Rules, Rules, Rules Published 2006-09-01

A friend and past colleague of mine runs a very structured classroom. I can give you a pretty good idea of what is going on in his class based on the time and day of the week. Students report liking his style because they now exactly what to expect. His class rules are very clear and as a beginning teacher, I admired him for his ability create such a structured environment. Kids need structure!

Yes, structure and rules are a sound foundation to teaching the basics. But what if we want more? What if we want our kids to be innovative, critical thinkers. What if we want them to be independent learners? I argue that for a student to be innovative, the teacher needs to be innovative. He must provide a learning environment that supports risk taking and views failure as a learning experience. An structured environment promotes students giving the "correct" answer and leaves little room for thinking outside the box.

When establishing the rules for your class, consider the environment you will be creating and is this environment consistent with your teaching objectives?


Diane Quirk said...

I'm thinking that structure and rules are really more about classroom management than learning. Innovation occurs when we have lots and lots of information that we've worked with, processed and applied thinking to. Unfortunately, if we teach with only limited sources of information (aka the textbook)we don't provide our students with enough fuel for innovation. In the 21st century, we have more than enough rich sources of information to fuel innovation.

rob banning said...

Where I think my post is confusing is in the inference that an innovative classroom is one without structure. Certainly, our best teachers do have rules and structure to their classes.

My concern is with the teacher who employs such a rigid structure that it prevents the sharing of ideas. The classic lecture is an example where classes are structured such that students not not encouraged (nor expected) to think for themselves.

I feel classroom management does affect learning. Certainly, without any sort of management, learning will be difficult. Similarly, a management style that encourages students to express their ideas and listen to those of their classmates will help in providing an environment that fosters innovation.

You make a great point in that without exposure to multiple sources of information and points of view, it is difficult to expect innovation.

I would add that there also needs to be a safe environment for these ideas to be discussed and evaluated. It is the innovative teacher who can design her class structure and rules to foster such an environment.

Thanks for the ideas (and thanks for the fantastic blog Technology to Empower Student Learning)

Diane Quirk said...

Yes - you've really thought about this quite a bit I see and my first sentence really needed a better follow up. This is an important conversation. Rigid doesn't invite engagement and a lack of structure may not invite learning.

What are the qualities and characteristics of an innovative teacher?...sounds like the beginnings of a new blog posting! :) Thanks for the conversation.

rob banning said...

"you've really thought about this quite a bit I see"

I actually had a couple of meetings this week that helped me form some of my thoughts. In one I saw the effects of a teacher who had a cringes at any deviation from his rigid structure. The result (as you can guess) are students who do well on standardized test but perform poorly in more advanced classes that require independent / critical thinking.

In another (more enlightening) meeting, a mentor of mine revealed a modification to the way he forms his strategic visions. In essence, he related the importance of considering personnel and their capabilities when planning your strategic goals. Our conversation came to innovation and the importance the teacher plays in fostering creative thinking.

Finally, as I was writing my thoughts on your recent post - The Ways We Talk About Technology, I had to endure a conversation between two mothers who were sharing a table next to mine in my favorite writing coffee house. Their ill-informed comments on education and teaching included “back to the basics” comments and desire to see their kids in classrooms where the teacher was the expert and “kids listen and learn”.

"sounds like the beginnings of a new blog posting"

I am working on a project with the primary goal is to give teachers a technique that will help them create a setting that fosters creative thinking. I hope to read more from you (and others) on this topic. For me, all of the edtech talk really is about creating learning environments that fuel creative/independent thinking, collaborative and authentic work products and a new sense of literacy (ala Dave Warlick et. al.).