To say education has changed is an understatement. There is a clear need to define what it is changing into, where we are heading with the change in our minds, what are we going to do about the change and how we are going to keep up with the future as it becomes the present.
In a world where information access is ubiquitous, free and overloaded, every student brings a unique ‘pre-knowledge’ baggage with her, making it increasingly difficult for a teacher today to gather and accommodate these experiences.
From being an active disseminator of knowledge, to an active participant in the learning cycle of students in the classroom, the role of a teacher has greatly transformed over the last decade. Constructivism and experiential learning are the new age tools of learning where students construct their own knowledge of the real world through hands-on learning activities. A vast discourse surrounds such a phenomenal change in the learning process of students, often focusing on issues related to curriculum and teaching methodologies. What gets sidelined is the management of this new kind of classroom so different from a didactic, ‘sage on the stage’ model.
How do teachers manage when children are expected to question in an inquiryled experiential classroom? How do they ensure learning objectives are met when children run around in a playful hands-on learning classroom? How can teachers assess outcomes when solutions are supposed to be varied and open-ended?
So how is managing an experiential classroom different?
All teachers know about the importance of setting expectations and instilling values of ownership and responsibility among students, especially when each student may have a different perspective on what to learn and about learning itself.
We also agree that classroom management does not stop at stock keeping (of classroom parts/equipment) and maintaining order. For a teacher to gain professional competence and greater personal motivation, she must develop a greater understanding of how to maintain a healthy classroom ecosystem that aids learning. This is the real essence of classroom management.
The misconception that classroom management occurs ‘inside a classroom’ is a hindrance to effective delivery. Most schools in our country include experiential learning as an add-on to the core curriculum. Teachers may not be trained in the nuances of managing in an experiential learning context.
Wherever the delivery of the experiential learning class is outsourced to external vendors, the ‘resource persons’ come with no specific classroom management training and are just technical experts of the activity to be delivered. As experiential learning contexts become more integral and prevalent and move from being just add-ons to the core curriculum, it is vital for teachers to be aware of the best practices of experiential learning classroom management.
How to manage an experiential
A good classroom environment includes the physical classroom space and the practices adopted in that context. The lighting, seating arrangement, use of work areas, and ambience must be conducive for effective experiential learning. Other techniques for effective experiential learning classroom management include:
The teacher should set the right expectations with her students with respect to behaviour, interaction and discipline at the beginning of the school year. However, as the year progresses, she may find herself struggling to manage the class and try out a range of methods to see which works best. This often leads to inconsistency in the instructions given to students. One of the primary reasons for indiscipline in a classroom is this inconsistency, which should be avoided by all means. In the other extreme, the teacher may be so much in control of the class that students are reduced to passive receptors of a smorgasbord of instructions. The trick is to find the right balance between no structure and rigid structure.
The most permanent answers are found by questioning and inquiring. The crux of experiential learning is to question existing knowledge so the student can form her own knowledge. This works best when the teacher tries to make students responsible for their actions; and as comfortable as possible with the concept that it is okay to question to know more. Continuous emphasis on sharpening inquisitiveness instead of reprimanding students for a mistake is the key. The only aspect to be managed here is to ensure that children understand that questioning is but the first step on the path to seeking the answer.
3. Teach the other
Students, in spite of anyone’s best efforts, cannot look to the teacher as an equal inside or outside a classroom. There will be a certain belligerence owing to the sense of hierarchy with respect to learning of concepts. Students learn best when their peers re-explain or repeat concepts. Make some simple rules to enable this – for example, if a set of instructions is to be memorised, make students repeat it to each other repeatedly so it becomes internalised. Guard against the tendency for this to get out of place over time as some become ‘student teachers’ and other students become passive receptors. Take care to ensure that opportunities and roles are consciously rotated across the students in the classroom, exposing every student to all possibilities.
4. Positive reinforcement
Psychological studies have suggested that positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to identify desirable traits among students and reiterate them through constant rewards. For example, if a student does not use classroom equipment with care, instead of pointing out, “Do not break the glass again”, point to another student who is more responsible and say, “I think we should all appreciate our classmate for his/ her responsibility towards the equipment”. All students invariably need attention, either through negative or positive means. This way, the teacher can make it clear that only desirable traits merit her attention.
Suggested Rewards for
a) Listening to stories or music
b) Working on a variety of activities like
distributing papers, materials, stationery, etc.
c) Cleaning the boards.
Middle School and High School
a) Using a computer
b) Appearing as a guest lecturer in classes.
5. Other useful classroom management methods
a) Establish rules and limits for activities and keep reinforcing them
b) Develop pre-determined signals as to when to be quiet and when to talk (for example, use red, green and yellow lights to signal when students may talk and when they may not)
c) Have consistent consequences for breaking rules
d) Engage trouble makers in resource activities such as books distribution, parts collection or class monitoring
e) Have calls for attention when you have to summon the attention of the entire class to listen to you. A bell or a whistle may serve the purpose.
Classroom management is a core skill enabling the teacher to maintain a harmonious environment that encourages true learning among her students. As experiential learning becomes more prevalent and enters the mainstream in our country, classroom management in that setting assumes greater importance.
Sindhu Sree K is an Education Programme Manager with Creya Learning, an innovative education company focused on equipping children with skills, literacies, competencies and the attitude needed to thrive in the dynamic world of the 21st Century. Creya’s award winning XEL programme is the first of its kind in the country, imparting true experiential education to students in a Studio setting. Via XEL, teachers go through an intensive Professional Development certification programme that empowers them with a range of experiential classroom management skills and techniques, along with pedagogies such as STEM Education, Design Thinking and Experiential Education. Teachers also learn about 21st Century skills, critical for them and students to thrive in the new world. For more on Creya, visit www.creyalearning. com or write to us at email@example.com.