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An Ideal Classroom

For each section our group has used evidence from course readings and research to identify six teacher actions that help create a safe, positive and effective classroom that promotes student learning.

Katherine Prokop

on 29 June 2013

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Transcript of An Ideal Classroom

Social /

A Real &
Ideal Classroom

Teacher actions that can
promote student learning
The Ideal Classroom
Learning Styles
Collaboration/ Grouping
When students work together, they use different strategies to problem solve as a team to achieve high levels of thought that enables a longer preservation of information. According to Vygotsky (1907) students are capable of performing at higher intellectual levels when asked to work in collaborative situations than when they work individually. Verma & Pumfrey (1994) conclude that placing children in a group setting, where their ideas and opinions are shared and discussed leads to learners achieving and fulfilling more of their goals. It is a vital learning step as it is where students learn to make compromises to overcome obstacles, not unlike the key competencies (Ministry of Education, 2007) of “relating to others” and “participating and contributing.”
Duckett & Tatarkowski (n.d) point out “There can be a discrepancy between the way the brain learns and the way students are taught. Students will learn content better through their preferred learning style.”
The three learning styles are:

Visual – About a third of people who learn mainly through seeing

Auditory – About a third of people who learn mainly through hearing

Kinaesthetic – The remainder of people who learn through doing

A teacher can enhance their planning and teaching by understanding and applying the preferred learning styles of their class to their lessons. This will better meet the individual students’ learning needs and empower the students to maximize their learning potential.
Grouping for Learning
Multiple Intelligences
If the Learning Styles focus on how we use our senses to perceive things then Multiple Intelligences point to our minds having multiple ways which we process, understand and solve problems (University of Canterbury, 2012). A teachers job is to understand the learning styles of the class to be better equipped to reach the children in the way they process information.
The following is a summary of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence - (“word smart” or “book smart”) - “ This intelligence involves the knowing which comes through language; through reading, writing, and speaking”.

Mathematical-Logical Intelligence - (“math smart” or “logic smart”) – “This intelligence uses numbers, math, and logic to find and understand the various patterns that occur in our lives:

Visual-Spatial Intelligence - (“art smart” or “picture smart”) -”This intelligence
represents the knowing that occurs through the shapes, images, patterns, designs, and textures we see with our external eyes, but also includes all of the images we are able to conjure inside our heads.

Intrapersonal Intelligence (“self smart” or “introspection smart”) “At the heart of this intelligence are our human selfreflective abilities by which we can step outside of ourselves and think about our own lives. This is the introspective intelligence

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence ("body smart" or "movement smart") “We often talk about “learning by doing.” This way of knowing happens through physical movement and through the knowing of our physical body

Interpersonal (“people smart” or “group smart”) “This is the person-to-person way of knowing. It is the knowing that happens when we work with
and relate to other people, often as part of a team.

Naturalist Intelligence (“nature smart” or “environment smart”) “The naturalist intelligence involves the full range of knowing that occurs in and through our
encounters with the natural world including our recognition, appreciation, and understanding of the natural environment.”

Musical-Rhythmic Intelligence (“music smart” or “sound smart”) “This is the knowing that happens through sound and vibration.
Kaupapa Māori is built on a respect for learning which means that the same principles apply within schools. Tātaiako (Ministry of Education, 2012) discusses several terms that support the development of an ideal learning environment. Teachers need to display manaakitanga- respect for Māori language and culture- in order to include and acknowledge every student individually as well as the wider community. By upholding whanaungatanga- engaging in respectful working relationships with Māori learners, whānau, hapū, iwi and the Māori community- students are more inclined to take responsibility for their leaning (Ako).
Russle Bishop’s study Te Kotahitanga stresses the importance of biculturalism, stating: “there is a need for teachers to challenge their own deficit theorising, and its impact on Māori students’ educational achievement as well as changing their performance in their classrooms.”
Questioning & Interaction
McGee & Fraser (2012) point out “Asking and answering questions in classrooms is a central part of revealing what students might be thinking and learning” (p.104). Good questioning techniques will better promote deeper thinking for the student and enhance their learning.
Blooms taxonomy for questions helps teacher’s formulate questions that move students through a range of questions that initiate low level thinking such as repeating knowledge to the highest level of thinking that help the student to evaluate information.
Student Centered Learning
Creating Learning Environments
There has been a noticeable shift in classroom philosophies that once centered on the teacher’s role as “the one who tells” to the students’ perception of “what meaning is being made?” (McGee & Fraser, 2011)
As different teaching cultures emerge, learning becomes student centered and based on norms of interaction with students that are supportive and positive. To promote conscious monitoring of their work, students must be given effective feedback which may come from teachers, peers or the material itself. Feedback is a crucial feature of the teaching and learning processes that according to Clarke (2001), “is the most useful when it focuses on the learning intention of the task.” It allows the children to see how and where they have successfully achieved through learning.
Inquiry based learning is another approach that prompts learners to consider real world questions and promotes student ownership of related topics. In this model, students are able to create their own success criteria and learning intentions.
A positive learning environment should be designed on the learning theory and pedagogical philosophies of the teacher. (Akinsanmi, para 9.) The constructivism learning theory introduces the concept of learners constructing new information to gain understanding. Therefore it is important to provide them with a physical context to allow this to happen.
Changes in the education systems have changed to reflect the ways in which the learners learn. Alongside this, there needs to be the consideration of the spaces for learning. Each group of learners will have their own learning needs and creating a space to match is paramount. One of the visions in the New Zealand Curriculum reflects the learners being connected to the environment, learners feel comfortable within an environment they are connected to, have taken part in building and freely learn within.
In the video below, Anne Keeneally introduces us to the various learning spaces within her classroom. Her goal was to create a learning environment that best met the needs of the learners. She allowed them to work out how they learn best, where, why and when. These range from standing spaces, tables, kidney shaped table, the mat, the cave and the bottle bivy. The learners discuss how the learning environments within the classroom helped them to be successful in their own learning. Each different learning space allows learners opportunities to be separate and not distracted, providing them with the ability to participate in active learning.
Learning How to Learn
The following Youtube video from Ken Robinson graphically highlights how our current education system serves the old industrial revolution framework where we are teaching more on product than process. In other words we are teaching people out of creativity. Meece & Daniels (2008) reinforce this view with Piaget’s thinking which says that “learning to learn should serve as the major focus of education, so that children can become creative, inventive, and independent thinkers” (p.159-160).

A teacher’s role should be to encourage and facilitate learning experiences that develop creative, inventive thinking. We should not so much be concerned about our students failing tasks and activities but more on the learning experiences gained from them.
Time can be of the essence within an educational setting. The way in which a teacher schedules the day can contribute largely to the promotion of learning. There is a fine line between being rigid and sticking to routines for learners who work best with them and being flexible to allow learning to occur by its own means. McGee and Fraser (2008) discuss the unexpected learning opportunities that can come derive from pliable routines. Learners are given greater scope to explore and identify new dispositions, often that are not planned for.
In the context of time, a teacher can also use the structure of the day to promote the best learning opportunities. “The amount and quality of teaching time is associated with student achievements and ‘effective classroom management conserves instructions time…” Evertson & Harris, 1992, p. 74 cited in McGee & Fraser, 2008. For example, a teacher would not end the day with numeracy as the children are mentally and physically exhausted and ready to go home. Numeracy would be best placed in the morning while learners are still fresh.
Create Effective Partnerships
The role of a teacher is to create effective partnerships with both whanau and the wider community. A paper written by F, J & C Biddulph (2003) discuss the importance of the influentual partnerships that lead to successful learning outcomes. The partnerships help the learners to identify with learning and give perspective. Learning opportunities can be enhanced by the sharing of knowledge and skills from these relationships. The teachers role in this is make the connections, reach out and accept the new cultures that others have to offer and utilise them within their classroom.
Research undertaken by Dunn & Griggs (1995) made a direct connection between temperature and how that impacted the learners. Learners not only need to be in a positive environment but it needs to nurture their physical being. The teacher is able to control the temperature and ventilation within the classroom to keep it at an optimal temperature to keep learners comfortable. If learners are too hot or too cold their focus will shift from the learning opportunities to self preservation to keep warm or cool.
Wall Space and Displays
Classrooms serve as a context for reflecting and celebrating learning. Displaying learners work shows them that their learning is valued and something to be proud of. It also acknowledges the learner’s achievements and give them a great sense of self-accomplishment. Part of the ERO reports focuses on the classroom environment and how this can be used to empower students in their learning. A report notes “Students have input into classroom environment giving them a high degree of ownership of their classroom”. (Ministry of Education, 2007, para 14).
Zone of Proximal Development
Meece & Daniels (2008) state that “In practice, the zone of proximal development represents the gap between what children can do on their own and what the can do with the assistance of others” (p.168). This is illustrated as shown below:
The teacher’s role is to scaffold the students learning not by telling them how do something but by guiding them through an activity so the students thinking is developed at a higher level than just being spoon feed the information. The teacher can do this through deliberate acts of teaching such as prompting, questioning.
As indicated with the Zone of Proximal Development, prompting is an important act of teaching that helps take what the student already knows and prompts (nudges) them along so that they make connections to reach a solution (Meece & Daniels,2008).
Prompting is a classic example of allowing the students to develop their metacognition so that they create stronger links in their brain which facilitate deeper learning. In this way we are not ‘steeling’ the learning from the students but allowing them to learn how to learn.

The following is a great example taken from Meece & Daniels (2008)

Teacher: "think you could work out how to write the word - tooth.”
Student: "could write down all the sounds I can hear."
Teacher: "Good! Then how could you check whether you were right?"

All along the teacher is guiding and prompting the student to develop their own conclusion. There may be times however where the teacher needs to be more direct with their deliberate acts of teaching and model, direct or explain how to do something more explicitly.
Developing Relationships
with Whānau
Families and their role in the education of youth are becoming more significant as they grow more entwined with schools. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory of human development proposes an underlying principle for teachers and parents/whānau working in close collaboration; most learners’ daily realities are within their immediate settings of home, school, and neighbourhood. Children’s connections with significant others and their experiences within these settings have limitless influences on their education, development and wellbeing. The link between home and school facilitates a learning that is reciprocal, interactive and “interrelated, where students are to be connected to each other and learn with and from each other.” (McGee & Fraser, 2011) The key to unlocking the ideal environment in which all learners are valued and encouraged to respect one another is reliant on the teacher.
Managing Stress/
Resolving Conflict
"It is likely that an emotional climate which seems ideal for one student might not be quite as positive for another," just as "the climate that is judged as warm in one culture might not be judged the same way in another." (Evans & Harvey, 2009) A main concern of some approaches is that they mostly give the impression that they are based on a somewhat low trust ethos that underscores disciplining and penalising misbehaviour rather than preventative actions. In an ideal classroom, “discipline is maintained, however it is obviously to serve the interests of learning rather than an end in its own right" (Begley et al 1994)
He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!
What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people! It is people!

In order to promote learning, teachers use a variety of teaching strategies. One strategy that contributes to successful learning is the use of groups to achieve collaborative learning. Groupings allow for different learners to come together to form a cohesive unit to work together. Teachers practicing this action create a social pedagogy within the classroom. Often the teacher creates these groups strategically and are linked directly to the particular learning purpose. “If the relationships between grouping size, interaction type and learning tasks are planned strategically then learning experiences will be more effective.” Blatchford, Kutnick, Baines & Galton (date unknown).
Each learner within the group takes on the concept of ‘ako’. Learners become both teachers and learners, sharing their experiences and knowledge with others learners. In return they also receive others knowledge. The reciprocal relationships empower learners and allows for them to become actively engaged in learning, thus more likely to be successful in their own learning.
The teacher is one of the most influential role model for learners and therefore must be aware of how his/her actions will be observed and perceived by students. Bandura’s social learning theory (1977) demonstrates how behavior is learned from the environment through a process of observational learning. Teachers can promote awareness of learning processes and strategies by modeling tactics such as ‘thinking aloud’ and scaffolded reading. By demonstrating active listening and active participation, the teacher can influence student behaviours. Learners are proven to be more likely to respond to teacher modeling when they view their teachers as capable, nurturing, supportive, and motivating and are more prone to assimilate behavior that yields positive consequences.
In Reality...
Nelson Intermediate embraces cultural diversity in multiple ways. Te Pitau Whakarei, the school’s bilingual class, supports its students and strengthens their cultural identity and sense of belonging. Student interest is high in developing knowledge of te reo Māori, and understanding of their whakapapa. The students’ involvement in kapa haka affirms their sense of identity, and regular huis help them make connections with the wider community. There are a range of talents options on offer for students every Friday including Pasifika traditions, Kapa haka and harakeke weaving. When I was on practice, the school had just completed an integrated studies topic on ‘whats in my kete?’ which encouraged and celebrated diversity within students throughout the school.
It was gratifying to observe how students (particularly Māori) had a sense of identity. I introduced myself to my class by Mihi, demonstrating my interest and respect for Māori tikanga. During my full management I took the class for te reo Māori which incorporated a kaupapa that was relevant to the current integrated studies unit of ‘Crimes Against the Environment’ and resonated with students’ interests.
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During my placement I observed how when students work together, they use different strategies to problem solve as a team to achieve high levels of thought that enables a longer preservation of information.
During maths, students worked in collaborative groups to measure and record data. Every day they measured the length, width, perimeter and volume of a growing polymer water toy. Over the week, each student should have had a chance to measure the penguin by using a ruler, measuring tape or measuring cup. Beforehand, groups must make a prediction of how much the penguin had grown. By doing so, students needed to contribute, rationalise and negotiate to form a hypothesis that the entire group agreed upon.

There are many great tools that a teacher can use within the classroom, some of which I was able to incorporate into my lessons. By using Google spreadsheets, the class recorded data of their rubbish output.
It was a highly effect way to document each individual student’s learning.

The pros and cons of collaborative work in the classroom are that it provides a perfect opportunity for students to develop social cognitive skills but relies heavily on students being able to work co-operatively. Because my associate teacher had not yet done a lot of group work with the class, they did not always take into consideration the opinions of everyone in the group. My associate teacher believed that camp is the best opportunity to build teamwork in a class.

The school vision is “Success for all” with connected, creative, happy learners who follow the right path - Whaia te Aratika. The vision is apparent in school-wide practices. Students feel valued, support each other and accept and celebrate differences.
Particularly in the case of Nelson Intermediate, where the range of ability is vast, flexibility and differentiation to the needs of individual students is a core aspect of student-centred learning. Instructional strategies I observed combined new and innovative ideas as well as practice that was based on the needs of the students. Differentiated instruction ensured that what a student learned, how he/she learned it, and how the student demonstrated what he/she had learned reflected the student’s readiness, interests, and preferred mode of learning.
My associate teacher deliberately made use of differentiated instruction to foster student success, as well as help to create a safe and secure classroom environment and trust in the teacher. I observed ICT being used throughout the curriculum and recognise it as a powerful teaching and learning tool.
•My teacher would use diagnostic assessments such as bus stops, organisation charts and general discussions to establish prior knowledge at the beginning of a unit. This would ensure the teaching would align with the level of understanding the students had versus where the teacher assumed their understanding was.
•My teacher would use many forms of deliberate acts of teaching to help the students identify and understand the key teaching points in the lesson. Examples included modeling, questioning, directing and prompting to help move the students through their learning at the students speed.
My teacher used formative feedback to great effect to scaffold the students with their next step learning. An example was the effort she would put into writing feedback for their writing. She would give individual feedback so that the students could take the feedback and use it for their editing. The specific and individualised nature of this feedback would mean the students had rich information they could use for their next step learning. It also meant the teacher could summarise themes with the class to take the whole class on a journey.
I found this was an intuitive interactive teacher action that my teacher used. Rather than pre-planning prompting exercises, my teacher would use directive questioning and prompting techniques to clarify understanding or move the students into more deep level thinking. This teacher action was geared towards the student constructing their knowledge and understanding rather than absorbing it from the teacher.
Learning to learn was a big direction my teacher had for teaching the students to become creative, inventive, and independent thinkers. She would not spoon feed the students information and was against being the sage on the stage. Rather she adopted a co-constructive approach where the students and teacher would build knowledge together. In this way she practiced being a facilitator to help the students gain learning experiences.
My teacher was very strong in shaping good questioning to promote deeper thinking for the students to enhance their learning. Having taught for more than 25 years, my teacher said how important it was for her to still record the big questions that she would use to engage the students in deep level thinking. She said that this was a big part of her planning and teaching and modelled questioning at the highest level.
An excellent standard of behaviour is expected at Nelson Intermediate. Students are encouraged to become responsible, self disciplined and caring young adults. My associate teacher explained that he had no reward systems in place as he did not believe in creating learners who are reliant on constant positive reinforcement.
My associate used mostly preventative tactics by giving clear instructions and setting high expectations. He helped me in improving my own instructional language with the simple mnemonic MINT.
aterials students need
n and out of desk
oise level expected
ime limits to complete activity
Both students and parents have access to the school’s daily notices on their intranet. The website has a wealth of information, updated regularly.

While the school works to incorporate whānau into the learning systems, because the children are at an age at which they begin to become more responsible for themselves. Parents no longer drop off and pick up their students from the classroom, reducing the teacher/ parent face time. In the classroom my associate teacher had distanced links with home-life, connecting only with students with troubles to be resolved.
Lower Moutere School invited parents into the classroom to teach te reo for half an hour in every classroom. This attitude of welcoming outside knowledge teaches learners that knowledge is multi-faceted and can come from a range of sources.
In Reality...
While I was teaching, I made a point of recording the lesson’s WALT and success criteria on the board. I also had students report back to me on their learning which reinforced their self-instruction skills and promoted goal setting. By displaying the success criteria, student learning was scaffolded and structured so that students could achieve highly and monitor their own achievement.

In maths groups I used a modelling book to discuss possible strategies for solving problems. I found that doing this allowed me to capture the student voice and student ownership of work.

In writing, I used a model (discussing Gareth Morgan’s views on cats) for persuasive writing to demonstrate what good writing looked like.
The following are areas that the class used a variety of learning styles:

•All roads lead to Rome DVD at the Nelson Provincial Museum: This was a fantastic DVD that the school could buy as a resource. It was 90minutes long and would be a great tool for future study on Rome and their

•The teacher used You Tube to help ignite lessons and reinforce teaching points. This was a powerful tool as there is so much rich information that can be used in the classroom on You Tube.

•The teacher had lots of student work attached to the walls around the room. This was a great visual example of both prior knowledge and what the children have learned throughout the year. It makes for a vibrant colourful classroom and is student centered.
Auditory•Music & video clips on You tube that are run through the sound system provide impact for the auditory learner.•I was surprised how involved the year 7 & 8 students were with the teacher reads time. This was a great chance to showcase their comprehension and vocabulary skills as the teacher involved the class in deciphering the stories.KinaestheticThe teacher used lots of hands on activities to promote learning in the classroom.•The teacher ran a Puberty awareness unit where she had the children sketch out a life size figure of a boy and a girl and had them place descriptions of areas on the body that go through puberty change.•The te reo language lessons were very hands on and focused on the students practicing their communication.•Maths came alive with interactive games and activities that enhanced the topic. This increased the interest and engagement levels which had a positive spin on the learning.
The teacher used a variety of ways to engage the students minds to process, understand and solve problems:
Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence – The teacher was very explicit in the way she used language through reading, writing and speaking. She was focusing on using our senses in the way we write descriptively and was able to weave this theme through reading and speaking time.
Mathematical-Logical Intelligence– My teacher was teaching on prime numbers and equivalent fractions and used tables and graphs for the students to find and understand the various patterns that occur in these areas.
Visual-Spatial Intelligence – My teacher understood and had the students to brain-storm, mind-map and use other conceptual formats such as cause and effect and bus stop questions to visually process and display information.
Intrapersonal Intelligence My teacher gave the students lots of opportunities to self-reflect on both their knowledge and understanding and the key competencies they were focusing on.
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence A classic example of learning by doing was a set of freeze frames and hot seating as a form of diagnostic and summative assessment.
Interpersonal – I had a chance to teach a social studies unit where we did lots of group work activities. I found some groups were not able to effectively work collaboratively and needed to work on explicitly encouraging relating to others as a key competency.
Naturalist Intelligence – One of the writing lessons involved getting the children out of the classroom to write descriptively about an area by the Maitai river.
Musical-Rhythmic Intelligence – The students were all very interested in singing which the teacher used to motivate the students with. They especially liked to sing contemporary music that they could all relate to.
Ownership of learning is a big part of the learning journey. Wall displays created a tactile forum to display and own these achievements. In reality wall space and displays need to be used selectively to be effective. A few large display areas of whole class activities was seen in the class I was in and this was effective as it showed the learning journey through teacher notes added around the finished
work. Learners were proud of their achievements and took pleasure in showing friends and whanau what they had on display. Wall displays were also used as a way to encourage children work harder on the pieces they were going to display resulting in across the board higher achievement in the finished display piece.
Heat pumps, curtains and opening windows are common place in most schools now, and were in the classroom where I was on placement. The ability to quickly and easily regulate temperature and air flow with minimal disruption was brilliant. How hot or cold the learners and teacher was made a huge impact on the learning environment. Too hot and they became lethargic, didn’t put much effort in and the amount of worked produced decreased as did the quality. Too cold and learners cannot concentrate, are hard to settle, and slow to settle into lessons, also resulting in a decrease in output and quality of work produced. The probability that this also means learners are not taking in and retaining as much of the learning is high to and is reflected in the resulting work produced. Aim to keep the classroom temperature between 16-21 degrees depending on the weather and the individual learners.
Creating effective partnerships is built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect with the learner. Once this partnership has been established, it makes it far easier for the teacher to reach out to the wider whanau and establish effective partnerships in the wider community. It is up to the teacher to identify strengths and weaknesses in individual learners and ‘feed’ these by creating an open, honest environment where everyone feels accepted, welcomed and valued. This was evident in the classroom I was in by the number of parents who came in to talk to the teachers, offer their time, volunteer for facilitating events that support the whole school and the wider community, such as helping with breakfast club and sport coaching. Ako plays a huge role in facilitating these partnerships as everyone involved needs to feel as though what they have to contribute is valid, respected and wanted.
Time IS of the essence. The less time we can spend facilitating learning, the more time we have for the actual content of the learning. This allows time to go deeper into the meanings of things, to make lessons more relevant, to practice more which all enhances how much learning is retained and effectively encoded for more autonomous recall. Time management is predominantly up to the teacher, the teacher decides at what part of the day certain subjects will be covered, when, and how long for. All of these decisions impact how much learning is done and how much will be able to be recalled at a later time. The class I was in had a fabulous routine where the management of the day was well established so the content of each lesson was on a deeper level that allowed time for more open discussion to promote higher order thinking.
Co-constructing success criteria, co-construction of knowledge, reciprocal respect, positive behaviour management and ako are all essential in creating a positive learning environment. Learners need to feel as though they have a say in what they learn and how they learn it. We as teachers are the facilitators and ultimately create the atmosphere and environment for the learning to take place. We are also responsible for teaching self efficacy so learners are doing things from intrinsic motivation which helps significantly with behavior management. Where learners can choose how the classroom is arranged, who they sit next to - if at all, where things belong in the classroom, where the classroom is (inside, outside etc) all enhances the sense of ownership and belonging which helps promote a growth mind set in the learners. From our experiences on placement, we can see that learners need to make their own choices about the environment for learning to take place; then they are accountable for their learning and also build a higher mode of self efficacy upon achievement as the intrinsic reward is greater.
In Reality...
In reality, the most obvious grouping for learning I saw was achievement levels in reading. Starting at well below and moving up this was done as an easy to manage activity from a teaching point of view. Small working groups were deemed ineffective at year 2-3 by my associate as “learners are to self centered to work well together in small groups without consistent support”. Collaborative whole class activities and lessons produced a wide range of ideas and higher order thinking. Lessons such as ‘Topic’ which had a big emphasis around open discussing were excellent in tailoring the relatability to individuals as they could use their prior knowledge to construct new meaning while listening to and thinking about others ideas and understandings.
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