Mike Willmarth

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How do we get students to adopt specific classroom procedures without the use of negative consequences (punishment) or rewards?

This is the continuation of a discussion I posted previously. In response to the initial posting several respondents suggested changing the system to involve more student choice in terms of what is studied. Others suggested that the classroom model is the root of the problem. While we could debate both of these issues, the fact remains that the system in which my students and I work is one that requires students to show a given level of mastery in a given set of skills that neither they or I select. Students who do not show the required level of mastery will still be moved on to the next course in the sequence, however they may also be required to concurrently take a support class to help them acquire mastery in the previous set of skills. This support class comes at the expense of taking an elective which they would probably find more interesting. Given these conditions, it is my goal to help as many as possible acquire mastery of the required skills during the initial class.

With that clarification in mind, I would like to again pose the initial question: I have an interest in having my middle school students use a particular organization system for their class materials. Having a uniform system allows peers to more readily help each other stay organized, allows parents to more easily check on their child’s progress, and allows the class to more efficiently move through our daily transitions. The question, how do I get all students on board without the use of if-then rewards or punishments? I know from my experience (12 years at middle school) that some students will be oppositional and some will be unmotivated. While these represent the exception, not the rule, they are often the students most in need of the organizational structure. Additionally, it is the parents of these students who most often need a simple to follow structure for supporting their child’s educational process.

  • Aug 3 2012: I am sure your system has it's merits and is quite a reasonable approach, however, many of your students would probably prefer to find their own system.

    When reading your explanation of what the students need I immidiately felt myself become one of those "oppositional" students.
    I went through most of my middle-school and high-school years without ever taking notes at all. And the idea of having all that stuff was just revolting to me. Whenever a teacher came up with one of your ideas I'd flat out reject it.
    That of course lead to some frantic scrambling for notes just before exams BUT:
    Me and my friends always proved to be quite ressourceful in organizing ourselves in that time.

    Now surely, my option isn't the way to go but realize that your students most likely are capable of getting themselves organized. But if you impose a system which might work for you, you will antagonize your students. Why not take some more time and help your students come up with their own system? Personalized, suited to their behaviour and way of learning.
    Because all these tests and reports you've thought up sound horribly annoying. It sounds like one of those tight run businesses straight out of employee's hell. And in my puberty I'd have been the first to draw a dick on those "what I am thinking about now?" papers and chuck them in the bin.

    I can see you have only their best interest in mind and never meant for your system to generate such a reaction but I thought it might help to hear the most antagonistic opinion. No offense ment.

    In the end, and here I totally agree with you, what counts is that the students learn their skills, hopefully enjoy them and get more personal freedom in choosing what they eant to do next. They way they go about it shouldn't matter.
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      Aug 5 2012: Paul - You're right that I don't want students scrambling at the last minute to get organized. While I know that may work for some students, it usually doesn't work for the ones least inclined but most in need of organization. These students need role models for how to be a successful learners and the best role models are their peers.

      As for the horribly boring tests and reports, those are not items I've "thought up". Those are tests required by our district and reports that outline students' success on the required tests. I can have whatever opinion I want to about the tests, but I don't get to decide not to give them.

      Finally, the goal behind the "What I am thinking about" paper is to help students gauge their level of engagement. Whatever they learn in the future will take engagement. If they can become more self-aware as to how well they engage, they will be better able to avoid the things that become distractions.

      The most important skills these students need to learn is how to be learners. It seems professionally irresponsible to have a set of standards for language arts, math and science, but to leave the fundamental skills of how to be a successful learner for students to discover of their own.
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    Jul 31 2012: i think you've put your finger on an aspect of education that will never be solved by a system, largely because of the variety of student attitudes and personalities involved.

    this is where people can bridge the gaps that no system can be flexible enough to encompass. as such, it's going to be a constant uphill push for those exceptions but given patience and putting student before system, you'll probably make an impression on those students that will stay with them all their lives.

    be supportive, patient and flexible - everything a system cannot be.
  • Jul 31 2012: Anyone with young children knows that whether it is school, or cleaning up, or eating vegetables, kids respond to bribes.
    Seriously though, kids have to see that what they are doing has some sort of practical application. Good teachers are good at keeping kids motivated during the stretches of boredom that come along with learning new things. Even when we like something, we need a change in the routine and some positive reinforcement to keep going.
    • Jul 31 2012: Hey Dan I'll give you another one if you say something nice about my post.
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    Jul 30 2012: Ok I got it, there could be a class project where different skillsets are necessary to complete it, and it would be impossible for any one person to do everything. As in a kind of project that requires a good amount of art, a good amount of logic and conceptual understanding (like math or physics), a good amount of knowledge on things in general (history, misc. information). And perhaps, everyone is required to understand all these different kinds of knowledge or concepts to a certain extent. The grade for the class project cannot settle for anything less than 98%, or else everyone fails. And they need to try again.

    The idea is to create a feeling that each student in the course is NEEDED for their strengths.

    And maybe, what they could also do is have different classes compete with each other on the same class project?

    And the teacher's role is to be the regulator or the government. If a kid is getting frustrated or something, don't be like "You gotta do this or else you're gonna fail the class." The teacher has to be like "What's the matter dude?"
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      Jul 30 2012: James you have come up with a brilliant idea! It seems to resembles how the actual work place works. Now do the students individually work on their own part of the project, say for example one student works on the art and the logical part and then at the end bring it together with the other students to create the final project?
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        Jul 30 2012: I'm trying to keep the introverts and the extroverts in mind. But ideally, we want the kids to realize that in order to work together as a team, some kind of communication needs to be formed. They could use forum posts, Facebook, Google Docs, etc.

        So students can work individually since some students work better when alone. But that should not mean they're excommunicated with the majority. So these students need to figure out a way to communicate his own ideas with everyone else, meanwhile the other kids need to figure out a way to include the "lone wolves."

        Basically, I want a format that is flexible enough to give options. Kids can work individually if they want, but that shouldn't stop them from collaborating or hanging out with other people's houses to work on something. And neither should a very private person should be "forced" to work collaboratively. The only thing they are "forced" to do is be able to communicate to everyone else their ideas and intentions, and the other people are "forced" to accept the individual workers' way of doing things.

        Btw, did you receive my message?
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          Aug 6 2012: Hi James
          Your idea works in an environment that requires many kinds of abilities. It reflects the work environment of the 'real world.'
          However, what about the learning environment, where students are learning the skills they will need later. Skills must be learned at some point. Mixed skill set environments are not optimal when it is the skill set itself which is being learned. Or do you believe that beginning typists should be taught the same material as advanced typists, or that students studying documentary video-graphy the same as beginning photography? Getting students to cooperate is not the fundamental solution. Classroom flexibility is not a fundamental solution either.
          The fundamental problem is cost. Schools cost, teachers cost, materials cost, and support for the environment costs. How to get the most bang for the buck has led us to the situation we now find ourselves in. Finessing the situation through cooperation and flexibility may work when the required skill sets are present within the work group to satisfy the needs of the problems to be solved.
          When the situation is one in which the skill sets themselves are being developed, then utmost focus must be place on the students' achievement of those skills. Time chatting on Twitter is probably going to be wasted. Questions asked and answered in class will probably help more students more quickly.
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        Aug 6 2012: As for Required skills, that should ideally be within the core curriculum. The kind of required skills I was thinking about was stuff like, keyboarding, how to use online resources more effectively, government/economics, foreign languages, English communications, Math, Sciences, Computer Science, or Understanding how a Computer Works, History, Social relations/studies, etc. Most of these are already in their core curriculum, but a lot of them need to improve.

        "Mixed skill set environments are not optimal when it is the skill set itself which is being learned." Yeah, so I'm saying the education system needs to adopt a more flexible teaching style that addresses as many different types of learners out there, not just the booksmart people.

        Of course I don't believe that a kid on calculus level should really be with pre-algebra students in a math class. Most of those advanced students got ahead through outside of the curriculum offered. In this case, maybe that outside source is online education.

        In regards to cost, I can certainly say that textbooks are not the way to "get the bang for the buck." But you're right, one of the most fundamental problems is indeed the cost. Cheaper costs can be found through newly discovered cheaper/efficient methods to adopt.

        Cooperation can be seen at an early age. Like I've seen kids build stuff together in Minecraft or on the sandbox area on the playground. I mean, it really just depends on the difficulty of the project they're working on, but you can find easier things to do like Minecraft for example that any kid can play.

        "When the situation is one in which the skill sets themselves are being developed, then utmost focus must be place on the students' achievement of those skills."
        Aside from the basic skillsets that can let you be more succussful in the world, like personal financing, politics/government/current events, how to use your computers, communication skills, everything else should be free reign.
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    Gail .

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    Aug 3 2012: The ONLY way to motivate a student is to show them good enough reasons why they should want to follow your lead. To make you happy or their parents happy or so that they can hold down a job in 10 years isn't enough of a motivator. From THEIR perspective, you don't really care about them (you'll just be another ex-teacher soon enough), many of their parents don't care, and the chance of their getting a job at all in 10 years gets slimmer by the year.

    I would suggest a really fun project that cannot be done without the organizational skills that you want them to follow. It must be something that they really REALLY want to do, (not HAVE to do because they're in school and you said so) and it can be different for each student. Learning about something from the computer with no outside assistance requires great organizational skills.

    Of course, you could just work with each of the objecting students every day, while they put things in order. (Eventually, they may get tired of this special attention and get it together. And if conversation is part of the process, you might learn why they are rebelling. There might be a good reason, and they might be trying to tell you something.)
  • Aug 1 2012: You don't. For many people the expectations of constant work is not how they want to live their lives. People want to live according to their natural rhythm and stress limits, modern society makes this impossible because of the domestication of human beings by capitalism through specialization.

    As jobs get automated and offshored the profitability of a persons ability to sell labor plummets and hence this creates enormous stress on the society as opportunities have been destroyed and eroded through automation and the billion surplus human beings. We live in an age where most people are superfluous to the economic system. You should take a look at Citigroups leaked memo (google it). We live in a plutonomy where most economic activity is driven increasingly by the rich.
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    Aug 1 2012: As a student, I like to be organized but that's just in my nature because i discovered some years ago that if you stay organized you do half the work in half the time. They need to realize this as well and why not make time to explain the alternative systems to yours and if indeed yours is better than they will undoubtedly embrace it. As well, are you sure that the system you use is appealing to them? As middle school students are still children and can be easily motivated to adopt a certain system, you cannot expect the same response as from high school or university students. Also, maybe think of a system to run along the organizational one so they understand how your way of doing things makes it easier for them to learn. Or better yet, get past students of yours that used your system to come and talk to them and explained how it made it easier for them, and how your current students should approach the learning process.

    It would really help if you gave more details about the system as I don't know if I should think about a set of rules for learning or weekly assessments of their work or how they organize their homework and lessons.
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      Aug 2 2012: I'm considering a system whereby all students need a binder or single folder with sections for:
      - Home and class practice
      - Exit problems
      - “What are you thinking about right now?” pages
      - Returned tests and weekly Pacent reports
      All students will need a binder or single folder with the above listed section labeled. Students would not have the option to substitute other forms of organizing the class materials.
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        Aug 3 2012: Well from my point of view this would be great, although by the end of the term I think it would be a bit too big to carry around, but as the students do not have the option to organize the materials differently I think you could let them personalize their binders or make them think it's their idea. Why not begin with a session of brainstorming with them and try to lead them on the right way to understand how it is better to organize their materials and they themselves come up with your solution. Of course, it won't be exactly like you describe it but what matters is that they will accept the idea as one of their own and embrace it.
  • Jul 31 2012: Get them genuinely interested about what they are learning about. Or teach them to utilize the available resources so they can one day teach themselves.
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    Gail .

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    Jul 31 2012: I love the Kahn Academy paradigm. The required fields are offered. Students work independently to master said skills. One student may breeze way ahead while another lags behind.

    When I was in school, I was forever waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. I remember my first day of reading class in first grade. I somehow knew how to read (and being surprised & amazed by that), so I read the whole book in the time that the first student was struggling to read the sounds aloud. I was chastized for reading ahead.

    By third grade, when Mrs. F started the first class of the first day of school, she started with a review. I still see it: "One bluebird plus one bluebird. How many bluebirds to you have" That was the day that I turned off and school became torture.

    When I was 15, I wanted to add the one English credit that I needed for early graduation, but no one would let me. Oh how I wanted to learn, and oh, how I was always stopped dead in my tracks.

    I also think that it would be helpful if teachers called students, "Mr. so-and-so" and "Ms so-and-so". I remember knowing how my teachers were disrespecting me, and given how badly they were treating me by forcing me to wait for the rest of the class, resentment at the world grew.

    The problem as I see it is that teachers are incentivized to work against student's humanity (not to mention, required to).

    May I suggest: http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html

    What Mr. Kahn says about why technology is better than teachers (at teaching) hit me as "on-spot". I'm thoroughly enjoying going through the math courses that I hated in middle and high school. The practice sessions are just fun - like video games. Very rewarding for successes with no punishment for lack thereof. I feel so proud of myself when i master something challenging. I don't need a teacher's words, because I long ago learned to not-trust teachers.

    No offense intended. Thanks for the GREAT ?
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      Jul 31 2012: Agreed!

      Khan Academy is definitely very cool, and is a great way to learn things, especially on your own. However, I do not think online education should completely replace public education. The biggest fundamental difference is, public education is not just about learning the stuff, it's about learning how to deal with the environment you're in and how to deal with other people.

      So, public education needs to capitalize more on human-to-human and social interactions. That is something that's very hard to learn through online education imo. They need to capitalize on teamwork and collaboration. An Introvert cannot be completely private, and an Extrovert cannot be totally intrusive of others. The new system needs to support all these different types of learners, but also needs to support some kind of common ground. Lone Wolves need to communicate to others their ideas, and the People's Person needs to understand how the Lone Wolf works, and vice versa. That's the kind of communication that needs to be established in some kind of collaborative setting.
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        Gail .

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        Jul 31 2012: Wholly agree. Remind me to tell you about my experiment helping children learn about various political models (reality-based). More of a day-camp environment and won't work in a classroom setting, but I agree with your suggestion. Socialization is important.
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        Aug 1 2012: Not to mention, James, that "direct instruction," which is to say lecture, is not the best way for a lot of students to learn. Inquiry learning is a staple of the modern classroom.
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          Aug 1 2012: Indeed, from my college experience, I found lectures for the most part to be extremely ineffective. While they encourage people to ask questions, they really actually discourage kids from asking questions, because most good questions take up a lot of time from the lesson plan. So everyone's forced to pay attention to the lecture. And also, most kids who have lost track of what the professor has said or just can't keep up or understand the guy will just do other things like doodle, daydream, go on Facebook, etc. There's no point in going to lecture if you can't learn in it.
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      Jul 31 2012: Somewhere in this topic, I came up with an idea where, the course is this:

      The entire class needs to get a B in this course. If one person fails to do so, then everyone fails. No child left behind.
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        Gail .

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        Jul 31 2012: This one scares me. Sounds like a bloodbath is looming. Bullying run rampant. And what about the mainstreamed kids, who are in 5th grade but still require diaper changing by the teacher, as is the case in some states? As my sister (a teacher) once told me, my cat is house-trained, but some of her students were not. I wouldn't allow my child in such a all-or-none class. Would you?

        Look at the difference in inner-cities, when you get one who is so exceptional that the sky is the limit, but she is the only one in the class who is inspired. It is her job to lead the class in the name of her own survival? How do you force the uninspired child to drink, no matter how much water you offer?
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          Jul 31 2012: lol I can see it become pretty vicious, but I think the results of this predicament can be surprisingly good...

          Basically this is what needs to first be established. They all need to first recognize their similarities and differences before they can work together.

          Similarities: we're all in this predicament together. We're all trying to pass the course. We're all human beings with feelings and curiosity.

          Differences: strengths and weaknesses. I am better at this person in drawing or art. Another person is way better at coming up with cool ideas. Another person has a much better understanding of logic and concepts than others. And another person can understand other people's feelings better than anyone else.

          I want to communicate the idea that no one strength is greater than another. All strengths are necessary to accomplish something far greater than any one person's accomplishments.

          So perhaps it is the teacher's job to simply regulate, make sure no one gets too extreme. And when a conflict arises, if they spend too much time to argue, the teacher should step in, assess the situation, and help make an agreement. Make sure every child is involved in one way or another, no child left behind.
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        Gail .

        • +2
        Aug 1 2012: For all-or-none classrooms, you would need great diversity of ages in the classes. It's simply too unfair to group students by age. Socialization can be learned on the playground, and indeed, it is. Kids naturally self-sort on the playground. School isn't for learning how to submit to peer pressure or authority. It's for learning. Schools shouldn't be where teachers teach. It should be where learners learn. Your model protects the damning scheme that is already in place. You have too much trust in teachers and not enough in students.
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          Aug 1 2012: Hmm, so how do we create another method that supports collaborative environment and un-supports the peer pressure/authority that restricts the learning of most?
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        Gail .

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        Aug 1 2012: Because of character limits (2k), I have responded to your last question by email. 12 ideas for a multidimensional podschool.
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          Aug 1 2012: Hmm, I did not receive your message...
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      Aug 1 2012: What you said is totally valid and I see your point. Everyone talks regarding his/her experience. However, the problem with teachers could be a problem of training: lack of methodology or specific training according to the subject and the time we are. Even when most of people believe we are in a modern society because of the new technology, I still see teachers that are in the Ice Age using the same books and using the same methodology that was used with them. Learning cannot be something systematize.
      I agree with online education and the use of technology as a tool for learning but teachers are important and public education too.
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        Gail .

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        Aug 1 2012: I see a valuable role for teachers, whether they teach on-line or in classrooms. It's just that IMO, teachers who do not love learning shouldn't be teachers. Schools should be places where one celebrates learning. (Which is why we need to fix the economic model before we can fix our educational one)
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          Aug 5 2012: I agree totally with you. I have seen cases where people of other professions go into teaching without having experience just because they don't have another job. It is a sad situation because that leaves the professionalism of teaching aside.
  • Jul 31 2012: Create a sense of school identity. Creat sense of class identity in reference to the school identity..
    Make exploring and choice a priority in learning. Learn how to be funny. Become talented. Love technology.
    Exploit said class identity within the school identity. Affect concreate change in the community identity by exploiting school identity. This creates roots in he community.

    Ware them down with physical activity, and metacognitive challenge.
    Bake for 10 months with a heavy sprinkle of self-accomplishment and presto!

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      Jul 31 2012: oh and to add to this,
      understand how your students think and work.
      • Jul 31 2012: That is personalization and Understanding by Design. Both established symbiotic modern educational strategies characterized by creating learning profiles and presenting opportunities for students to demonstrate learning in various ways. The ends regardless of the means so to speak.
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          Jul 31 2012: ok, well I'm not sure what's required for someone to get a Teaching degree, but perhaps learning profiles need to be more accurate then? Or the method of identifying the learning profile needs to be more accurate
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      Gail .

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      Jul 31 2012: This might work for some, but it would certainly turn me off. I remember my first day of kindergarten, when the parents and students stood. We were told to put our right hands over our hearts, and our mothers helped us do it right. Then they said something that horrified me. I didn't know what the words were or even what they meant (The Pledge of Allegiance), but I knew with absolute clarity that something was VERY wrong with what they were doing. I knew even at that tender age that "I" am important, and that anything that was trying to destroy it was wrong.

      I don't like competition. I do enjoy collaboration, from time to time, but only after I have mastered the skills that we use in our collaboration.
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    Jul 31 2012: At the risk of being repetitious repetition is the key. Apparently my idea does not resonate and it is quite boring and doesn't require any technology but if ya wants to get some people to do stuff it works like a champ.
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      Jul 31 2012: Yessir, repetition is a great tool to get people to ingrain stuff in their heads lol. It makes them develop habits.

      So maybe the best habit is to constantly ask "why" to like literally everything. Use repetition to focus on curiosity...
  • Jul 30 2012: Considering the concepts of behaviorism, the only way to do it without using obvious conditioning methods is to deploy the Y management style. This would enable the students to be open to ideas and to each other. The problem with this ideal is that not all students are exactly motivated to learn; so, this management style would not work in certain situations. Personally, I believe positive and negative reinforcements are the best ways to run a classroom.
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      Jul 31 2012: The only way imo, to REALLY motivate students to learn is for them to be curious. Curiosity is one of the best teachers out there. So there needs to be a heavy focus on how to get kids to be curious imo
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        Gail .

        • +1
        Jul 31 2012: I agree James, but unfortunately curiosity is drummed out of a child by education. It slows down the process of a teacher's requirement to achieve a stated agenda in a stated amount of time. No matter that once a child understands the joy of curiosity that learning explodes. It's too risky for teachers and it does not support the pedagogical paradigm that serves the military-industrial complex so well, while at the same time turning a human into a commodity.
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          Jul 31 2012: In the current system, you're right, and I really hate to see when a kid hates school, because learning should be a fun thing, not something to hate.

          The other issue is, we NEED more innovative minds soon. Why should a school raise a bunch of kids and make them memorize things? A machine and a robot can learn the entire curriculum from elementary school to high school in 2 minutes top. If they're gonna treat the kids like robots, they might as well just turn their school into a factory that makes robots and machinery. And you and I both probably don't want that.

          So what needs to be done is finding a new, more effective system to inspire community, curiosity, and creativity imo.
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    Jul 30 2012: The only problem I see with this is the fact that most students learn through different capacities and thus would study and organize themselves differently. Do you feel like creating a uniform system restrict some of your students?
  • Aug 13 2012: Well one thing is for sure! This has been a pertinent and important conversation. Thank you Mr. Willmarth for putting yourself out there in what must have been a reeling process.
    I have some questions remaining for you if you don't mind?

    Does finding a uniform system in an already perceived "broken" system present to you as an obvious success?

    What percentage of observed students do you expect to find success utilizing said system?
    What is expected if the student fails to use the "system" successfully?
    What do i do if I don't think the "system" is for me?
    Does knowing where to find something Constitute knowing how to understand something?
    What do you think learning means to me?
    How am I reflected in the "system"?
    To what extent do you believe I am capable?

    Welcome to a new year!
  • Aug 7 2012: Hello, Mike.

    What you are describing is a Glasser Quality School classroom. Here is the main website for the book "The Quality School: Managing Students without Coercion" and "The Competency Based Classroom."


    Just "up the hill" from you in Angwin, is Pacific Union College. Several years ago my good friend introduced that school to Dr. Glasser and I think they are teaching teachers the Quality School methods. You might go up there and ask who is teaching Glasser at the school. I have been out of the country for a while now and am not current on what they are doing. However, if you ask the people at wglasser.com for more information, they will be happy to help. There are several Glasser Quality Schools around the US and around the globe. I am here in Indonesia working on a Quality School. It is extremely difficult here because the people's mindset is not really interested in education. In my classroom I try to teach two things: respect and responsibility. With these I also teach choices. Indonesian do not believe in choices. They do what they are told and very little else.
    Using the Quality School methods I am slowly helping them learn that responsibility is success. They all want to be successful. I let my students know that they get to choose what grade they get in the class. When I give assignments in class, many of them choose not to do them, and I relate that to their choice to be successful in class. When the student does his assignment, I congradulate him on being successful and they are happy to be successful. This is very strange to the "education" system and to students who are used to being told what to do, or else. I am actually seeing success. I teach the 11 and 12th graders, but I should teach this to the lower grades.

    Here are two videos that my students like to watch:


    Most of all, have fun!
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    Aug 7 2012: Hi Mike
    I have read through a lot of this, and think I have the motivator you need: the forgetting curve.
    the brain is very good at remembering what the personality focuses on, and very good at forgetting or storing away what the personality does not focus on, especially if there are negative feelings attached. Math can have many negative feelings attached, especially for the poor student, and you end up with a negative spiral. The more they forget, the worse their grades and the more negative feelings result, causing more forgetting.
    The solution must be based on reality, not pie in the sky, not fun, not feelings.I am absolutely not saying you can not use enjoyable and interesting games or activities. On the contrary, that is a major achievement of good teachers. In your case/situation, here is the deal:
    The students must avoid the necessity of cramming for the exams. Cramming is caused by lack of ready knowledge. They have forgotten the material. Why have they forgotten? Because they did not review.
    So, why did they not review? There could be several factors:
    They are not in the habit of reviewing. They have too much new homework to have time for review. They lack a system which enables easy reviewing. They lack an organized source of review materials. They don't know how or when or what to review.
    This is a skill set for students, and which is not taught by teachers who are too busy teaching what their job requires of them.
    I believe it was Stanford which studied the forgetting curve and came up with a system to help students defeat it.
    Students' needs
    1. Class notebooks that are treated like diaries. Each page is dated in order, each class has its own section or its own notebook.
    2. What the students learn in class goes into the notebook, using references to textbook pages as needed.
    3. The students learn the schedule which, if followed, will defeat the evil curve:
    Review the day's lessons on the day, after one week, three weeks, and before quizzes and exams.
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    Aug 6 2012: Lesley - In this instance my idea of a successful learner is someone who can learn the required material. I don't think I'm imposing a system of how to learn though I am imposing a minimum system of organization. By having their materials readily accessible, students will be in a position to choose their preferred method of study. They can use past tests as a tool for review, individually and/or with study teams; they can review sections of the textbook that tie into the practice work done at home and in class; they can use online resources tied to what we have been studying. Without access to what we have worked on it becomes much more difficult for students to identify the skills to study.

    Thank you for your response. These conversations are really helping me prepare for introducing and justifying my expectations to my students.
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    Aug 6 2012: 'my responsibility is to help students become successful learners within the existing system.'
    What in your view is a 'successful learner'?
    Surely this will be someone who can make their own choices about how to learn (even if your system doesn't allow them to choose what to learn). Your idea of an imposed system of organisation of notes and ideas seems to fly in the face of the received wisdom of learner autonomy. Surely their motivation would increase of they felt they had choices? And if you just want compliance then why not use a reward system to motivate them to comply? They have to get something out of it after all.
  • Aug 5 2012: I like the fact that you readily acknowledge that you are controlling. As this discussion demonstrates, that approach is not very popular here at TED. I will try to stick to "best practices for motivation."

    IMO, you are talking about an exercise in leadership and salesmanship. So you might want to visit some sites devoted to those specific topics.

    Relate your organization method to your subject, math. Perhaps by pointing out that math is a discipline and requires discipline in thinking and discipline in organization.

    I hope this is helpful. You have taken on a daunting challenge.
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      Aug 6 2012: Barry - Thank you for acknowledging how negatively the TED community feels about policies that are controlling or restrictive. Many in the community prefer to comment about the state of education and the ways in which the macro system should be giving students greater choice in what they learn. Mine is not a macro policy role; my responsibility is to help students become successful learners within the existing system.

      I have been looking at leadership resources; thanks for the suggestion about salesmanship resources.
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    Aug 3 2012: It is very difficult. The teacher can only ensure every pupil achieves his or her potential by supporting them to find for themselves the resources they need. It will definately be the case that pupils have issues that cannot be supported by the teacher in the classroom at that instant. A school can provide some of the support these pupils need by involving other staff not involved in the classroom scenario and by involving the wider community. Within school a pupil who is well fed engages better so not only provide lunchtime meals but a breakfast club. At least the children will have a structure where they get enough nutrients to engage in the learning process and are awake enough to engage. A child who is well nourished emotionally also engages better. A school counselling team is a good idea but the counselling staff must be independent of the teaching staff, the point of contact is in administration and ultimately to the head of the school. Some kind of physical intervention is also appropriate, something that increases oxygen levels but is physically gentle so the circulatory systems of the body are stimulated but not overstimulated. Then you get an alert pupil ready to engage and you can start the process of providing a cognitive structure where pupils learn how to get the information they need not just information. It's about wisdom as well as information. The traditional filters of the family structure are no longer there. Parents have to work. If there are any older people in the community who would like to feel included they could be invited to support the children in school, even as learning support i.e reading to children who struggle to read, helping others with Maths. It is about using all the resources available to help you the teacher not feel worn down by a very difficult task.
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    Aug 2 2012: Several respondents have asked for more specificity about the type of organizational program I want to put in place this year. Below is one, fairly simple, organizational tool I want all students to use:

    Students need a binder or single folder with sections for:
    - Home and class practice
    - Exit problems
    - “What I am thinking about right now?” pages (designed to help students monitor their engagement in class)
    - Returned tests and weekly Pacent reports
    All students will need a binder or single folder with the above listed section labeled. Students may not substitute other forms of organizing the class materials.

    To some, it may seem controlling to dictate a specific organization system for all students. It is. If everyone is using the same program we can provide better support for students who struggle with organization. Admittedly, this runs counter to those who promote a ROWE system. Or those who promote a system that allows students to find a method that best works for them. While both of these approaches may seem more respectful of students’ individual differences, given the dual goals of creating a system that is both efficient and effective I have elected to impose the uniform system described above.

    All of that said, my current concern is about best practices for motivation without resorting to if-then rewards or punishments. Thank you in advance for your input.
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      Aug 9 2012: Thank you for explaining your organizational system. When I taught middle school mathematics, I had students collect their materials in a similar way, but not for bringing back and forth to school each day. At school they did their warmups/notes and worked on their assignments. Their warmups were in a spiral notebook often which came back and forth to school. At home they had some sort of file or notebook in which they collected returned assignments and returned tests. Once a quarter they submitted to me their notebooks with the warmups, the returned work, and the returned tests.

      During instruction, I would sometimes refer back to earlier warmups/notes but never to returned homework, so there was no reason that returned work needed to come back and forth to school and load down the backpacks.

      Another option you have if you want them to collect their returned homework and tests is to keep a file tub at school with a folder for each child with a divider in it. Returned work could go on one side of the divider and returned tests in the other. The folder could go home on a schedule, either for reviewing for tests or to show parents. Having a storage place at school might be a more effective way of getting students to keep things that way and seeing others do it will help remind them to do it.

      If you expect reluctance to keep returned work and tests, for example, do you believe that making students keep that work will create a significant probability that they look back at it for study? If they don't look back at it ever, would you still feel good about encouraging them to hang onto it?
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    Aug 1 2012: Mike, you posted your thread perhaps three days ago and thus far you have received fifty responses from people who want to help you and to engage with you about your question. Some have asked you questions of clarification.
    Have you disappeared?
    • Aug 2 2012: Ruf! Ruf Ruf! Owwwwww!...............................
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      Aug 2 2012: No, still here. Have been away doing things off the grid. I appreciate the comments and suggestions. I will try to offer some clarifications and other responses over the next few days.

      Again, I hope none of you take my lack of response as a lack of interest. - Thanks
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        Aug 2 2012: Glad you are fine. I know how valuable Summer can be as off-the-grid time for a classroom teacher. And most are partly on the grid with trainings and course development even in Summer.
  • Aug 1 2012: Why do you want to refrain from using punishment or reward mechanisms? Do you not grade your classes? Learning can only occur when there is feedback. Giving your students a grade for using your system would surely suffice. Just make sure it's a good system, perhaps gather some feedback in return.
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      Aug 2 2012: Timo -

      I do grade my students and that grade is based entirely on their mathematics performance. I do not want to go back to the old system where part of the grade was based on how compliant students were. (Such as basing part of the grade on whether students did their homework.)
      • Aug 2 2012: Yet you want them to comply in organizing their class materials in a particular way...

        You can, of course, try to convince your students that your organization system is better than any other. This may work, depending on how good your system really is and how much your students trust you. Even so, without any sort of incentive there will be little reason for unmotivated students to adopt it. I suppose it's somewhat of a prisoner's dilemma. The individual has an incentive to use her own method of organizing class materials because it costs the least effort. But, assuming you are correct, everyone will be equally well or better off if all adopt a standardized organization system. Generally, the only way to resolve a prisoner's dilemma is by changing the payoffs of each outcome, i.e. punishment or reward. I don't see a way around it.

        Is it really the the punishment and reward system that offends you? Otherwise you might be able to think of more creative ways of rewarding and/or punishing your students than grading. For example, an excursion or fun project may be a good reward.
  • Aug 1 2012: I feed my catlle today. cattle, dogs, cats, etc. what they do is based on something positive - a reward or something negative - maybe that's a punishment. ARe you asying people are different I bet if you analyze your actions We will find this pattern Maybe even the relentgless learner discussed elsewhere is getting a reward In fact, I am sure she is.
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    Aug 1 2012: Knowledge is the reward as well as participating in the growth and exspansion of the knowledge. This may exist in one form or another, but I would suggest an open forum model of education. A simple example would be to open each class with problem be it science, language, music....whatever subject you want. Break the class into small groups and come up with ideas to solve said problem. You still have structure but it is less restrictive and more colaborative and embracing. I don't beleive you can eliminate reward, however with group interaction the reward is shared.
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    Gail .

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    Jul 31 2012: A few courses about "who" you are and "what" you are and "how" you/life work(s) would be helpful, but you will have the fundamentalist religious nuts on you for that. LOL.
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      Jul 31 2012: Yeah, so there needs to be a class early on that teaches each kid that they're special, but also teaches them that everyone else is special too.
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      Aug 2 2012: While I can suggest the inclusion of such courses, I do not control the school's master schedule. At this point I am concentrating on what I can control that may increase the success of my students.
  • Jul 31 2012: If you get an iPad 2 you can document, annotate, and store in a profile instantly. You can also save marked work as just backgrounds d send parents monthly digital student work folders. Take pictures of student work throw it on the monitor and annotate edit as a class without ever having marked up their work but have a record. Using just Dropox and Goodnotes I do all this and more than I can explain right now. My students in grade one would not need notebooks if they all had an iPad. My son will have one in kindergarten and they better welcome it.. But I digress. It changed my life and it would Change yours too. How does this solve your problem? I found my way to organize. You have yours. You need help them find their way not you'res. You are trying to solve the wrong problem maybe? Thanks for the post.
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      Jul 31 2012: There is one piece of your reply, Paul, which I would like to bring forward. You wrote "I found my way to organize. You have yours. You need [to] help them find their way, not yours."

      This is absolutely true. When we share with students ways of learning, including ways of organizing, checking ourselves for understanding, and connecting ideas to each other, we should be doing this not to create students in our own image but to offer experience with an option that is worthy of their consideration for their own toolboxes.

      Certainly by the time students are, say, ten or eleven years old, we should be able to justify the system we are proposing to them.

      What replaces bribes or punishments in the classroom is credibility. Credibility does not comes with a job title once students are of middle school age. It can only be earned.
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    Jul 30 2012: Could you share what the organizational system is that you are trying to sell? Is there a reason students would balk at adopting it?
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      Gail .

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      Jul 31 2012: I 2nd the question
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        Jul 31 2012: Thanks, Gail. I asked the same thing last time this question about specific classroom procedures was posted, because I think how you encourage students to do something does depend on what that thing is. No one should expect students to line up willingly behind just anything the teacher wants them to do. There needs to be a clear connection between the request and its actual advantage to kids. If one attached either rewards or punishments to something that makes no sense (from a student standpoint), it makes school seen very artificial and about power and authority rather than learning.
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    Jul 30 2012: Ok wait, I got another cool idea.

    Turn the class into a collaborative team effort. Create a class with team projects and team objectives as well as individual objectives. What if you did something like, if even one person fails this class, the entire class fails. Because the class objective itself is not, how can we succeed as individuals, but the class itself should teach, how can we succeed as a team. Turn yourself into the "Boss" monster that cannot be beat unless people work together effectively. And by the completion of the objective, they should have learned that they simply can't pass this course by themselves.

    From the way I see it, there will always be the smart kids in class and the kids who struggle. So create some kind of system where you let the smart kids help out the strugglers. No Child Left Behind. No Soldier gets left behind. Same concept here.

    Another way I see where there might be a problem in this is that, the smarter kids could get a little power-hungry from authority... Not sure how to fix this issue yet...
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      Gail .

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      Jul 31 2012: I think that a class or two like that might be interesting, but I would feel so devalued if it were the norm. It would stifle my creativity, because I would be forced to give up what might be the best idea - at the behest of the majority - and I would feel defeated - like I was working on something stupid - that could have been done so much better. It would also leave me not having proof that my idea was better, or I am missing the information that my idea wasn't better, so I would know that I had missed a wonderful learning opportunity. I would go through life doubting myself.
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        Aug 6 2012: Hi Gail
        I think this question was put forward by a teacher who is very frustrated by decade long struggle to teach in a politically rich environment. There are so many 'democratic' ideas about how everybody can and should succeed. Your comment highlights the reality: Some kids are bright and others are not. Kids have talents that may or may not be useful within any area of study.
        The worst results occur when all the 'bad students' are put into one class. The best results occur when all the 'bright students' are put into one class. This is reality. But it is not politically acceptable. We 'must not' label students in ways which might harm their - or other students' psychological well being. We 'must' put as wide a range of abilities into a class as possible and provide them the means to work well together, ignoring the reality of the range of human motivation and ability. It is never going to work.
        The best students will always work harder, achieve more, and be rewarded more - in life - than students who do not work hard. Artificial classroom environments can motivate the students to cooperate, but even so, more work will be done by the stronger students than the weaker ones, just as more work will be done by the stronger teachers than the weaker ones.
        But strengths are relative. A teacher who is a marvel when teaching students how to think creatively, may fail miserably when required to teach students how to think logically.
        Talent matters. Skill sets matter. Human beings vary widely in multiple intelligences.
        This question is about a system that requires "specific classroom procedures." I am not sure what these might be. Suppose a chemistry class required students to wear safety glasses during experiments. I see no problem with telling a student who refused to wear them that they would not be allowed to do experiments. I don't see this as either a reward or punishment.
        So the "requirements of a classroom" should be supported in the same way. Do it or get out.
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    Jul 30 2012: I got an idea:

    first day of class: have everyone identify each other's skills or attributes. And have each person respect each others' own specific skills. Identify each others' hobbies and activities.

    This may not be best way, but the idea is, on first day the goal is to have everyone realize each others' strengths and weaknesses, interests and disinterests, and respect each others' differences and similarities.
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      Gail .

      • +1
      Jul 31 2012: When I was in middle school, I would have said that my strengths are music and reading. I didn't have a clue that my strengths were intuiting and thinking outside of the box - hence my greatest strength was my ability to ask "why" - something that I learned (in elementary school) not to ask. I learned to call my strength a weakness. So that won't work in school children.