Management in the Classroom

As a teacher I have often considered myself more as a classroom manager and a facilitator than someone who knew everything about the material to be covered. Certainly teachers prepare their lessons to have knowledge of the material but the ultimate goal is to facilitate the students understanding of the information.

One of the courses I have taught for a long time is entrepreneurship to adults. Part of the entrepreneurial course materials involves understanding how the business owner can manage staff. As I researched management techniques I found a simple one that works for me both in the classroom and as a skill to relay to small business owners.

The book The One Minute Manager, by Blanchard and Johnson, (2003), provides the basis of this information. There are three concepts of effective management and they are easy to understand but take practice to implement. The first rule is one-minute goalsetting. People need to know what is expected of them and they need to be taught how to do the desired task or skill. Teaching involves telling, showing, letting them try, observing their behavior, providing them feedback, and repeating the process until the skill is developed. I like the story Blanchard tells about giving students the final exam the first day of the class and then spending the rest of the semester teaching the material to the student.

The second technique is one-minute praising. The idea simply is to try to catch people doing things right and reinforce the correct behavior. You need to be specific about what they are being reinforced for and the feedback needs to be provided immediately. The desired behaviors and learning objectives are shaped through successive approximations of the desired outcome. Reinforcement along the way develops the desired skills.

The third technique is a one-minute reprimand. If people have the skills but are not performing up to the desired result or standard, then in a one-minute meeting, the student or employee, is told specifically what they need to do to correct the inappropriate behavior. Following the one-minute reprimand the student or employee is told that they are doing well but that particular behavior needs to be corrected.

I have found that this simple model works extremely well. There is certainly a great deal of information about how to manage a classroom but based on the law of parsimony, which states that among competing options the simplest may be true, I think there is value to this process.

The success of this method is all begun and based on one-minute goal setting. Taking time to develop clearly defined goals is not that easy. In education we develop learning objectives and these then become goals. The principles can be applied by an individual for that individual. As Blanchard, et. al., (2005), states, having clearly defined goals, controlling rewarding yourself, and reprimanding yourself can be effective skills for having a more productive and happier life.

Blanchard, K. H. and Johnson, S. (2003). The One Minute Manager. Harper Collins Publisher.

Blanchard, K. H., Fowler, S., and Hawkins, L., (2005) Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager. Harper Collins Publisher.

Teach to One

As a teacher I have always been concerned that a teach to the mean. I am aware that for some students in my classes the people that know the material will be bored and for the people that find the material difficult they will be left behind. As a result of this reflection I was quite interested when I recently heard of the concept of teach to one (TtO).

Individualized learning is not new and was pioneering many years ago with the evolution of multimedia technologies as Computer Based Training (CBT). The idea was that material could be developed and presented, associated with the curriculum, by a computer program. After the material was presented to the student in computer software, a quiz was given and based on their results they moved on if they mastered the material or if they did not do well on the quiz they were re-presented the material in a different way and then quizzed again. This process continued until the student attained mastery learning of the material. The CBT administrator determined when students advanced and controlled which lessons and quizzes were presented. These projects were abandoned because of the development costs.

TtO looks like a resurgence of this technology. Ready, et.al., (2013), studied an ethnically diverse group of 2,264 students taking middle school mathematics and reported that students performed significantly better than traditionally taught students. Math may be one of those subjects that lends itself to CBT.

Rose, (2017), points out that since the early days of the introduction of the computer to the classroom the skills and expectations of students has changed. While basic computer skills have evolved in students, in that they are not fascinated with technology for technologies sake, students today are still exposed to using pure tutorial and drill and practice programs.

It has been said that the best way to learn is to teach. Druin, (2002), and many others have suggested using the computer as the learner and the student teaches the computer. This model is referred to as the “tutee model” and while it does not receive much attention I think it is a critical component in development of software for education. The Internet makes this technology very feasible.

One thing is for sure, educational software development is in its infancy. From a simple business marketing point of view, if you want to sell something find out what the customer wants. What gets students excited about learning, what games, what method of delivery, what environments? In my opinion, “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego” worked for many young people. Even Kevin O’Leary’s company, SoftKey had many good programs that appealed to students.

Ready, D. D., Meier, E. B., Horton, D., Mineo, C. M., & Yusaitis Pike, J. M. (2013, Nov). Student

mathematics performance in year one implementation of Teach to One: Math. New York: Center

for Technology and School Change.

http://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2013/07/learning-reimagined-inside-new-classrooms-model-personalized-instruction

Druin, A. (2002). The role of children in the design of new technology. Behaviour & Information Technology, 21(1), 1-25.

https//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmen_Sandiego_(video_game_series)

Martial Arts in Education

Based on the idea of educating breadth into one’s education the idea of adding Martial Arts training to one’s education is of merit. It is a good resource for a liberal education program of studies (Levine, 1991). While there is the obvious advantage of Martial Arts training in terms of the physical activity being good for both the body and the mind, the benefit of practicing the Martial Arts may afford other benefits. Through the physical activity component of Martial Arts training the participants, develop ligament stretching, muscular strength, and some basic ideas about self-defense. The idea of self-defense helps to develop self-confidence in participant’s interaction with other people and in a variety of situations.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Lethbridge I took Judo for one semester from sensei (teacher) Yosh Senda. Mr. Senda was highly respected as a teacher and this respect transferred from the respect for the teacher to the respect of other people in the class. Bowing signified this respect. A benefit of class practice was in the learning of perseverance, a useful character trait to know. The exercises were both mentally and physically exhausting and through the development of perseverance, the participants continued even in exhaustion.

Having one’s mind being in the present moment in time, in class, the participants learn to center their minds and not think of other things. Being “here now” may be thought to be therapeutic when people have stress in their lives. While more research needs done to validate the psychological and affective benefits of Martial Arts training (Fuller, 2011), early evidence looks positive.

For myself, one of the most important lessons was to learn to enjoy the process as opposed to just wanting a result. I would do a particular technique and ask Mr. Senda how I did. He would reply, “that was very good, keep practicing”. I soon learned to concentrate on the process of the activity instead of trying to be done and to say, “I have done it”.

Self-regulatory abilities fall into three areas; cognitive, affective, and physical. Martial Arts training has been shown to foster the development of these domains in upper elementary school children and males showed the greatest amount of improvement at a time when they are starting to lag behind females in terms of maturational development (Lakes K. D. & William T Hoyt W. T., 2004). Adding Martial Arts to the Physical Education curriculum would help students do better in many extraneous ways.

Levine, D. N. (1991). Martial Arts as a Resource for Liberal Education: The Case for Aikido. The Body: Social Process and Cultural theory. 209 – 224

Fuller, J. R. (2011). Martial Arts and Psychological Health. Psychology and Psychotherapy, 61, 4, 317-328.

Lakes K. D. & William T Hoyt W. T. (2004). Promoting self-regulation through school-based martial arts training. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. Volume 25, Issue 3, May–June 2004, Pages 283-302

The Flipped Classroom

The traditional standard way of teaching in a classroom is a lecture style where the teacher talks and may write notes on the board or they show a PowerPoint presentation of slides. The students are then expected to take notes in class and then study and do problems at home. In a flipped classroom the teacher makes study materials available for the students to study at home and then class time is discussion and hands-on problem solving.

The question may be asked, “Do the students like the flipped classroom model?” In a recent review of the literature (1) it was found that the students still wanted to be lectured to. They did like supplemental materials available but most notably, they wanted time with the instructor to go over problems on-on-one or in small groups. In addition, the Flipped classroom does not work for all subjects and it is a lot of work making the movie resources. You must know the content very well to make the videos and even then they will require editing.

From a teaching point of view you can’t see the students as they are learning so you miss the opportunity to know if they are liking and understanding the content level, or if you are going too fast or too slow. It is helpful that the movies once created can be watch more than once.

Another question would be if students educated in a flipped model perform better. In a three years study of students educated in a flipped classroom they did perform significantly after 3 years of the model (2). After being in the flipped classroom environment for three years the students came to prefer that method of instruction.

At one time teachers hand wrote their notes and if they needed them typed the typing was requested to be done by a department administrative assistant. Today most teachers type and prepare their own materials. Not too long ago to make your own videos was expensive, time consuming, and somewhat complicated. Today the programs and hardware are available at a reasonable price and the techniques are certainly learnable by anyone who can build a PowerPoint show.

I think more courses need prepared and tested in a wider variety of subjects for us to have a better idea of how this new way of education can be utilized.

  1. Bishop, J. L. and Verleger, M. A. The Flipped Classroom: A survey of the Research (2013). American Society for Engineering Education
  2. Weaver, G. C. and Sturtevant H. G. (2015). Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of a Flipped Format General Chemistry Course. Journal of Chemical Education

Mindfulness and Learning

What skills can we develop to enhance learning? I have read many articles advocating various techniques for enhancing learning. Recently, quite by accident, I was invited to an introduction to the technique of mindfulness. After that introduction I have read several books on the subject and have come to believe that mindfulness can be useful as a technique to enhance learning.

In our busy world we often arrive in a classroom or may be in another situation where we would like to understand the information being presented to make our own. Generally, our minds are jumping all over being distracted by cell phones, emails, and our thoughts of the past and future. At a basic level mindfulness challenges the user of the technique to simply be here now. As we are being in the present moment our minds are able to concentrate more intensely and this gives the information we want to attend to more of a chance to be set up to be consolidated into a longer term memory (1).

The basic technique is:

  • Relax your body over a period of several minutes from your toes to the top of your head
  • Your eyes may be closed or open
  • Pay attention to your breathing (abdomen, lungs, nostrils) – pick one
  • Observe your thoughts with the goal to just being here now and appreciate it

After the distractive thoughts go back to paying attention to breathing. The idea that thoughts of the past are distorted by our minds is seen to be the same for future events. Both reflections just cause us worrying and anticipating future causes stress.

I just checked YouTube, the second most popular search engine in the world, for “Mindfulness in Education” and got 170, 000 hits. Some people must be thinking it is a useful skill. Maybe it is worth trying.

Mindfulness may look like meditation and the main difference is that meditation is simply mindfulness practiced at a specific time. Meditation has been reported throughout history as a mind technique that helps people be heathier, happier, and more accomplished in their lives. Mindfulness is also reported to help with these same objectives in people’s lives.

It has been said that we become what we repeatedly do (2). As much as a third of what we do in a day is repeated behavior. Running on autopilot and being driven by our habits, as opposed to conscious intention, of what we do, may conserve energy but does not allow us to be as aware as if we are here now.

Another advantage of mindfulness is that it stops us running on autopilot. On autopilot we miss many of the objects in the world around us in our day-to-day lives. Mindfulness proficiency limits the mind wandering and a focused mind is better for problem solving and creative activities.

Successful people do one thing at a time. They slow down and live in the moment. We evolved to do one thing at a time, namely hunt or gather. Multitasking is the enemy of a focused attentional system.

Our minds trick us into thinking that things are better elsewhere but the reality is all we really have is the present moment.

 

  1. Branch, T. and Byrne, H.G. 1997. The Here and Now Habit. New Harbinger Publications
  2. Levitin, D.J. 2014. The Organized Mind. Penguin Group

Why Go to University

As a young man not having a clear career direction I had the good fortune of knowing two friends who went to the University of Alberta and excelled in their studies. I asked each of them why they went to university. One person told me that he learned how to research topics he was interested in. The other friend told me he learned that “everything is relative to your source of reference”.

I had the idea that I would like to be a guidance counselor. As such, I thought that I would need a university education to learn how to be a counselor. I enrolled in the University of Lethbridge in the Department of Psychology with the express intent of learning how to be a counselor. I soon learned that the University of Lethbridge was a liberal arts university and I would have to take classes seemingly not related to counseling. At first this was very disheartening and seemed like a waste of time. After taking courses from other faculties my career directions changed dramatically. I became a proponent of a liberal arts education. Housing a broad base of knowledge gained through liberal education helped me understand more about how people work and how the world works.

It seems that many professions are regulated by professional standards and for many professions the standards are acquired through university training and education. That people work and specialized professions it would be appropriate for them to have met the professional standards criteria as defined by an industry. I soon learned that you can call yourself a counselor without any education but to call yourself a Psychologist requires you have a Master’s degree. People entering colleges may learn trades that qualify them for challenging and rewarding careers. People going to university may enter faculties that train them for a specific career direction as well.

I have believed for a long time that post-secondary education and lifelong learning are necessary for people to have a happy and healthy life. People attending university seem to be more interested in asking more pure science questions to understand the “why” of how things work. Both applied and pure science have their places and their values. For each individual determining which path of post secondary education is right for them would be worth contemplating. It has been said that people don’t pursue academic careers for the money. They may desire other rewards.

As an undergraduate I think I did learn a great deal about finding information relative to questions I have. I also learned information which made the questions I wanted answers to more sophisticated. To some degree I have come to agree that much knowledge seems “to be relative to your source of reference”. However, this seems less important that the skills of being able to research what you want to know about. For me, university has provided tools I am glad to have learned and continue to evolve.

John Walkey B.A., B.Ed.