Category: Critical thinking
A vital prerequisite for creating and participating in culture without which we hardly understand or act effectively in the modern world, critical thinking has undoubtedly become an essential task of contemporary education. This paper aims at comparing declarative attitudes towards critical thinking and authentic classroom behaviour of primary education teachers. Two questions applying to two separate research areas (self-evaluation and application of teaching strategies) will be asked: whether teachers think critically and how they evaluate and react to it in classroom interaction. Following E. Aronson, T.D. Wilson and R.M. Akert (1997) three aspects of teachers’ attitudes will be distinguished: their knowledge and opinion of critical thinking (cognitive aspect), predispositions to such behavior expressed by critical thinking stimulation, reflectiveness and working style (behavioral aspect) as well as emotional attitude towards criticism (emotional aspect). The question of how to diagnose and develop critical thinking has been raised by many researchers. Their studies of both the theory and practical application of critical thinking may be found in numerous books. A. Fisher (2006) defines critical thinking as skilled and active interpretation and evaluation of observations and information. R. Paul, A.J.A. Binker, D. Weil (1995) link it with the introduction of the elements of Socratic discussion as well as with dialectic and dialogical thinking characterized by clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, consistency, logic, significance, adequacy and fairness. J.L. Kincheloe (2000) identifies critical thinking with reflectiveness, resistance and scepticism. Despite relatively numerous publications on critical thinking diagnosis, e.g, R. Ennis (2003), there exist few reports on the assessment of primary education teachers’ knowledge and attitudes towards critical thinking. Modern civilization, however, with its information chaos, intrusive omnipresence of aggressive advertising and the tendency to the indiscriminate use of Internet resources requires that teachers get children into the habit of critical analysis of the information they encounter already at a very early age. To develop critical thinking in their pupils teachers should recognize this type of thinking as significant and be critical thinkers themselves. Such an attitude requires cognitive curiosity, an ability to formulate important questions (Dantonio, Beisenheerz, 2001) and circumspection in one’s choice of information to be received, as well as reflection and objectiveness. Teachers should create the atmosphere of respect for truth, dialogue and freedom in class (Costa, 2001), support their pupils’ interests and passions (Czaja-Chudyba, 2005) as well as help to search for and critically assess various information sources.
The conducted research focused on 117 teachers with an average 8-year professional experience in primary education.
The first stage consisted in the structured observation (event sampling method) of one-day school activities and in the application of the projective sentence completion test. It was followed by a diagnostic survey (a questionnaire and a structured interview).
The observation yielded data in five domains: teacher-created classroom atmosphere (conformity - independence, constraint - freedom, ignoring - inspiring), teaching strategies (directiveness - negotiation, imposing – stimulating questions, conventionality – adjusting meanings), contents (explicitness – ambiguity, non-reflectiveness – problematization), materials (single perspective – many options) and pupil control methods (standardization – individualization).
The first stage revealed teachers’ self-evaluation and their subconscious attitudes towards critical thinking. The questionnaire and structured interview show teachers’ knowledge, actual response to children’s in-class behaviour and declarative attitudes towards the following: independence, autonomy, resistance, courage, objectiveness, fairness, scepticism, information sources evaluation, professional self-improvement and reflectiveness.
The initial result analysis indicated ambivalence in teachers’ attitude towards critical thinking. In the domain of their convictions teachers usually identify critical thinking with fault finding, notice only its negative and emotionally troublesome consequences (shame, anger, the risk of ridicule and authority loss, anxiety not to disturb interpersonal relationships). Frequently teachers state their knowledge is insufficient to think critically. But on the declarative level positive attitudes predominate; teachers appreciate the value of objectiveness, fairness, independence and self-improvement. However, observations revealed that in practice teachers suppress pupils’ criticism, fear questions, require obedience, present one-sided knowledge imposing conventional standard answers.
The obtained results correspond with the findings of R. Paul, A.J. Binker and D. Weil (1995) and S. Cottrell (2005) revealing the most frequent barriers for critical thinking development. They manifest the need for propagating the importance of tutoring teachers and pedagogical faculty students in critical thinking.
Aronson, E.,Wilson, T.D. Akert, R.M. (1997). Psychologia społeczna. Serce i umysł. Poznań: Zysk i S-ka Wydawnictwo s.c. (original title: Social Psychology. The Heart and the Mind. HarperCollins College Publishers).
Costa, A. (2001). Teacher Behaviors That Enable Student Thinking. In A. Costa (ed.). Developing Mind. A Research Book for Teaching Thinking (p. 359-369). Aleksandria, Virginia: ASCD.
Cotrell, S. (2005). Critical Thinking Skills. Developing Effective Analysis and Argument. New York: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN.
Czaja-Chudyba, I. (2005). Odkrywanie zdolności dziecka. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Naukowe AP. ISBN 83-7271-336-7.
Dantonio, M, Beisenheerz, P.C. (2001). Learning to Question, Questioning to Learn. Developing Effective Teacher Questioning Practices. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Ennis, R. (2003). Critical Thinking Assessment. In D. Fasco (ed.) Critical Thinking and Reasoning Current Research, Theory, and Practice (p. 293-313). Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press, Inc.
Kincheloe, J. L. (2000). Making Critical Thinking Critical. In D. Weil, H. K. Anderson (ed.). Perspectives in Critical Thinking. Essays by Teachers in Theory and Practice (p. 23-40). New York: Peter Lang.
Paul, R. Binker, A. J. A. Weil, D. (1995). Critical Thinking Handbook: K-3rd Grades. Santa Rosa: Foundation for Critical Thinking.
Pedagogical University of Cracow
By Derrick Meador. Teaching Expert
Behavior management is one of the biggest challenges that all teachers face. Some teachers are naturally strong in this area while others have to work hard to be an effective teacher with behavior management. It is crucial to understand that all situations and classes are different. Teachers must quickly figure out what works with a particular group of students.
There is not a single strategy that a teacher can implement to establish better behavior management.
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Instead, it will take a combination of several strategies to create the desired atmosphere of maximized learning. Veteran teachers often use these simple strategies to maximize the time they have with their students by minimizing the distractions.
Establish Rules and Expectations Immediately
It is well documented that the first few days of school are essential in setting the tone for the remainder of the year. I would argue that the first few minutes of those first few days are the most critical.
Students are generally well behaved, and attentive in those first few minutes giving you the opportunity to captivate their attention immediately, lay the foundation for acceptable behavior, and dictate the overall tone for the remainder of the year.
Rules and expectations are two different things. Rules are negative in nature and include a list of things a teacher does not want students to do. Expectations are positive in nature and include a list of things that a teacher wants students to do. Both can play a role in effective behavior management in the classroom.
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Rules and expectations should be simple and straight forward covering the most essential aspects of behavior management. It is essential that they are well written avoiding vagueness and wordiness that can be counterproductive by creating confusion. It is also beneficial to limit how many rules/expectations you establish. It is better to have a few well written rules and expectations than a hundred that no one can remember.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
Expectations should be practiced several times throughout the course of the first few weeks. The key to effective expectations is for them to become a habit. This is done through prioritized repetition at the beginning of the year. Some will see this as a waste of time, but those that put in the time at the beginning of the year will reap the benefits throughout the course of the year. Every expectation should be discussed and practiced until it becomes routine.
Get Parents on Board
It is crucial that teachers establish meaningful, trusting relationships early on in the school year. If a teacher waits until there is an issue to reach out to a parent, then the results may not be positive. Parents must be as aware of your rules and expectations as the students are. There are many ways to establish an open communication line with parents. Teachers must become adept at utilizing these different forms of communication. Begin by making contact with the parents of those students who have a reputation of having behavior problems. Keep the conversation entirely positive in nature. It is likely that this will provide you with credibility as they are probably not used to hearing positive comments about their child.
Do not back down! You must hold a student accountable if they fail to follow a rule or expectation. This is especially true at the beginning of the year. A teacher must get their bluff in early. They can lighten up as the year progresses. This is another vital aspect of setting the tone. Teachers who take the opposite approach will likely have a difficult time with behavior management throughout the year. Most students will respond positively to a structured learning environment. and this begins and ends with consistent accountability.
Be Consistent and Fair
Never let your students know that you have favorites. Most teachers would argue that they do not have favorites, but the reality is that there are some students that are more endearing than others. It is essential that you are fair and consistent no matter whom the student is. If you give one student three days or detention for talking, give the next student the same punishment. Of course, history can also factor into your classroom discipline decision. If you have disciplined a student several times for the same offense, you can defend giving them a tougher consequence.
Stay Calm and Listen
Do not jump to conclusions! If a student reports an incident to you, it is necessary to investigate the situation thoroughly before making a decision. This can be time consuming, but ultimately it makes your decision defendable. Making a snap decision can create an appearance of negligence on your part.
It is equally essential that you remain calm. It is easy to overreact to a situation, especially out of frustration. Do not allow yourself to handle a situation when you are emotional. It will not only diminish your credibility, but could make you a target from students looking to capitalize on a weakness.
Handle Issues Internally
The majority of discipline issues need to be addressed by the classroom teacher. Consistently sending students to the principal on a discipline referral undermines a teacher’s authority with students and sends a message to the principal that you are ineffective in handling classroom management issues. Sending a student to the principal should be reserved for serious discipline infractions or repeated discipline infractions for which nothing else has worked. If you are sending more than five students to the office a year, you likely need to reevaluate your approach to behavior management.
Teachers who are well-liked and respected are less likely to have discipline issues than teachers who are not. These are not qualities that just happen. They are earned over time by giving respect to all students. Once a teacher develops this reputation, their job in this area becomes easier. This type of rapport is built by investing time into building relationships with students that extend outside what happens in your classroom. Taking an interest in what is going on in their lives can be endearing in developing positive teacher student relationships.
Develop Interactive, Engaging Lessons
A classroom full of engaged students is less likely to become a behavior issue, than a classroom full of bored students. Teachers must create dynamic lessons that are both interactive and engaging. Most behavior issues originate out of frustration or boredom. Great teachers are able to eliminate both of these issues through creative teaching. The teacher must be fun, passionate, and enthusiastic while differentiate lessons to meet individual needs in the classroom.6 Easy Steps for Managing Effective School Discipline for Principals
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Critical thinking skills aid teachers in managing their classrooms.Related Articles
When learning how to teach, beginning teachers must learn how to think critically about the best ways they might manage their classroom. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, founders of the Leadership Challenge, recommend that new teachers “always be flexible with kids, but [don’t] leave them with no structure, because many times we are the only structure these kids have.” By encouraging critical thinking and classroom management skills, you can develop the kind of flexible management style that fosters engagement.Defining Terms & Relationship
Neither “critical thinking” nor “classroom management” are self-evident concepts. As such, your first objective is to clearly define each term for the new teacher, as well as their relationship to each other. In “First Days of School,” Harry Wong suggests that critical thinking means anticipating and predicting based on your students’ behaviors and your experiences. For Wong, this ability to anticipate students’ behaviors allows new teachers to prevent potential classroom management issues such as fights or disruptive and off-topic conversations from happening in the first place.Identifying Goals
While working with a new teacher as she practices thinking critically and classroom management skills, you must also be clear with her about what your goals are for her training. While your ultimate goal for the new teacher will be for her to naturally and easily think critically and manage a classroom successfully, this big goal can and should be broken down into smaller stages. For example, you might ask her to write daily reflections that analyze her classroom management strategies, and have her practice new management techniques to evaluate their effectiveness.Switching Up Techniques
As a new teacher develops more comfort with thinking critically and managing her classroom, you should challenge her with different strategies and activities so that she doesn’t become complacent. By switching up your techniques, the new teacher must remain in a critical thinking mode, which will prevent her from slipping into a rigid management style. For example, you might have her try to anticipate potential classroom management problems one week, then reflect on classroom management successes a second week. She could then try to anticipate potential classroom management successes a third week, and reflect on problems a fourth week. By switching up between these two critical thinking techniques -- anticipation and reflection -- the teacher develops a richer understanding of her classroom management skills, which in turn will keep her questioning her old methods (reflection) and trying to come up with new methods (anticipation).Providing Feedback
As with any teacher training exercise, encouraging critical thinking and classroom management skills requires that you provide plenty of constructive and critical feedback to the new teacher. This feedback can come in the form of a question, such as “Why did you handle the class disruption the way that you did?” It might also come in the form of a directive such as “When transitioning into group work, you should tell students exactly who they should work with, and where.” Your feedback should also, at times, be more general and encouraging. You could say something along the lines of “I noticed you are thinking hard about how best to arrange your desks so your room encourages discussion. Good work.” By providing feedback, you can guide the new teacher to keep doing those things that are valuable to developing critical thinking and classroom management skills, while avoiding those things that aren’t.References About the Author
Samuel Hamilton has been writing since 2002. His work has appeared in “The Penn,” “The Antithesis,” “New Growth Arts Review" and “Deek” magazine. Hamilton holds a Master of Arts in English education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Arts in composition from the University of Florida.Photo Credits Related Articles
I think one of the most difficult parts of being a teacher is the classroom behaviour management. I remember at University we were required to write a statement outlining our philosophy of classroom behaviour management. Mine is below:
“As a teacher it is my responsibility to maintain harmony and the process of learning in the classroom. To this end a preventative approach to behaviour management will be used. Through a democratic process students will be involved in the decision making of a classroom philosophy outlining rights and responsibilities. Social skills and values will be encouraged promoting a caring classroom community. The purpose of behaviour management is to promote a positive, caring classroom community that encourages student learning, positive peer and teacher relationships and self-motivation. It is not about forcing students to “…comply with teacher demands…” but allowing them to have ownership and success in all aspects of their schooling (Charles, 2002, p.224). Students then become the main decision makers in their lives and accept the responsibility that this entails.”
Looking at this now it is quite idealistic, but there are some parts to this statement that I believe have assisted me with the behaviour management in my classroom.
The following describes the 5 most effective strategies that I have successfully used in my class to assist with the classroom behaviour management .1. Be fair and consistent
Being fair and consistent is probably the most important skill that a teacher can display in the class. This came to realisation for me in my first few years of teaching.
I remember back to my first year of teaching, my husband’s work sent its employees out to schools to assist with some community work. He happened to be sent to my school and was helping with some props and displays for our presentation night. My husband and his colleague were working with a small group of my students. They were just generally chatting, and my husband asked, “So what’s Miss Crean like as a teacher?”
There was a general consensus with the responses. The students relayed, “Miss Crean is pretty tough, but she is fair.” “You know that if you do something bad, you know what the consequence is going to be.”
This was a good lesson that I learned early on in my teaching career. But, at the same time I definitely find it is hard to maintain. Sometimes it is easier to just let certain behaviours ‘slide’ and not acknowledge them (which can be a good low key response).
I work very hard to maintain consistency with all students in the class. I often refer to the jointly developed rights and responsibilities that we have established together, which assists with maintaining the consistency. More about rights and responsibilities are discussed below.2. Creating a belonging classroom environment – rights and responsibilities
I truly believe that by creating a classroom community where you jointly develop your classroom rules or rights and responsibilities can only but assist with the culture of the class and the behaviours of the students.
One way that I create a belonging classroom environment is to use the idea of a ‘community circle’. I first picked up this notion from a teacher who was implementing the Tribes Learning Community. I haven’t looked a lot at Tribes, but I found that the community circle really worked for the way that I teach.
I use the community circle at the beginning and end of the day for at least 3 days during the week. We would sit in a circle on the mat and students would respond to a question/statement that I asked them. I would pass around a wand or squishy ball and students could only speak when they were holding the item.
Some of the topics/questions we discussed in the community circle could include:
This is a really nice way to start and end the day and I found that if I forgot to have a community circle, the students would remind me.
I am also a big believer in establishing classroom meetings and a list of shared rights, responsibilities and consequences (similar to the classroom rules).
I always do this on the first day of the year. As a class we brainstorm what rights and responsibilities might mean. When we have established this, we then list what the rights and responsibilities are of the people in our class (this is done for both the students and teacher).
We summarise all the responsibilities in to a list of 5 and then establish what the consequences will be if a responsibility is not followed. Now this is a lengthy process that usually takes me more than 1 lesson to complete. Below is an excerpt from my Daily Work Pad that shows how this occurs over two lessons.
I then use classroom meetings to discuss issues and check in on how we’re going with our rights and responsibilities.3. Teaching skills
By teaching skills, I’m referring to the repertoire of skills that you have in your bag to engage your students.
Specifically, such skills that I have worked on and that have assisted with student engagement include: the lesson structure/organisation, questioning skills and wait time.
When planning my lessons and the content I will deliver I fully consider the types of strategies I will need to use in order to maintain the interests of the students and hopefully then have less behavioural issues. If you haven’t thought about changing up your lessons in a while why not try some of the following strategies: cooperative learning, mind mapping, concept attainment, learning centres and role play.
I think it is a bit of an art form to be good at questioning. When I first started teaching, I was not very good at this. I noticed that many of my questions were at a very low level that did not fully extend students. Also I would just ask the question to the whole class and expect all hands to go up in answer to my questions.
Some of the things that I implemented to assist with my use of questioning included:
I also began trying to frame my questions using Bloom’s Taxonomy to help extend students’ thinking and understanding further. As part of my lesson planning, I would document the types of questions I wanted to ask, so that I had prepared varying degrees of questions.
Wait time is the time that you wait after you ask a question for students to think about the answer. It is so easy to ask the question and expect responses immediately. When I first worked on this skill, I would actually count in my head to 5 to force myself to provide wait time.4. Using low key responses
These are the things that are least intrusive, and do not interrupt the flow of the lesson as much as some other forms of management .
Some of the low key responses that I have used successfully include:
The Look – It’s surprising how good ‘the look’ actually works! I must have this down to a fine art, as my husband tells me “don’t give me your teacher look; I’m not one of your students.”
This strategy involves the teacher using a certain look to convey to the misbehaving student that what he/she is doing is inappropriate. When I use the look I quite often pause what I am saying, to really have the full impact of the look. This gains the attention of all students in the class as I stop speaking mid-sentence.
This is great to use as a first option when a student starts misbehaving and can also help with stopping other students jumping on the band wagon. It’s important to remember that you want to stop behaviours early before they become more serious, or more students decide to join in.
The look is actually also a good way of communicating that you think a student’s behaviour is acceptable. A big smile can go a long way!
Proximity and the Touch – This is about moving around the class and placing yourself near the misbehaving student. I find that if I continually stay at the front of the room and not move around the room, I tend to have more students try and misbehave.
I have also successfully used a light touch (generally on the shoulder) while moving around the room to gain the attention of misbehaving students. This lets the student know in a personal way that I know what they’re doing and it is not acceptable. I find though, that this needs to be used with some caution as some students don’t like the invasion of their space.
Signals – Over the years I have used different types of signals to gain the attention of my students and to get the class to refocus. Probably the two most effective were placing my hand up (students had to copy) and clapping a pattern that students had to copy. It’s important to ensure you don’t actually start talking until you have the attention of all students and talking has ceased.
What is good with these two signals are that you can use them anywhere. They don’t require you to take something with you, so they work effectively in other areas within the school.
Another signal that works exceptionally well is the ‘pause’. As I mentioned earlier I quite often use the pause in conjunction with the look. It can be quite powerful, but at the same time allows you to also take a breath and compose yourself before responding in a way that may exacerbate the situation.5. Formal contracts
Formal contracts are a more intrusive intervention for behaviour management. I have used contracts a number of times over the years with varying degrees of success. I first tried this in my first year of teaching with a student named Ben. You can read more about some of Ben’s behaviours in this post: Tales From A First Year Teacher: My First Day As A Real Teacher .
Going down this path is usually as a last resort because the behaviours are having a serious impact on the functioning of the classroom.
The contract is usually jointly developed between the student and teacher and possibly the parent or guardian. It includes such items as the specific behaviours to target, consequences, rewards if appropriate and the people involved. It is then signed by both the student and the teacher.Summing up
Finally, I think that it is so very important to support new teachers and teachers who are struggling with behaviour management. My first few years of teaching were not very supportive and it was very much a ‘sink or swim’ mentality.
If you notice someone in your school struggling, why not consider starting a support group.
Over to you, what are your experiences with classroom behaviour management? What has worked for you?For more on classroom and behavior management see these: Get Email Updates
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