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Communication in schools

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Communication in schools
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Aught3ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 4290Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:36 amLocation: New Zealand Gender: Male

Post Communication in schools

Edit: This post came about from a pre-emptive posting of Inferno's thoughts on the blog. I picked up on an aside he made on the previous use of physical punishment in Austrian schools. I've split that discussion to the philosophy forum since we are discussing the philosophy of communication.

I know that you didn't mean to publish this incomplete blog post yet but I found something interesting in it that I wanted to talk about some more. Apologies if I've preempted where you are going or if you were planning to preempt the point I'm about to make :D

I've been evolving recently on this issue of communication and getting what you want from people. Like you said, threatening someone with a caning will get them to be polite - even if it is out of fear. While this method is effective in achieving the desired behavior the problem is that it does not induce the desired intentions in the child.

Since I first started thinking seriously about morality I thought that intentions were an extremely important part of the moral equation. At least as important as the action taking and perhaps even more so. In getting what I want from someone, therefore, I not only have to induce the action I desire but also create the proper (good, moral) intention. If I try to use an oppressive means of communication, like threatening physical punishment, I may be the action I want but the intention created is one of trying to escape or minimise my oppression of them.

This type of communication is very common in schools. Even if physical beatings are no longer threatened there are still other punitive actions like detentions or 'lines' which can be used in a similar oppressive manner. Sometimes it might be necessary to use these techniques in a protective way but if the first instinct of the teachers is to punish it doesn't surprise me that kids rebel against this oppression by acting out, ignoring lessons, or split there attention to other topics.

I'd be interested to know what teachers are taught or trained in around this area of communication with students. Or even your own opinions around building correct intentions within students so that correct behaviour simply follows once it is made clear by the teacher.

This process would need to be started by the teacher making an effort to understand the needs of their students. Then communicating their needs back to the student and finding ways both parties can get their needs met. If the students can begin to empathise with the teacher their intentions will start to align with correct moral principles. At that point, the teacher can make requests of the students. Importantly, these requests are not backed by punitive threats but by correct intentions and empathy. Essentially the process of non-violent communication.

Do you know any teachers or teacher training that approaches communication with students this way?
Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.
Mon Dec 16, 2013 8:39 am
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InfernoContributorUser avatarPosts: 2298Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:36 pmLocation: Vienna, Austria Gender: Cake

Post Re: School reality in Austria

Well, I can only speak from experience. As you may or may not know, I'm a teacher myself. Well, I'll be a full teacher come September. I am currently a student enrolled at the pedagogical college (Hochschule, called PH) of Vienna as well as the university of Vienna.

Now one of the many problems I have with the University is that we don't get nearly enough practice. We learn all the theory but we're never out in the field, which is stupid because that's the essential bit.
At the PH we have it fairly well balanced, but there aren't a lot of compulsory subjects so you can choose basically whatever you want. That too is stupid because there simply are some essential bits in teacher education. This would be one of them.

So because we're not taught "classroom conflict resolution", which is what I would call this (instead of "pupils conflict resolution", which is when kids fight), we're directly taught how to build a class where this doesn't happen. Basically, it all boils down to motivating pupils to participate on their own, to be happy that they're in school.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
― William Arthur Ward

Apparently, Austrian teachers are particularly good at this: In a recent survey I have to dig up again, pupils motivation was far above the OECD average, I believe even above Finnish pupils. In Austria, children LIKE going to school, they WANT to be there. As to why that is... I don't know.

It may be due to demographics: We have a lot of immigrant children, especially from challenged areas such as Turkey (conflict with the Turks), Syria (need I say more?) and Albania/Kosovo/Serbia/Kroatia (1998 war). Parents didn't have a lot and neither did the children, often times those kids went through more than we could imagine.
So think about what a normal day at school means to them: The possibility of having a job, of escaping their reality.
This is of course the exact opposite from US schools, where kids from economically challenged backgrounds are told that they won't succeed anyway.

It may also be due to society: In Austria, a degree of any kind is a matter of prestige, just like a BMW is in other countries. If you can boast A-levels (Matura), you're already more educated than 70% of the country. If you can boast any degree of higher learning (Bachelors, Masters, Magisters, Diplom-Ingenieur, etc.) you're more educated than 85% of the country.
These statistics are actually to be lamented: We don't have a huge proportion of highly educated people, because of our education system. Yet it means that people with degrees will always have a job, so kids are hugely (externally) motivated to achieve one.

Or it may simply be due to what teachers do: We build a rapport with pupils. This is the most important part of teaching, I believe: Building a positive connection. This is something that's often overlooked, I fear, but it is absolutely essential. Once you have a positive connection, you have to maintain that connection, otherwise you'll be back to square one. But when you've got that pat down, you can expect everything and anything from your students.
And that's when you get out the big guns: Topics that are of interest to your students, feedback to and fro, democratic ideas in deciding topics (that is to say, pupils have a say) and, of course, hands-on experimentation. This is possible in basically any subject, yet teachers often don't do this as much. Oh sure, have experiments in chemistry, biology and physics. Maybe in geography. But what about the languages, history or maths? Once you realize that you can experiment even here, you're (in my opinion) on track to becoming an excellent, motivating teacher.

Does this answer your question or did I misunderstand it?
"Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed." ― Friedrich Nietzsche

"I shall achieve my objectives through the power... of Science!" --LessWrong
Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:01 am
Aught3ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 4290Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:36 amLocation: New Zealand Gender: Male

Post Re: Communication in schools

I think you understand my question and addressing it but perhaps not quite answering it, so to speak :lol:

When you say "Basically, it all boils down to motivating pupils to participate on their own, to be happy that they're in school." that is exactly it. Physical punishment, punitive actions, or the use of shame in the classroom don't achieve this goal but "building a positive rapport" and "classroom conflict resolution" do build this type of environment.

Your final paragraph is excellent and it seems to me like you are well on your way to becoming an outstanding teacher (I actually did think you were already a teacher, not in training). Were the ideas contained in this paragraph part of your teacher training courses? Did you pick them up from somewhere else or develop them on your own? If they have a formal basis either in your courses or books I'd be interested to hear more about the background.

I do find it strange that you don't have to do classroom placements as part of your training. At school in NZ it was not particularly unusual to get a student teacher (who was supervised by the regular teacher) come in and observe then take over lessons for a week or so.

The thing about immigrant children being particularly motivated comes a lot from the parents I think. They are have an incredible belief in the power of education to quickly move their children up in society and economically. It's interesting that in Austria a university degree still means a job. In a place like the US, for example, a university degree makes it more likely you will be able to get a job but is no longer a guarantee. Yet this is the story kids are still being told and they're not stupid, they know this is no longer the case in their economy.

Just for information purposes I have a lot of teachers in my family so this may be a topic for conversation this Christmas.
Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.
Mon Dec 16, 2013 10:47 pm
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