How to work with different class sizes.
How to work with different class sizes.
Classroom discussion is a common yet critical aspect of the educational experience. For many, learning happenings not necessarily when students listen but also when students express their thoughts and opinions regarding a matter. This post will look at reasons for discussion, challenges, and ways to foster more discussion in the classroom.
Reasons for Discussion
Discussion is simply the flow of ideas between individuals and or groups. It is a two-way street in that both sides are actively expressing their ideas. This is how discussion varies from a lecture which is one-sided and most question and answers learning. In a discussion, people are sharing their thoughts almost in a democratic-like style.
Classroom discussion, of course, is focused specifically on helping students learn through interacting with each other and the teacher using this two-way form of communication.
Discussion can aid in the development of both thinking and affective skills. In terms, of thinking, classroom discussion helps students to use thinking skills from the various levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Recalling, comparing, contrasting, evaluating, etc are all needed when sharing and defending ideas.
The affective domain relates to an individual’s attitude and morals. Discussion supports affective development through strengthing or changing a students attitude towards something. For example, it is common for students to hold strong opinions with little evidence. Through discussion, the matter and actually thinking it through critical students can realize that even if their position is not wrong it is not sufficiently supported.
Barriers and Solutions to Classroom Discussion
There are many common problems with leading discussions such as not understanding or failing to explain how a discussion should be conducted, focus on lower level questions, using the textbook for the content of a discussion, and the experience and attitude of the teacher.
Discussion is something everybody has done but may not exactly know how to do well. Teachers often do not understand exactly how to conduct a classroom discussion or, if they do understand it, they sometimes fail to explain it to their students. How to discuss should be at a minimum demonstrated before attempting to do it
Another problem is poor discussion questions. The goal of a discussion is to have questions in which there are several potential responses. If the question has one answer, there is not much to discuss. Many teachers mistakenly believe that single answer questions constitute a discussion.
The expertise of the teacher and the textbook can also be problems. Students often believe that the teacher and the textbook are always right. This can stifle discussion in which the students need to share contrasting opinions. Students may be worried about looking silly if disagreeing, One way to deal with this is to encourage openness and trying to make content relevant to something it the students lives rather than abstract and objecive.
In addition, students need to know there are no right or wrong answers just answers that are carefully thought out or not thought out. This means that the teacher must restrain themselves from correcting ridiculous ideas if they are supported adequately and show careful thought.
Discussion happens first through example. As the teacher show how this can be done the students develop an understanding of the norms for this activity. The ultimate goal should always be for students to lead discussion independent of the teacher. This is consistent with autonomous learning which is the end goal of education for many teachers.
Classroom management is different at the university level when compared to K-12. Often the problem is not behavioral in nature (with the exception of cell phones). Rather a lot of the classroom management problems at a university are academically related. In the classroom, the problem is often inattentiveness or idleness. In general, the challenge is completing assignments and being prepared for assessments.
Making sure the syllabus is clear is critical for better performance of students. The syllabus includes the calendar, assignment requirements, rules, etc. When these are laid out in advance expectations are set the students strives to reach.
If the syllabus is unclear it normally means the expectations are unclear and even that the teaching is unclear. Most universities have a standard format for their syllabuses but it is still the teacher responsibility to explain clearly the expectations
Stick to the Syllabus
When the course has begun the commitments and expectations stipulated in the syllabus should be fully committed to. It is better to think of the syllabus as a binding contract between two parties. Once it is distributed and discuss there is nothing left to negotiate.
Related to this is the need to actually enforce rules. If there is a late policy it must be enforced otherwise students will think that you are not serious and the students will push for more concession. This can quickly snowball into chaos. If you actually have a rule against cellphones than it needs to be supported or you will develop students who have a disdain for people who don’t enforce their rules.
Perhaps one of the biggest problems in academia is a lack of feedback. Many professors may only have three assignments in a course per year. Given that there is almost always a mid-term and final in many courses and these are primarily summative assessment and not really for learn only. Many students have one assignment that extends beyond multiple choice.
This means that students need constant feedback. This allows for students to learn from their mistakes as well as provide them with motivation to complete their students. It is not always practical to mark every assignment. A shortcut would be to look at a sample of assignments and explain common errors to the class.
Mix Teaching Styles
The last useful strategy will help to reduce daydreaming and listlessness. The most common teaching approach is usually lecture or direct-instruction. The problem is that if everyone does this it becomes really boring for any students. Therefore, lecturing is only bad if this is the only instructional model being used.
To maintain engagement means to used different teaching methodologies. While the syllabus should be structured and unchanging good teaching often has a flair and a slight degree of unpredictability that makes the classroom interesting
Teaching at any level is hard. However, classroom management at the university level can be challenging as this is not the most widely discussed topic. For, success a professor needs to commit to the syllabus while being flexible in their delivery of content.
One of the greatest challenges in teaching is classroom management. Students are always looking for ways and opportunities to test the limits of acceptable behavior. For teachers, these constant experimentation with the boundaries of how to act are extremely tiresome.
However, there are several strategies that teachers can use to limit poor behavior. Some of these ideas include the following.
Establishing clear routines will help to regulate the behavior of students tremendously. When everybody knows their role and what to do there is usually less curiosity for a student to see what they can get away with.
Routine need to be explained, demonstrated, and practice in order for students to master them. Once a routine is established most students enjoy the predictability of having set actions that they need to perform and certain times of the day. While instruction should be varied and exciting routines provide a sense of stability and security to brilliant teaching.
A specific form of routine are transitions. Transitions are those moments in class when you have to move from one activity to another. An example would be going out to recess or coming in from recess, etc.
It is at moments like these that everyone is active. With so many moving parts and actions taking place, this is when the most breakdowns in behavior can often take place. Therefore the teacher needs to be extra diligent during the moments and make sure the routines are thoroughly drilled to avoid near absolute chaos.
Anticipating has to do with seeing what might happen before it actually happens. An analogy would be to an athlete who sees an opportunity to make a great play because of the actions of his opponent. A teacher must be able to read the class and be one-step ahead of the students.
A term related to this is called withitness which means to have a constant awareness of what is happening in the classroom. Or in other words to have eyes in the back of your head. As a teacher gets to know their students it becomes easier to predict their actions and to make adjustments beforehand. This can greatly reduce behavioral problems.
Talk is cheap, especially with students. Non-verbal cues save the voice while getting students to do things. Every teacher should have several non-verbal commands that they use in their classroom. Examples may include ways to get the classes attention, to grant permission to go to the bathroom, to give permission get out of one’s seat, etc.
Most classes have a rule for students to raise their hand. However, non-verbal cues should not stop there. The more non-verbal cues the less talking. In addition, non-verbal cues reduce arguing because there were no words exchanged.
Behavior is a challenge but there are ways to overcome at least some of it. Teachers need to consider and employ ways to anticipate and deal with behavioral problems preferably before they become big problems.
Classroom management is one of the most difficult aspects of teaching. Despite the difficulties of behavioral problems, there are several steps teachers can make to mitigate this problem. This post will provide some practical ways to reduce or even eliminate the headache of classroom management.
Deal with the Learning Space
The learning space is another name for the classroom that the teacher has authority over. If a teacher is fortunate enough to have their own classroom (this is not always the case) he or she may need to consider some of the following.
If the teacher does not have their own classroom, he may need to work with the administration or the teachers in whose classroom he teaches to deal with some of these issues.
Dealing with Seating Arrangements
There are essentially four seating arrangements in a classroom
Each of these arrangements has there advantages and disadvantages. Rows are used for a teacher-centered classroom and lecture style. They are for individual work as well. However, rows limit interaction among students. Despite this, at the beginning of the year, it may be better to start with rows until a teacher has a handle on the students.
Full/Half circle or great for whole-class discussion. Students are able to all make eye-contact and this helps with supporting a discussion. However, this also makes it hard to concentrate if there is some sort of assignment that needs to be completed. As such, the full/half circle approach is normally used for special occasions.
Groups are used in high interaction settings. In groups, students, can work together on a project or support each other for regular assignments. Normally, groups lead to the largest amount of management problems. As such, groups are great for teachers who have more experience with classroom management.
Dealing with Presence
Presence has to do with the voice and body language of a teacher. Learning to control the voice is a common problem for new teachers and losing one’s voice happens frequently. The voice of a teacher most project without yelling and this requires practice, which can be accelerated through taking voice lessons. Speaking must also be done at a reasonable rate. Too fast or slow will make it hard to pay attention.
The body language of a teacher should project a sense of calm, confidence, and optimism. This can be done by moving about the room while teaching, feigning confidence even if the teacher doesn’t have it, and always maintaining composure no matter what the students do. A teacher losing control of their temper means the students have control and they will enjoy laughing at the one who is supposed to be in control.
Teachers need to exert the authority that they are the leader of the classroom. This requires being organized and confident while having a sense of direction in where the lesson is going. This is not easy but is often necessary when dealing with students.
There are many different ways in which a teacher can group their students. One option is to have the students work alone. This post will look at the pros and cons of having students work individually.
Some of the pros of individual learning are the following…
Individual work helps students to develop the capacity to learn without always leaning on others. This can hopefully lead to some sense of learner autonomy, which is a critical goal of many teachers. As students rely on their own resources it strengthens them in learning to learn on their own.
Individual learning is closely related to differentiated instruction. A teacher can plan distinct experiences for each student and respond to the needs of the students personally when individualize learning happens. This catered made experience is critical for many students
After a noisy whole-class or group project experience, individual work can be used as a classroom management tool to calm the students down and transition to another activity. For example, after a science lab activity that has the students out of their sits and talking and moving around, the teacher has them write a reflection about the experience quietly in their seats. The students are reflecting on the experience and they are calmly at their desks. After this, they transition quietly to the next subject. This is preferred instead going from one loud and active activity to the next with some form of cool-off transition.
Nothing is perfect not even individual learning. Below are some concerns with this approach
When students work individually they are work alone. This means that there is little social interaction and camaraderie. This can be good or bad depending on the context. In many cultures, extensive individual work is not appropriate as students naturally want to work together. In other settings, it is individual students who struggle with this approach because of their out-going nature.
If the teacher makes an effort to personalize the learning of each student it can increase their workload a great deal. If the class is small it may be doable but in larger classes this could be a nightmare. Individualized instruction is usually the preferred model of teaching but this does not mean that it is the most practical.
All modes of teaching have times when they work and when they do not work. Individualized learning has a place in the classroom. However, it is finding a balance between these various styles that is critical to the success of the learner and the teacher.