Preparing for Instruction 2 – Creating a Positive Learning Environment

The chosen article on Classroom Management to comment on is: Flexible Seating and Student-Centered Classroom Redesign by Kayla Delzer.

Below is the link to this article:

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/flexible-seating-student-centered-classroom-kayla-delzer. Retrieved September 5th, 2016.

Classroom management, according to Wikipedia is a term used by teachers to “describe the process of ensuring that classroom lessons run smoothly despite disruptive behaviour by students.” The term also implies the prevention of disruptive behaviour, and is probably the most difficult aspect of teaching for many a teacher. Management of the classroom is crucial, as it supports the proper execution of curriculum development, developing best practices, and putting them into action.

Kayla, in the article, speaks about a watershed moment that “changed me as a teacher forever.” She was working on her EdSurge.com column “Why the 21st Century Classroom May Remind You of Starbucks” in which she mentions that it had been her dream to make her second-grade classroom have a look similar to a “Starbucks for kids” and less like a classroom. In Starbucks, people have choices as to where they sit – chairs, couches, tables and chairs – without anybody directing them as to the spots they occupy or for how long to remain at these spots. Working on her TEDx presentation, with the music and lighting in the Starbucks environment perfect, as she put it, the author decided that their classroom in 2015-2016 was going to look radically “different than anything I’d ever done before.”

Kayla is a firm believer in keeping a student-centered focus and argues that if student motivation and higher engagement was the desired end-game, then teachers needed to adapt right along with our students in our classrooms. She considers it “shameful” to see our classrooms look the same now as they did seven decades ago. Outside the classrooms is a “dynamic, fast-paced, and ever-changing world full of choices, with students we share classrooms with not knowing life without connectivity, wi-fi and a global audience. She queries how we should expect our students to solve problems and make their choices independently “if we constantly solve their problems and make their choices for them,” further positing that our classroom environments must be conducive to “open collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.”  The author also suggests that we should consider involving our students in a classroom design project with the LAUNCH cycle design thinking framework for K-12 students mentioned on A. J. Julian’s blog – to be discussed later.

The article additionally states that all the author does in the classroom is based on research and best practices for kids.  Redesigning the classroom with flexible seating produced immediate benefits ranging from using up excess energy to improved metabolism to increased motivation and engagement. Physical activity, it says further, is linked to higher academic performance, better health, and improved behaviour.

Classroom redesign on a budget also featured in the article. Here some of the items used in the author’s class are purchased from The Dollar Store, parents provide a great resource for classroom donations, and concludes that “Best Practice Starts Now” – re-emphasizing that classrooms should be student-centred, not teacher-centred.

Juliani’s LAUNCH cycle design thinking framework came into being after the author had come to a realization to allow his students to work the problem, a situation that “almost never happened,” says Juliani. Normally, they would struggle and “we would throw a grade onto their assessment/project/activity and move on. Usually if they didn’t ‘get it’ we would give them the answer eventually and then move on. In fact, in my daily practice as a teacher, I’m ashamed to say that I often let one student solve the problem or come up with the solution and share it with the class. And then we moved on.” With the LAUNCH cycle, students:

  • L: Look, Listen, and Learn – with the goal here being aware, might be of a sense of wonder at a process or an awareness of a problem
  • A: Ask Tons of Questions – the second phase, where they ask lots of questions
  • U: Understanding the Process or problem – understanding the process through “an authentic research experience, through interviews, needs assessments, watching video or analyzing date
  • N: Navigate ideas. Students apply the newly-acquired knowledge to potential solutions.
  • C: Create a Prototype. This might a digital work or a tangible product, or a work of art
  • H: Highlight and Fix. This phase involves highlighting what is working and fixing what isn’t working

The next phase would involve the students going Live: When done, the project is ready to launch to an authentic audience – through this they share their work to the world.

The impact of the Article on My Instruction

Owing to how crucial class management is, I would be inventorying mine and my students’ orientation to learning, using as guidance either the review done by Holton, Wilson, and Bates in 2009 or Conti’s Principles of Adult Learning Scale (PALS), in the process assessing the extent to which my teaching style is more learner-centred than teacher-centred. PALS would help me assess my knowledge of learner-centred instructional activities, climate-setting, relating learning to real life problems and experience, and the extent to which my students are encouraged to participate in planning and evaluation.

My students and I need to be oriented to an andragogical approach to learning – climate setting being the most common and easiest starting point in applying andragogy to learning (Knowles,1984). As well, I should be able to adapt as well traditional systems without sacrificing the essence of the andragogical model, as suggested by Knowles.

Although the main article addresses the learning environment in a second-grade setting, the focus, as has been said above, is to create for the teacher to create for learners a conducive environment of open collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. Many of the issues raised in the articles by Delzer and Juliani have some semblance to the outcomes envisaged by Carl Rogers. I plan to adapt his Significant learning approach, whose five principles, according to Merriam and Bierema, p.30 must:

  • Have a quality of personal involvement – the whole person in both feeling and cognitive aspects being in the learning event
  • Be Self-initiated – where the “sense of discovery, of reaching out, of … comprehending, comes from within” – as in Juliani’s letting the students work the problem
  • Be pervasive – making a difference in behaviour
  • Be evaluated by the learner – done in Juliana’s LAUNCH cycle
  • Have “its essence is meaning” – element of meaning to the learner is built into the whole experience – same as for last bullet point.

Rogers is credited with establishing “student-centred” versus “teacher-centered” approach to learning.

I don’t expect adult classrooms to have the negative connotations mentioned here. I would, nonetheless, be mindful of, and would make it as important as possible to avoid having problems with, classroom management, said by Wikipedia to cause “some teachers leaving teaching altogether.” In the 1981 report of the US National Educational Association – the largest labour union in the country – 36% of teachers indicated they would not likely go into teaching if they had to decide again, principally due to the “negative student attitudes and discipline.”

References

Wikipedia. Classroom Management. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classroom_management on September 5th, 2016.

Juliani, A. J. (2016?). What Happens When We Let Students Work the Problem. Blogpost. Retrieved from http://ajjuliani.com/work-the-problem/

Merriam, S. B, Bierema, L. L. (2014.). Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. Georgia: Jossey-Bass

 
Creative Commons Licence
PIDP 3100 Foundations of Adult Education by Abayomi Odunuga is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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