Teachers do not always need to employ elaborate classroom management techniques to keep students focused on learning tasks. Alternatively, teacher should consider using a variety of simple strategies (some educators call these strategies classroom procedures) during the course of their lessons.
These uncomplicated classroom procedures could be creatively sprinkled around throughout instructional period to break monotony and enhance the level of interest students have for the subject-matter being learned. At the same time, the procedures demand that students are constantly held responsible for their own learning through elevated sense of awareness of the learning process and its outcomes.
The two most popularly known, easy-to-use classroom procedures are turn-to-your-neighbor and pair-of-pairs.
This classroom procedure is the easiest to implement, yet yields powerful results in terms of providing students with structured opportunities to consolidate their comprehension of a concept or idea. It could be used as many times as one thinks is appropriate – and in as many context as one could imagine.
For instance, when conducting a typical full-day workshop, I use this method at least three to four times, spread over different learning blocks; e.g. after having introduced and briefly elaborated on the concept of “Teacher Efficacy” I ask teachers to turn-to-their-neighbor and verbally share their understanding of the term (in their own words) to the person seated to the left, right, front, or behind him/her, in addition to providing personal illustrations and/or examples as evidence of mastery of the new concept.
Although the class gets noisy, everyone is given an opportunity to display mastery of the new concept. This elevates pupil’s sense of control and confidence over the subject in a progressive, step-by-step manner, within the context of a safe learning environment (students tend to listen to each other without being judgmental).
In a deeper, psychological sense, this exercise builds up the self-image of each student – as opposed to what happens when a teacher picks a representative sample of the class to gauge if a concept has been understood. Often, teachers tend to pick students who he/she knows have understood the new concept, in which case, the informal assessment results are unrepresentative of the larger and of no value, educationally.
To encourage construction or creation of new ideas based on existing knowledge, teachers could use the pair-of-pairs classroom procedure. This method encourages students to stretch their imagination and generate as many creative ideas as possible without feeling threatened or having to feel like he/she is in competition with others.
For example, a teacher could ask students to create a list with a partner (usually someone seated in close proximity); e.g. “list down what would happen to the social and physical environment if multinational companies in Bangkok do not operate within the framework of corporate social responsibility”. As a follow-up, the teacher encourages students to think of and write down as many points as they can.
Once a pair completes the list, the teacher asks this pair to merge the list with another pair (one pair of students joins another pair). The combined list is obviously longer. However, students are asked to carefully examine items in the list to avoid duplication. Students are also required to have logical and/or intuitive reasons for why a particular point/answer is considered as valid in their group.
To make it more “thinking” oriented, teachers could ask students to rank their points, for example from the most effective to least effective, most common to least common, most dangerous to least dangerous, or most practical to least practical. This additional element would require engagement in higher order thinking skills, which serve as an effective interest booster.
Students could be asked to present their refined, well-thought-of list with the rest of the class and be exposed to constructive criticism for mutually-beneficial exchange of ideas.