Friday, 13 April 2012

Socio-Cultural perceptions of Classroom Environments

So today I read a very interesting research paper.  I was drawn to it because it dealt with student perceptions of their classroom environment.  However, it was less about the physical layout of the classroom and more about teacher interaction, distractions etc.  It was about how they felt they belonged in their class and how it impacted their learning.  The study focussed on schools in Australia and Taiwan.  Here are some ideas I gleaned from it:

Australia models of teaching are very similar to Canada.  Teachers try to make the curriculum dynamic and teach for discussion and in small groups.  They feel that engaging learners in their learning is what is best.  While in Taiwan teachers felt the teacher directed model was best.  Since students both perceived their learning environments as good, why was this?  Apparently you can look to culture for that answer.

In Taiwan their curriculum is exam driven.  It is culturally accepted to have teachers who stand at the front and teach to the kids.  They see this as good learning.  Teachers are compared by the test scores their students receive.  However, in Taiwan the students LIKE this method of learning and they also are less behaviourally disruptive.  This is because there is NO TIME to stop and delve deeper into subjects, you have to learn them fast and there is not time for fooling around.

School in Taiwan

Australian teachers had more disruptive behaviours and students who felt that the teachers could teach better.  Taiwan students were mostly happy with their teachers jobs and had little complaint.  Teachers are highly respected in Taiwan.  The pressure on teachers in Taiwan comes from their inability to stray from the curriculum and the demands of the exams.  The people of Taiwan want their children to succeed and get into good schools.

Australian School

In Australia the pressure on teachers comes from having to teach academics PLUS social emotional behaviour (which Taiwan does not teach).  Teacher feel they could do a better job if they had TIME to plan but they don't because of all the add-ons they are expected to do in their jobs.

Both sets of students and teachers liked the way their systems ran and for their cultures they worked.

This got me thinking.

Have we come added too much to our Western style of schooling.  Teachers are overwhelmed.  Australian teachers felt that they couldn't always get through a lesson because of disruptive behaviour.  This occurs very frequently in Western schooling.  We spend a lot of time on behaviour and less and less on learning.  Children with behaviours often disrupt those who are trying to learn.  This frustrates me.  When did I become the counselor???  When did I become the one who teaches children manners, respect..etc.  Shouldn't that be the parents?

I found a lot to like with Taiwan's model.  The classrooms were quiet, children did not feel peer pressured to answer questions, students were asked randomly by number and if they got it wrong they simply got it wrong.  There was not cushion added in to protest the self-esteem.  The students also didn't expect one, because it's culturally okay to be wrong, it means you are learning.

Now, I don't like that they have exams and the pressure is high.  I like to be able to learn a subject with fun hands on activities and choice.  But are we too soft on kids now a days???

I also learned tonight that some Finnish schools (switching gears) have this awesome hour every day where the kids choose what they want to pursue.  ALL the teachers in the school teach what they are passionate about and the kids can choose from any of them!  I for one would be doing Musical Theatre.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Collecting Data

Hello! I'm sorry I haven't blogged in a while. I wanted to let you know that I'm currently collecting 5 weeks of data on student on-task and off-task behaviour. I'm finding more out then my research needs to cover but I will be adding that in.

Also I have a request in for 2 sets of flipform risers for my classroom! I'm awaiting info on that. AND the kids requested bean bag chairs. These are NOT cheap so I may not get any. I can't seen having 2 or 3 and 28 kids fighting over them. Ouch.