Tag Archives: classroom management

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.

Consequences

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.

Conclusion

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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

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

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

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

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.

Conclusion

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.

Evaluation

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.

Conclusion

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.

Conclusion

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.

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.

Attitude

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.

Conclusion

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.

Conclusion

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

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

Conclusion

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.

Social Perception of Students

Every day a teacher steps into a classroom, they are being judged by their students on many factors. This experience is called social perception. IN this post, we will look at social perception and its role in the classroom.

Social perception is how we interpret the people around us through the impressions we make of these people. Students also develop social perceptions of other students as well as teachers. Several categories in which a teacher is perceived socially and several of them are explained below.

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

What a teacher says to students and how they say it is a part of verbal and nonverbal communication. The tone of voice a teacher uses communicates the emotional state of the teacher. For example, if the teacher is yelling, it may indicate anger at the students, while a teacher who speaks in a hesitant tone may communicate a lack of confidence.

The precision of the language indicates to many students the level of professionalism of the teacher. For example, a teacher who uses slang may be trying to encourage an informal atmosphere. In contrast, a teacher’s highly formal use of language may be an attempt to set a serious tone in the classroom. Accent also plays a role, but a teacher will have a more challenging time controlling their accent than the precision and tone of voice.

Nonverbal communication is also critical in maintaining a positive social perception. Smiling vs. frowning is a form of body language. Both of these are appropriate in a specific situation. In addition, such things as posture, eye contact can communicate confidence. A slouching teacher who does not look students in the eye may have a greater difficulty in maintaining authority compared to a teacher with erect posture and strong eye contact. This is especially true when students are disruptive. A teacher needs to look like they are in charge even if the situation is out of control. The calm, confident, steady hand of a firm teacher can prevent a lot of problems.

Assigned Attributes

Some of the interpretations students have of a teacher are made merely from the position of the teacher. For example, the occupation of teacher often has high-status in the eyes of students as the teacher is the direct leader and supervisor of students. As such, students will often treat the teacher differently from the janitor due in part to the teacher’s position in relation to the janitor.

This can even be more complicated. Older teachers or teachers who have been at a school longer also have certain credibility that new teachers have to earn. Students know the more senior teachers personally or have heard of them through friends, and this will often make the teacher’s job easier or harder depending on what the students think of them.

Other Factors

Students own personality influences what they notice. Confident people tend to have a more positive view of others. In addition, students who have a better understanding of themselves are often better able to read others. Lastly, students who are comfortable with themselves are more likely to see other people, such as teachers, positively.

Conclusion

A teacher needs to be aware of how they are perceived by others, even students. This does not mean that a teacher should radically change their approach to please students. Instead, understanding this can help a teacher know their strengths and weaknesses in terms of what the students think.

The Perceptual Process and Students

It is common for a teacher to see students staring off into space when they should be paying attention to the teacher. In this post, we will look at perception and its role in a student’s ability to focus in the classroom.

Perception 

Perception is the process by which a person gives meaning to what they choose to pay attention to. This can be the words in a book that a person sees or the conversation a person hears while speaking with a friend. A student’s perception can take in information from peers, the teacher, or other sources such as a cellphone in the classroom.

Perceptual selectivity is the process of picking a specific stimulus to focus on among several competitors. As teachers, we want our students to focus on learning and or instruction when they try to determine what to focus on perceptually.

To further complicate things, different students will focus on other things, even when they are focused and paying attention. For example, if the teacher is demonstrating how to use lab equipment, some students will focus on the equipment while others will be focused on the teacher’s words. Those who focus on the equipment do not focus on the teacher, while those who focus on the teacher’s words do not see how to use the equipment.

Once a student has focused on the stimulus that a teacher desires, the student enters the next stage, perceptual organization. At this stage, students attempt to make sense of what they are focusing on. This can be instructions from the teacher or an assignment as examples.

Several factors influence what a student will focus on, and these can be grouped into two broad categories: physical properties and dynamic properties.

Physical & Dynamic Properties

Physical properties include size because the larger something is, the easier it is to focus on it. This is why visuals need to be large so that the students can focus on them. A second physical property is the use of contrast or opposing characteristics such as light and dark or small and big. Contrast also relates to visuals. A third physical property is novelty. Nothing will get a student’s attention, like doing something unexpected.

Dynamic properties involve things that change or have an order to them. Two examples are motion and repetition. Motion is self-explanatory, but one example of this for a teacher is to move about the classroom while teaching. This may help some students to focus as the act of motion prevents the zoning out of focusing on a static object. Repetition is another prominent dynamic property. If instructions are repeated several times, it helps with retention.

The properties mentioned above are external factors. However, there are also several internal factors, such as response salience and response disposition.

Response Salience and Response Disposition

Response salience is the habit of focus on objects that relate to immediate needs and or wants. This means that a student needs to be persuaded that focusing on an assignment and or the teacher is meeting an immediate need or want. Often, a student will not pay attention because they do not see the need to. Therefore, teachers need to make sure that they can connect whatever they need to do in the classroom with some immediate relevancy.

Response disposition is a person’s habit of noticing familiar objects faster when compared to unfamiliar objects. Naturally, familiar objects will be things that a student has already learned and or be exposed to. In the classroom, sometimes students will hear what they think they hear when the reality is that they are replacing what the teacher said with something they are more familiar with. For example, it is common for students to mix up directions and or complete assignments incorrectly. Math assignments are often done incompletely because students use the wrong tools to complete a problem. The tool they select is often from ones they are already familiar with rather than the new one they just learned.

Conclusion

It is easy for a teacher to jump to conclusions when a student is not paying attention and focused. However, a teacher needs to familiar with the processes that people, including students, use when deciding what to focus on in the classroom.

Understanding Student and Teacher Abilities

Students and teachers all have various strengths and weaknesses. In this post, we will look at students’ mental skills and the cognitive complexity of teachers. Teachers need to be aware of the student’s mental skills, and teachers and administrators need to be mindful of their cognitive complexity and that of their peers.

For Students

Students are frequently judge and assessed for their mental abilities. Mental abilities can be defined in many different ways. Some of the mental abilities traits are fluency, memory, verbal comprehension, inductive reasoning, and mathematical/logical aptitude.

Some of these so-called mental abilities can be influenced by studying in a second language. For example, most ESL students struggle with verbal comprehension of other people’s words and fluency. Therefore, these students may be thought of as having weak mental abilities when, in fact, they are struggling to function academically in a second language.

This means that when trying to understand students’ mental abilities, it is essential to remember that assessing mental abilities is tricky in the best case situation and that there are unique factors for individual students that need to be considered.

For Teachers

Teachers also have the same mix of ability when it comes to mental capacities. However, because of a teacher’s added responsibility of managing and leading students’ instructional experience, teachers can also be further analyzed in terms of their cognitive complexity.

Cognitive complexity is a person’s ability to sort through information and organize it to be understandable. General, people, can be viewed on a continuum from low to high cognitive complexity.

Teachers who exhibit low cognitive complexity will only see one or two aspects of a problem or challenging situation. In addition, such teachers often rely heavily on stereotypes when dealing with students, causing them to miss each student’s uniqueness. Decision making is fast as the teacher is willing to move on limited information. Lastly, such teachers with low cognitive complexity have a low locus of control, which means they often are not convinced that they have control over external conditions.

Teachers with high cognitive complexity often have a less deterministic, stereotypical view of the world. This means that alternative solutions are sought to deal with problems. The locus of control is placed within the individual, which means that the teacher believes they have authority and influence on their environment.

Teachers with high cognitive complexity are often better at dealing with rapid change and complex situations. In addition, these individuals are better at obtaining and acquiring information for decision making.

However, there are some words of caution. Cognitive complexity is steeped in cultural values. In other words, the traits that are defined as being complex are traits that are valued in a western context. In a different context, such abilities may be seen in an opposite light. What this means is that high complexity is situational, not only cultural but also for a person. For example, a person might demonstrate high complexity in one situation and not in another, such as when going into a familiar situation or an unfamiliar one.

Furthermore, another related idea is that whether a person has high or low cognitive complexity depends on who they are being compared to. Among one group of people, a person may have the highest of the low cognitive complexities. Still, this same person would be viewed differently compared to a different group of people.

Lastly, to label some people low or high in cognitive ability is somewhat discouraging for people who may be labeled as low. The points above indicate that people’s complexity can change due to the situation or who they are compared to. Probably all teachers have exhibited all of these low and high traits at one time or another. Even students can shift back and forth at times.

Conclusion

Teachers and students all have different abilities. It is crucial to understand how people think and work around you and how you think and work to avoid confusion. Students are judge on their mental abilities, while teachers may be judge based on their management style. When this happens, there must be great care to consider the big picture and all the influencing people’s factors so that teachers and students are not judged negatively in an unfair way.

Management in the Classroom

In the world of business, management has often been described as achieving goals through people. This is highly similar to management in the classroom in which the teacher is trying to helping students achieve mastery of a skill and or a body of knowledge. With excellent management, students can achieve mastery and even beyond that. However, poor management can lead to poor performance of the students and perhaps limit their potential.

Management Responsibilities

Several responsibilities of classroom management include the following.

Mapping the big pictures-Teachers cannot only plan day to day. They must plan for several weeks and months in advance. No teacher can decide on a whim to have a field trip tomorrow. Such an activity must be thought and with permission sought weeks if not months in advance. This is crucial because people who struggle to plan will have a hard time leading a classroom as they do not know where they are going.

Supervising & controlling-Teachers must oversee the work of students, which is a supervisory function. In addition, if there are concerns with performance or behavior, a teacher must have the courage to take corrective action, which is more of a controlling function. Disciplinary action does not always mean discipline. It could also mean providing additional support or reteaching difficult concepts.

Coordinating-A teacher is also like a conductor in that they have to find a way to get different types of people to work together to do something. This involves being familiar with the characteristics and traits of the various pieces involved and finding the best way to achieve the desired results.

Managing Skills 

There are also three primary skills that teachers need as borrowed from organizational management. These three skills are technical, people, and conceptual skills.

Technical skills are the manager’s knowledge, experience, and training. This means that a teacher must be knowledgeable in their field and know how to apply it in the real world in some practical way. For example, a chemistry teacher will naturally know chemistry. However, they must find ways to make this knowledge relevant and useful for high school students. Finding ways to make complex abstract knowledge practical may be one of the most significant challenges in teaching for an expert.

People skills is the ability to connect with people in a friendly manner and to motivate them. In addition, people skills involve finding ways to work through conflict as they arise. Friendly people are good at being friendly but often lack the strength to deal with conflict. On the other hand, confrontational people are often less friendly but can weather the fire of disagreement. A successful classroom manager is able t connect with people while still finding ways to deal with confrontations in a civil manner.

Conceptual skills are related to coordinating, as mentioned earlier. A classroom manager must plan and know where they are going before they get there. Students cannot follow a teacher who is lost. The teacher must know what they want and how to get there before leading the students to this destination.

Conclusion

Every teacher will have a different combination of these skills, and you must understand where your strengths and weaknesses are. This reflective process will help you to know better how to interact and motivate your students

Scheduling & Tracking Challenges in K-12

Time management is a constant problem in teaching. How long should class periods be? How often should students meet for one class? These are just some questions that need to be addressed.

Despite the challenge and confusion, determining how much time students spend with a teacher has some flexibility to it. In this post, we will look at options in terms of scheduling the time that students spend with teachers.

Looping

Looping is a scheduling strategy that involves the teacher moving to the next grade or subject with their students. For example, if the teacher is a multi-subject teacher at the primary level he or she may move from 1st to 2nd grade with their students. If the teacher is a subject teacher they may move from Algebra to Geometry with their students. This experience can last anywhere from 2-5 years for the students and teacher.

One of the main benefits of this is the relationships that develop between the teacher and students. The students benefit from the continuity of expectations. The teacher does not have to reestablish routines and procedures every year and can move straight to teaching rather than classroom management. Lastly, the teacher also knows the strength and weaknesses of all the students and can adjust accordingly.

Among the problems with this is actually a prior benefit. If the students get along well with the teacher looping can be a fun experience but if the students and teacher do not get along well this can mean spending up to five years with students or a teacher that is disliked. This can lead to serious problems with performance and motivation as well as stress for the teacher.

Another problem is the workload for the teacher. Every year the teacher is preparing new materials, not for a familiar class but a completely new one. This is particularly challenging when the teacher is going through the loop the first time. Essentially it can take up to five years to make it through one loop, which is a substantial amount of time for a teaching career. This kind of context is almost impossible for a new teacher and difficult for an experienced one with constant year-to-year changes.

Block Scheduling

Block scheduling involves extending the time of a traditional period from 50-60 minutes to 80-90 minutes. Essentially, block scheduling involves extending the class period by 50%. This gives the teachers more time to go deeper into content, it reduces the amount of time spent on transitions, and provides students with a glimpse into what class periods are like at the college level.

There are two common variations of block scheduling the 4×4 plan and the A/B plan. The 4×4 plan involves taking four classes in the first semester using the block schedule and a different four classes for the second semester. For example, if a student is taking algebra first semester, using a block schedule they would not take algebra the second semester because they have already completed all the hours they need. This can be a problem because the students would not be exposed to any math for almost a year.

The  A/B plan involves having students take all 8 subjects at the same time. The difference in this approach is that students will have the same classes every other day. For example, if a student is taking Algebra, they may have that class on Monday and Wednesday instead of every day. This allows the class to meet for the entire year, which helps to keep academic skills stronger.

The main complaint about block scheduling comes from non-core teachers. Subjects such as music and foreign languages benefit from meeting every day rather than every other day or for only one semester. The same can be said of PE as students need frequent exercise. Another problem is one similar to looping. If the teacher or students are bad it can be torture to have to deal with them for an additional 30 minutes.

Conclusion

Managing the time that teachers spend with students has several options to consider. There are strengths and weaknesses to all approaches but it is still important to know what your options are when making these decisions.

Classroom Conflict Resolution Strategies

Disagreements among students and even teachers is part of working at any institution. People have different perceptions and opinions of what they see and experience. With these differences often comes disagreements that can lead to serious problems.

This post will look at several broad categories in which conflicts can be resolved when dealing with conflicts in the classroom. The categories are as follows.

  1. Avoiding
  2. Accommodating
  3. Forcing
  4. Compromising
  5. Problem-solving

Avoiding

The avoidance strategy involves ignoring the problem. The tension of trying to work out the difficulty is not worth the effort. The hope is  that the problem will somehow go away with any form of intervention. Often the problem becomes worst.

Teachers sometimes use avoidance in dealing with conflict. One common classroom management strategy is avoidance in which a teacher deliberately ignores poor behavior of a student to extinguish it.  Since the student is not getting any attention  from their poor behavior  they will often stop the  behavior.

Accommodating

Accommodating is focused on making everyone involved in the conflict happy. The focus is on relationships and not productivity. Many who employ this strategy believe that confrontation is destructive. Actual applications of this approach involve using humor, or some other tension breaking technique during a conflict. Again, the problem is never actually solved but rather some form of “happiness band-aid” is applied.

In the classroom, accommodation happens when teachers use humor to smooth over tense situations and when they make adjustments to goals to ameliorate students complaints. Generally, the first step in accommodation leads to more and more accommodating until the teacher is backed into a corner.

Another use of the term accommodating is the mandate in education under the catchphrase “meeting student needs”. Teachers are expected to accommodate as much as possible within guidelines given to them by the school. This leads to extraordinarily large amount of work and effort on the part of the teacher.

Forcing

Force involves simply making people do something through the power you have over them. It gets things done but can lead to long term relational problems. As people are forced the often lose motivation and new conflicts begin to arise.

Forcing is often a default strategy for teachers. After all, the teacher is t an authority over children. However, force is highly demotivating and should be avoided if possible. If students have no voice they quickly can become passive which is often in opposite of active learning in the classroom.

Compromising

Compromise involves trying to develop a win win situation for both parties. However, the reality is that often compromising can be the most frustrating. To totally avoid conflict means no fighting. TO be force means to have no power. However, compromise means that a person almost got what they wanted but not exactly, which can be more annoying.

Depending on the age a teacher is working with, compromising can be difficult to achieve. Younger children often lack the skills to see alternative solutions and half-way points of agreement. Compromising can also be viewed as accommodating by older kids which can lead to perceptions of the teacher’s weakness when conflict arises. Therefore, compromise is an excellent strategy when used with care.

Problem-Solving

Problem-solving is similar to compromising except that both parties are satisfied with the decision and the problem is actually solved, at least temporarily. This takes a great deal of trust and communication between the parties involved.

For this to work in  the classroom, a teacher must de-emphasize their position of authority in order to work with the students. This is counterintuitive for most in teachers and even for many students. It is also necessary to developing strong listening and communication skills to allow both parties to provide ways of dealing with the conflict. As with compromise, problem-solving is better reserved for older students.

Conclusion

Teachers need to know what their options are when it comes to addressing conflict. This post provided several ideas or ways for maneuvering disagreements and setbacks in  the classroom.

Signs a Student is Lying

Deception is a common tool students use when trying to avoid discipline or some other uncomfortable situation with a teacher. However, there are some tips and indicators that you can be aware of to help you to determine if a student is lying to you. This post will share some ways to determine if a student may be lying. The tips are as follows

  • Determine what is normal
  • Examine how the play with their clothing
  • Watch personal space
  • Tone of voice
  • Movement

Determine What is Normal

People are all individuals and thus unique. Therefore, determining deception first requires determining what is normal for the student. This involves some observation and getting to know the student. These are natural parts of teaching.

However, if you are in an administrative position and may not know the student that well it will be much harder to determine what is normal for the student sot that it can be compared to their behavior if you believe they are lying. One solution for this challenge is to first engage in small talk with the student so you can establish what appears to be natural behavior for the student.

Clothing Signs

One common  sign that someone is lying is that they begin to play with their clothing. This can include tugging on clothes, closing buttons, pulling down on sleeves, and or rubbing a spot. This all depends on what is considered normal for the individual.

Personal Space

When people pull away when talking it is often a sign of dishonesty. This can be done through such actions as shifting one’s chair, or leaning back. Other individuals will fold their arms across their chest. All these behaviors are subconscious was of trying to protect one’s self.

Voice

The voice provides several clues of deception. Often the rate or speed of the speaking slows down. Deceptive answers are often much longer and detailed than honest ones. Liars often show hesitations and pauses that are out of the ordinary for them.

A change in pitch is perhaps the strongest sigh of lying. Students will often speak with a much higher pitch one lying. This is perhaps do to the nervousness they are experiencing.

Movement

Liars have a habit of covering their mouth when speaking. Gestures also become more mute and closer to the bottom when a student is lying. Another common cue is gestures with the palms up rather than down when speaking. Additional signs include nervous tapping with the feet.

Conclusion

People lie for many reasons. Due to this, it is important that a teacher is able to determine the honesty of a student when necessary. The tips in this post provide some basic ways of potentially identifying who is being truthful.

Barriers to Teachers Listening

Few of us want to admit it but all teachers have had problems at one time or another listening to their students. There are many reasons for this but in this post we will look at the following barriers to listening that teachers may face.

  1. Inability to focus
  2. Difference in speaking and listening speed
  3. Willingness
  4. Detours
  5. Noise
  6. Debate

Inability to Focus

Sometimes a teacher or even a student may not be able to focus on the discussion or conversation. This could be due to a lack of motivation or desire to pay attention. Listening can be taxing mental work. Therefore, the teacher must be engaged and have some desire to try to understand what is happening.

Differences in the Speed of Speaking and Listening

We speak much slower than we think. Some have put the estimate that we speak at 1/4 the speed at which we can think. What this means is that if you can think 100 words per minute you can speak at only 25 words per minute. With thinking being 4 times faster than speaking this leaves a lot of mental energy lying around unused which can lead to daydreaming.

This difference can lead to impatience and to anticipation of what the person is going to say. Neither of these are beneficial because they discourage listening.

Willingness

There are times, rightfully so, that a teacher does not want to listen. This can be when a student is not cooperating or giving an unjustified excuse for their actions. The main point here is that a teacher needs to be aware of their unwillingness to listen. Is it justified or is it unjustified? This is the question to ask.

Detours

Detours happen when we respond to a specific point or comment by the student which changes the subject. This barrier is tricking because what is happening is that you are actually paying attention but allow the conversation to wander from the original purpose. Wandering conversation is natural and often happens when we are enjoying the talk.

Preventing this requires mental discipline to stay on topic and to not what you are listening for. This is not easy but is necessary at times.

Noise

Noise can be external or internal. External noise is factors beyond our control. For example, if there is a lot of noise in the classroom it may be hard to hear a student speak. A soft-spoken student in a loud place is frustrating to try and listen to even when there is a willingness to do so.

Internal noise has to do with what is happening inside your own mind If you are tired, sick, or feeling rush due to a lack of time, these can all affect your ability to listening to others.

Debate

Sometimes we listen until we want to jump in and try to defend a point are disagree with something. This is not so much as listening as it is hunting and waiting to pounce and the slightest misstep of logic from the person we are supposed to listen to.

It is critical to show restraint and focus on allowing the other side to be heard rather than interrupted by you.

Conclusion

We often view teachers as communicators. However, half the job of a communicator is to listen. At times, due to the position and the need to be the talker a teacher may neglect the need to be a listener. The barriers explained here should help teachers to be aware of why they may neglect to do this.

Principles of Management and the Classroom

Henri Fayol (1841-1925) had a major impact on managerial communication in his develop of 14 principles of management. In this post, we will look at these principles briefly and see how at least some of them can be applied in the classroom as educators.

Below is a list of the 14 principles of management by Fayol

  1. Division of work
  2. Authority
  3. Discipline
  4. Unity of command
  5. Unity of direction
  6. Subordination of individual interest
  7. Remuneration
  8. The degree of centralization
  9. Scalar chain
  10. Order
  11. Equity
  12. Stability of personnel
  13. Initiative
  14. Esprit de corps

Division of Work & Authority

Division of work has to do with breaking work into small parts with each worker having responsibility for one aspect of the work. In the classroom, this would apply to group projects in which collaboration is required to complete a task.

Authority is  the power to give orders and commands. The source of the authority cannot only be in the position. The leader must demonstrate expertise and competency in order to lead. For the classroom, it is a well-known tenet of education that the teacher must demonstrate expertise in their subject matter and knowledge of teaching.

Discipline & Unity of command

Discipline has to do with obedience. The workers should obey the leader. In the classroom this relates to concepts found in classroom management. The teacher must put in place mechanisms to ensure that the students follow directions.

Unity of command means that there should only be directions given from one leader to the workers. This is the default setting in some schools until about junior high or high school. At that point, students have several teachers at once. However, generally it is one teacher per classroom even if the students have several teachers.

Unity of Direction & Subordination i of Individual Interests

The employees activities must all be linked to the same objectives. This ensures everyone is going in the same directions. In the classroom, this relates to the idea of goals and objectives in teaching. The curriculum needs to be aligned with students all going in the same direction. A major difference here is that the activities may vary in terms of achieving the learning goals from student to student.

Subordination of individual interests in tells putting the organization ahead of personal goals. This is where there may be a break in managerial and educational practices. Currently, education  in many parts of the world are highly focused on the students interest at the expense of what may be most efficient and beneficial to the institution.

Remuneration & Degree of Centralization

Remuneration has to do with the compensation. This can be monetary or non-monetary. Monetary needs to be high enough to provide some motivation to work. Non-monetary can include recognition, honor or privileges. In education, non-monetary compensation is standard in the form of grades, compliments, privileges, recognition, etc. Whatever is done is usually contributes to intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.

Centralization has to do with who makes decisions. A highly centralized institution has top down decision-making while a decentralized institution has decisions coming from many directions. Generally, in  the classroom setting, decisions are made by the teacher. Students may be given autonomy over how to approach assignments or which assignments to do but the major decisions are made by the teacher even in highly decentralized classrooms due to the students inexperience and lack of maturity.

Scalar Chain & Order

Scalar chain has to do with recognizing the chain of command. The employee should contact the immediate supervisor when there is a problem. This prevents to many people going to the same person. In education, this is enforced by default as the only authority in a classroom is usually a teacher.

Order deals with having the resources to get the job done. In the classroom, there are many things the teacher can supply such as books, paper, pencils, etc. and even social needs such as attention and encouragement. However, sometimes there are physical needs that are neglected such as kids who miss breakfast and come to school hungry.

Equity & Stability of Personal

Equity means workers are treated fairly. This principle again relates to classroom management and even assessment. Students need to know that the process for discipline is fair even if it is dislike and that there is adequate preparation for assessments such as quizzes and tests.

Stability of personnel means keeping turnover to a minimum. In education, schools generally prefer to keep teacher long term if possible. Leaving during the middle of a school year whether a student or teacher is discouraged as it is disruptive.

Initiative & Esprit de Corps

Initiative means allowing workers to contribute new ideas and do things. This empowers workers and adds value to the company. In education, this also relates to classroom management in that students need to be able to share their opinion freely during discussions and also when they have concerns about what is happening in the classroom.

Esprit de corps focuses on morale. Workers need to feel good and appreciated. The classroom learning environment is a topic that is frequently studied in education. Students need to have their psychological needs meet through having a place to study that is safe and friendly.

Conclusion

These 14 principles are found in the business world, but they also have a strong influence in the world of education as well. Teachers can pull these principles any ideas that may be useful l in their classroom.

Teaching Large Classes

It is common for undergraduate courses, particularly introductory courses, to have a large number of students. Some introductory courses can have as many as 150-300 students in them. Combine this with the fact that it is common for the people with the least amount of teaching experience whether a graduate assistant or new non-tenured professor. This leads to a question of how to handle teaching so many students at one time.

In this post, we will look at some common challenges to teaching a large at the tertiary level. In particular, we will  look at the following.

  • Addressing student engagement
  • Grading assignments
  • Logistics

Student Engagement

Once a class reaches a certain size, it becomes difficult to engage students with discussion and one-on-one  interaction. This leaves a teacher with the most commonly used tool for university teaching, which is lecturing. However, most students find lecturing to be utterly boring and even some teachers find it boring.

Lecturing can be useful but it must be broken up into “chunks.” What this means is that perhaps you lecture for 8-10 minutes then have the students do something such as discuss a concept with their neighbor and then continue lecturing 8-10 minutes. The reason for 8-10 minutes is that is about how long a TV show runs until a commercial. This implies that 8-10 minutes is about how long someone can pay attention.

The during a break in the lecturing, students can teach a neighbor how/explain a concept to a neighbor, they can write a summary of what they just learned, or they can simply discuss what they learn. What happens during this time is up to the teacher but it should provide a way to continue to examine what is being learned without having to sit and only listen to the lecturer.

Grading Assignments

Grading assignments can be a nightmare in a large class. This is particularly true if the assessment has open-ended questions. The problem with open-ended questions is that they cannot be automated and mark by a computer.

If you must have open-ended questions that require humans to grade them here are some suggestions.

  • If the assessment is formative or a stepping stone in a project selective marking may be an option.  Selective marking involves only grade some papers through sampling and then inferring that other students made the same mistakes. You can then reteach the common mistakes to the whole class while saving a large amount of time.
  • Working with your teaching assistants you can have each assistant mark a section of an exam. This helps to spread the work around and prevent students from complaining about one TA who’s grading they dislike.
  • Peer review is another form of formative feedback that can work in large classes.

As mentioned earlier, for assessments that involve one answer, such as in lower level math classes, there are many automated options that are probably already available at your school such as scan tron sheets or online examinations.

Cheating can also be a problem for examines. However, thorough preparation and developing an assignment that is based on what is taught can greatly reduce cheating. Randomizing the exams and seating can help as well. For plagiarism there are many resources available online

Logistics

Common logistical problem includes communication which can be through email or office hours. If a class has over 100 or even 200 students. The demands for personal help can quickly become overwhelming. This can be avoided by establishing clear lines of communication and how you will response.

Hopefully, there is some sort of way for you to communicate with all the students simultaneously such as through a forum or some other way. In this way, you can share the answer to a good question with everyone rather than individually several times.

Office hours can be adjusted by having them in groups rather than one-on-one. This allows the teacher to help several students at once rather than individually. Another idea is to have online office hours. Again you can meet several students at once but with the added convenience of not having to be in the same physical location.

Conclusion

Large classes are a lot of work and can be demanding for even experienced teachers. However, with some basic adjustments it is possible to shoulder this load with care.

Teaching Smaller Class at University

The average teacher prefers small classes. However, there are times when the enrollment in a class that is usually big (however you define this) takes a dip in size and suddenly a class has become “small.” This can be harder to deal with than many people tend to believe. There are some aspects of the teaching and learning experience that need to be adjusted because the original approach is not user-friendly for the small class.

Another time when a person  often struggles with teaching small classes is if they never had the pleasure of experiencing a small class as a student. If your learning experience was a traditional large class lecture style and all of a sudden  you are teaching at a small liberal arts college there will need to be some adjustments too.

In this post, we will look at some pros and cons of teaching smaller classes at the tertiary level. In addition, we will look at some ways to address the challenges of teaching smaller classes for those who have not had this experience.

Pros

With a smaller class size there is an overall decrease in the amount of work that has to be done. This means few assignments to mark, less preparation of materials, etc. In addition, because the class is smaller it is not necessary to be as formal and structured with the class. In other words, there is no need to have routines in place because there is little potential chaos that can ensue if everyone does what they want.

The teaching can also be more personalized. You can adjust content and address individual question much easier than when dealing with a larger class. You can even get to know the students in a much more informal manner that is not possible in a large lecturer hall.

Probably the biggest advantage  for a new teacher is the ability to make changes and adjustments during a semester. A bad teacher in a large class leads to a large problem. However, a bad teacher in a small class is a small problem. If things are not working, it is easier to change things in a small group. The analogy that I like to make is that it is easier to do an u-turn on a bike instead of in a bus. For new teachers who do not quite know how to teach, a smaller class can help them to develop their skills for larger classes

Cons

There are some challenges with small classes especially for people with a large class experience. One thing you will notice when teaching a large class is a lost of energy. If you are used to lecturing to 80 students and suddenly are teaching 12 it can seem as if that learning spark is gone.

The lost of energy can contribute to a lost of discipline. The informal nature of small classes can lead to students having a sense seriousness about the course. In larger classes there is a sense of “sink or swim”.  This may not be the most positive mindset but it helps people to take the learning experience seriously. In smaller classes this can sometimes be lost.

Attendance is another problem. In a large class having several absences is not a big deal. However, if your class is small, several absences is almost like a plague that wipes out a village. You can still teach but nobody is there or the key people who participate in the discussion are not there or there is no one to listen to their comments. This can lead to pressure to cancel class which causes even more problems.

Tips

There are several things that a teacher can do to have success with smaller class sizes. One suggestion is to adjust your teaching style. Lecturing is great for large classes in which content delivery is key. However, in  smaller class a more interact, discussion-like approach can be taken. This helps to bring energy back to the classroom as well as engage the students.

Sometimes, if this is possible, changing from a large room to a smaller one can help to bring back the energy that is lost when a class is smaller. Many times the academic office will put class in a certain classroom regardless of size. This normally no longer a problem with all the advances in scheduling and registration software. However, if you are teaching 10 students in an auditorium perhaps it is possible to find a smaller more intimate location.

Another way to deal with smaller classes is through increasing participation. This is often not practical in a large class. However, interaction can be useful in increasing the engagement.

Conclusion

The size of the class is not as important as the ability of the teacher to adjust to it in order to help students to learn. Small classes need a slightly different approach  than traditional large classes at university. With a few minor adjustments, a teacher can still find ways to help students even if the class is not quite the size everyone was expecting

Classroom Discussion

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.

Conclusion

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.

Classrooom Management at the University Level

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.

Clear Syllabus

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.

Provide Feedback

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

Conclusion

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.

Classroom Management Ideas

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.

  • Setting routines
  • Rehearsing transitions
  • Anticipating behavior
  • Non-Verbal cues

Set Routines

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.

Rehearse Transitions

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.

Anticipation

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.

Non-Verbal Cues

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.

Conclusion

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.

Dealing with Classroom Management

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.

  • A clean, neat, visually appealing classroom helps in settling students.
  • The temperature should be moderate. Too cold or too hot leads to problems
  • The acoustics of the classroom affects performance. If it’s hard to hear each other it makes direct instruction impossible as well as any whole-class discussion. This includes noise coming from outside the classroom

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

  • Rows
  • Full circle
  • Half circle
  • Groups

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.

Conclusion

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.

Grouping Students II: Pros and Cons of Individual Work

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.

Pros

Some of the pros of individual learning are the following…

  • Contributes to learner autonomy
  • Responsiveness to individual differences
  • Useful for transitioning from high stress experience

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.

Cons

Nothing is perfect not even individual learning. Below are some concerns with this approach

  • Lack of social cohesiveness
  • If teaching is individualized as well, it significantly increases the workload of the teacher.

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.

Conclusion

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.