Saturday, May 13, 2006

What's your 'mental model' about behaviour?

  Posted by Picasa Sometimes it hard to understand why, as teachers, we handle student behavior in different ways? It seems it depends on something called our ‘mental models’ or theories in our heads.

At a professional development day one of the presenters said that, ‘the key to student behavior is you’ and that most school are so inconstant when it comes to dealing with student behavior. This is because we have different mental models about behavior. There are three basic models and we all need to aware of them and decide which model best suits you and your school.

The first is Rules Rewards and Punishment. This is ‘behaviorism’ where the only observable behavior is important and that the teacher’s role is to change or condition this; B F Skinner is the researcher who developed this model. Teachers reward student behavior with ‘tokens’, or other rewards, or punishment – the 'carrot or the stick'.

The second model is called Humanist and is based on relationships and listening to students. People who follow this model (Carl Rogers) who believe all students have a potential for growth under suitable conditions. The key is to help students take responsibity for their own actions. The teacher’s role is to provide a facilitating environment and help students come to terms with their feelings.

The third model is Cognitive Development building on the idea of J Bruner and William Glasser. In this model a learner can only be understood by all the relationship in the environment and growth is seen as a constant interplay between the learner and society. The teacher’s role is to create with the class acceptable behaviors and to interact with the students as required providing options and alternatives to build up positive 'learning power'. The teacher allows freedom of behavior up to circumscribed point and, at this point, the teacher intervenes to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution.

The presenter said, ‘no way could he be a behaviorists’!

Teachers need to appreciate their basic 'mental model' and if the school model is in conflict with the individual such a teacher will need 'coaching'.

Students need a consistent and predictable school wide behavior programme that they ‘know’ and that reflects the core values or culture of the school. Such programmes can never be fully consistent due to the power of mental models; ‘behaviorist’ teachers will need to control their ‘normal responses’. A plan is required with clear and fair consequences; students need to know what is going to happen and be helped to consider a appropriate action ‘next time’.

The best to ensure positive student behavior, is to negotiate with students ‘rich real and relevant’ curriculum projects; and education that values their ideas and actions. The best reward for us all is the pride of achievement mutually achieved in the company of others.

Perhaps this is why some teachers (and schools) have few behavior problems?


Anonymous said...

I think the key question for schools to ask is why students are 'turned off' school and/or why they resort to mis-behaviour?

I do appreciate that there are a few students who arrive at school with so much 'baggage' that they, and the schools, need specialist help.

Not with standing the above, too much of the 'bad' student behaviour is 'caused' by the schools themselves - particularly as students reach the secondary level.

Why are so many students bored or mis-behaving? Schools ought to ask the 'why' question at least four times and, if they do, they might find the answer lies in their own hands. Why don't some students attend school? Answer, it is boring? Why is it boring? Lessons don't connect to student's lives. Why not? Teachers don't listen to their students concerns or questions.They talk too much.

Listening to the students and personalising education might be the real answer.It is not poor attendance that is the real problem it is more a matter of curriculum, poor pedagogy, or irrelevant school structures; a systemic problem.

Anonymous said...

I have observed many teachers push kids into a corner and then wonder why they 'hit out' literally or figuratively.

Education ought to be about respectful relationships and respect not abuse of positional power.

Anonymous said...

The key to student behaviour is teacher behaviour.