Authoritarian

The authoritarian teacher places firm limits and controls on the students. Students will often have assigned seats for the entire term. The desks are usually in straight rows and there are no deviations. Students must be in their seats at the beginning of class and they frequently remain there throughout the period. This teacher rarely gives hall passes or recognizes excused absences.

Often, it is quiet. Students know they should not interrupt the teacher. Since verbal exchange and discussion are discouraged, the authoritarian's students do not have the opportunity to learn and/or practice communication skills.

This teacher prefers vigorous discipline and expects swift obedience. Failure to obey the teacher usually results in detention or a trip to the principal's office. In this classroom, students need to follow directions and not ask why.

At the extreme, the authoritarian teacher gives no indication that he\she cares for the students. Mr. Doe is a good example of an authoritarian teacher. His students receive praise and encouragement infrequently, if at all. Also, he makes no effort to organize activities such as field trips. He feels that these special events only distract the students from learning. After all, Mr. Doe believes that students need only listen to his lecture to gain the necessary knowledge.

Students in this class are likely to be reluctant to initiate activity, since they may feel powerless. Mr. Doe tells the students what to do and when to do it. He makes all classroom decisions. Therefore, his style does little to increase achievement motivation or encourage the setting of personal goals.

One Middle-school pupil reacts to this teaching style:

I don't really care for this teacher. He is really strict and doesn't seem to want to give his students a fair chance. He seems unfair, although that's just his way of getting his point across.
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This document was last updated 6/1/97 by Chandra Hawley.
Copyright1996 Indiana University - Center for Adolescent Studies, all rights reserved.
Kris Bosworth - Director
situations come up.

Teacher Talk: What is your approach to grading assignments?

Mr. Moore: On homework, teachers have to get work back immediately and with at least some positive comments. Students need that positive feedback. My students keep their own grades,too, and once every six weeks I sit down with each of them and ask, "Is there anything I graded you on that you think is unfair?" Or simply "How is everything going?" If a serious problem comes up, I don't try to take it all on myself. I help them identify options, or refer them to a counselor.

Teacher Talk How do you establish high expectations for your students?

Mr. Moore: I tell them they all start out the semester with A's and can do "A" work - a "C" is not good enough. I explain to them that outside of school you would not put up with "C" work, so why do so in school? For example, would you want a tax auditor doing"C" work on your tax reports? or an airline pilot, or a surgeon? Too often we focus on failure instead of success.

Teacher Talk: Any other tips for our new teachers?

Mr. Moore: Ask veteran teachers about teaching and discipline strategies. They may have some excellent tips.

Mr. Moore can be reached at 9100 Keystone Crossing, Suite 390,Indianapolis, IN 46240

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Making Content Relevant

Verna DeLuce is an English teacher at Tri-North Middle School, a 17-year veteran of the field with ten years in the middle schools.

A key to hooking the students is to relate the content to their lives. Personal connections to the subject matter need to be found, instead of teaching content without the kids in mind-we are building kids, not refrigerators! For example, when looking where things went wrong in U.S. History, the connections with today can be made; we are still vulnerable to these mistakes.

At Tri-North, we teach an 8th-grade humanities approach to English, including social studies, math, and other areas. We pool our teaching resources and help students to reflect on some basic questions they need to understand, such as"What does our country stand for?" We have students examine symbols which represent America (i.e. the Statue of Liberty and the bald eagle) and then create their own symbol which they feel is representative of America.

There must be a sense of reality in what they are studying, where we say "This is important" because there are implications for their future employment. They have to learn these kinds of things in order to succeed as life-long learners.

The students need to have something they enjoy too. I try to get the kids to read each evening and have some positive experiences reading what they want. We are journaling as well. This affords students the opportunity to interact with a book, to question, respond, disagree, or celebrate.

Assessment

I utilize portfolio assessment, which allows me greater flexibility in structuring my classes. For example, my students create portfolios and assess them at the end of each semester so they see their own growth.

Classroom Management

Extend yourself and they will know it. If you just shout to stay in control, it doesn't help. Teachers have to be respectful toward students, and leave sarcasm out. Also, I tell my students how hard I work and I try to get papers back within a week. I have high expectations for all my students. Bad papers are not acceptable, so I allow them to make revisions until they are done right. It takes a lot of effort to be an effective teacher, yet being able to make a positive impact on students' lives makes it all worthwhile.

Ms. DeLuce can be reached at Tri-North Middle School, 1000 W. 15th St., Bloomington, IN 47404

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Using Democracy in the Classroom

Barbara Brodhagen has been teaching language arts and social studies at the middle school level since 1980. She and another teacher facilitate student-directed learning with a class of 50-60 students.

In our classroom, there are three principles which guide us in our work together: maintaining dignity, honoring diversity, and democracy. To operationalize these ideas, we build our curriculum around questions kids have about themselves and their world. This approach empowers them to find answers to their own questions and presents a very different classroom atmosphere where students direct their own learning.

At the start of the year, we ask the students, "We will be working together for a year. How can we get to know each other?" Students decide on the activities and we do them. For example, one class wanted to do a survey of each other's interests, which led to an exploration of how to make a survey. So their ideas are translated into classroom learning. Then students begin to think of the questions they have about themselves and the world, and the class identifies the common ones. A committee of students goes through the lists and tries to find themes which connect the questions. Eventually, the students vote on them and pick the first theme (i.e. the environment or conflict).

Another committee is formed to find the original questions which fit under this theme "environment". Later the class works together to brainstorm for activities to answer their questions. The students then go through a process of deciding on activities, re-identifying questions they have (or changing them), and actually planning out the activities. Students find this very engaging. After an activity, we go back to the initial questions and ask, "How are we doing?"

The entire school day is not devoted to this at first, as it would be too much, so we do work on other things. The point is students are involved in a process where classroom learning is student-directed and democratic. We also allow for re-evaluating of the questions, themes, and activities.

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This document was last updated 5/30/97 by Chandra Hawley.
Copyright1996 Indiana University - Center for Adolescent Studies, all rights reserved.
Kris Bosworth - Director
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