Jossey Bass’ article “Setting High Academic Expectations” (2010) outlines five techniques which teachers who successfully set high expectations for their students demonstrate. These techniques are described in the table below along with mnemonic terms for my benefit.
|Some Techniques to Utilize in Setting High Expectations for Students|
|Technique Name||My Mnemonic||Explanation|
|· No Opt Out||1. You must try to succeed||~ Every student must try to answer.
~ Circle back to any student who does not try or gets the wrong answer so they can try again.
~ A wrong answer must always be replaced by a right answer so that student can experience success, even if it is just to repeat the answer provided to them
|· Right is Right||2. Hold out for Mr. Right||~ Set and defend a high standard of correctness.
~ Only the full complete answer is the right one.
|· Stretch It||3. Look for consistency||~ Verify their correct answer can be replicated for similar questions.|
|4. Mr. Right is just the beginning||~ Learning continues after you receive the right answer.
~ Ask different, tougher questions next.
~ Vary the context and type of content.
~ Ask various questions of different levels.
~ Reward learning with more learning
|· Format Matters||5. Accept only the complete package||~ Do not accept the right answer in the wrong format.
~ Identify the error.
~ Begin to correct or correct the error.
~ Accept only accurate and precise terminology.
~ Accept only the ‘language of success’.
|· Without Apology||6. Never lower your standards||~ Do not dilute content or lower standards to make them accessible.|
|7. With the right attitude boring can quickly become interesting||~ Never assume something boring cannon be made interesting.
~ Do not blame “the system” for your content.
~ Your attitude makes all the difference in how you and your students experience the content.
The above rubric’s criteria for high academic expectations and behavior has been used to grade the academic and behavioral rigor of each of the below teaching and learning situations as seen in a sample video from the genre (referenced below). Additional videos and literature in each genre have also been viewed in order to establish salient characteristics of each teaching and learning genre.
Multiple Intelligences Theory
According to the Multiple Intelligences theory developed by Dr. Howard Gardner (1983, 1995), each individual possesses a unique blend of several aptitudes or preferred ways of learning. Being aware of one’s learning preferences can empower learners to stimulate and accelerate their learning.
Rollercoaster Physics (sample video: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/teaching-stem-strategies) – This teaching and learning approach is the richest of all those examined here in terms of learning stimulus and it is the highest in terms of academic and behavioral expectations.
- With respect to academic rigor and academic expectations – both of which were high – almost every technique listed in the table above was covered by students themselves. Specifically:
- For ‘No Opt Out’, every student had a part to play in the resolution of the problem;
- For ‘Right is Right’, it was impossible to solve the problem without arriving at a completely correct answer;
- For ‘Stretch It’, students did numerous trial runs of their rollercoaster to vary and verify repeated outcomes and enable resolution of the problem. ‘Stretch It’ was the only technique that was principally accomplished through teacher input. The teacher came around to each group and probed students’ understanding of the concepts being learned to consolidate and expand their learning.
- ‘Format Matters’ did not appear to be immediately applicable to this context. It could however be applied at a later stage during assessments of the content learned in the project.
- ‘Without Apology’. The teacher in no way diluted or simplified content to make it accessible to students. Students were expected to grasp all concepts and terminology (e.g. using the term ‘clothoid’), complicated as they might be.
- Furthermore, the multiple intelligences theory was incorporated extensively. Multiple intelligences included:
- Logical and mathematical intelligence – in terms of reasoning, logical thinking and handling of mathematical (viz. physics) problems.
- Visual and spatial intelligence – students created and interpreted visual images and thought in three dimensions when drawing their sketches and converting those into reality.
- Interpersonal intelligence – understanding the feelings, needs and purposes of others is necessary for collaboration and consultation as demonstrated by students in the video.
- Bodily and kinesthetic intelligence – deals with feeling and expressing things physically, and doing hands-on work. Since the entire project was constructed by students, this type of intelligence was used extensively and in a meaningful, directly content-related way.
- With respect to behavioral expectations, since students operated mostly autonomously (even though they were at grade 5 age), it can be concluded that behavioral expectations were very high. The teacher gave instructions and assumed everything would proceed without incident or interruptions.
- The norms and procedures that supported high student performance in this context were a sense of community and specific directives. The sense of community was apparent in that everyone was working together to find a solution to the problem. This involved round-table discussion and sharing and integration of ideas, which meant that students had also been taught to respect others’ ideas and appreciate everyone’s contribution. Group work engaged all students. Clarity of purpose and specifics (such as the teacher saying that sketches must be labelled, or in Robert Mace’s class the directive that student videos must contain music throughout) ensured that activities flowed smoothly and accomplished the lesson’s objectives.
- Strategy: The professor specifically mentions that she used the strategy of giving the students numerous constraints and few resources to work with so that they would become better problem-solvers. Furthermore, this teaching format allows for development of the twenty-first century skills of communication, collaboration, problem-solving and innovation, self-regulation and assessment. Students are free to take risks, hypothesize, try things out and see if they work.
- Positive Aspects: A collaborative project is the perfect opportunity for a teacher to incorporate observations and guidance on the most effective and respectful ways to communicate to peers and present one’s ideas. In my opinion, explicitly providing such tools and strategies (not just implicitly modeling them) to pupils will be invaluable to them both throughout their academic experience and in terms of personal relationships and future careers. Communicating well is a skill that cannot be overemphasized (in all its forms) and is one we can all improve on. It is essential to the modern human in every job, situation and level of society ranging from engineering to sanitation and the service industry (e.g. handling and soothing irate customers). The classroom is the ideal place to watch students apply and practice communication and cooperation strategies and provide meaningful feedback to them in the moment. In such a context long term repercussions to students are minimal because, especially when moodiness or selfishness is being exhibited, the teacher is present and can quickly step in to model and guide on acceptable behavior, provide students with phraseology that supports cooperation and understanding and then ask students to try acting out the situation again, this time with proper behavior and addressing each other in a respectful way. Such instruction was not noted in the video therefore it cannot be determined whether this was done by the teacher.
Whole Class Teaching
3rd Grade Chinese Math (sample video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7LseF6Db5g). – Without particular information having been provided, from what I could deduce, these children were reciting their multiplication tables in Chinese. I suspect they may be in a classroom in China because they all seemed more comfortable communicating in Chinese than I believe they would have reached by only 3rd grade if they were in an immersion or dual-language school setting. This is an unfounded assumption on my part based on my awareness that language learners require a lot of varied and rich communication settings and culturally relevant inputs in order to reach proficiency and ease in a language – conditions which can be difficult to obtain in a school immersion setting where the language being taught is that of a very small cultural minority. That being said, if the video is indeed of a Chinese language math class taking place in an English-speaking country, then the students’ grasp of the language is absolutely remarkable. Be that as it may, this variable does not significantly affect the analysis undertaken herein with respect to the whole class teaching approach.
- With respect to academic rigor and academic expectations, both of these were at a medium level. Although almost every technique listed in the table above was covered, the depth to which it was delved into was not as deep as for the Problem-Based Learning genre. Specifically:
- For ‘No Opt Out’, on the surface every student participated in the class and answered the questions. In our video sample students’ faces could not be seen. However, in other videos of this genre examined (from the same classroom and others), not all students replied in the group answer (i.e. some children’s mouths did not move or only moved a little). The drawback of this is that the teacher may get the erroneous perception that all students understand the material when in fact only some or most do – in fact, the loudest speakers. One saving grace in the lack of full participation is that at least all children hear what the correct answer is, even those who did not come up with the answer through their own logic;
- For ‘Right is Right’, the teacher does not accept incomplete or incorrect answers. This is a typical characteristic of this teaching style, especially as embraced by the Chinese (The Conversation, March 2014);
- ‘Stretch It’ is another technique that is applied effectively and exhaustively by this teaching method. Multiple questions of similar level and varied level and difficulty establish to the teacher’s satisfaction that students have mastered the content;
- Literature on the Whole Class Teaching approach (Lim, 2007) assert that the ‘Format Matters’ technique plays a large role in Chinese school teaching; a role which is greater than that in Western teaching norms. Students are taught to assimilate technical terms quickly and utilize these same terms in their work;
- ‘Without Apology’. The teacher in this approach in no way dilutes or simplifies content to make it accessible to students. Students are expected to grasp all concepts and terminology, complicated as they might be;
- The multiple intelligences theory was incorporated to a moderate extent. Due to the nature of Whole Class Teaching, interpersonal intelligence is at an absolute minimum. There is practically no creativity allowed by or encouraged for students in this teaching method. Multiple intelligences covered included:
- Logical and mathematical intelligence – in terms of reasoning, logical thinking and handling of mathematical problems. The logical steps of solutions and proofs are mapped out for students;
- Visual and spatial intelligence – students create and interpret visual images and think in three dimensions when drawing sketches on the board;
- Verbal and linguistic intelligence – students use language to present ideas, to express their feelings and to persuade others (especially the teacher) in front of the whole class;
- Bodily and kinesthetic intelligence – although present, is low in this context. It occurs only when students approach the board to write or draw the answer to a question.
- Behavioral expectations were moderately high. There was no doubt that control rests with the teacher in this setting. The omnipresence and constant solicitation of responses from the teacher left little room for any behavioral mishaps except perhaps lack of attention.
- Norms and procedures used are ‘question and response’ format and repetition as a whole class. Everyone is expected to know the answer and respond. The only repercussion for an incorrect answer is to hear the correct answer stated to the class by the teacher or one of their peers.
- Strategy: A main strategy used in this teaching approach is random questioning with varied difficulty. Another strategy that is sometimes used with this genre is songs and rhymes.
- Positive Aspects: Whole Class Teaching is very appropriate for material that requires practicing or rote memorization (such as multiplication tables). Although this type of teaching is very teacher-centered and the current educational trend is to focus on student-centered learning, I feel this type of learning has its place, especially at basic levels of learning (e.g. days of the week, months, the alphabet, etc.). Often there is no other effective way to teach such repetitive content (and assimilate it into long term memory) besides practice and repetition. A caution to teachers utilizing this method of teaching is to be careful to avoid embarrassing students in front of the class as such an experience could be quite damaging to a pupil.
Whole Brain Teaching
Geography (sample video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iXTtR7lfWU&feature=youtu.be) – Whole Brain Teaching is a teaching approach where lessons are accompanied by student gestures and prescribed responses to the teacher as well as where students repeat what the teacher has just said or ‘taught’ to each other in pairs. It involves a lot of work in pairs and a lot of mimicking of what the teacher says and does.
- Academic rigor and academic expectations both appeared to be at a moderate level. Some techniques listed in the table above were involved in setting academic expectations. Specifically:
- For ‘No Opt Out’, every student had a part to play in the class; participation was 100%;
- For ‘Right is Right’, it was difficult to say whether accuracy and precision were demanded because students were assessing each other. Some students may have demanded absolute accuracy whereas others may have accepted a response they considered “close enough”. However, the fact that responses are practiced does incline me to believe that precision of phraseology will eventually be arrived at with most students;
- ‘Format Matters’ was a very important technique for this approach. Only one format of response was acceptable;
- ‘Without Apology’. The teacher may have had to simplify content to make it easy for students to repeat in a refrain. However, Whole Brain Teaching is one way that a teacher can demonstrate that no matter how boring the content may seem, it can be made to be interesting and fun at least for a short time;
- The ‘Stretch It’ technique of setting high expectations was virtually non-existent in this teaching and learning approach. Creativity and autonomy are at all-time lows. In addition, the multiple intelligences theory was incorporated only moderately. Only three multiple intelligences could be discerned in this genre:
- Visual and spatial intelligence – students created and interpreted visual images and thought in three dimensions when making gestures and hand signals.
- Verbal and linguistic intelligence – students used language to present ideas, but not to express their feelings and to persuade others as there did not seem to be any personal input or questions.
- Bodily and kinesthetic intelligence – deals with feeling and expressing things physically, and doing hands-on work. Since Whole Brain Learning is all about incorporating body movements into learning, this type of intelligence was used exhaustively in this context, albeit in an indirectly content-related way.
- Since students operated at all times under strict teacher supervision and direction, I consider behavioral expectations to be at a moderate level. The teacher gave instructions and assumed everything would proceed without incident or interruptions.
- The norms and procedures that support this teaching and learning approach are hand actions, student pairs, repetition of the teacher’s phrase to the other student in the pair, hand and (limited) body actions to express different concepts (e.g. clasping the hands to the side of the body to represent the word “related”).
- Strategy: This teaching and learning approach attempts to integrate the multiple intelligences theory on bodily and kinesthetic intelligence (because learners move while learning) and to a lesser extent verbal and linguistic intelligence (because teaching rhetoric is repeated by students to one another). It also extensively builds upon the learning pyramid idea (see image below) that knowledge retention is best accomplished and retained by an individual through demonstration, practice and when taught to others. It is well known (and well-documented by research) that the act of teaching is very effective in converting short term learning into long term knowledge for the teacher.
- Positive Aspects: I imagine Whole Brain Teaching to be very effective for delivering small bursts of energy to a class. It will also be good at retaining the attention of children with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) because they know where their eyes and hands should be at all times. As with some children’s rhymes, accompanying movements to words can assist with memorization, especially when those movements directly relate to the concept being learned.
Summary: Setting High Performance Expectations for My Students
My 3rd grade class consists mainly of pupils of Hispanic heritage. Their medium of instruction is English in a school-wide immersion setting within a Spanish-speaking country. After this comprehensive analysis of the three teaching and learning genres, it is evident that Problem-Based Learning or Project-Based Learning is the genre which has the farthest reach in terms of setting high expectations, maintaining academic rigor and incorporating gains from educational research such as the importance of building twenty-first century skills. Nevertheless, Whole Class Teaching and Whole Brain Learning obviously have their place in the classroom. My personal preference would be to use Whole Class Teaching only for basic drill exercises, Whole Brain Learning only for slightly higher function learning – such as memorization – and Project-Based Learning for everything else, where time permits. I would need to research some refrains to use with drill exercises, e.g. the multiplication song and to establish gestures and phrases to immediately get all students attention, e.g. clapping to “1-2-3, eyes on me”. I would also need to outline catchy choruses to use for content to be memorized. I very much look forward to the challenge and fun of doing a project with my students. When students do a project that has real-world implications and meaning to them, they learn so much more than just the content: they learn how to think, how the world works and how to take charge of their learning. These are key to students believing they can be high achievers and expecting more from themselves as well as their peers and their teacher. It is the teacher’s responsibility to create the conditions in which students can see this vision of themselves.
My Opinions on the Three Teaching Strategies (Formats) Seen in the Videos [For the Teach-Now Discussion Forum]
Problem-Based Learning: Rollercoaster Physics
- Pros: I like that this teaching format integrates several subjects. Subjects touched on are physics, communication, math and budgeting, drawing and creating a plan. Student autonomy is high in the problem-based teaching and learning environment. Students are provided with a few directives (e.g. Label your sketches including the name of each shape and the reason it is used in your sketch.) and are expected to execute the project with minimal supervision or input from the teacher. This teaching format allows for development of the twenty-first century skills of communication, collaboration, problem-solving and innovation, self-regulation and assessment. Students are free to take risks, hypothesize, try things out and see if they work. If their hypothesis fails, they reformulate it and try again. Danielle Roussos mentioned above that students feel important when they have a defined role in a project and this helps keep them engaged and ‘on task’. This teacher created an opportunity, through this project, to allow each student to practice their leadership and to choose which role they would play (e.g. accountant, organizer, etc.) in the realization of the project. Not only does that strategy aid in classroom management, but, as mentioned in the video, it allows students to work with their strengths (in the role they choose), take responsibility and allows them the honor of being seen as ‘the expert’ in their chosen task. I am positive these students will retain what they have learned through this exercise well into adulthood.
- Cons: I observed that projects take a long time to be realized. It was evident that more than one lesson was required to solve the Rollercoaster Physics problem. Undoubtedly, the exercise was extremely enjoyable for the students and they took their responsibilities seriously. The academic gains were: learning that energy is constant within a closed system, learning about potential and kinetic energy, friction, speed, momentum, gravity and gravitational energy, touching on shapes and curves. I could see the students utilizing the terminology the teacher had taught them, but I wonder how vigorous is the actual academic learning compared to the time spent. These were only grade 5 and 6 students, so it is amazing they have already learned these concepts long before I think it would be on the syllabus for them (and they have learned in a fun way). However, would the time spent versus the academic gains have been worth it if the students had been 9th graders (which I think is when this content is usually covered)? I would love to examine the data showing students’ performance on standardized tests and find out from teachers whether they are able to cover all the syllabus content with this teaching and learning format.
Whole Class Teaching: 3rd Grade Chinese Math
- Pros: Students who may not know the correct response hear their peers recite it and soon catch on. Thus, the teacher is both confirming that learning has taken place (to a lesser extent) and allowing pupils time to practice. I think this format of lesson is oriented around the fact that for many subjects the basics must be memorized to enable later success, and there is just no way around that fact. These students are reciting their multiplication tables. This must be practiced over and over until it is retained in long term memory and can be accessed at will automatically. The case is similar in music, the performing arts and martial arts. E.g. No one gets to black belt without having done the basic moves thousands of times and no ballet dancer becomes accomplished without having practiced for many hours every week. I believe this type of teaching and learning has its place in many subjects, but is not as effective for more complex functions (intentional pun). This format of teaching also encourages students to demonstrate their knowledge by writing on the board at the front of the class. Apparently this can be beneficial to students, but teachers must be very intuitive to the feelings of the student doing so because these are the kind of scenarios that have created poor learners and students who hate school (from embarrassment). I’m sure there are many anecdotal tales about that happening.
- Cons: I feel that in this format a student can easily pretend to know the answers by moving their mouth during the recitation phase. i.e. Participation of all students is not guaranteed. I went on to view several other videos showing this teaching format and observed several students not saying anything for several of the recitations. I also think a teacher will have to be diligent about giving every student a chance to answer in order to avoid unconscious bias or unconscious low-expectations from pre-determining a student’s academic performance.
- Correction: By the way, the “math” in the article is wrong so far as I can tell. (Perhaps in itself the most eloquent statement on the state of math in the West!) The article says “15 Hours a Week… The Chinese curriculum in maths sets out 4 teaching periods a week for maths in primary and junior high schools. However, most schools arrange more than five periods each week… A typical teaching period in primary schools is approximately 40 minutes, extending to 45 minutes in secondary school. Teachers often set at least a 1/2 hour of homework every day for primary school pupils and more for secondary pupils. So it’s normal for Chinese pupils, particularly secondary and high school students, to spend more than 15 hours per week on maths both in and outside the classroom.” Correct me if I’m wrong: More than 5 teaching periods a week, let’s estimate that at 6 teaching periods a week. Each period is 40 minutes or 2/3 of an hour. So, 6 periods x 2/3 = 2 x 2 = 4 hours in class per week. Homework is 1/2 hour per period. So, 6 periods x 1/2 = 3 hours per week. Therefore, 4 hours in class + 3 hours homework per week = 7 hours math studies per week. NOT 15 hours! Even if we take each period as being 45 minutes or 3/4 hour x 6 periods = 4+1/2 hours in class. Which would bring the total to 4+1/2 + 3 = 7+1/2 hours of math study per week. That is still a long way from 15 hours a week. Am I right?
Whole Brain Teaching: Students Respond with Hand Actions
- Pros: There is no dawdling in this class. Doing hand movements can help keep students engaged however it should not be mis-categorized as being kinesthetic learning. The student-partner strategy is certainly very effective at ensuring students understand the content. I really liked that this teacher was making an effort to connect with the students and embrace their cultural background in terms of incorporating certain rhythms and sayings.
- Cons: As Danielle Roussos mentioned above, there is no time for students to think and come up with questions; they are too busy obeying the teacher all the time. I feel student autonomy in this class is very low. Moreover, frankly, I found this class – and other ‘whole brain’ classes I went on to view – boring.
Peer Commentary – of Danielle Roussos’ Submission
Danielle, I agree with you on the effectiveness of Problem-Based teaching and that the students are learning so much more than just the subject-matter. I like that you observed and highlighted that students feel important when they have a defined role in a project and this helps keep them engaged and ‘on task’. Regarding the Chinese Math Lesson, you are right that we learn and retain things practically forever when we learn them in song or rhyme format. I believe the students here were doing their multiplication tables, something we all also learn in a rhyme format. The difference is they seem to start much younger in China and also practice it frequently in a Whole Class Format. I agree that this format is only appropriate for certain areas of content. With respect to the Whole Brain teaching, I’m not convinced about the effectiveness of this method. Perhaps it might be effective for a small part of the daily lesson. As you mentioned, it might not be the best format for every lesson every day. Nevertheless, since you are in the classroom and seem to like to try out the things you hear about in Teach-Now, if you do plan to try out the Whole Brain teaching format, I would love to hear how it works out with your class. I can’t say for sure, but it seems to me it would become boring if done for an entire class. It also seems like a very stifling method of teaching – Where is the creativity? Where is the student autonomy? I think if I were a student I could hardly wait to be released from such a class, although I absolutely loved the enthusiasm and energy of the teacher.
Peer Commentary – of Sunny Chang’s Submission
I like that you approached your video analyses from the point of view of what students were acquiring during their learning experience and how present teaching approaches (yours and others’) could be modified to achieve a similar result. Your observations of additional learning points beyond the lesson itself were very insightful. What came through in your analysis is that the act of the teacher holding the expectations of high academic performance and high behavior for their students is the single most important determinant of these high expectations being realized. Your analysis shows that these expectations are not necessarily overt, rather they are mostly subtle in nature. It makes me think that somehow we are always impressed when young children display exemplary behavior and academic achievement, but that actually young children are the least affected by societal prejudices and lowered expectations (because they have not yet had enough time to be sufficiently exposed to them). At the same time, young children may also be more susceptible to fulfilling subtle teacher expectations. I wonder if more direct and overt teacher expectations are necessary for older children whose self-esteem may already be damaged?
I am in complete agreement with you about the need for more drills in Western education at basic levels. You nicely tied in the research on learning in an immersion setting and kinesthetic learning with the learning approaches viewed in the second and third videos. I would have liked to have also read something about how educational research relates to the first video – perhaps mentioning twenty-first century skills. It is great that you have reflected on how you can incorporate elements of these approaches into your teaching style, regardless of physical classroom constraints.
All in all a job well done!
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