SCENARIO : STAN

Stan is undoubtably an experienced teacher. However, there is no evidence he engages in reflective practices, nor does he appear to apply pedagogical or theoretical learning theories to his teaching. Rather, Sam’s rhetoric suggests a static, teacher-centric technique, in which the teacher transmits information, which traps the students in a passive and disengaged role . (p. 51, Churchill, 2011).

Furthermore, Stan needs to address his own prejudices. He notes  the community’s transformation from affluent Anglo to lower socio-economic/immigrant as negatively affecting school dynamics. If Stan is translating these prejudices to either  students or parents, then the creation of a positive learning environment becomes unlikely if not impossible.  Applying a humanist approach would better serve Stan and his students. It “recognises the uniqueness of human beings” which in Stan’s case, could translate to the class embracing the differences between students’ cultural background and using it to foster a dynamic learning environment. (p. 77, 2011). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs requires basic needs to be met before moving to optimal learning conditions. Safety, belonging and self-esteem are required for a student to reach their potential (p. 78, 2011). It is diffficult for a recently emigrated student to feel safe, within a classroom that does not demonstrate tolerance for new cultures.

Stan should be instilling a positive and inclusive atmosphere, rather than tolerating any divisions between “old community and new arrivals”. He should perpetuate a Social Constructivist classroom where “learning is…mediated through social and cultural interactions”. (p.78, 2011). By encouraging a collaborative environment utiltising inquiry based learning, Stan would also be teaching a hidden curriculum of tolerance, inclusiveness and mutual respect amongst his students.

With many new Australians in the school, it is  not hard to imagine that literacy issues are prevalent,  yet Stan seems to set the same tasks for all students. A divergent range of abilities requires different levels of difficulties in set tasks. This would help students transition through Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. (p.77, 2011). Setting appropriate tasks might improve students’ self-efficacy in which their perception of their ability to learn, directly affects the outcome of that learning. (p.79,2011).

The changing nature of the community should be addressed as a whole school issue. Fencing in the school serves to separate it from its community. Students who feel no sense of belonging are more apt to form their own groups, which may explain Stan’s concerns about gangs within the school. Bandura’s Triadic Reciprocality Model recognises the influence of both physical and social environments. (p.79, 2011). Thus behaviour, personal characteristics and environment “shape and are shaped by interactions which…shape individual learning”. (p.79, 2011).  Stan and the school must ensure that this triad is imbued with positive and inclusive influences which in turn, might  produce self-regulating and self-controlling learners. (pp.305-306, Snowmnan, 2009). In doing so, it may also help the wider school community embrace its changing nature.

Snowmnan states that observational learning, in which students model behaviours displayed by others, “can play an especially strong role in producing self-regulatory learners”(pp.314-315, 2009). It is here that Stan could lead by example, in addressing his own prejudices and reflecting on how they are guiding his teaching principles. Thus, he would influence his classroom environment with inclusive and tolerant behaviour, scaffold effectively across the skill levels and foster a positive sense of community.

Churchill et al.  (2011). Teaching Making a Difference. John Wiley & Sons, Australia.

Snowmnan, J. …[et al.] (2009). Constructivist learning theory, problem solving and transfer (Ch. 10). In Psychology applied to teaching (1st Australian ed.)(pp. 334-371). John Wiley & Sons Australia.

Snowmnan, J. …[et al.] (2009). Social cognitive theory (Ch. 9). In Psychology applied to teaching (1st Australian ed.)(pp. 302-333). John Wiley & Sons Australia.

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