Highland Learning and Teaching Toolkit

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Learning and Teaching should be Inclusive and Enjoyable:

Ethos
 

 

The ethos or climate in the classroom is of critical importance in determining the quality of learning that takes place, because there is little doubt that pupils respond best in a safe, secure and accepting classroom.   How teachers establish their authority, their tone, the little things they continually say and do on a daily basis, also determine that climate.

Points Arising from Research

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Pupils learn more and behave better when they receive high levels of understanding, caring and genuineness than when they receive low levels of support

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There is a need for standards of behaviour to be agreed and applied consistently throughout school and for teachers to have positive expectations that they will be met  

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Good relationships in classrooms must be based on the teacher having established a framework for order and having earned the respect of the pupils.

A positive and supportive environment is characterized by high teacher and learner expectations, where the learner is relaxed, alert and free from stress, yet challenged.   The brain needs positive emotions to learn effectively.   Self esteem, confidence, sense of belonging, freedom from physical and psychological harm, successful experience and achievements recognised, are required constants if learning is to be effective.

Key Elements of Ethos

Relationships:
 
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Good rapport stems from teacher and pupil understanding, sharing and valuing perspectives, as individuals, on a whole range of matters and experiences, academic, social and personal

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This relationship must be a two-way: a teacher’s respect for pupils should be reciprocated in their respect for the teacher

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Involve pupils to develop a code of standards and expectations for work and behaviour

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Provide opportunities for expressing emotions, use affirming, “can do” messages

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Encourage pupils to develop their own interests yet still cover coursework

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Respect pupils’ anxieties over workload, difficulties, etc.; for example allow them more time when appropriate

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Help pupils develop their emotional and interpersonal skills by talking through issues or difficulties

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Decide together with pupils on next steps in learning

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Deal with any pupil misbehaviour in a calm, planned and constructive way and thus contribute to the positive classroom climate

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Give positive and educative feedback: can do; action to improve; mistakes are OK; mistakes are the way we learn; promotion of belief in self as a “super learner”

Responsibilities:

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Pupils and teachers have the right to feel safe both physically and psychologically

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Pupils and teachers have the right to dignity and respect

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Teachers have the  right to teach and pupils to learn

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Teacher focus must be upon enabling pupils to make positive choices about their behaviour

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Teachers have both the right and the responsibility to develop a climate in the classroom, which supports effective learning. This involves maintaining order without undermining learners’ self esteem

Routines:

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Provide regular breaks from focused attention and concentration (attention-diffusion-attention model)  

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Adult attention spans up to 25/30 minutes

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Younger learners: chronological age plus or minus 2, e.g. 10 year old may have 8-12 minutes attention span          

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Provide 3 - 4 minutes off task to allow for diffusion

PCP: Praise - Constructive Educative Feedback - Praise:

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Constructive, educative feedback = what needs to be done to improve

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Start and finish an exchange with positive language: “Well done”, “I like that”….

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Use affirmation constantly: “We can do this”, “We’re all  successful learners”

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Avoid conditional language: “That is good but….”

Balance:

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Provide a well ordered but relaxed atmosphere where learners feel safe but are not over protected

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Maintain consistency so that learners know what they are doing and what is expected of them but allow for spontaneity so that they feel able to take risks, to explore and to think creatively

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Avoid over emphasis on set performance standards, on formal systems of rewards and on competition against each other - these inhibit learning

Reflection and Discussion

Which areas of the above do you recognise in your current school/classroom practice?

Are there any areas that you would consider adapting to establish a more positive classroom climate?
 

Some Activities for the Development of Classroom Ethos

Key Element

Objective

Action

 

Some examples and suggestions

Relationships

Help pupils develop their emotional and interpersonal skills by talking through issues or difficulties.

Catching pupils doing well succeeding at/achieving something everyday.
Recognise, value and give outlets to hobbies and interests.
Use of group work and collaborative activity to emphasise collective achievement.

Responsibilities

Teacher focus must be upon enabling pupils to make positive choices about their behaviour.

Reduce conflict by starting to use the language of choice. "Thanks for choosing to work hard today," "If you choose not to do your homework then you'll be choosing to be in detention tomorrow."

Routines

Provide regular breaks from focused attention and concentration (attention - diffusion - attention model).

Build in enjoyable beginning and closing rituals.
Provide regular breaks from focused attention and concentration.
Clearly set work and time targets.

Balance

Maintain constancy so that learners know what they are doing and what is expected of them but allow for spontaneity so that they feel able to take risks, to explore and to think creatively.

Focus on reward and encouragement not on sanction and punishment.
Consultation with pupils in relation to own goals and personal aspirations.
Good balance of individual, group and whole class teaching.
Evidence of independent learning.

Selected References


Further reading

The following are suggested as starting points. They contain references to other work, which could be useful.

Goleman, D. (1996) Emotional Intelligence. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Hook, P. & Vass, A. (1999) Confident Classroom Leadership. David Fulton Publishers. 

Hook, P. & Vass, A. (2000) Creating Winning Classrooms. David Fulton Publishers. 

Hopkins, D. & Harris, A. (2000) Creating the Conditions for Teaching and Learning. David Fulton Publishers 

Kyriacou, C. (1995) Essential Teaching Skills. Stanley Thornes Ltd. 

Moseley. J. (1995) Turn Your School Around . Cambridge: LDA 

Rogers, C. (1983) Freedom To Learn for the 80s. Columbus, Ohio:  Merrill

SCCC (2000) Direct interactive teaching Dundee: SCCC

SCCC (1996) Teaching for Effective Learning Dundee: SCCC


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Last updated 20/08/2010
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