Assistant teacher course/Teachers' handbook/Pedagogy

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Cquote1.svg  Criticism of citizenship education in schools argues that merely teaching children about the theory of citizenship education is ineffective, unless schools themselves reflect democratic practices by giving children the opportunity to have a say over decision making. It suggests that schools are fundamentally undemocratic institutions, and that such a setting cannot instil in children the commitment and belief in democratic values that is necessary for citzenship education to have a proper impact. Cquote2.svg

Education in America - A View from Sudbury Valley, Daniel A. Greenberg

Pedagogy[edit | edit source]

Lack of legitimacy[edit | edit source]

The assistant teachers will have started a training handbook during the course, which also defines the policies governing the assistant teacher effort, including qualification procedures for assistant teachers. The book is obviously not an official school policy, isn't finished and the assistant teachers can add to it what they want, which makes it obvious that it lacks legitimacy. The challenge for the assistant teachers is to make this a responsible and appropriate procedure until the pupils take control of their own educational policies or until a sufficient number of assistant teachers of the grade give it legitimacy.

Teachers can allow the assistant teachers to organize their effort themselves but should be prepared to interfere and help along if the assistant teachers did not accept the challenge in time. A class teacher could, for instance, reserve the right to participate in meetings of the editorial staff of the book and monitor the progress of the effort. The assistant teachers should notice that a meeting of the editorial staff had no authority to ratify the document and that a more formal procedure was necessary. Towards pupils teachers could take the position that the assistant teachers were making a valuable contribution but that the pupils had the right to demand participation.

The rationale for the somewhat chaotic approach is that assistant teachers and pupils both receive motivation to take an interest in overseeing their own education and to become politically active. While the assistant teachers put the pupils into a situation that needs to be rectified they find themselves also in a situation that demands attention. The educational goals are citizenship education, self-management skills, conflict resolution skills and soft skills. While anarchy in general is only the best form of society to require good citizenship but not to cause it this special case of anarchy can do both, demand good citizenship and bring it about.

Individual psychology[edit | edit source]

The term mistaken goals was used by Rudolf Dreikurs to refer to the four goals power, attention, revenge and avoidance of failure, which he identified as four common motivations for misbehavior of pre-adolescents. The goals are called mistaken goals because the child doesn't actually achieve exactly what it really wants, unless the educator understands the psychology of the situation.

The course kess-erziehen assigns needs to each of the four mistaken goals:

Mistaken goal Needs of the child
power autonomy, co-determination, responsibility
attention belonging, notice, involvement
revenge fairness, equal treatment
avoidance of failure encouragement, support

An assistant teacher effort can help to address these needs, in some cases for the pupils and in some cases for the assistant teachers.

Psychological effects[edit | edit source]

Cquote1.svg  That which we learn most thoroughly, and remember the best, is what we have in a way taught ourselves. Cquote2.svg

On education (Über Pädagogik), Immanuel Kant

Having to attend school and to be attentive has the potential to cause an attitude bordering on learned helplessness in pupils. Assistant teachers can make the attention of a teacher (which is a scarce resource in a class room) available to more pupils, which can help to lessen disinterest and resulting boredom but also has the potential to make the pupils less free in their choice of behavior in the class room, which is not necessarily a good thing.

Assistant teachers should understand this and restrict their interventions accordingly: A high tolerance for an initial intervention can allow the pupils to feel free in minor disturbances. A pupil with a tendency for repeated disturbances or major disturbances should receive the direct attention of an assistant teacher for a while and should also be invited to participate or to work. The assistant teacher should approach the pupil in a friendly manner and, for instance, demand to see the homework. A muted discussion about the homework of the pupil or the topic of the lesson can help to direct the interest of the pupil to the subject matter. A psychological effect is that a pupil may find the attention of an assistant teacher desirable. The effect can be lessened somewhat if the assistant teacher can be expected to request the homework.

The psychological goal is to make the unscheduled attention of an assistant teacher appear undesirable enough but at the same time allow it to capture the attention of the pupil and to increase the interest for the lesson.

Escorting a pupil to the back of the room or even outside the class should only happen as an exception or for pupils with a track record of disturbances. (Ability grouping can be another reason for sending pupils to different places but this should be clearly distinguished.)

Time slots for open learning can be used to counter-balance the more focused work of the pupils in regular lessons. For the assistant teachers the assistant teacher office should allow them greater freedoms and more time for self-motivated work at other times (e.g. in an advanced course or for library work).

Assistant teachers can be allowed to leave their own class for library work or other work in subjects where they have, for instance, A or B grades after consulting with the subject teacher if their presence is required for a lesson. The self-chosen work should be documented in a learning diary in this case but doesn't have to be related to the subject (e.g. reading a Scientific American or Technology Review article should suffice; the learning diary should be made available to the mentor in digital form). A teacher can also decide to allow only assistant teachers with A grades to skip a lesson, if the lesson develops the subject matter further but not sufficiently to be important for pupils with A grades. A more formal variant can be a reduced course. The psychological effect for the assistant teachers is to feel more in control of their own educational goals and time management.

In terms of big-fish-little-pond effect and assimilation effect the less good pupils in a class can receive additional motivation through the occasional absence of their more proficient peers but can receive at the same time the additional motivation of a higher level of proficiency in their social environment.

Cquote1.svg  Setting up conditions which stimulate certain visible and tangible ways of acting is the first step. Making the individual a sharer or partner in the associated activity so that he feels its success as his success, its failure as his failure, is the completing step. As soon as he is possessed by the emotional attitude of the group, he will be alert to recognize the special ends at which it aims and the means employed to secure success.  Cquote2.svg

Democracy and Education, John Dewey

The higher level of proficiency of the assistant teachers should not contribute to either effect because the assistant teachers aren't competitors for the attention of a teacher, they multiply the attention of a teacher. The presence of highly proficient and benevolent adolescents in the class may also help to promote independence from either effect by providing a superior role model.

Effects of autonomy[edit | edit source]

A certain degree of autonomy of an assistant teacher effort has several beneficial effects, besides training self-management skills and democratic skills. The assistant teachers' self image is very likely to be that of a learning community, because no other self-conception is more appropriate for a group of pupils in the role of teachers. Autonomy is likely to increase the perception that the goal is a self-imposed goal of the community (not necessarily of the individual), which should be beneficial for the community. Autonomy has the effect to enhance the role model of assistant teachers: Pupils may strive for more independence but find it outside their reach for what appears to a young pupil a very long time but the assistant teachers have successfully established greater independence, consequently the assistant teacher role model can appear even more desirable. The self image could be seen as the view "You learn for your own benefit", phrased in a way pupils can conveniently understand, because the consequences of being an assistant teacher are immediately obvious. For the same reason the psychological effect of disqualification can be that of a more accessible reprimand.

Autonomy can reduce potential reactance against learning itself, [1] on the other hand disqualification could be expected to introduce reactance against the removal of personal freedoms which had already been granted. A pupil or group of pupils who face disqualification might disagree with the decision and should be allowed to challenge the decision and to appeal against the decision, not primarily to reduce psychological reactance but as a part of citizenship education. Even after valid disqualification a pupil should be able to easily understand the means to reestablish his personal freedoms. A pupil-defined qualification process after disqualification can further lessen possible reactance against the process and promote citizenship education.

An aspect of autonomy can be the creation of a voluntary higher standard the pupils can aspire to in the seeming anarchy left behind by their teachers. This voluntary higher standard motivates higher-order volitions. [2]

Teaching with assistant teachers[edit | edit source]

A teacher must be able to rely on assistant teachers. [3] This requires that a teacher must be willing to trust the behavior of an assistant teacher and that the teacher must be able to show trust in the behavior of an assistant teacher. An example could be that an assistant teacher who spent ten minutes in muted discussion with a pupil and then decided to leave the class room with the pupil to discuss something outside should not be stopped in front of the class. Teacher and assistant teacher are educators and should not question each other's authority without necessity. [4] The correct behavior is to inquire about the issue after the lesson or even to make an appointment, if you see more need for discussion. In a difficult situation or as a general rule one can send a second assistant teacher outside to help along. A good scheme may be to call all assistant teachers to the teacher's desk (or to the back of the room, where pupils do not disturb the meeting) when the pupils are leaving the class room and to make a quick assessment if everything went well or if anything required further attention, as, for instance, a written report from an assistant teacher. An unreliable assistant teacher should be disqualified according to the rules for disqualification the assistant teachers have given themselves. [4] Teachers can demand a much more disciplined and cooperative behavior from an assistant teacher on duty than from the average pupil. This is in part what makes the assistant teacher office a means of training soft skills.

Allowing assistant teachers to handle problems[edit | edit source]

Assistant teachers can help to reduce stress for a teacher in a class full of young pupils. While this is convenient for the teacher it is also important for the assistant teachers to be allowed to take care of problems. If the teacher remains the central authority in the class room the assistant teachers are much less motivated to learn to accept the shared responsibility for the class. A good strategy for the class teacher is to intervene late and to delegate authority immediately. The assistant teachers should, for instance, react to a request for silence by addressing individual pupils, who appeared to not have heard the request, and allowing the teacher to continue without any need to address pupils directly. The assistant teachers should, of course, aim to be as silent as possible themselves and should address noisy pupils anyway, without a request by the teacher.

If the assistant teachers are still inefficient in accomplishing this a good strategy for the teacher can be to make notes about incidents that need to be handled differently during the lesson but to instruct the assistant teachers afterwards. Educating the assistant teachers during the lesson is not a good strategy, because the pupils get involved into a topic they aren't meant to understand yet and the teacher undermines the authority of the assistant teachers. A positive side-effect is that assistant teachers are motivated to analyze their own behavior, because a reprimand may not be given until after the lesson and even later, if an assistant teacher fails to meet the demands of the office.

Preparing lessons with assistant teachers[edit | edit source]

Creative group work[edit | edit source]

Cquote1.svg  In the normal process of becoming acquainted with subject matter already known to others, even young pupils react in unexpected ways. There is something fresh, something not capable of being fully anticipated by even the most experienced teacher, in the ways they go at the topic, and in the particular ways in which things strike them. Too often all this is brushed aside as irrelevant; pupils are deliberately held to rehearsing material in the exact form in which the older person conceives it. The result is that what is instinctively original in individuality, that which marks off one from another, goes unused and undirected. Teaching then ceases to be an educative process for the teacher. At most he learns simply to improve his existing technique; he does not get new points of view; he fails to experience any intellectual companionship. Hence both teaching and learning tend to become conventional and mechanical with all the nervous strain on both sides therein implied.  Cquote2.svg

Democracy and Education, John Dewey

The preparation of a lesson should allow the assistant teachers to participate in creative group work because creative group work can be enjoyable and allows to train teamwork skills. [5] Preparing a lesson in creative group work, however, is likely to require preparation itself, so the work of the teacher may seem to have multiplied. A school should, of course, allow to allocate sufficient time for preparatory work but preparatory work can also be delegated to book authors [6] and head tutors, if individual planning for a lesson is required. As a teacher you can reduce your own work to preparation that really requires the attention of an expert. The first problem to be solved by a teacher is to determine whether a lesson has the potential to be prepared in group work or not. In a school that has arranged for sufficient preparation time to be available it may be tempting to make use of that time even when there is actually not enough work to be done, consequently a head tutor should have the authority to declare that a preparation lesson was not required. Learning material that is meant to aid in the preparation of a lesson by assistant teachers can be graded like any other homework, whether the material is a book project or a contribution to an individual lesson plan for single use.

Grading with assistant teachers[edit | edit source]

Assistant teachers should be given some way to contribute to the grading of "their" pupils. Helping the subject or class teacher to determine the grades of pupils gives the office of assistant teacher more purpose and increases the seriousness and importance. Many tasks and observations made by an assistant teacher become more meaningful through the goal to grade the pupils.

On the other hand assistant teachers cannot be given too much influence on a grade because they may not be sufficiently qualified. A good compromise between purpose and limited influence is to ask assistant teachers to hand in a written report for each pupil. The assistant teachers should also be given opportunity to discuss their views in a grading conference. [7] Discussing the reports allows the teacher to learn something about the views and social behavior of the assistant teachers in a responsible situation. The assistant teachers can also receive grades for their reports.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. reactance
  2. self-management and independent learning
  3. dependability
  4. 4.0 4.1 the assistant teacher role model
  5. teamwork
  6. Meta-schoolbook Writer's Guide (Wikibooks)
  7. grading conference
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