STUDENT PARTICIPATION

Within the context of my area of specialization (pre K-8 or Secondary), the communication of behavioral expectations to the students allows them to understand what is expected of them in the classroom. Accordingly, it is necessary to clearly delineate such expectations, in order to minimize ambiguity regarding conduct. The determining of classroom behavioral expectations could take two basic approaches: either a fixed approach, in which the teacher clearly sets the guidelines, or a more malleable approach, in which guidelines are established, for example, according to the precise grade level, or with the assistance of students. According to Myles, it can be suggested that the former approach is currently favored by educators, insofar as “studies conducted across all grade levels show that teachers consistently look for and expect similar classroom behaviors in spite of the grade level taught.”

A. The question of a certain standard of expectations regarding behavior as set by the educator still leaves open the question of how behavior expectations are determined. Furthermore, according to specific classroom areas, behavior expectations can clearly change. In this regard, considering such specific areas and how to determine specific classroom behavioral expectations and consequences, helps emphasize how such expectations should be suited to context. 1) In the case of role call, this demarcates the beginning of the school day, and thus can be said to set the tone for the remainder of the day. Accordingly, a disciplined roll call approach, in which attentiveness is stressed, helps the student realize that they are now in a classroom setting. Consequences for not meeting these expectations would need to be sufficient enough so as to let the student understand that they are now beginning the school day. 2) In the case of lunch, it is important to understand that this falls within the educational structure, and hence certain behavior expectations are still necessary – a unilateral approach to determining behavior is in this regard preferable. Exorbitant breaking of these rules could lead to the curtailing of lunch time break, thus underscoring the continuity of the lunch time experience to the educational structure. 3) The same approach could be used for recess, as behavioral expectations, such as the respect for others, should be stressed, despite the fact that recess lies outside of the classroom. Consequences, as within the lunch context, again lie in the removal of certain recess privileges. 4) As for the in-class setting, determining how students should participate when the teacher is speaking emphasizes the importance of attentiveness. Consequences for not meeting these expectations would be the taking away of certain privileges. 5) Behavior when completing class work will vary according to the context of individual or group work, nevertheless both must stress the objective that the task is to be completed, and thus this is to be made clear to the students. Consequences for the failure to live up to these expectations, however, must vary according to the reasons for not completing work, such as a lack of understanding of the assignment. In this regard, the behavioral expectations must be balanced with the didactic role of the teacher. 6) When obtaining help, such behavior expectations could be determined in conjunction with the students: what techniques do they consider best for gaining help? This would imply that consequences for not meeting this behavior would be a transgression of the students’ own requested framework for assistance. 7) The distribution and collection of materials could once again be a democratic process. The students could elect their fellow students who will collect and distribute the materials. This allows the students to feel that they have contributed to the structure of the setting. 8) When considering behavior after work is completed, it is important to understand that other students may not have yet completed their work. Accordingly, a unilateral decision by the teacher helps the student understand that the classroom context does not end with the completion of work, but that the entire process is part of the educational setting.

B. Allowing students to help determine behavior expectations essentially lets the student feel that he/she is a part of the educational structure. In this regard, advantages of such an approach consist in emphasizing that the student is an integral part of the classroom context. Furthermore, studies have shown that allowing student interaction in the formation of rules “is an effective method of achieving behavioral change.” (Grossman, p. 333) Thirdly, students will be more likely to follow behavioral expectations that they themselves have participated in establishing.

C. When considering the specialization of K-G8, student participation in establishing behavioral expectations obviously varies according to the specific level being considered. Nonetheless, there are certain disadvantages which can be identified regardless of specific level. Firstly, students may simply be too young to establish sensible rules of behavior expectations, and thus propose ineffective suggestions that the teacher will ultimately have to ignore, thus undermining the entire aim of participation. Secondly, the participation can erode the structural setting of the classroom, to the extent that the educator is no longer the central authority in this context regarding behavior. Thirdly, this can lead to a relativity of rules in behavior, which undermines the consistency of expectations and leads to a general ambiguity concerning classroom behavior.

D. As Wentzel notes, educators “often assume that students understand how they are supposed to behave and what it is they are supposed to accomplish wile at school…however, for some students these expectations are not immediately obvious.” (2004, p. 235) This is especially the case in my area of specialization, insofar as those “who are just beginning school and students who are raised in cultures with dissimilar goals and values…might need explicit guidance” (2004, p. 235) regarding behavior. Accordingly, methods of evaluating the students’ understanding are crucial. Two such methods are practice and a worksheet. In the case of the former, a student’s lack of satisfying expectations is to be pointed out to the student. Letting the student know, for example, that it is important to pay attention in class will help eliminate any ambiguities regarding behavior. This is a clear way to make expectations unambiguous. Another evaluation method is a worksheet, whereby students are given various situations of behavior, and asked to evaluate them as acceptable or unacceptable. Completing these worksheets in a group environment allows all students to understand both what is expected of them and the possible consequences for ignoring these expectations.