Assistant teacher course/Teachers' handbook/Classroom management

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Subject teachers[edit | edit source]

Sports[edit | edit source]

Assistant teachers in sports have more time to be pedagogues than their sports teachers and can participate in team sports as members of the team. Assistant teachers can captain teams in team sports and thereby bring pedagogical goals into the cooperation within a team. For the assistant teacher the outcome of the game should be secondary and the primary goal should be to be a good teacher.

If the assistant teachers are familiar with the class they can keep track of good and bad team players and mirror the behavior of players on occasion. A team captain who boycotts bad team players occasionally can make a contribution for the pupils to understand the value of good team play. Another method can be to suspend selected team play rules of a game for all players. In soccer that could, for instance, mean that all players should remain in ball possession as long as possible and should not pass the ball on. One could imagine that this could turn soccer into something more resembling American football (consequently American football would be the attempt to teach the necessity of collectively intelligent action during soccer).

Assistant teachers should use explicit references to the categorical imperative in team briefings where appropriate and can phrase a team philosophy or code of conduct for their teams. A team captain is a positive role model that is easily accessible for a large group of pupils and which can even have a beneficial effect for assistant teachers in other subjects by increasing the respect for the assistant teacher office.

As a sports teacher you should make sure that assistant teachers who captain a team have the subject-specific knowledge and fitness to be acceptable as team captains. An assistant teacher who is several years older than his pupils should easily qualify as a captain but unqualified assistant teachers can also easily spoil the positive effect.

Class teachers[edit | edit source]

Further training in school[edit | edit source]

The initial group of assistant teachers will require further training in relation to local school policy and expectations of the teachers in their school. The group will also require instruction what has to be added to their training handbook to make their training compliant with local school policy. For the wireless classroom assistant teachers might require training for school-specific software use. It is recommended to reserve several hours only with the assistant teachers for this purpose at the beginning of the semester and to allow for consultation hours for assistant teachers during the semester. Consultation hours can also take the form of a class council for assistant teachers (assistant teacher council) for all assistant teachers of a grade and with voluntary attendance. An assistant teacher council should not have any authority but work purely as an advisory committee and allow assistant teacher groups to make their own decisions.

Class council[edit | edit source]

  One often hears it said that we should put everything before children in such a way that they shall do it from inclination. In some cases, it is true, this is all very well, but there is much besides which we must place before them as duty. And this will be of great use to them throughout their life. 

On education (Über Pädagogik), Immanuel Kant

Where a class council should have the authority to direct the assistant teachers and where not is an important decision. The assistant teachers should have made some intentional mistakes, which are suboptimal of faulty choices in the design of their assistant teacher effort. [1] If a single class council can order the assistant teachers to fix those mistakes that may be too easy to be educational. It is more educational if the pupils have to form a grade council or participate in the student council of their school in order to be able to take control. This can, for instance, require voluntary work outside school and an election campaign.

On the other hand a class council should have some authority so the pupils can begin their reform in the class council. A class council could, for instance, have the authority to recommend pupils as assistant teachers, to demand reports from the assistant teachers to the class council about the work of the assistant teachers and to ratify an initial charter prior to the election of a grade council, granting authority to the grade council.

Making it work[edit | edit source]

  Kindermann (1993) found children's attitudes and engagement in school (i.e. connectedness to school) were highly predictive of the peer group they selected, and when children moved in an out of well-defined peer groups, each move resulted in the children identifying with the newly chosen group's attitude toward school. Conversely, even when interventions are intended to be helpful and facilitate prosocial behavior and attitudes, when antisocial or delinquent youth are aggregated, their goal of modeling one another's behavior's and attitudes can trump well-intended efforts of adults (Patterson, Dishion, & Yoerger; 2000).
Therefore, the attitudes that children bring to school or to an intervention program may lead to birds of a feather flocking together unless the context can be shaped (preferably by peers) to reward children, especially underachieving or delinquent children, for their academic successes and socially skilled (e.g. caring, empathic) behavior. 
DuBois, David L.; Michael J. Karcher (2005). Handbook of Youth Mentoring. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications Ltd. ISBN 0761929770. 

The making it work section is meant to promote the attitute to want to make an assistant teacher program work and to help along with the necessary preparations. It appears easy to allow an assistant teacher effort to fail because planning, monitoring and cooperation are critical for a successful implementation. Private schools may have a slight advantage here because they can select teachers dedicated to being successful and may have more options to motivate teachers. At the same time being able to select teachers can constitute a segregation from other schools which should be seen to entail the moral obligation to help other schools (e.g. by providing mentors to neighboring schools, especially in countries like Germany where the tripartite system sorts pupils into college preparatory track, standard track and basic track, most often already in grade five, and usually into different schools, which has been critized by the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the right to education in 2006 [2]).

Initial effect[edit | edit source]

An initial effect is contrary to the desired effect: The pupils are likely to be more excited initially, because of the presence of the assistant teachers. The attention of the older pupils can hold a certain fascination for this age group and there is more potential for mischief during the lesson. The initial excitement should wear off after a few days, when the pupils get used to the situation. If young pupils are supervised by assistant teachers from the outset the effect can be lost in the excitement of the new school environment and the assistant teachers can introduce the pupils to their new school, which also helps to form friendly relationships between pupils and assistant teachers.

Disqualification[edit | edit source]

The response to difficult assistant teachers can always be a demand for further training. Disqualifying assistant teachers should not be a difficult decision; a teacher has the moral obligation to take care of the education of the pupils, an assistant teacher who is in the way of that goal has to be removed from office. This is both a convenient stance for teachers and good education for the assistant teachers: A single assistant teacher cannot demand to be more important than the education of a whole class, consequently the assistant teacher cannot be allowed to cause major problems.

One could see disqualification of assistant teachers as the beneficial amplification of a problem teachers may occasionally undervalue (possibly especially in the German tripartite system, where changing the track is likely to mean changing the school): The benefit of the underperforming pupil may be more visible than the possible disadvantages to other pupils if an underperforming pupil remains, which could be attributed to irrational escalation, omission bias and framing: disregarding effects of the individual on the group when the focus of attention is the individual. Disqualification of assistant teachers and by assistant teachers makes this problem accessible for pupils, including the moral responsibility of disqualification.

Further training[edit | edit source]

The demand for further training can take different forms, disqualification only being the hardest reprimand. A teacher can also demand further training with or without interruption of assistant teacher duty and until the next lesson or without a time limit. The available modalities may depend on what the assistant teachers have decided to offer.

A softer form of reprimand can also be a probationary period during which the assistant teacher cannot allow another vote for disqualification by a teacher without losing his office. A grade council or assistant teacher meritocracy may demand a veto against votes for disqualification.

Number of assistant teachers per class[edit | edit source]

An average class with less than thirty pupils should usually not require more than four assistant teachers. A larger or more difficult class might require six or eight assistant teachers, depending on the class and the teacher.

Partitioning[edit | edit source]

Assistant teachers can be assigned their own group of pupils so that every assistant teacher knows exactly whom to supervise. If the assistant teacher of a group is in front of the class teaching, the teacher can supervise the group of this assistant teacher for a while.

In as far as possible assistant teachers should supervise consistent groups of pupils, so that pupils and assistant teachers can get used to each other. Qualification and disqualification of assistant teachers is likely to cause enough changes to assignments without further disturbances.

Supervision[edit | edit source]

Supervision should include asking pupils to show their homework, supervising group work, asking pupils to pay attention or leaving the class with a pupil to discuss disturbing behavior or the problems that may cause disturbing behavior outside the class. Supervision can also include muted discussions about the topic of the lesson and escorting pupils to the back of the class room for direct supervision by a single assistant teacher.

Communication[edit | edit source]

The communication between teacher and assistant teachers should be limited during the lesson. The purpose of the assistant teachers is to reduce the work load of the teacher, not to cause more work. If the class gets too noisy the teacher can demand silence, which should cause the assistant teachers to monitor their assigned groups more closely. The teacher should not have to address individual pupils or assistant teachers; in fact he shouldn't even have to stop in oder to pick anybody out.

Assistant teachers should not engage in loud dispute in the class. If a single pupil insists on being noisy the responsible assistant teacher should escort the pupil to the back of the room or outside the class. Outside the class the assistant teacher can find out what the problem is, if there is any problem, or try to calm down the pupil.

Community[edit | edit source]

Bernhard Bueb, from his view as an earlier head teacher of a residential school, recommends that teachers should get to know their pupils outside the class room. While this may be a good recommendation for adult teachers it applies to assistant teachers even more so. Assistant teachers might sometimes have the problem of not being accepted by their pupils as schoolfellows, if they appear to have too much authority or are too much involved in the teacher role. Assistant teachers can counterbalance the effect by actively joining their pupils in the schoolyard occasionally to talk with them outside the class room or to play some games with them. An adolescent who always assumes a position of authority may invite pupils much more to play tricks on him than an older pupil who becomes an accessible peer outside the class room. Schools can support this by providing material (e.g. balls) specifically to assistant teachers for the purpose of playing with younger pupils. An assistant teacher who exercises authority outside the class room (e.g. like a prefect) could consequently be seen as an anti-pattern, with the possible exception of the most senior pupils (e.g. mentors), who should be better qualified to exercise a certain authority in the absence of a teacher.

An assistant teacher who does not exercise authority outside the class room may be confronted with loyalty problems in the schoolyard: If pupils copy homework on the schoolyard, what should the assistant teacher do? The assistant teacher should not actively look for misconduct and should not try to prevent misconduct on the schoolyard, because that would be policing the schoolyard, but an assistant teacher who encountered a copied homework in the class room, he knew to be a copy due to observations made on the schoolyard, should feel free to rate it as void. An assistant teacher should, of course, still prevent misconduct that could turn out to be dangerous, but in a personal way and not as a representative of the school. That is a degree of differentiation young assistant teachers will not reliably develop themselves. Teachers can help to make that distinction if they refuse to notice misconduct that is brought to their attention through inappropriate means, unless the safety of a pupil is at danger. Assistant teachers who fail to leave their supervisor role on the schoolyard have failed to take an appropriate intermediate position concerning the reach of their office. [3]

Scenarios[edit | edit source]

Ability grouping[edit | edit source]

  Individual activity has sometimes been taken as meaning leaving a pupil to work by himself or alone. Relief from need of attending to what any one else is doing is truly required to secure calm and concentration. Children, like grown persons, require a judicious amount of being let alone. But the time, place, and amount of such separate work is a matter of detail, not of principle. There is no inherent opposition between working with others and working as an individual. On the contrary, certain capacities of an individual are not brought out except under the stimulus of associating with others. That a child must work alone and not engage in group activities in order to be free and let his individuality develop, is a notion which measures individuality by spatial distance and makes a physical thing of it. 

Democracy and Education, John Dewey

Assistant teachers can help to implement ability grouping within the class. Depending on preparation of the assistant teachers and demand you can open advanced and foster groups and assign one or two assistant teachers to the respective tasks. If available, two more assistant teachers can check collected homework in the back of the room and hold parts of the lesson in front of the class at the same time. As a teacher you have more time to observe and to manage the class.

Assignment to a foster group can be used as a reprimand for unprepared pupils. For this purpose the assignment to a foster group can receive some emphasis by sending the foster groups to the back of the room and keeping a list of reprimands for each pupil. This isn't the best kind of motivation for pupils but there may be cases where pupils benefit from an understandable and clear reprimand as a logical consequence of being unprepared. A pupil who didn't make an important preparatory homework could, for instance, be sent to a foster group.

The psychological effect for the pupil who is sent to the foster group should be that the direct attention of an assistant teacher means more work, which can make the usual lesson appear more desirable. This expectation can go wrong in two important ways:

  • A pupil can prefer the direct attention of an older pupil as a desirable situation and aim (or don't mind) to be sent to the foster group.
  • A pupil can learn to dislike having a private tutor, which is not a desirable learning effect.

The latter effect may be difficult to observe, so you might want to counter the effect without any indication. A counter measure can be assigning a junior mentor or mentor, if the pupil doesn't yet have a mentor, or even assigning a second mentor. A mentor also seems useful to understand possible learning problems and other motivational problems of the pupil.

Assistant teachers or the class should be invited to recommend supporting measures for a pupil before a recommendation for reassignment to a different track was made due to frequent assignments to foster groups in the class. The assistant teachers or the class can train responsibility for others and self-organisation skills in the process. A request for supporting measures can also serve as an early and friendly warning for the pupil in question.

Recommendations for ability grouping[edit | edit source]

  The basic control resides in the nature of the situations in which the young take part. In social situations the young have to refer their way of acting to what others are doing and make it fit in. This directs their action to a common result, and gives an understanding common to the participants. For all mean the same thing, even when performing different acts. This common understanding of the means and ends of action is the essence of social control. It is indirect, or emotional and intellectual, not direct or personal. Moreover it is intrinsic to the disposition of the person, not external and coercive. To achieve this internal control through identity of interest and understanding is the business of education. While books and conversation can do much, these agencies are usually relied upon too exclusively. Schools require for their full efficiency more opportunity for conjoint activities in which those instructed take part, so that they may acquire a social sense of their own powers and of the materials and appliances used.  

Democracy and Education, John Dewey

Assistant teachers can also give recommendations for ability grouping according to observed academic aptitude. This should not happen in the class room but either during the preparation of lessons or in a private meeting with the teacher. Younger pupils may not be able to understand the role of an assistant teacher entirely and may have difficulties to accept ability grouping recommended by assistant teachers, as that may appear to give too much authority to an assistant teacher.

An exception, which shouldn't be seen as ability grouping, are pupils who apparently need a visible reprimand and are sent to the back of the room. An actual exception is the explicit request from the teacher to group pupils according to ability, which grants the authority for a limited time and in an easily understood context. As a teacher you can test if the explicit request leads to acceptable results in relation to grouping and acceptance by pupils. Problems that occur can be used to train soft skills; the authority can, for instance, remain with the assistant teachers but they might have to respond to objections as a group.

Group work with changing teachers[edit | edit source]

Each assistant teacher only prepares a part of the lesson as a group work unit for the pupils. The assistant teachers can then move from group to group and present their experiment, thought experiment or other unit to a group of pupils.

A beneficial effect is that the assistant teachers will have had more time to prepare their part of the lesson and can even learn from one presentation to the next how the pupils think about a given problem and how to explain something.

If there is nothing else to be done you can join the assistant teachers as another group leader.

Open learning[edit | edit source]

Open learning is also an opportunity to make good use of assistant teachers. The assistant teachers can support individual pupils or learning groups in their goals and help the teacher to manage a very heterogenous learning environment.

Wireless classroom[edit | edit source]

  The most fundamental job of schools is to teach good citizenship, which includes the habit of helping others. 

Why Schools Should Exclusively Use Free Software, Richard Stallman

In a situation with one laptop per pupil the goals of assistant teachers can be more oriented towards facilitating group work and socialization beyond the offers of the educational computer environment. (The wireless classroom could, of course, use thin clients with WiDi instead of laptops or just put all wiring unreachable into the tables, which seems to be the better solution, as long as the pupils can access all relevant data from their homes. This asks, however, for a centralized server-based IT installation, which not all schools have available in sufficient quality, e.g. based on OpenSolaris, AIX or MacOS X. 22" monitors with built-in Android thin clients are, for instance, available as commodity hardware and do not require an attached PC; alternative offers also come in Microsoft's Metro design. Good schools, of course, have independently staffed IT/LRC departments, not operated by members of the faculty, e.g. at Computers also allow flip teaching.

A monitoring software for assistant teachers could allow an assistant teacher to gather information from the laptops of his assigned group and to monitor usage and progress in the respective learning environments used by the pupils. A convenient solution could be to put up to eight identical applets on a screen in order to allow each application on a pupil laptop to report data in a custom format but inside a standardized container. [4] As a result assistant teachers would gain a good overview of the work and the learning progress of individual pupils in their group and would be able to address individual problems even without requests from the pupils. During focused work in an interactive learning environment young pupils might otherwise be reluctant to request help and assistant teachers might easily be misled to assume that a silent group without observable problems didn't need any support. Substituting continual supervision with monitoring can help assistant teachers to better focus on individual pupils. If individual help is seldom required an opposite effect could be the reduction of desirable interaction between pupils and assistant teachers, but assistant teachers can be instructed to counter the effect with encouraging comments and unrequested advice to all pupils.

ToDo: Wireless classroom and assistant teachers


Learning trails[edit | edit source]

  The problem of instruction is thus that of finding material which will engage a person in specific activities having an aim or purpose of moment or interest to him, and dealing with things not as gymnastic appliances but as conditions for the attainment of ends. The remedy for the evils attending the doctrine of formal discipline previously spoken of, is not to be found by substituting a doctrine of specialized disciplines, but by reforming the notion of mind and its training. Discovery of typical modes of activity, whether play or useful occupations, in which individuals are concerned, in whose outcome they recognize they have something at stake, and which cannot be carried through without reflection and use of judgment to select material of observation and recollection, is the remedy.  

Democracy and Education, John Dewey

Assistant teachers can prepare learning trails with different approaches towards learning the same topic. To allow interest-driven learning groups of pupils might prefer to achieve a learning outcome in different ways. Pupils should be free to choose the learning trail that best suited their personal interests, goals or preferred learning methods, unless learning trails had additional restrictions by academic ability. Learning trails can be arranged through prior selection of books and other learning material by the teacher but can also be specifically prepared by assistant teachers or even by the pupils themselves in so far as pupils are able to accomplish that goal. Pupils may have to cooperate with assistant teachers to communicate their interests and to explore possible learning trails; a class council can delegate subject-specific committees to assess interests present in a class, to request learning trails and to coordinate early planning with assistant teachers and teachers.

Pupils following different learning trails can form independent learning groups within the class. The class should occasionally be brought together again to review each other's learning goals and results. Well-considered learning modules or lectures suitable for all learning trails can also help to give the class a common understanding when independent learning trails are pursued. Learning trails that are meant to produce presentable results can also be concluded with a presentation of results to the other groups.

The psychological effects can be that the pupils can feel in control of their educational aims and that they can feel free to change their interests during a learning trail. While changing a learning trail should be discouraged it can allow a pupil to recover learning motivation by looking over the fence and discovering what a different group is doing, which is something that can be naturally interesting for children and teenagers.

High interactivity group[edit | edit source]

The purpose of a high interactivity group (HIG) is to allow pupils to interact even more with assistant teachers. For this purpose the number of assistant teachers must be higher than usual. A recommended assistant-teacher-to-pupil ratio is 1:3. As a teacher you can opt to make a single learning trail a high interactivity group by assigning all or most assistant teachers to the learning trail, which can, for instance, be a learning trail for pupils whose preferred learning methods appear to require interaction with a teacher. A high interactivity group can also rotate through the class room, so that all pupils receive a phase of higher interactivity during a single lesson. A third option is to allocate more assistant teachers for the whole class for a specific lesson. All subjects can benefit from HIGs but the assistant teachers must be well-prepared in order to allow pupils to interact with them in a meaningful way. The psychological effects of higher interactivity can be increased interest and more focused participation. Higher interactivity can also be achieved with computers but interaction with computers lacks the socialization component and can be exaggerated.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. citizenship education, planning the qualification process, grading conference, book project
  2. n:de:UN-Sonderberichterstatter für das Recht auf Bildung kritisiert Bildungsföderalismus in Deutschland
  3. taking an intermediate position
  4. application monitoring
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