Designing a Correction Plan
In the previous Newsletter (3rd November 2020) we discussed the need to teach in a calm environment. There are four fundamental components in our model of a Learning Environment and these are pedagogy, structure, expectations and of course, relationships. These have been discussed extensively in previous Newsletters and underpin all our work.
The critical component for the child is the expectations presumed for the lesson and the assumed behaviour the teacher expects. The expectation covers all aspects required including explicit demands of the child, the contents of the lesson, the equipment, time considerations and the like. These are the ‘learning instructions’ if you like. They also cover those implicit expectations, the social interactions in the classroom. As pointed out last week, this is where teachers can spend their time managing rather than teaching.
There are two ways to address any situation that is not meeting the expectations of the lesson and these are acknowledging when the child is meeting the objectives set or correcting their behaviour when they are not.
It is probably impossible to maintain a balance between expectations, acknowledging and correcting strategies all of the time; it is a moving point. However, when there is a prolonged imbalance between expectations, acknowledgement and correction and one begins to dominate your management style you lose your effectiveness. The following are three typical imbalances which increase the likelihood of teachers spending too much time managing and too little time teaching.
This is when the teacher gives inadequate information about his or her expectations (as indicated by the broken line around the triangle). This is problematic because students will be unsure about the limits and boundaries of the classroom and what tasks they need to be doing.
Too Much Acknowledgement
This is problematic because students are not being corrected appropriately. This is often the result of teachers trying to manage through friendliness. They believe “If I am nice to the students they will like me and behave themselves”. This imbalance may also arise when the teacher lacks assertiveness.
Too Much Correction
Students become resentful and continue to act inappropriately due to a lack of acknowledgement and encouragement. In this imbalance a teacher may not intend to be negative, but has developed the habit of only attending to inappropriate behaviour. In most cases where a whole class behaves inappropriately, this is the evident imbalance.
This imbalance creates problems because the teacher provides corrective feedback when students are disrupting, but fails to acknowledge students when they are on-task. Overcorrection is typical in such cases.
This can trigger a “disruption, correction and resentment” cycle that has the potential to seriously damage working relationships between teacher and students.
This is arguably the most common and, therefore, the most problematic of the behaviour management imbalances.
In this model the amount of acknowledgement is critical. Using praise is hazardous unless it is used appropriately, that is strategically (see Newsletter ‘The Danger of Praise’ 12th August 2018).
On the other hand, the language of correction is not easy, students who have a history of abuse are hypersensitive to criticism and pointing out their faults reinforces their lack of self-worth. This occurs when:
- Correction is not given at the appropriate time – the closer you provide feedback for any behaviour the more effective it becomes
- Correction is given with emotional engagement – this personalises the feedback; it should always be just about the behaviour
- Corrective responses are often unconsidered reflex reactions
- Over correction is harsher than necessary – it personally confronts the child
- It is delivered in a sarcastic manner
- Consider the following tactics when providing feedback to the students:
Less is more – even if the class is really out of control don’t try to correct everything at once. Pick out one or two problems that you need to or can correct quickly and when you have achieved this move on to the next problem.
- The certainty that you follow through has more impact than the severity of the corrective response.
- If possible, correct the child in private, that allows him/her to maintain their dignity.
- Displays of your adult power will only be effective in the short term. Eventually they will challenge your authority and if your practice is not underpinned by an acknowledged management plan your will have nowhere to go.
- Taking the moral ‘high-ground’ might make you feel good but this is not a competition, you don’t need to be ‘better than’ a child who has a history of abuse or neglect. Remember, you are their teacher and you need to create a professional relationship with the child.
- Some teachers get some self-satisfaction from correcting others, this is a covert form of the previous point. The kids will soon get sick of this and disengage from the lesson resulting in disruptive behaviour.
Over time, effective classroom management that promotes cooperation will initially increase rate of acknowledgement with a corresponding decrease in the correction rate. This reflects an imbalance but under these conditions there is no need to find little things to correct to regain balance. In optimal conditions the students embrace their learning and the need to acknowledge is dissipated so balance is maintained with very little management.