Wednesday, July 9, 2008

TPE E: Creating and Maintaining Effective Environments for Student Learning

For this assignment we read "The Key to Classroom Management," by Robert and Jana Marzano. This may be the single most useful article we've been given to date, at least from my perspective; I have no doubts about my capabilities with my subject matter, but maintaining a proper classroom environment for a group of teenagers is an area where I realize I still have much to learn. I appreciated the Marzanos' focus on striking a balance between "dominance" (maintaining control of the class and setting clear standards and expectations) and "cooperation" (fostering a spirit of reasonableness and understanding between teacher and student, and giving students some flexibility in how they pursue the stated goals of the course). I interviewed at another school once where the teachers had to behave like drill instructors in boot camp, maintaining what seemed to me like insanely rigid standards of behavior and conduct. I'm not an authoritarian by nature -- quite the opposite, actually -- so, while I can admit that that particular group of students might have needed that level of enforced discipline, it ran contrary to my instincts, both as an educator and as a human being.

One thing I am wondering about is the Marzanos' frequent reference to "rewarding" successes and good behavior, and I'm unsure how this plays out in the high school environment. I don't want to establish a system in which students have to be bribed to learn; it seems to me that learning is its own reward, and that we ought to foster that view by showing them how to apply their knowledge to the way they deal with the world around them. Other than with verbal praise, how can I reinforce students' positive behavior without invoking their greed and tainting the entire experience?


peggy said...

Well, Chris, unfortunately I don't have much advice for you specifically on motivating teenagers, but I think that some of what motivates seven-year-olds holds true for teenagers (and for adults as well). Even with the little ones, the big questions is "What's the point?" or "Who cares?" Now...second graders don't usually ask those questions in those words, but rather with their actions (playing with their shoelaces, picking dirt out of the rug, poking their neighbor with a pencil, etc.). When students know WHY they're learning something, HOW it's important in their lives, and when they're given some CHOICE in the process, they're much more motivated in my experience.

Etherius said...

*nods* I think that's true of most people, regardless of age. People need to see the relevance to themselves before they'll be motivated to learn things that are difficult or complex.

And then there's the weirdos like me who browse Wikipedia and watch the History Channel. :-D