K-12 Classroom Praxis Management

Basic Principles of Classroom Management

WikiEducator Attribute Resource (2008) tells us that students learn best when their minds are engaged and their bodies are moving. People learn through experimentation with the real world (authentication), rather than by memorizing a list of rules. This statement has implications for the design of instruction. Learning opportunities should be based, as much as possible, on real tasks and rich environments, and include opportunities for reflection and application.

Management versus Discipline

We all know that discipline (see: Academic Discipline) is good, particularly self-discipline. The best kind of discipline is self-discipline. We have often seen, however, that teachers (particularly new ones) resort to harsher discipline for students who are unengaged and misbehaving.

There are four factors that are often cited that are needed for classroom control:

• Teachers Need to Know the Subject
• Teachers Need to Care
• Teachers Need to be Organized
• Teachers Need to Provide an Effective Learning Environment and Structure

Teachers Need to Know the Subject

It seems obvious that, if you are going to teach a subject, then you should really know a lot about the subject, right? Certainly in high schools, where teachers often specialize into one or two subject areas, there is a real emphasis on the subject matter knowledge of the teacher. However, there is relatively little evidence supporting this claim. John Hattie, a New Zealand education academic, identified that subject matter knowledge was really only a minor consideration in student achievement.

Hattie conducted a meta-analysis of more than 1000 educational studies which identified 138 different factors that influenced student learning. The required effect size for a student to make a year’s progress was 0.4. According to Hattie, teacher subject-matter knowledge had an effect size of 0.19, meaning that it was far less effective than other factors like classroom management (0.52) or effective teacher feedback (0.75).

It would be easy to conclude, based on Hattie’s work, that subject matter knowledge is unimportant, and that teachers can teach with abandon outside their subject area. This kind of argument is not completely unfamiliar to elementary or primary school teachers, who are often required to be generalists – and often acknowledge that they don’t have the same level of subject knowledge as high school teachers. In this case, teachers can afford to be one topic ahead of the students in their teaching.

In his later book Visible Learning for Teachers (2011) Hattie discussed the fact that expert teachers can make use of their subject knowledge to organize and use content knowledge more effectively for their students to understand. In addition, expert teachers are more likely to be able to respond to the needs of any particular classroom, recognizing students who are struggling and changing the way the information is presented in order to make it more understandable.

Of course, nothing is ever simple in education. Teachers – whether they are subject specialists or generalists – need a wide range of different skills and attitudes if they are to assist their students achieve high outcomes. These should include relationships with students, subject matter knowledge and also an understanding of pedagogical processes to develop the understanding that is required.

If a teacher fails to have any of these, then it is likely that the learning in the classroom will not be as successful. Any one of these skills should not be isolated to the exclusion of all others: teaching, like most people-centered professions, requires a range of abilities and skills that the practitioner carefully weaves together, in such a way as to provide the most meaningful experience possible.

Retrieved 12/6/2015, https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/how-important-subject-matter-knowledge-teacher.

Teachers Need to Care

The following an article from the Faze.ca website which focuses on young women issues. Rather look at this subject from an academic research point of view; and because there are so many subjective variables related to each teacher the following responses from nine Ontario, Canada high school student give an insight as to how student view the subject of whether teacher care about their student. For the most part they felt that most teacher care but as should be expected their responses range from yes – very much to no – not at all. What stood out was the number of students who felt that teachers care more about the higher preforming students.


Do You Think Teachers Really Care If You Do Well in School?

Shelly B., 18 – It depends overall. I have been in both public and private schools. I found there’s a huge difference. The teachers seemed to care a lot more in private school. I think this was because students had to get tested and had to be above a certain criteria to get in, so the teachers knew that the students were above a certain level. Public school also had bigger classes with a higher student-teacher ratio. I think that teachers should care, but also students should take the initiative to show they are hard workers.

Liz L., 17 – Yes. I feel that it is part of the job description of teachers to encourage students to do well. If a student isn’t doing well, then they usually contact the student’s tutors or parents which is okay, but maybe teachers should help out some more. I feel that teachers, for the most part, do genuinely care and if not, they should.

David D., 17 – I think most likely teachers do care about us. The ones that have a great heart are the ones who are genuine. Some teachers really want me to achieve my goals, but sometimes it’s annoying when they nag and nag – but in the end, it’s all worth it. I feel it is also our responsibility to do better.

William D., 15 – Most of them do care, but I feel it is very noticeable that some teachers are only nice and care about the good students, whereas they really don’t care about the other ones that don’t seem to do very well in their courses. I guess that could be a good thing – why should teachers care if the kids don’t care?

Jade S., 14 – No, I don’t think my teachers care about me. My teacher just failed me. They don’t have expectations from me and they all have favorites. Most of them just come into the class, write stuff on the board and don’t explain anything or explain so poorly. I think they should start by explaining things better.

Aaron M., 16 – They do care. They always bug students to hand in their work on time, and if we don’t, we get a zero. Teachers have always helped and cared about me, so I think it is our responsibility to care about most of our work too. A majority of the teachers don’t really care about the kids who bring destructive behavior to the classroom and cause problems.

Matt O. D., 16 – Some teachers care. But I think a majority of them only care about the smarter ones that have futures because it makes the teachers look good. It’s like, “Ya, I taught him.” I think that teachers should not only teach us well, but care about us while we shoulder the burden and responsibility of our future and life.

Kristy H., 14 – I don’t think teachers care at all. Some of my teachers just hand out the work and that’s it. They never push anyone to go in for extra help. I think it sucks because some students just need a bit more encouragement to do better than the others, and you cannot treat everyone the same way. They should care more for ones that need it.

Matt L., 17 – No, and that’s because they are getting paid garbage. Some care, but a lot of them don’t care much. I think they should care though. In lower grades, it is noticeable how the teachers only pay attention to the smarter kids or at least kids who show they are hard workers (very biased)! In the long run, it’s the other kids who need encouragement. In the higher grades, I feel it evens out and the teachers feel the same towards everyone. We are ultimately responsible while they teach us, and that’s their responsibility – to teach well.

Retrieved 12/6/2016 from Faz.ca. http://faze.ca/do-you-think-teachers-really-care/

Teachers Need to be Organized

A search of the internet on the subject of classroom organization will reveal hundreds if not thousands of items, ideas and lists (lists are an integral part of any classroom organization) on how to organize a K-12 classroom. None are really better another as they have been developed by many teachers with varied teaching styles and philosophies. The following list has been included because it was taken from a survey of teacher so it is a little more researched based and concise.

10 Tips to Help Manage Your Time
Posted on July 29, 2013 by Melinda

1. Set aside time 1-2 days per week to stay a little later

“On Thurs and Fri I set aside time to stay a little later after school to get caught up and get ready for next week. This allows me to not take too much home on the weekend. At school, I can get everything done in 1-2 hours, but at home it will inevitably take five!” (Tiff).
“I find staying quite late one day a week really helps. I put on my headphones and go to work” (Maggie).

2. Set a weekday work schedule
“I find that when I allocate set times to certain tasks, then I am much more productive” (Melinda).
“I actually allocate times for before and after school for particular jobs. For instance, I use the first 30 minutes after the school day finishes to ensure that I have everything set up and ready to go for the next day” (Melinda).

3. Only grade the minimum amount of student work

“I also try to only grade the minimum amount of student work. At my school this is approximately two grades per week. This doesn’t mean that I don’t check for understanding and provide feedback, but if I spent copious amounts of time grade and writing feedback on EVERYTHING my students do, I would be working forever” (Tiff).
“I also have a schedule in which they turn in their notebooks so it’s only three students a day” (Maggie).
“Another grade saver is that I do a lot of grading in 1-1 conferences. While the students are completing independent work, I call them up to my desk, read their work and give them a grade. It also means they get immediate feedback” (Maggie).

4. Multitask when students are doing independent work

“When my students are doing independent work, I try to multitask and file papers and such but this also depends on the age of your students” (Tiff).

5. Use To Do Lists

“To-do lists are essential to me” (Maggie).
“First thing for me is to make to do lists every day, including things I need to do at home. I then prioritize so if everything doesn’t get done, the most important I still have and I don’t have to feel bad” (Andrea).
“I usually only put my top 3 priorities on the list for each day. This way there’s a fair chance that I’ll succeed and it helps me to really focus in on what are the most important things that need to be done in a day” (Melinda).

6. Have fully developed long term planning

“Have fully developed units. I remember last year (my first full year) I was planning and grading every night” (Maggie).
“When I lesson plan, which I try to do at least two weeks at a time (so far unit planning hasn’t been within my grasp, but that’s ideal), I plan EVERYTHING from the do now’s (at least the skill they will do) and homework and decide which assignments will be graded” (Andrea).
“Long term planning! Pinterest! These save tons of week to week planning time.” (Tiff)

7. Be realistic

“I’m sure just like me you want to have that perfect classroom, with the perfect students, with the perfect everything….But let’s take a minute to reflect and be realistic on what is achievable with your students” (Melinda).

8. Make relaxation necessary

“I always have a “for fun” book I’m reading. I schedule gym time” (Maggie).

9. Be organized on the home front

“When you’re at home, BE at home. I think it’s really important to set boundaries with work and home. If you work better at home than at school, then set clear times for working at home. When you leave school to come home, leave your teacher bag at school and switch to home mode” (Melinda).
“On the home front, I plan my meals and grocery shop for the week so I already know what I am cooking, what I need and how long it will take in the evening” (Andrea).
“I now get all of my groceries delivered straight to my door, the bread, milk, veggies and meat once a week. This is a set order so that it just comes and I don’t need to think about it. Then for the remainder of the groceries I do a monster online shop once a month that also gets delivered. It took a little bit of time to make it all work, but now that it does it’s so awesome and it feels like I have so much more time!!!” (Melinda).

10. Just Say No

“I have made the promise to myself that I will….try really hard…..to say NO to the next “organize” this request. We have to know our limits and all this organizing is now impinging on my quality planning time, which is now cutting into my family time. So my advice – scale back on the less important things…. JUST SAY NO!” (Tania).
Retrieved 12/6/2016 from http://topnotchteaching.com/classroom-management-organisation

Teachers Need to Provide an Effective Learning Environment and Structure

• Create an inclusive classroom in order to prevent unnecessary conflict and reduce physical and emotional violence where students can be encouraged to work hard and treat each other respectfully for the right reasons.
• Make a connection with every student.
• Banish the notion of designing instruction for the average student and seek to provide all students with equal learning opportunities including those with the greatest needs.
• Present learning content in a variety of ways by allowing students multiple options to demonstrate understanding.
• Create culturally competent learning environments that allow students to make authentic connections to education and to one another that reject divisiveness and embraces connectedness.
• Create a classroom that grows expert learners and agents of change who don’t answer to either/or, but who all stand together.
• Engage in hands-on, experiential activities focused on prevention and intervention.
• Re-commit to the process and joy of stimulating young minds and building positive long-term relationships with learners.
• Discover strategies to “create a space for listening” to increase students’ sense of belonging and connection.
• Help students re-evaluate their behaviors in relation to their own goals.
• Understand the importance of conveying high expectations.
• Develop skills for welcoming and sending positive invitations.
• Develop appropriate rules, procedures, and routines for the classroom.
• Develop a model discipline plan appropriate for the age of their students and one that is aligned with their educational philosophy.
• Develop strategies for implementing the model discipline plan.
• Resist the lure of punishments and rewards during the first days of school.
• As the term progresses talk less, and let the students talk more.
• Think through each day from the student’s point of view.
• Make sure to have plenty of chances throughout the day to interact with one student at a time.
• Build in time for one-on-one writing conferences.
• Make guided reading happen to engage in a conversation with small groups instead of a whole-class lecture.
• Connect with students one-on-one during recess when not in a disciplinarian role.
• Invite the students who are sullen, defiant, or wild to have a teacher-lunch in the classroom early in the year.
• Ask the problem students to help in the classroom before the other kids come in or to hang out in the classroom for a little while at recess.
• Make sure that art, science, recess and critical thinking are part of the curriculum.
• Don’t let the frustration, exhaustion, and absurdity of the job cause the loss of the enjoyment of the student.
• Make sure that in the hardest of moments students are continued to be seen clearly – their joy; curiosity; compassion; humor; and their flashes of insight and wisdom.

Classroom Behaviors and Limits from Day One

Here are some simple yet effective management techniques to establish on the first day of class:

Device for Getting the Class to Pay Attention:

Teach your students a hand clapping (or finger snapping) pattern or some other visual or auditory aid that will let them know that you need silence and eyes on you. Practice it to make sure they know it. Use it frequently on the first day of school and thereafter. Also, take the time to explain to the students why it is important to have this technique in place – how and why it will help all of you stay focused on learning.

Establish the Importance of Listening:

Teach your students the “Say Back” game. It’s simple; after you or any student has spoken, ask the class: “Raise your hand if you can now say back what I just said (or what your classmate has just said).” Note the percentage of hands in the air and simply say to your students, “I notice that approximately 60% of your hands are raised. Our goal during the course of the year is to get to 100% – maybe not every time, but close to it. We’re learning how to listen when others are speaking.”

This simple strategy will increase the students’ awareness of how often and how deeply they are listening to you or others when speaking. It does it in a way that does not put any one person on the spot to have to actually say back what was said. However, it does let the class know that you’re all working towards deep listening no matter who is speaking. It also gives students the confidence to know that when they speak, their voice will be heard. This is tremendously important for creating an environment in which students can feel safe to share their thoughts.

Establish a Theme for Desired Behavior:

Just as we discussed the value of theme-based learning, there can also be theme-based classroom management. If you say to the students that in addition to listening to one another, we care for one another, then you have established care as a theme or behavioral expectation. When a student is disruptive you can ask them, “Are you showing care for what we’re doing?” Or, if a student misuses resources (i.e. leaves the cap off the marker or pens so that the pen dries out), you can ask the student: “Are you showing care for the tools we use in the classroom?” It’s a gentle way of enforcing what you value in your classroom: care for one another, care for the classroom environment, and care for your resources.

The Rest of the Year: Firm, Fair, and Friendly

Effective classroom management can be summed up in three words: firm, fair, and friendly. Keep these in mind.

• Firmness implies strength, organization, resilience, and leadership, rather than rigidity.
• Fairness implies equal respect for all kinds of learners and learning styles.
• Friendliness implies a readiness and joy of learning and association with knowledge, engagement with the process, and appreciation of each other.

Lesson Plans as Scaffolds

Another important tool that ensures successful classroom management is effective lesson planning and scaffolding of curriculum material so that students are engaged and challenged in class. Students who feel engaged and motivated are much less likely to be disruptive or to stop paying attention – if time is taken to ensure that they are motivated, students will want to actively participate.

A lesson scaffold is a set of steps, a structure, a set of tasks and expectations, a way of determining if the instruction is on the right track, and if the structure is sound and strong. This requires the needed materials and resources. In designing a lesson the following should be included in the scaffold analogy.

• Is the project motivating?
• Can the students envision the lesson objectives?
• Are the directions clear?
• Teachers should provide a model of what the project should look like.
• The example model should not be too ambitious or impressive so that students do not feel that they could not accomplish something similar themselves.
• Will students know where to find answers?
• Will they have to rely only on the teacher, or can they rely on themselves, textbooks, each other, the Internet, or outside experts?
• Will the class design ensure some level of success?
• If the students are putting work into the project they should feel confident and competent about their efforts to avoid disappointment.
• Has the project-lesson been designed so that students will finish it knowing more than when they started?
• Will students be able to show their results with pride?
• Will students be able to accomplish this task within a reasonable amount of time?
• They might feel failure if they are not able to see the results on a regular basis, day by day.
• Will there be a student learn how to learn element in the lesson?
• Will students gain new skills as a result of this project – skills that they can apply to new problem-solving situations?
From WikiEducator Attribute Resource (2008)


The following digital classroom management tools are samples of various tools which can be used to organize and manage a classroom environment. For more in-depth look at digital learning tools see Digital and On-line Learning. These examples are from an edWeb webinar given by Eileen Lennon, a technology teacher at Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 in Queens, New York. She led an exploration of tools to help teachers establish an engaging and productive classroom environment.

Managing the Physical Classroom
• Seating charts
• Timers – “This helps get kids used to being able to manage their time,” Lennon said.
• Noise levels – “Balls bounce up and down the louder it gets in the room, which might encourage students to make more noise to watch things – I sometimes have to turn it off. But that you can look at the screen and see what the noise level is, is a good thing for the teacher to see and the student to see,” she said.

Behavior Management
• Class Dojo – This tool focuses on both positive and negative behavior, instead of only penalizing students for poor behavior.
• Edmodo – “The best part of Edmodo is that you can give people badges,” Lennon said. “You can shower your children with badges. This is a good, simple interface with students and parents.”
• Classcraft – Classcraft is similar to Class Dojo, but is aimed at older students and is set up as an avatar-driven world. Students create their avatars and also create teams and gain or lose points, and the entire team will gain or lose points depending on behavior.
• Google Classroom – offers a way to keep track of all student-teacher communications. In terms of behavior management, teachers can send messages directly to students as a more private means to address behavioral concerns.

Resources for Effective Instruction
• Random student pickers
• Grouping students
• Discussion management
• Icebreakers and activities

Attendance and Gradebook
• Google Classroom
• Edmodo

Home connections
• Remind

Retrieved 12/6/2016 from: http://www.eschoolnews.com/2016/09/28/14-classroom-management-strategies-to-increase-student-learning/



Dawson and Guare (2010) tell us that In the course of a school day, there are many opportunities for students to use executive skills. Children need to learn to raise their hands before talking, keep quiet during seatwork time, refrain from making inappropriate or hurtful comments, to handle frustration by asking for help, and to manage emotions when they are criticized or corrected – behaviors that involve executive skills such as response inhibition, flexibility, and emotional control.

They need to learn how to organize notebooks, keep track of materials, and keep their desks clean; they need to learn how to plan multistep projects, make sure they write down their assignments and make sure they bring home everything they need at night to do their homework; and they need to learn how to solve problems – both social problems as well as the problems posed by complex work assignments. In so doing they are using executive skills such as working memory, planning, organization, and metacognition.

When teachers use direct instructional routines to teach students how to get through these common classroom activities, then they are helping them develop habits of mind that are as important as any content curriculum. The most effective way to teach these skills and routines is in the context of the daily work and daily homework assignments that are already a part of the curriculum. The process starts with defining the problem situation; then outline a set of steps to be followed to resolve the problem; then practice the procedure or follow the procedure with cuing and feedback, and gradually fade the supervision (p. 75).

But if we truly want students to develop the ability to access and deploy their own executive skills independently, then we want them to be actively engaged in the process, (p. 76) including the act of defining the problem, generating possible solutions, and thinking about the steps involved in implementing the solution. In effect, we want students to engage their own executive skills, particularly metacognition, flexibility, planning, and organization. The goal is to help students become good decision makers, which is the essence of mature executive functioning. The following are elements that should be incorporated whenever possible into teaching routines:

• Be explicit about what is being taught. An end-of-day routine can be taught that involves making sure students write down all their assignments, review the work due the next day as well as deadlines for long-term projects and upcoming tests and quizzes, and place in their backpack all the materials they need to bring home that night. If the student is not told the reason for this routine is to help them develop strategies for remembering important information as well as ways to improve their planning, organization, and time management skills, then an opportunity to link the routine to the ultimate goal of having them develop fully functioning executive skills has been missed.

• Monitoring performance while the routine is being learned is an essential component of good executive skills instruction. This can be very demanding of a teacher’s time and attention, however this function can be shared with the student which not only reduces the burden on the teacher but also serves as another way to reinforce executive skill development. This can be done by assigning a student leader to cue students to follow the routine (with the leadership role being distributed throughout the class on a daily or weekly basis) or using a “buddy” system, where students are paired up to cue and monitor each other as the procedure is followed.

• The evaluation of the effectiveness of the routine being taught requires teachers to establish criteria for success and to judge the process against those criteria. When using whole-class routines, this can be done by periodically “spot-checking” to determine whether students are following the routine – for example, randomly select a different student each day to assess the extent to which the routine is adhered. When teaching routines are used with individual students, the effectiveness of the routine can be measured by the extent to which the outcome is achieved. For instance, if a routine is put in place to help students remember homework, then the percentage of homework handed in on time is a good gauge of whether the routine has been followed successfully (p.76).

General guidelines for developing instructional routines for young children

• Keep them short
• Reduce the number of steps involved
• Use pictures as cues rather than written lists or written instructions
• Be prepared to provide cues and supervision, and in some cases you’ll need to help the child follow the routine, working side by side.

General guidelines for developing instructional routines for older children

• Make them full partners in the design of the routine, the selection of rewards, and the troubleshooting that may be required to improve the routine
• Be willing to negotiate rather than dictate
• Whenever possible, use visual cues rather than verbal cues (since these sound a lot like nagging to an older child) (p. 77)

Three ways to manage executive skill weaknesses:

Modify environment:
• Change physical or environment
• Modify tasks
• Provide Cues

Teach the skill:
• Define problem behaviors
• Set a goal
• Establish procedure to achieve goal
• Supervise child following procedure
• Evaluate and modify if necessary

Use incentives:
• Premack principle
• Specific praise
• Menu of rewards (p. 94)

The following is a list of a number of common classroom teaching and learning activities that can pose a problem in the classroom for children with executive skills weaknesses (p. 77). Many of the routines described in Dawson and Guare (2010) book can be taught either to an individual child or to a whole class. Whenever possible the routine should be incorporated into whole-class instruction since this is less labor-intensive and there is a high likelihood that there are a number of children in every class who would benefit from learning the routines:

Common Classroom Activities and Executive Skills Needed:

1. Getting Ready To Begin the Day
Executive Skills Addressed: Task Initiation, Sustained Attention, Working Memory (p. 78)
2. End-of-Day Routine
Executive Skills Addressed: Task Initiation, Sustained Attention, Working Memory, Organization (p. 79)
3. Homework Collection Routine (p. 81)
Executive Skill Addressed: Working Memory
4. Teaching Students to Make Homework Plans (p. 81)
Executive Skills Addressed: Task Initiation, Sustained Attention, Planning, Time Management, Metacognition
5. Teaching Students How to Pay Attention (p. 82)
Executive Skill Addressed: Sustained Attention
6. Desk-Cleaning Routine (p. 83)
Executive Skill Taught: Organization
7. Writing a Paper (p. 84)
Executive Skills Addressed: Task Initiation, Sustained Attention, Planning, Organization, Time Management, and Metacognition
8. Long-Term Projects (p. 87)
Executive Skills Addressed: Task Initiation, Sustained Attention, Planning, Time Management, Metacognition
9. Studying for Tests (p. 88)
Executive Skills Addressed: Task Initiation, Sustained Attention, Planning, Time Management, Metacognition
10. Organizing Notebook/Homework (p. 90)
Executive Skills Addressed: Organization, Task Initiation
11. Managing Open-Ended Tasks (p. 91)
Executive Skills Addressed: Emotional Control, Flexibility, Metacognition
12. Teaching Students How to Take Notes (p. 92)
Executive skills Addressed: Organization, Metacognition
13. Learning to Manage Effortful Tasks (p. 95)
Executive Skills Addressed: Task Initiation, Sustained Attention
14. Learning to Control Ones Temper (p. 97)
Executive Skills Addressed: Emotional Control, Response Inhibition
15. Learning to Control Impulsive Behavior (p. 99)
Executive Skills Addressed: Response Inhibition, Emotional Control
16. Learning to Manage Anxiety (p. 101)
Executive Skills Addressed: Emotional Control, Flexibility
17. Managing Changes in Plans or Schedules (p. 103)
Executive Skills Addressed: Emotional Control, Flexibility
18. Learn Not to Cry Over Little Things (p. 104)
Executive Skills Addressed: Emotional Control, Flexibility
19. Learning to Solve Problems (p. 105)
Executive Skills Addressed: Metacognition, Flexibility, Planning



Many of the behavior and classroom management techniques mentioned in this section included the use of peer-based teaching and learning. The concept can be traced back to Aristotle’s use of archons, or student leaders, and to the letters of Seneca the Younger. It was first organized as a theory by Scotsman Andrew Bell in 1795, and later implemented into French and English schools in the 19th century. In America the 19th century one-room school house was a breeding ground for peer-based learning as older students and younger student learned different subjects but were learning together at the same time. Over the past 30-40 years, peer teaching has become increasingly popular in conjunction with mixed ability grouping in K-12 public schools and an interest in more financially efficient methods of teaching.

Peer-based teaching and learning should not be confused with peer instruction which is a concept designed by Harvard professor Eric Mazur in the early 1990s. Peer teaching is a method by which one student instructs another student in material on which the first is an expert and the second is a novice.

According to David Boud (1998) peer learning is not a single, undifferentiated educational strategy. It encompasses a broad sweep of activities. For example, researchers from the University of Ulster identified 10 different models of peer learning (Griffiths, Housten and Lazenbatt, 1995). These ranged from the traditional proctor model, in which senior students tutor junior students, to the more innovative learning cells, in which students in the same year form partnerships to assist each other with both course content and personal concerns. Other models involved discussion seminars, private study groups, parrainage (a buddy system) or counseling, peer-assessment schemes, collaborative project or laboratory work, projects in different sized (cascading) groups, workplace mentoring and community activities.

The sense in which it is used here suggests a two-way, reciprocal learning activity. Peer learning should be mutually beneficial and involve the sharing of knowledge, ideas and experience between the participants. It can be described as a way of moving beyond independent to interdependent or mutual learning (Boud, 1988).

According to Jenkins (2006) the phenomenon known as the “Participatory Culture” (see: Digital and Online Learning) is a youth culture that is driven by the technological advances of the past ten years and is grounded in how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. According to a 2005 “Pew Internet & American Life” project study, more than one-half of all teens have created media content, and roughly one-third of teens who use the Internet have shared content they produced.

The Participatory Culture is also defined by its relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices in what is known as peer-based learning. Participatory Cultures shift the focus of literacy from one of individual expression to community involvement. These new literacies will almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking that will evolve from traditional literacy, research skills, technical skills, and critical analysis. (Jenkins, 2006)

Students learn a great deal by explaining their ideas to others and by participating in activities in which they can learn from their peers. They develop skills in organizing and planning learning activities, working collaboratively with others, giving and receiving feedback and evaluating their own learning. Peer learning is becoming an increasingly important part of many courses, and it is being used in a variety of contexts and disciplines in many countries.

The potential of peer learning is starting to be realized, but examination of the ways in which it is used in existing courses suggests that practices are often introduced in an ad hoc way, without consideration of their implications. When such practices are used unsystematically, students unfamiliar with this approach become confused about what they are supposed to be doing, they miss opportunities for learning altogether, and fail to develop the skills expected of them. Much peer learning occurs informally without teacher involvement, and students who are already effective learners tend to benefit disproportionately when it is left to chance.

Formalized peer learning can help students learn effectively as it gives them considerably more practice than traditional teaching and learning methods in taking responsibility for their own learning and, more generally, learning how to learn. It is not a substitute for teaching and activities designed and conducted by teachers, but an important addition to the repertoire of teaching and learning activities that can enhance the quality of education.

Generally, peers are other people in a similar situation to each other who do not have a role in that situation as teacher. They may have considerable experience and expertise or they may have relatively little. They share the status as fellow learners and they are accepted as such. Most importantly, they do not have power over each other by virtue of their position or responsibilities.

Peer teaching, or peer tutoring, is a far more instrumental strategy in which advanced students, or those in later years, take on a limited instructional role. In many universities it often requires some form of credit or payment for the person acting as the teacher whereas reciprocal peer learning is often considered to be an incidental component of other more familiar strategies, such as the Socratic method’s discussion group. As a consequence, until recently, reciprocal peer learning has not been identified as a phenomenon in its own right that might be used to students’ advantage (Boud, 1998).

Reciprocal peer learning typically involves students within a given class or cohort. This makes peer learning relatively easy to organize because there are fewer timetabling problems. There is also no need to pay or reward with credit the more experienced students responsible for peer teaching. Students in reciprocal peer learning are by definition peers, and so there is less confusion about roles compared with situations in which one of the ‘peers’ is a senior student, or is in an advanced class, or has special expertise.

Reciprocal peer learning emphasizes students simultaneously learning and contributing to other students’ learning. Such communication is based on mutual experience and so they are better able to make equal contributions. It more closely approximates to Habermas’ notion of an ‘ideal speech act’ in which issues of power and domination are less prominent than when one party has a designated ‘teaching’ role and thus takes on a particular kind of authority for the duration of the activity.

We define peer learning in its broadest sense, then, as ‘students learning from and with each other in both formal and informal ways’. The emphasis is on the learning process, including the emotional support that learners offer each other, as much as the learning task itself. In peer teaching the roles of teacher and learner are fixed, whereas in peer learning they are either undefined or may shift during the course of the learning experience. Teachers may be actively involved as group facilitators or they may simply initiate student-directed activities such as workshops or learning partnerships.

According to Topping (1996) the teaching model, rather than the learning model, is still the most common way of understanding how students assist each other. Although the teaching model has value, the learning process itself must be considered to make the best use of peers as resources for learning. It is important to recognize that peer learning is not a single practice. It covers a wide range of different activities each of which can be combined with others in different ways to suit the needs of a particular course.

One of the most effective ways of motivating students (See: Achievement Motivation) FIZZ is a project of the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation which part of the North Carolina State University College of Education. By videotaping their response to a lesson and playing for their peers they are actually “teaching” the lesson all over again. By learning the lesson well enough to teach it requires the student to “own” the subject matter. By doing this they are “creating” their own lesson which is one of the highest orders of thinking skills.

With the Mastery Learning Theory (see: Innovation Pedagogical Methodology Models)Khan (2012) tells us that students learn at their own pace, advancing to the next concept only after reaching a prescribed degree of mastery over the previous concept. Teachers served primarily as guides and mentors rather than lecturers. Peer interaction was encouraged; peers helping peers was of benefit not only academically, but in character-building as well. Some students might struggle, but none were given up on. (p. 40)

Older and younger students

So far the focused has been primarily on peer-based learning of students of the same age and relative abilities. Another peer-based learning concept involves older students mentoring their younger peers. In Kahn’s (2012) vision of an innovative classroom (see: Physical Classroom Management below) as many as a hundred students of widely varying ages would be grouped together. This twenty-to-one ratio is augmented by peer-to-peer tutoring and mentoring – a central advantage of the age-mixed classroom (p. 204).

As with the above mentioned FIZZ concept the older student has to know the lesson content well enough to teach it so it increase cognitive retention. In addition the older student receives a maturity boost by assuming the role of teacher or parent. The younger student is more attentive because they are thrilled that an older student is showing an interest in them. According, the young student is motivated to lean because they don’t want the older student to think negatively of them.



“To engender creativity, first we must value it.” Sternberg and Lubar, 1991

Cornett (1999) mentioned that “Unfortunately, parents and teachers often do not look favorably on behaviors peculiar to creativity. Just like Leo Lionni’s main character in Frederick, children who are loners and want to “do their own thing,” rather than conform to adult expectations, may be looked on as troublemakers. It is frightening to read reports detailing how creative thinking declines in children as they move through school. Some studies have even concluded that fourth grade is the peak of creativity for many students. (p. 26)

The following is a list of attitudes or behaviors that may threaten student’s creative instincts:

• Assessment and evaluation: too much, too soon, too often – The cake falls if you open the oven too soon or too often – even positive evaluations can inhibit next efforts at creative work
• Hovering over students as they work so that they feel watched
• Extrinsic rewards like stamps, stickers, and praise that block risk taking and focus on “getting things,” rather than the worth of the activity itself
• Worry – Fear – Not feeling safe enough to take risks and make mistakes
• Competition, especially when knowledge and skills are great enough to hope for success
• Too much emphasis on the product rather than the process
• Too little choice, especially of how to do an assignment or reach a goal
• Too much emphasis on order, neatness, and following directions
• Preponderance of teacher questions that ask for literal answers
• Lack of incubation time
• Insufficient information to incubate
• Rush to judgment about value of ideas – Saying “That won’t work” right off the bat
• Adults doing for children what they could do, or do partially, themselves (leads to learned helplessness)
• Lack of independent study time to pursue ideas of personal interest
• Taking everything too seriously – Teachers that rarely laugh, play, or express a sense of humor
• Stereotyped or dictated art activities like coloring books. Emphasis on “staying in the lines” (called “predigested activities that force youngsters into imitative behavior and inhibit their own creative expression”) (Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1975). (p. 29)