s problems. It was consistent in how it acted, had a sweet smell, and was not explosive or flammable. Despite this, many resisted Simpson’s innovations, and he had to work hard to persuade them.

However, the battle for an anesthetic was not over. Chloroform had other problems besides those of ether. For example, chloroform is carcinogenic. In addition, some people suffer heart attacks when they breathe it. Therefore, the journey continued in finding a cure for pain.

Theories of Motivation and the Classroom

Motivation is a crucial driver for success in education. This post will look at two theories of motivation and briefly connect them when appropriate to the classroom. These two theories are Manifest Needs Theory and ERG Theory.

Manifest Needs Theory

Henry Murray developed a theory of motivation called Manifest Needs theory. For Murray, needs are divided into two broad categories called primary and secondary needs. Primary needs are physiological needs, such as food, water, shelter, etc. Secondary needs are needs that people acquire or learn about through life. Examples of secondary needs are achievement, affiliation, etc.

This theory assumes that people are driven to satisfy these needs. If a student is talkative, they probably need affiliation. If a student is hard-working, they probably need achievement. People’s behavior is often an indication of what they need. There is an exception to this, and this is what Murray calls a latent need.

A latent need is a need that cannot be inferred by a person’s behavior. This is probably because the person is not able to satisfy this need. For example, a student may be disruptive because they are bored in class. The behavior indicates a need for affiliation, but the real need is achievement.

The point is that the behavior of a student can often be a clue to what motivates them. However, this comes with exceptions, as was already discussed.

ERG Theory

Clayton Alderfer took a different view of motivation. Alderfer proposes three categories of needs, which are existence, relatedness, growth. These three categories are where the acronym ERG comes from. Existence needs are physiological and material in nature, such as food, water, safety, etc. Relatedness needs are social and include esteem and interpersonal opportunities. Growth needs are related to personal development and include self-esteem and self-actualization.

These categories are ranked. In other words, existence needs must be met first, followed by existence, and lastly by growth. There are four different ways to move or stay in a particular category. Satisfaction progression involves satisfying the needs in one category and then focusing on the next category. For example, if food, water, and safety are taken care of, many students will focus more on relationships.

Frustration happens when people want to satisfy a need but cannot satisfying the needs that belong to a category. This can lead to over-focusing on the need. For example, a student needs attention and interaction but is told to be quiet in class. Being forced to be silent makes the need for socializing even stronger.

The third form is frustration regression. Frustration regression happens when a person cannot satisfy higher needs, so they double down on satisfying lower needs. If a student is not allowed to talk, they may focus on eating or drinking or asking to go to the bathroom. Since socializing is blocked, there is a greater focus on existence needs such as food and hygiene.

The final form is aspiration. This form explains the inherent satisfaction in growth. As people are allowed to grow, they become more and more satisfied with growing.


People are motivated by similar things, but there may be a difference in their behavior and how they satisfy their needs. As teachers, we need to be able to look at our students and determine ways to motivate them to succeed.

William Harvey: Blood Circulation

William Harvey (1578-1657) was an influential doctor whose main contributions came through his work in the circulatory system of the body. In this post, we will take a brief look at his life.

Life as a Student

William Harvey was an English man who decided as a young man that he wanted to be a doctor. This desire led him to Padua, Italy, where he studied medicine. During Harvey’s studies, Galileo was also a teacher at the same university. Some of Galileo’s views towards science would have a strong influence on Harvey.

For example, Galileo insisted that experiments were the way to learn about anything. This was during a time when people would blindly obey authority in many matters. The authority of the past was not the final answer. People needed to explore for themselves. Harvey applied these ideas that Galileo had in the non-living science in the medical sciences.

During his studies, Harvey read all the works of the great physicians of the past, such as Hippocrates, Galen, and most recently, Vesalius. Vesalius mentions Galen’s mistakes, yet doctors still clung to Galen in matters that had not been questioned.

Some of the errors that doctors clung to include the ideas that veins carried blood away from the heart, the liver made blood, blood ebbed and flowed like the ocean in the body, and that the blood caused the heart to beat. This was all based on speculation rather than observation through experiments.

As a student, Harvey attended many dissections. During these demonstrations, he was allowed to see the veins, arteries, and heart. Inside the veins are little trap doors that help with the flow of blood. However, Harvey noticed that these doors were on the wrong side if blood was supposed to flow to the heart.

Life as a Doctor

After finishing medical school, Harvey did several experiments involving blood circulation. In these experiments, he would tie off veins and arteries in the body. His conclusion from this was that veins carried blood to the heart, and arteries carried blood away from the heart. In addition, Harvey concluded that blood was reused and not created by the liver.

When Harvey shared his results, not too many people seemed to care. People did not see how this knowledge would help with the prevention of disease. Doctors at this time did not know that understanding circulation was the key to many forms of disease. Harvey demonstrated this when he tied off the arteries to a tumor on a person. With the loss of blood, the tumor withered away.

One question Harvey was never able to answer was how blood flowed from arteries to veins. This question was answered a few years before Harvey’s death thanks to the use of a microscope that discovered tiny blood vessels called capillaries.

During his life, Harvey was often attacked by other doctors for his discoveries. These critics were never able to prove that Harvey was wrong; instead, they quoted Galen as the final word. Despite this, Harvey became the King of England’s physician and was elected president of the College of Physicians even though he turned this down.


Curiosity may be one of the most essential traits of innovation. Authority is not wrong; however, it can be abused and lead to people sacrificing their responsibility to think for themselves. Harvey was an individual who decided he would see for himself if what others said was true.

Barriers to Decision-Making

A google search will show you that the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day. This seems like a large amount, but teachers make 1,500 educational decisions a day. Making such a vast number of decisions can lead to fatigue, among other problems. A greater danger may be making poor decisions. Here we will look at some common barriers to decision making.

Sunk Cost

Sunk cost happens after a decision is made. What has happened is there are signs that a decision is terrible, but the leadership sticks to the decision because of the investment that has already been made. It is common for teachers and administrators to invest in products and services that later turn out to be inferior. However, because a commitment has been made and resources spent, there is a hope that staying the course will allow for an improvement in the situation.

To avoid this trap, administrators must realize that not all decisions are good ones. This means that when an idea is not working, the administrators or teachers who made the wrong choice to own the mistake shrink the mistake’s cost. Ignoring this to look like you’re in control and know what you are doing can be highly damaging to an institution.


Decision-making should be as informed as possible. However, we never have access to all knowledge. This implies that there is always a measure of risk. Due to the uncertainty, leadership generally will choose the most conservative option available to minimize risk. This is wise at times but can leave tremendous opportunities on the table.

An idea related to uncertainty is a concept called bounded rationality. Bounded rationality states that people who face complex or uncertain situations often cannot make entirely rational decisions. In other words, when facing uncertainty, people’s decision-making can become uncertain or unpredictable. This commonly happens in novel situations in which it is unclear what to do. In such cases, people are limited in how much they can process and thus utilize their intuition to overcome.


People generally want to avoid conflict. This is particularly true when decision-making involves conflict. Despite this, there are times when conflict is the best decision, such as when a student will not obey a teacher. If the teacher avoids the conflict, it sends a message to other students to duplicate the disobedient child’s behavior, which will lead to more significant problems and harsher conflict in the future.

There are at least two ways to think of conflict, and the difference is in terms of what people focus on during the disagreement. Process conflict is focused on improving how to do something and can lead to improved performance. Relationship conflict is a conflict between people that can often gt highly personal and should be avoided. The challenge is that people confuse process and relationship conflict. For example, a student is disrupting the class, the teachers reprimand this, and the student takes it personally.

As a teacher or administrator, it is crucial to keep conflict focus on process and behavior and not on people. When people become the problem, relationship conflict is sure to follow.


Decision-making is a crucial component of everyone’s life. Every day we are all called to make many different decisions. The implications of our choices could be tremendous. Therefore, that is why it is essential to be aware of common roadblocks to making sound decisions.

Ambroise Pare and Modern Surgery

For most of the history of Western medicine, doctors rarely performed surgeries themselves, especially among the professors. This is probably surprising to many. However, there was a belief that manual labor (work with your hands) was beneath an educated thinker. A thinker’s job was to think about how to solve a problem.

The people who did the majority of surgeries were the barbers. Today barbers do not do surgeries. However, barbers were especially popular for minor surgeries, and the red and white you see in front of a barbershop represents the red of blood and the white f bandages.

One barber who had a tremendous influence on medicine and surgery was Ambroise Pare (1510-90). Pare was from France and was raised in a poor family. He received a basic education and became a barber’s assistant with the goal of becoming a doctor.

Medical School & Disappointment

At the age of 19, Pare went to Paris to study medicine. Whoever, his dream was crushed when he was unable to pass the entrance exam. The exam was in Greek and Latin, and these were languages Pare did not learn as a child as his poor background did not allow for this.

Disappointed, Pare became a barber-surgeon at a hospital. The conditions were terrible, with low lighting and ventilation. Professors would bring their students there to see applied medicine, with most students eager to leave with a dream of treating the rich when they graduated. However, Pare gained a tremendous amount of practical experience and was beginning to learn when teachers were right and wrong about the body.

During War

During one of the many wars that France was involved in, Pare became a surgeon. The practice of the time was to pour boiling oil on gunshot wounds. This could burn a wounded man alive like fried chicken. However, it was considered the best treatment. Pare did this until he ran out of oil. With the oil gone, he made his own concoction of egg yolk, oil of roses, and turpentine. This mixture was much more successful than the burning oil solution that was standard practice.

Another innovation with Pare was amputations. Surgeons had no problem removing limbs from people without thought to the pain caused. After butchering the patient, a hot iron was applied to stop the bleeding. Often this alone would kill a person who had survived losing an arm or leg. Pare decided to use silk thread to close the wound, which would spare the patient the added pain of the hot iron. The soldiers loved Pare for his approach to medicine, while the real doctors resented his work.

Pare combined all of his practical knowledge into a book. However, he struggled to get it published because real doctors despised him because of his fame. Even a law stated that no book on medicine could be published until doctors from the University of Paris approved. It took four years, but when the book was published, it was highly popular.


Par was a self-made man. He lacked the formal education of a doctor but made up for it through practical experience helping people who were hurt. In the end, the practical experience was more valuable as Pare was able to see the discrepancies between theory and practice.

Learned Needs Theory and Students

David Mclelland developed Learned Needs Theory. In his research, Mclelland states that people have three primary needs: need for achievement, need for affiliation, and a need for power. These three forms of needs are learned in childhood.

Need for Achievement

The need for achievement is how strongly a person wants to have success at completing a task. Some students have a strong desire for achievement, and this is reflected in their grades. For them, the grades they earn are a measure of their high achievement. However, not all students have a strong need for achievement, and this can also be seen in their grades in some other way, such as lack of participation.

McClelland explains the three main traits of high achieving people. One, high-achieving people feel a personal responsibility when they are expected to do something. When a student with high achievement needs is given a task, they are willing to accept the success or failure of the task. It becomes their mission.

Two, high achievement people like to take on projects that have a moderate success rate. In other words, high achievement individuals hate something that is too easy but equally lose motivation for suicide tasks that have a low success rate. Instead, they want to see a return for hard work. For students, a teacher needs to make sure tasks are within the zone of proximal development to be assured that the task is not too easy but preferably within reach of the student with some assistance.

High achievers also have a desire for feedback. This is because they want to know if they have achieved success. The feedback can be positive or negative, but it needs to be there. For students, this means providing clear information to the high achieving student in terms of their progress on assignments and the course overall.

If high achievers are not allowed to achieve, it can disrupt behavior and students who lack motivation. Therefore, when dealing with classroom management issues, a teacher should consider if they are meeting their high achievers’ achievement needs.

Need For Affiliation

The need for affiliation is a need to have positive social relationships with other people. These are your classic extroverts who love the company of others. Everyone has some need for affiliation, but for many, this is a high need.

For people who need affiliation, the task is not essential to them. Instead, people who need affiliation respond to situations in which people depend on them. For students, this can be situations such as group projects and or team sports. Others need them, and this is when the outgoing student will achieve.

Nothing can cripple high affiliated people than isolation. Make a student who needs relationship work alone will lead to potential behavioral problems. In addition, students who have a low need for affiliation will equally cause issues if they are always expected to socialize and be a part of the group.

Need for Power

The need for power is a need to control, which means to influence other people. A person with this need is often talkative, arguing, and giving orders. Many leaders need power.

McClelland indicates two types of power, and these are personal power and social power. Personal power is a power to control others and is often political with a secret agenda. Social power is also seeking to influence others but to achieve the goals of the group or organization.

Students can seek one or both forms of power in different situations. For example, students who want to disrupt the class and distract students from learning are trying to flex their personal power skills. Students trying to get their peers to complete group projects and class assignments are using their social power skills. The students who are mostly influenced by either of these forms of power may not have a strong need for power.

To deal with students who need power, teachers need to provide outlets for this need. A student who is pushing personal power needs to find goals that align with the classroom. When the dissonance between what they want and what the teacher wants is removed, the student can now use their need for power for social rather than personal reasons.


Everyone has slightly different needs. For teachers, it is crucial always to identify what motivates their students. When this is done, the teacher can challenge the needs to enhance learning.

Medicine After the Roman Empire

The age of the Greeks and Romans was, in many ways, a golden era for scientific improvement due in part to the stability that was allowed during these two empires. Naturally, there was still instability, but relatively speaking, the Greeks and Romans’ instability was nothing compared to what was to come.

With the collapse of the Roman Empire, it was difficult for scholars and doctors to focus exclusively on scientific advancement. This is not to say that there were no advancements. Instead, the point is that living in a world of small kingdoms, with barbarian invasions, and rampant disease made it hard to focus on scientific curiosity.

Literacy was one skill that declined considerably. It was common even for monarchs, such as Charlemagne, to lack literacy skills. Great libraries, like the one in Alexandria, Egypt, was also destroyed, leaving behind lost knowledge that had to be perhaps rediscovered in the future.

Among the books that did survive, such as writings by Galen Hippocrates, these books became the final authority on medical care. Remember that the instability of the times and the difficulty of obtaining books made it too challenging to consider questioning these two great authors.

Ancient Beliefs

Hippocrates believed that the purpose of the brain was to cool the blood. I’m afraid that’s not right; most of the body’s heat is lost through the head. In addition, the word “artery” is loosely translated as “carrying air” and the etymology of the term has nothing to do with blood. Lastly, Greeks did not believe in dissecting bodies, which may have been the source of Hippocrates speculating.

The Romans shared the Greeks’ views on dissection. However, Galen did at least dissect animals to learn about the anatomy of living things. However, Galen believed that disease was caused by an imbalance of four vital fluids: phlegm, yellow bile, black bile, and blood. By returning these fluids to their proper balance, a person would recover. The application of this was bloodletting, in which doctors bleed people to death to bring the fluids back into balance. This is the procedure that is believed to have killed the United States’ first president, George Washington.

Middle Ages

Even though Galen encouraged physicians to study for themselves, this was generally ignored, as mentioned earlier. By the 1500s, famous medical teachers such as Jacobus Sylvius would teach students about medicine by reading aloud Galen’s writings. By this time, dissection was allowed, but it wasn’t the teacher who did the cutting of the body but rather an assistant. The teacher’s job was to continue reading the book aloud.

There were several times when the readings of Galen did not agree with the results of the dissection. For example, there were discrepancies in the number of lobes of the liver and the number of breast bone segments. Whenever such disagreement s accord Sylvius would ignore them. We have to remember that Hippocrates and Galen were considered the most outstanding physicians of their time. Even today, the tops of any field are not questioned as much as they should be.


Change is something that many people struggle with. We all have our way of doing something and generally don’t want to change even when the benefits are apparent. Therefore, it may be unreasonable to criticize the lack of progress in understanding the body when doctors lived in a context of instability and a loss of large amounts of knowledge. When things are precarious, and there is no time for curiosity, people often will stick with tried and true approaches for the security it gives them.

Galen: Physician of Rome

Galen was a famous medical doctor during the Roman empire. He was born in the mid 2nd century in Pergamum, Asia Minor (Modern day Turkey). During his life, he spent time in many different parts of the Roman empire. We will now take a brief look at his life and influence.

Becoming a Doctor

During Galen’s life, the Roman empire had laws against dissecting human bodies. The reasons for this are not clear but may have something to do with the rise of Christianity. Some even believe that surgery was illegal, as well. In this context, Galen moved to Alexandria to study medicine.

Alexandria, Egypt, was a Roman city, which means that dissection was still not permissible. Galen made up for this by dissecting animals such as pigs, goats, and even apes. After completing his studies in Alexandria, Galen returned home to work as a doctor for gladiators. For several years, Galen developed practical experience in helping people with serious injuries.


Galen’s next trip was working in Rome. While in Rome, he continued his studies while also writing books about medical practice. It was while he was in Rome that Galen first began to experience fame for his medical knowledge.

Another doctor in Rome was having problems with his fingers. No treatment he was receiving made a difference for him; out of frustration, he called Galen. Galen concluded that his fingers’ issue was because of a problem with the nerves in his neck. It appears that the sick doctor had fallen from his chariot, injuring his neck. Galen knew from his experience with dissecting animals that neck treatment would alleviate the finger problems.

After treating the doctor with finger problems, Galen became famous. He became so renowned that the Roman Emperor made Galen his doctor. Naturally, other doctors were highly jealous of Galen because of his success. This was further exacerbated by Galen’s cocky, over-confidence in himself.


Galen was a prodigious author with over 80 books still in existence today. His medical work was trailblazing and highly authoritative for several hundred years. People believed everything Galen said because of who Galen was. It wasn’t until the Renaissance, over 1,000 later, that people began to openly disagree with Galen and teach medicine differently.

Galen’s influence was so strong that even when evidence was contrary to his views, doctors and teachers would still sick to Galen’s position. Naturally, this slowed and stalled developments in medicine for a long time in ways that may have cost lives.

Galen’s problem may not have been his ignorance but rather the restrictions under which he worked. Since dissecting humans was illegal many of Galen’s conclusions about medicine were from examining animals and not people. This difference in anatomy is the made source of Galen’s faulty findings.


Galen was a trailblazer for his time, which helped define what it means to be a doctor. Through his example, millions of students have gone forward to help and heal those in need. Though he made mistakes like all of us, he has also been praised for his hard work to help.

Egypt and Hippocrates

Many things can be said about the marvels of modern medicine. However, we will take a trip to the past and look at some of the origins of how medicine is practiced today. In particular, we will look briefly at ancient Egypt and its medicine and the life of the Greek doctor Hippocrates.

Egyptian Medicine

Many of the ideas of medicine can be traced back to ancient Egypt. One of the first known physicians in history was the Egyptian Imhotep. Imhotep was not only a physician, but he also was an astronomer, politician, and architect. Some of his work in architecture includes designing the first pyramids of Egypt.

Unlike medical doctors of today who are worried primarily about keeping their patients alive and healthy, Egyptian doctors were focused on preserving the bodies of those who were dead. Egyptian culture was obsessed with the afterlife, and this created a market in which doctors would go to great lengths to preserve the body. This explains the development of mummification and the mummies that are still found to this day. Strangely, medicine during this time was focused on death rather than life.

Due to the pioneering work in medicine in Egypt, the country began to attract people from all over the world who wanted to study medicine there. Among the people who came to Egypt were the Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen.


Hippocrates was a Greek physician born during the 5th century BC. Early in his life, he traveled to Egypt to study medicine. After his studies, Hippocrates spends some time as a traveling teacher before returning to Athens.

Hippocrates’ methods of treating patients were radically different from his peers. During his life, there was a large amount of superstition in treating disease. It was common for physicians to blame evil spirits, demons, and gods for illness. Treatments included making a sacrifice at a temple and spending the night there to be cured.

Hippocrates views were different for him disease had a natural cause. In other words, if you can find what is making a person sick, you can cure the disease. The practical outflow of this was as simple as asking the patient what kind of symptoms they were experiencing—other approaches included nutrition, rest, and cleanliness. Many of the ideas are still practice and also considered common sense today.

Hippocrates was also famous for his integrity. It was common during his time for doctors to be bribed to hurt people. However, Hippocrates apparently never agreed to this. He also would occasionally help people for free. His views on ethics were eventually summarized in the Hippocratic Oath, which lays out ethical behavior for medical doctors.


Imhotep may have been the first, but Hippocrates was one of the most influential physicians of all time. He is called by many the “Father of Medicine” due to his influential work in the medical world.

Decision-Making and Teaching

Decision making is a critical requirement of being a teacher. In any single day, teachers are making dozens of decisions that affect students and others’ lives. In this post, we will look at decision-making methods and the role of emotions in this complex process.

Two Systems of Decision Making

There are two ways in which the brain makes decisions. These two ways are the reactive system and the reflective system. The reactive system is a way of making a decision that does not involve deep contemplative thought. Instead, the teacher is making a decision based on experience and or expertise. Sometimes there is not enough time to go through a thorough thought process, such as during an emergency.

The reactive system is related to the idea of programmed decisions. Programmed decisions are decisions that are made frequently and are often based on some criteria. For example, following a general schedule of teaching is programmed decision-making. Generally, the requirements will be time, but there are instances when the schedule will go off course for learning.

The reflective system is the opposite of the reactive system and is a way of thinking logically, analytically, and deliberately before taking action. This style of decision making is instrumental when facing novel situations or highly complex situations. For a teacher, planning teaching is often a reflective process as it involves deciding the future in advance. When time allows, the reflective system is usually a better choice. However, when time is short, there is no time to think, and the reactive system may be a better option.

Non-programmed decisions are associated with reflective thinking. These types of decisions are for unusual situations in which reflective thinking is needed. When the involvement in the decision is high, the problem probably calls for non-programmed decision making. However, when the involvement is low, then programmed decisions may be a better alternative.


Emotions also play a role in decision making. If feelings are strong, it can often prompt teachers to make poor reactive choices. For example, if a student is disrespectful, the teacher may lose their temper, leading to all kinds of problems. Therefore, when emotions run high, it may be better to wait to decide so that a poor reactive choice is not made.

Emotional intelligence is the skill of recognizing/understanding one’s feelings and the feelings of those around us. When a teacher understands their emotions and their students’ feelings, they can use the information to make better decisions rather than the worst ones. The challenge is feeling the feelings without them overwhelming you. Being in a leadership role in the classroom calls on a higher degree of self-control than what is required of the students. We all know this but it does not prevent people from making mistakes.


Insights into the processes that decisions involve can be beneficial knowledge for teachers. Understanding the harmful yet helpful role of emotions can help teachers avoid pitfalls when it is necessary to make decisions during highly charged situations.

Brief Intro to Critical Theory

Critical Theory is a difficult concept to explain and understand. Some will say that it is an amalgamation of other theories, while others will reject this. It would not be possible to explain all the nuances of Critical Theory in a single blog post of several hundred words, but an an attempt will be made to provide basic ideas concerning it.

Critical Theory is an extension or perhaps a reaction to the ideas of Karl Marx and communism. Marx was pushing for a proletarian revolution of the working class rising up against the bourgeois. However, except in a few places, this never happened. This left supporters of Marxism frustrated, and they began to explore why this happened. Furthermore, many began to despise Marxism because of its failures.

One conclusion that they made was that Marxism was generally a disaster. The average person does not want to live in a communist state. On paper, it looked good, but in practice, it was often worst than capitalism. This led the early shapers of critical Theory to conclude that people fear freedom, which led to the rise and success of fascists governments over communists ones.

What needed to take place was that people needed to be awakened to their oppressed position in life. Marx had more of a deterministic view of the world in that revolution was inevitable because of the suffering. Critical theorists proposed that people needed to be woke to the oppression they were living under, which happened through people becoming critical.

By critical, it is generally meant to criticize the existing domineering culture. Examples of the West’s dominant culture would be male leadership over women, white leadership over minorities, heterosexual leadership of homosexual, etc. By questioning these imbalances in power and accepted norms, people would call not for an economic revolution but rather for a cultural one. All oppressed classes need to rise up and push for change.

The people who formed the foundations of critical Theory were naturally scholars. Therefore, their views began to permeate universities slowly. This long march through the institutions has been compared to Mao’s long march through China. One of the surest ways to have a long career in academics is to find a problem (the significance of the problem is irrelevant) and announced to the world through papers, media, and conferences how your problem is a big problem and how people need to pay attention to this and the solutions that are being proposed. Generally, people are good at finding problems; however, we tend to get into trouble with the answers we implement.

Critical Theory began to question such ideas as perceived privilege differences between groups (privilege has been defined as normalizing one group’s behavior at the expense of another). Other concepts are attacked, such as objectivity, hard work, and even the reasoning process that people use. These ideas were claimed to be cultural constructs of those with power who then impose their worldview on the oppressed. There are even suggestions of implicit bias, which is a form of bias a person has without even knowing it. For example, there have been accusations that some people are racist strictly because their skin color is the majority group’s color. In other words, guilt by DNA rather than by actual evidence.

The conspiratorial bent of Critical Theory is a powerful way of explaining all suffering within a given context. Another way to look at this is that one can say that Critical Theory can function as a narrative that explains where most suffering comes from for minority groups. Can’t get a job; it’s oppression. Can’t buy a car; it’s oppression. You can’t pass your classes; it’s oppression. This may not have been the intention of the original developers of critical Theory. However, students always extend the ideas of their teachers in the wrong direction. The idea that people are not responsible for the situations they are in but instead, it is the dominant group’s fault is an example of a poor application of the worldview of Critical Theory.

Postmodernism and Meta-narratives

There are questions about life that are hard to answer. Some of these questions include why are we here?, where are we going?, why is the world like this? This post will explore the ideas behind meta-narratives, which often play a role in attempting to answer these philosophical questions. We will also look at meta-narratives in connection with postmodernism.


The term meta-narrative is a rather young term with its existence being dated from the early 20th century. A meta-narrative is a narrative or story about the stories/narratives in a society’s culture that attempts to give meaning to life and experiences. In many ways, meta-narratives try to provide answers to the big philosophical questions about life examples of these questions, along with the branch of philosophy they may be derived from are as follows.

  1. What is real (metaphysical)
  2. Where did I come from (axiology)
  3. What is true (epistemology)
  4. What is right and wrong (ethics)
  5. What is beautiful (aesthetics)

The answer to these questions help to provide legitimacy for a society and or religion. Many meta-narratives attempt to answer these questions along with others. For example, Christianity provides answers about reality, the creation of man, truth, strong position on morals and more. Within Christianity, there is a belief in God along with a teaching that the world will eventually end with some living for ever. The ideas of this meta-narrative has led to billions choosing to claim this meta-narrative as the anchor of their beliefs as well as a church structure that has been around for over 2,000 years.

Another example of a meta-narrative, at least for some, would be the theory of evolution developed by Charles Darwin. This meta-narrative has its own explanation of the creation of man, perhaps an implied meaning of what is moral, what is true, and a denial of a higher power that shaped the world. The denial of God in evolution is due to a lack of evidence that meets the criteria set by empiricism. Since the existence of God does not play by the rules of science in terms of how to know what is true, this it implies that there is evidence that perhaps God does not exists. What both religion and science have in common is a desire to try to answer some of these big questions will approaching them from different angles.

Postmodernism & Meta-narratives

Postmodernism is an enemy of meta-narratives. This is partially due to the fact that postmodernism is suspicious of who provided the answers to the questions in meta-narratives. Whoever provided the answer is asserting authority over other people who either choose to believe or were coerced the accept. In addition, by what authority do the people who provide meta-narratives have the right to provide these answers? Religious meta-narrative are grounded in the belief of a higher power and or spiritual experiences, in other words, the source is authoritative. Evolution is grounded in empirical data collected in a scientific manner. However, for the postmodern thinker both of these are tainted ways of knowing because the people who have the power are the ones who provide the answers within the meta-narrative.

The idea of rejecting all meta-narratives, whether spiritual or scientific is a meta-narrative it’s self. Postmodernism’s answer to the big philosophical questions about life is that there are no universal answers to these questions, which is a universal answer against universal answers. It is impossible to say that there are no universal truths without the statement “there are no universal truths” being universal. In addition, it is hard to provide such a statement true without any external authority whether it’s spiritual or empirical.

Within postmodernism, the idea of truth is a cultural construct. What this means is that all the questions that meta-narratives address are answered at a local level only. This is because there are barriers to knowing what is true. However, if we takes these thoughts to one conclusion we would need to ask ourselves why the postmodern response is anymore superior to the religious our scientific one. By what authority or evidence is postmodernism able to make this claim?

Some may claim that lived experiences are the source of knowing in postmodernism but this is not unique. Religions are founded based on the lived experiences of apostles, prophets, disciples. In addition, scientific experiments are highly controlled lived experiences in which an observer watches carefully what happens in a certain controlled situation and then this experience is repeated by others. Rejecting the claims of modernism which involved science and reasoning by using reasoning to reject reasoning seems strange. Claiming that there are no answers or purpose to life with no other authority than confidence should not be enough to move people from the meta-narratives they already have that are also based on confidence.


People want answers to questions and one of the biggest problems with postmodernism is the answer that there are no answers. Instead, postmodernism offers the ideas that there is a power struggle over what people belief that perpetuates a system of darkness without most people even being aware of it. The tenets of postmodernism are just another way of viewing the world without much indication that it is superior to priors models.

Behavioral Self-Management with Students

Behavioral self-management is a tool that requires the student to play a role in their actions and choices. This post will explain how this approach works. There are three steps to behavioral self-management…

  1. Self-monitoring
  2. Self-evaluation
  3. Self-reinforcement

Also, several external factors need to be considered, as well.


Self-monitoring involves having the student determine what the problem is in terms of their behavior. For example, a teacher may ask the student if being disruptive in class is problematic for the other students. Most students will agree to this, and thus this form of questioning allows the student to identify where the problem is in terms of their actions.

Once the student knows where the problem is, they can move to the second stage, which involves self-evaluation.


Self-evaluation deals with the question of what the student should be doing. As the teacher, you would explain acceptable behavior in contrast to what the student does typically. For example, if the student is disruptive examples of non-disruptive behavior, communicate what the expected behavior is.

With this knowledge of what is acceptable, the student can now focus on implementing the desired behavior. The final step is called self-reinforcement.


Self-reinforcement is the final step in behavioral self-management. This step involves making sure that the new behavior is continuously practiced. For example, if a student stops being disruptive, self-reinforcement makes sure that the student does not return to being disruptive again. To be successful, the student must have control over what kind of reinforcement they get beyond verbal ones. For many teachers, this may not be attractive, but this idea of autonomy is a critical aspect of behavioral self-management.

However, several factors must be considered when attempting behavioral self-management. Some of these factors include circumstantial cues, the individual, behaviors, and consequences.

Additional Factors

Circumstantial cues are things in the environment that help or hinder changes in the behavior of the student. For example, a student might be disruptive because of who they sit next to in class. Merely moving the student can alleviate the problem. Another cue that can cause disruptive behavior is boredom. In such a situation, the student may need additional stimulation by assisting the teacher.

Different people have different ways to make sure they do not continue poor behavior. Some students may use self-talk, which involves using encouraging words that the student speaks to themselves to maintain positive behavior. An example of self-talk could be a student saying to themselves, “I can do this.”

Rehearsal is another strategy used by individual students. Rehearsal is the student visualizing in their mind the proper behavior. For example, the student may imagine what a quiet classroom looks like and try to produce this behavior in the real world. Lastly, symbolic coding involves envisioning the consequences of inappropriate behavior. For example, being removed from class and or having their parents called would be things most students would prefer to avoid.

All of the strategies mentioned above can be taught to the student by the teacher. The ones that are pick will vary based on the personality of the student and the behavior that the teacher wants to see changed.


One of the primary benefits of behavioral self-management is that it places the responsibility of change on the student. This form of empowerment can be beneficial for many students who think they have little control over their own lives. However, everyone will not respond positively to this style of management. For example, this approach may be challenging to use with small children who lack self-control in general. Also, some students are so used to coercion that they will not respond to the benefit of participation in choosing how to act. This is why having several different tools available and the flexibility to use them is the best strategy for a teacher.

Behavior Modifications and Students

Behavior modification is focused on bringing about permanent change in a student’s behavior that is observable. The difference in behavior must be what the teacher desires. This involves reinforcement, which is consistent with operant conditioning. For many, this is almost a form of manipulation. Yet, behavior modification is highly effective if it is used appropriately.

The steps explained below are available in most classroom management textbooks and, as such, are not original. The point here is to provide a brief explanation of how these ideas work to save someone the time of reading an entire chapter on this in a textbook. For a typical behavior modification program, you will have the following steps.

  1. Establish the criteria
  2. Complete a performance check
  3. Develop specific behavioral goals
  4. Evaluate results
  5. Praise student base on actual performance

Establishing the Criteria

A teacher needs to first determine what they mean by acceptable behavior from their students. This must also be communicated so that the students can understand, which necessitates the need for simplicity. The criteria are generally vague, and it is refined at step three when you make specific behavioral goals. Examples of behavioral criteria can include such things as being respectful, submitting work on time, etc. Again, how to do this is specified later.

Performance Check

Once a criterion has been established, the next step is to see how well the students are currently doing this. You want to identify where there is serious trouble and focus on developing specific behavioral goals for these problem areas. For example, if students are habitual yelling at each other, this will probably be seen as being disrespectful. AS such, the teacher may want to focus on this particular problem when moving to step 3.

Specific Behavioral Goals

Specific behavioral goals are precisely what individual students need to do to achieve the ideas in the behavioral criteria. Technically, these goals need to be set up for each student individual because no two students have the same performance issues. However, this may not be possible in a large class. Therefore, general rather than specific behavioral goals may have to work. An exception can be made for incredibly challenging students who are disrupting the learning experience.

Goals at this level need to be realistic and measurable. For example, to reduce yelling in the classroom, the teacher might make the following goal.

Upon entering the classroom, the student will never yell at anyone.

The example above contains a condition for entering the classroom. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the student yells outside in this example. Next, the goal states specifically that the student will not yell at anyone. This is the behavior that the teacher is trying to modify. Lastly, the negation never is used as a proficiency. In other words, yelling is not allowed to happen at any time. Expressing this implies perfection in terms of the consistency of the behavior.


Once the goals are set, the student(s) are evaluated over time to see how well they perform. When mistakes are made, students are reminded of the expectations. If it is necessary, disciplinary actions may be used. Although this is generally saved for step 5

Praise and Feedback

Praise and feedback are given once the evaluation is complete. However, when working with children, the last two steps often happen simultaneously in an iterative manner. Children shouldn’t wait too long to be provided with feedback and or discipline as bad habits set in rather quickly.

The goal during this entire process is to shape behavior incrementally over time. The success that you are looking for will not happen immediately. In other words, returning to our example, a student will not stop yelling immediately when the goals are set. Instead, what you want to see is a steady decline in behavior over time. The goal is steady progress rather than instant perfection. This requires patience on the part of the teacher as the student goes through this process.


Behavior modification is one of many tools that a teacher can use to help students. The purpose is to encourage certain behaviors and discourage others. As such, the process mentioned here can improve both teachers’ and students’ classroom experiences. Managing student behavior is a part of the classroom. Students are always trying to test and push the limits of what is acceptable behavior. In response to this, many teachers choose to have some system of reinforcing acceptable behavior. This post talks about several different methods of reinforcement.

Scheduling Reinforcement with Students

Managing student behavior is a part of the classroom. Students are always trying to test and push the limits of what is acceptable behavior. In response to this, many teachers choose to have some system of reinforcing acceptable behavior. This post talks about several different methods of reinforcement.

Systems of Reinforcement

Continuous reinforcement happens every time the desired behavior occurs. For example, if students receive a prize every time they come into the classroom quietly, the award must always be given. Of course, this can quickly become expensive or infeasible for other reasons.

The next three types of reinforcement are all considered to be partial reinforcement. By partial, it means that the students are not reinforced every time they produce the desired behavior. Instead, they are reinforced at various intervals.

Fixed interval reinforcement is a reward to the students, not every single time they performed the desired behavior but at fixed intervals of time. For example, if a teacher promises to give the students extra free time every Friday for good behavior.

One problem with fixed interval s that it is set in nature. Students know when the reward is coming and will adjust their behavior to the nearest of the reward. When the reward is far away, students misbehave, but they behave as the reward comes closer. This could be stressful for some teachers.

A fixed ratio involves giving the reinforcement after the students have performed the desired behavior a certain number of times. For example, if a teacher decides to reward his students every tenth time, they quietly come from lunch. There is no time measurement to this, but it is only based on performance. Some days the students will earn points some days, they will not.

In addition, as students get closer to earning the reward, they become more motivated to monitor their behavior. However, the students may get so good at reaching the reward that it might be necessary to make the desired behavior hard to produce.

Variable ratio reinforcement is the hardest to explain. The word here is ratio, which is a comparison of two amounts. For example, if the number of boys to girls in a classroom is 2 to 1 this means for every two boys, there is 1 girl. It doesn’t matter how many students there are as long as the 2:1 ratio is respect.

Therefore, for a teacher who employs a variable-ratio, the students have to perform the behavior a certain number of times. However, the teacher can now change the number of times the students must perform the behavior to achieve the rewards as long as they respect the ratio. For example, a teacher may decide that the students must come in quietly from lunch with a ratio of 10:1 to receive the reward. The students come in quietly five times the first time and get the reward a little early. The second time the students have to go in quietly 15 times or a little later to earn the reward. If we do the math, we can see the students came in a total of 20 times quietly and receive two rewards (20:2), which respects our 10:1 ratio.

This style of reward is highly successful with adults. However, children who are often weaker at math may see this system as unpredictable and discouraging. Therefore, this particular reward system may not work with children.


The purpose was not to try and indicate which of these systems of reward is the best. There are too many variables with each classroom and teacher to single out the best approach. Instead, a teacher should experiment with these different systems and see which one may work for them.

Work Attitudes of Teachers

A teacher’s mindset is a powerful driver in the quality and commitment of their work. When things are tough, it is possible teachers may not give their best effort. This post will cover a variety of topics related to teachers in the workplace. We will look at job involvement, job satisfaction, and institutional commitment, among other issues.

Job Involvement 

Job involvement is a measure of a person’s interest in their job. For teachers, involvement can vary as with other occupations. A common enemy for teachers is burnout, which is a sign of overwork and perhaps over-commitment to teaching. Burnout symptoms can be fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, and or pulling away from social gathers. It is common for people’ who are highly involved to experience burnout because of their passion for teaching.

Naturally, teachers should be highly involved and engaged in their job of helping young people. However, it is also equally important to avoid the trap of burnout. If a teacher is overworked and fatigue from being too involved with their work, they will not support and help students to the level they should.

Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is a closely related term to job involvement; this construct is the emotional state a person feels towards their job. For teachers, this can be seen as how much they love their work. A person can be highly involved with their job and hate the situation they are facing. For example, many teachers love teaching, but the stress of misbehaving students can take the emotional joy out of a job they are highly involved with.

Other factors affect job satisfaction. Pay can play a critical role in satisfaction. It is common knowledge that teachers are generally paid poorly compared to other professions.

Supervisor support is another factor. For teachers, this can vary from place to place. Some schools have highly supportive administrators who mentor and help teachers with challenges. However, the opposite is also the case, and that is the administrator who comes when there is a problem.

Lastly, coworker interaction can play a role in job satisfaction. Teachers spend the majority of their time only in the classroom. However, there are still plenty of opportunities for positive and negative interactions with colleagues. Meetings, lunch breaks, workshops, field trips, etc., are all opportunities for encouragement and backstabbing from other teachers.

Institutional Commitment

Institutional commitment is the strength with which a teacher identifies with their school or organization. This can involve accepting the school’s goals, exerting effort for the organization, and a strong desire for maintaining a connection with the institution. There are three components to the institutional commitment: normative, affective, and continuance commitment.

Normative commitment is a teacher’s sense of obligation towards their school. This can come from family, peer, or some other form of socialized pressure. Teachers may stay at a school because it is not socially acceptable to people in their social group to quit the job or move on to other opportunities. For many, this is the wrong reason to stay committed to an organization.

Affective commitment is the emotional attachment a teacher hast towards their institution. As the years go by and the memories increase, teachers can often develop a fondness for their employment institution regardless of the negative factors. Affective commitment is often the most valued because it will usually encourage a teacher’s hard work and effort.

Continuance commitment is a teacher maintaining allegiance to an institution because there are not any better opportunities. The teacher is strictly working at that particular school for the money. Many administrators are not fond of this type of commitment, but the reality is that people have to work, and there are times when they are waiting for other doors to open.

The various ideas discussed here do not only apply to a commitment to an institution. Some teachers love teaching and are committed to that regardless of the institution in which they work. They may love teaching or may be pressured to be a teacher, maybe they are waiting to change careers, or it could be a combination of all three.


The attitude and commitment a teacher has towards teaching and even where they work can vary from person to person. What motivates and drives any individual to do anything is a complex process to understand. The purpose here was to provide some ideas into what affects a teacher’s view of their occupation and place of work.

Attitude and Behavior of Students

Attitudes are one of the challenges teachers have to wrestle within the classroom. This post will provide a more in-depth understanding of what an attitude is and the traits of attitudes.


A student’s attitude is their tendency to respond a certain way towards something. Naturally, the student’s response can be on a continuum of positive to negative or good to bad. When a teacher says that a student has a bad attitude, they mean that the student did not respond positively to something they were asked to do. The opposite is also true; a student with a good attitude is likely someone who has a cooperative spirit in terms of complying with what they are asked to do by the teacher.

It is essential to mention that attitude is considered a psychological construct. This means you can see the consequences of the attitude but not the attitude itself. In other words, the behavior is observed to determine the attitude. For example, a child who refuses to follow orders provides evidence that they have a bad attitude.

Components of Attitude

There are three main components of an attitude, and they are cognitive, affective, and intentional. The cognitive aspect of an attitude refers to what beliefs a student has about a person or object. The affective component relates to the feelings a student has towards a person or object. Lastly, the intentional component address the intentions a person has towards a person or object.

Naturally, there is some overlap in these components. If a student has negative beliefs about something, it is probably that they have negative feelings as well.

Attitude Formation

Three common approaches attempt to explain how attitudes are formed. These three approaches are called the dispositional approach, situational approach, and social information processing approach.

The dispositional approach views attitudes as almost the same as a personality trait. Students are born to have a positive or negative outlook in different situations. In other words, if they are happy, they are happy, and if they are sad, they are sad. From a teaching perspective, it is a random chance whether a student will enjoy your class. This is not overly optimistic in terms of changing a student’s viewpoint.

The situational approach states that attitudes emerge depending on the context. For example, if students struggle to understand math, they may develop a negative attitude about math. However, the opposite is also true in that success will cause the development of a positive attitude. This view allows a teacher to try to find situations in which students can have success so that they can shape a positive attitude.

Lastly, the social information processing approach views that attitudes are caught from the people around us. For example, if a student with a neutral attitude is surrounded by students with negative attitudes, they also will develop a negative attitude. Students pick up on the information about various topics from the environment, which can largely shape their attitude towards something.

Intentions vs. Action

Generally, students will try to maintain consistency between their attitudes and actions. Failure to do this can lead to trying to justify inconsistent behavior through excuses. This happens when students do something they know is wrong and blame it on something else or someone. This disconnect between attitude and action is sometimes called cognitive dissonance.


Attitudes are part of life but how we respond is up to us. Whether a student has a positive or negative attitude, it is up to the teacher to find ways to work with this student. The ideas presented here are simply a stepping stone in this process.

Attribution Theory and the Classroom

In this post, we will look at attribution theory from the perspective of the classroom. Attributing behavior to various causes is something that we all do. Therefore, for teachers, it is essential to understand how this can be useful and sometimes detrimental.

Attribution Defined

Students and teachers are motivated to understand what causes certain things to happen in the classroom and at school. This idea is known as the attribution process. For example, if a student is disruptive, a teacher will determine what is causing this behavior. They may conclude that it is due to inattention, another student, family problems at home, etc. If a student sees that another student is given an award over them, they may attribute this to perhaps their race, gender, etc., and decided that there is no hope in achieving the same reward themselves.

Attribution can also be divided into two categories, which are external and internal causes. An example of an internal cause may be that a student was a hard worker, and thus this is why they received an award. An external cause may be that the student was lucky in getting the award. There are many different ways in which people can attribute the behavior and things that happen around them.

Ways Attributions are Formed

According to research, teachers and students can attribute or explain their environment around them from at least three perspectives: consensus, consistency, and distinctiveness. Consensus is how much a person’s behavior is in alignment with the group. For example, if a student is disruptive, a teacher may comment that “no one else is acting like this.” This attributes the bad behavior to the student because their actions are not in alignment with the class. If the entire class were disruptive, the teacher would have to attribute the bad student’s behavior to something else.

Consistency is whether the behavior is normal for the student. If a student is usually well-behaved but suddenly is out of control, the teacher will probably attribute this to something external to the student. However, if the student is behaving normally, the teacher will probably attribute this to some internal cause. This also applies to the teacher. If the teacher’s behavior changes, the student may begin to investigate and ask questions. On the other hand, if the teacher behaves normally, the students may attribute this to the teacher’s character.

Distinctiveness is how varied a person’s behavior is as the situation changes. Low distinctiveness means the person’s behavior never changes, while high is the opposite. For example, some teachers are always calm, no matter what. Therefore, if they are excited suddenly, students will probably look for an external cause for this behavior change. In addition, some students are always difficult and disruptive. If a student is quiet and working one day, the teacher may become suspicious because of this behavior change.

Attribution Error

Making conclusions like this can naturally lead to mistakes. The error of discounting external causes and overly emphasizing internal causes is known as fundamental attribution error. As teachers, we often blame students rather than looking at our classroom management style when they are disruptive. In other words, people like to blame individuals rather than look at factors that led to the behavior.

Another attribution error is self-serving bias. Self-serving bias attributes success to one’s actions while blaming others for failure. For example, when students do well academically or behaviorally, a teacher will often take credit for this. However, when students are misbehaving, it is the students’ fault and not the teachers.


Attribution theory is one of many factors that can play a role in the classroom. Educators need to be aware of the mistakes we can make when trying to understand our students.

Teacher Errors in Perceiving Students

There are times when teachers make mistakes in how we judge and see our students. This post will look at three common ways people can misjudge people with applications for the classroom.


Stereotyping is the process of making generalizations about a group of people. Stereotypes are generally malicious, but there are positive stereotypes that people do not complain about as much. In addition, people will often apply stereotypes to strangers or people they do not know yet. Once a relationship is established, the stereotypes may be discarded.

For teachers, it is common to assign stereotypes to students based on the students’ ethnicity. For example, some minorities may be perceived to have lower academic performance and a higher risk for unruly classroom behavior. If a teacher assumes negative actions from students, it can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which a student attempts to confirm a belief the teacher has. Of course, students can also stereotype teachers based on the teacher’s race, age, or some other metric, and this means that the teacher must work to overcome these preconceived ideas.

Sadly, stereotypes are often confirmed by a student’s behavior. However, there are also times when students disprove a stereotype by their behavior. This idea applies to the teacher, as well.

Selective Perception

Selective perception is the process of removing or ignoring information that we do not want to hear. This is related to stereotyping in that if we are exposed to a person who does not conform to a stereotype we have, we may ignore this information. To make things worst, sometimes people will only see the information that confirms their stereotype of another group.

Returning to the teacher, if a teacher holds a negative stereotype towards a student because of their race or gender and the student disproves this stereotype through permanence, the teacher may ignore this or consider it a fluke. In other words, they have selected to ignore specific information that is contrary to their opinion. This also holds for students when they ignore what they see about a teacher that does not confirm their beliefs.

Perceptual Defense

Perceptual defense is a protection mechanism that people use during times that they are receiving information that is personally threatening or not accepted culturally. Generally, this happens when receiving highly emotional stimuli. This emotional experience can lead people to have false perceptions rather than whatever real stimuli occurred. This can frequently happen when people are arguing. It is common for us to describe what we think someone said rather than what they said.

For the teacher, highly negative classroom management experience can trigger a perceptual defense. If a student is rude or disrespectful, a teacher may exaggerate how bad the behavior was. This is a natural behavior for most people. There are several common defenses people use when confronted with views contrary to their own.

  • Denial-A person may outright deny what happened
  • Modify-People explain away what they said
  • Change perception-People change there about what they experience but in a rather subtle manner.
  • Recognize but refuse to change-People acknowledge the disagreement but stick to their original position


As teachers, we must understand how or perceptions influence our thought process and the judgments we make about others. This is because of the authority that we have over students who may be affected by us if we do not understand them correctly.