As an educator, the 21st century is exciting because education and learning are changing. Students enter our system as digital natives with a skill set that we didn’t have but yet at the same time, many students enter lacking some of the readiness skills that we did have, including behaviour that is conducive to learning in a classroom environment. Pencil and paper tasks and ‘sit and get’ classes can create issues for those students that need more interaction and movement which leads me into the purpose of this post….Behaviour Challenges: What do I do? I’m going to attempt to make the connection that if we foster a positive learning environment, focusing on Marzano’s strategies, behaviour challenges may decrease because students are experiencing success, feeling safe to take risks therefore, are motivated and on task.
For the most part, the needs that our team has been called upon to support have been to deal with behaviour challenges. As I sit with teachers listening to the struggles with behaviour challenges that they encounter on a daily basis I am cognizant of the frustration of the teacher. The question then becomes, if they are frustrated, what are the students feeling? The thought that crops up is… changing the child is beyond our circle of influence, so if we focus on what is within our circle of influence, can we look at what it is that we (the adults) are currently doing and how that can adjust to support a struggling child? Believing that all children are worthy and want to learn, but because of situations beyond their control are currently unable to, encourages teachers to attempt various strategies. Teachers with this belief will embrace every child with the certainty that they are capable of anything they set their mind to. The strategies that these teachers employ not only foster student success but it also increases student motivation and engagement. These strategies look something like this…
1. Setting objectives
This strategy provides students a target that allows them to know where they are headed which in turn motivates them as long as they understand the target and it is clear and achievable for them. The key to the success of this strategy is that the students have a clear understanding of what the target means and what it will take to get there. Keep in mind that the target may be different for some students but they still have a target and it is attainable. A great metaphor for this is a trip to a destination (i.e.Grandma’s house). When we provide the “destination” (Grandma’s house), in the form of a learning outcome, students are then aware of where they are headed. They are able to determine the steps needed (i.e.landmarks along the way to Grandma’s house) in order to reach the destination. The clarity of knowing the target and what it takes to get there reduces anxiety for the students which in turn encourages them to take learning risks.
2. Providing Feedback
As with the other ‘non-negotiable’ strategies, providing feedback is crucial to keeping students on that road to their destination. Without specific, timely and corrective feedback students will venture off the road onto side roads and get lost. A teacher’s job to keep them from getting lost through feedback. Feedback should look something like this, ” I really like how you used descriptive words in your writing. Could you go back and revisit the organization of your piece? I see you are missing the general statement we discussed in class. What would be a general statement for your piece of writing?” Success relies on the fact that this happens for all students, everyday and in every lesson. It is what will continue to move them forward in their learning while staying on the right road therefore keeping them focused on the target.
3. Reinforcing effort
“When teachers reinforce effort, they translate the belief that all students can learn into actions that help make that belief a reality.” (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler & Stone, 2012) If the goal is to motivate the student then this is one strategy to implement. So often we hear “Good job, you are so smart!” The message that statement sends is that brains and smarts are something we are just born with or without. Showing students the relationship between effort and achievement is crucial for them to understand that this isn’t the case. Everyone can succeed but that it takes effort. Once they understand the relationship, students can begin to self assess between their degree of success and effort.
4. Providing Recognition
Dealing with a lack of motivation is another factor cropping up in classrooms. Providing recognition, in addition to reinforcing effort, is a strategy related to motivation. Through recognition that is based on student successes on the road to their target promotes student engagement. This is referred to as mastery-goal orientation (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler & Stone, 2012). Simply put, if the focus is on what the student can do and what they need to work on next to move towards their goal they will feel empowered and thus intrinsically motivated. In short it makes their environment predictable. To clarify this approach even further, the opposite of a mastery-goal orientated approach would be to compare student performance to other students’ performances rather than just to themselves. “If students don’t succeed, they can examine their effort and achievement to determine what else they need to do to improve their performance.” (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler & Stone, 2012)
5. Cooperative Learning
When I first started teaching and heard the term ‘cooperative learning’ my first thought was “chaos”! However, over the years I have learned that isn’t the case at all. Providing students will multiple variances on cooperative learning develops skill that will enable them to succeed in the 21st Century workforce. A key factor here, so that it is a positive learning experience, is to explicitly teach the expectations of cooperative learning. Students need to know what it ‘looks like’, ‘sounds like’ and ‘feels like’ when they are in various group situations. Why is this strategy important? According to Dean, Hubbell, Pitler & Stone, 2012 “it provides opportunities for students to interact in ways that enhance and deepen their learning.” In order for deeper learning to occur students need opportunity to dialogue and question each other about a topic. This process motivates students because relationships and ideas are built together.
A practical resource that not only makes the connections for you but also provides classroom practice strategies as well as tips for teaching each strategy is “Classroom Instruction that Works” (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler & Stone, 2012), you will find it on my Shelfari list. This truly is a great resource! Creating a positive classroom environment through using the ‘non-negotiable’ strategies listed above may decrease behaviour challenges as well as create motivated, engaged learners who feel successful and above all are learning at a deeper level!