Classroom management is one of the key areas that teachers want tips and help with. Some groups can be every teachers nightmare and to provide teachers with the tools to manage the classroom is like presenting them with the key to the Universe!
In this section, we will reflect on both the way that social media can aid with more student-focused behaviour regulation set by learners and enforced by learners, and how the use of social media can be managed effectively to retain an effective working environment, both in and out of the classroom.
Consistency: Behaviourist, deductive, inductive?
One of the key elements of classroom management is consistency.
In an age of flipped learning, self-directed activity, personal learning environments and a student-led focus to teaching and learning, the last thing that teachers need to be doing is laying down the law with strict 'Behaviourist' driven edicts for the duration of the course. For example:
- You must not use mobile phones in the classroom.
- You must not swear in class.
- Always have your book/readings in front of you.
- Do not monopolise discussion.
- Speak from your own experience, without generalizing.
There is nothing wrong with offering such boundaries at the outset of a course and many of these will stay for the entirety of the learners journey through education. However, there is nothing to state that these cannot, and should not, be changed or added to over time.
From the continuation of Sherry Arnstein's 'Ladder of Participation' we can see that evidence points us to creating an environment of 'learner empowerment'.
The concepts of 'Delegated Power' and 'Learner Control' may be fostered in most (if not all) learning environments, with or without social media. See FutureLab's contribution to the Learner Voice debate
What social media adds to this development in student-led 'ownership' is a range of approaches that enable the tutor to retain a degree of control over the activities, while also allowing their learners to take control of their learning environment.
This allows the classroom environment, including the management of behaviour from a Behaviourist 'rules and consequences' approach, through a deductive 'introduce concept, apply rule, discuss outcomes' stage of guidance for students, finally towards the inductive 'students explain how they want the environment to feel' approach.
This then correlates with a more student focused, inductive learning environment that will carry on throughout their journey. The students learn how to take control of their own development.
Again, social media is not the generator of this approach, but it can be seen as a pathway for learners to engage in the creation of dynamic contracts between you, the learners and their peers.
For ideas on how to use social media in this process see the further activities for teachers section below that discusses the use of Twitter and TitanPad in creating learner generated ground rules.
The creation of a Personalised Learning Environment (PLE)
Graham Atwell states that the "most compelling argument for the PLE is to develop educational technology which can respond to the way people are using technology for learning and which allows them to ... shape their own learning spaces, to form and join communities and to create, consume, remix, and share material"
(Attwell, 2006a, What about educational technology?, para.8)
This focuses very much on what we should be providing for our learners to develop, which is of course key to their progression through education, however it does not stop at the learners...
Imagine, from your own perspective, what kind of educational technology you wish to use, what you find comfortable, what you feel is applicable to your area of professionalism.
If you consider the above quote from your own perspective, that is - the most compelling argument for your subject's learning environment is to develop educational technology which can respond to the needs of your subject.
Whether you are teaching History, Maths, English, Engineering or Catering, you are able to create effective parameters for the development of your learners in a safe environment. With control over what is used within the classroom for your specific topic, you are able to ensure that the behaviour is moderated and kept 'in-check'. This model is then taken on by your students and eventually self regulated, as they see the evidence of effective social media usage in classrooms as being one of progression and development for their learning.
Emotional Intelligence: respecting needs
This plays a big part.
Losing the ego also makes a huge difference- teacher humility goes a long way in terms of creating mutually respectful environments that negates the need for classroom management.
Three issues often give rise to classroom confrontation between a teacher and a 'difficult' student.
Firstly, a lack of clarity about a teacher’s expectations of student behaviour and performance.
- By using social media to generate learner centred goals and expectations you may be able to avoid this issue. The learner (or rather, learners as a group) will generate their own rules in a form that removes itself from the traditional tutor-led "this is my classroom" approach that many learners would have experienced in the past, and one that many of whom would have revolted against.
- Secondly, because such students often lack both empathy and social skills, they may misinterpret a teacher’s intentions, and normal interactions may be perceived as confrontational and stimulate an aggressive response. Once more, the use of Social Media may remove this aggressive response by setting up an open environment for learners to share ideas and discuss what they feel is best for their own learning. The aggression that learners may previously have shown will be dispersed by the collaborative nature of the setting.
- Thirdly, a teacher may react to the student’s reputation rather than to the actual level of disruption. Such a lack of empathy may itself provoke inappropriate behaviour on the part of the student.
- This free forming approach to creating ground rules or managing behaviour in the classroom will allow you as a teacher to assess the learners on their current ability, as opposed to their reputation. This offers the learner an opportunity of a new start, an opportunity to make a statement of intent to the teacher, without resorting to aggression.
Developing a Reflective Student
The initial setting for effective classroom behaviour is at the beginning of the course, year or term. It is also at this time that peer relationships can begin to develop. By using social media in the creation of ground rules, and setting out with a collaborative approach to teaching and learning in mind you could help in developing your learners social conscience and therefore their ability to interact with others in a considerate and positive fashion.
Peer relationships can be viewed as the primary context for the social and emotional growth of the individual, as it is within these relationships that learners develop the concepts of cooperation, mutual respect and interpersonal sensitivity.
What better time to develop the ethos that you feel is necessary to carry forward this development in your learners? By using social and collaborative media, such as Twitter or TitanPad, from the very beginning of the course you can develop the cognitive and affective skills of the learner through their collaborative networks.
This sets out from the very beginning of the course that you are a) interested in offering learners the freedom to make their own decisions, and b) that their considered input is important. These are valuable skills for many learners to develop, many of whom may never have had this degree of responsibility placed upon them.
If you are using social networks in the classroom, you may encounter the use of foul or inappropriate language from the students. With a collaborative (see Arnstein above) approach, you can use the students themselves to moderate this type of behaviour.
For example, if you are using Twitter, and bad language is used within conversations, you could take actual Tweets that used foul language from students, make the users anonymous, and present the tweets to students, asking them what they would think if those tweets popped up during a college/university admissions search or interview for a job.
The results would be a self moderated classroom.
Four techniques to classroom management
- controlling the environment,
- helping learners to build strong, trusting relationships
Although the stimulus/response aspects of Behaviourist theory are often regarded as being out of favour in modern teaching, the reward element of Operant Conditioning has an important and positive effect in keeping learners on track. By using simple online rewards, such as links to interesting 'off-topic' articles, you may be able to increase the positive activity and behaviour that has started.
As it is easier to replace many behaviours rather than extinguish them, a successful technique to stop disruptive behaviour is the introduction of new incompatible behaviours. This action counter balances the deviant behaviour by the nature of it offering an alternative route that does not fit with the current behaviour. If you have children you will know that a good way to stop them from being upset or aggressive is to begin talking about a completely different topic, perhaps something from their day or a favourite activity. The mood quickly changes. Likewise with social media, due to its efficiency in that it can be deployed instantly (i.e. inside and outside of the class - whenever required) it is able to change a conversation, a mood or disagreement by introducing a different topic.
Controlling the Environment:
The flexibility that social media adds to the lives of both you and your students is endless. In changing the environment in which learning may take place you stand a clear chance of improving the lot of your students. If they suffer in their work due to access to resources, or if they find the traditional classroom environment difficult to communicate within, social media may provide the solution.
Instead of listing ideas here I would refer you to the article written within this wiki discussing how we improve by working in groups
Use some or all of the following ideas in a social media environment with your students.
seven highly effective ways to increase and maintain heightened learner motivation
taken directly from (Allen, 2011)
- Build anticipation of outcomes.
- Make the context appealing (use novelty, suspense, humor, fascinatinggraphics, sound, music, animation, etc.).
- Put the learner at risk.
- Select the right content for each learner
- If previously learned, repetition will be boring
- Adjust the challenge level to match the learner’s readiness level
- Provide challenges that integrate previous learning and provide spaced practice
- Provide challenges that build confidence
- Have the learner perform multi- steptasks.
- Provide intrinsic feedback.
- Delay judgment
Allen, M. W. (2011) Designing Successful e-Learning: Forget What You Know About Instructional Design and Do Something Interesting, John Wiley & Sons