How Predictable Are You?

anneDay one:

Students come into the classroom, sit down, open notebooks and texts, get out pencils and wait for you to start the power point.

Day two:

Students come into the classroom, sit down, open notebooks and texts, get out pencils and wait for you to start the power point.

Day three:

Students come into the classroom, sit down, open notebooks and texts, get out pencils and wait for you start the power point.classroom1

Does this sound  familiar? This doesn’t surprise me. All too often we instructors present patterned behavior to our expectant students. For some unknown reason, we seem to think that students expect class to be conducted in a predetermined and programmed way… unchanging, predictable,  anticipated, prepared delivery of information.

teen I started paying attention to this one day in my class when I collected papers from the opposite side of the room than I usually do. One student made the comment, “Something must be going to happen because she took up the papers from the wrong side of the room!” This was a wake-up call that made me start examining just how many times during the course of a term my class followed a predictable pattern.

Let’s see, what else do we do that revolves around predictable behavior? I think we could interject another word here – umm, ritual. That’s it, ritual! Some of us bring our “lucky rabbit’s foot” or our “lucky pencil” when we take a test. Tennis players arrange their paraphernalia in a certain order before they play; some even ask for the tennis ball back after a winning point. Think about the way you eat a meal or the way you get ready for work.  Church services – oh, my – how many rituals are involved here? Don’t try to mix things up here unless you want a total revolt!  When you think about it, just about everything we do revolves around some form of ritual.routine

This blog was built on the concept of how to integrate pleasure into learning. We followed a few basic rules: the element of surprise, the achievable challenge, owning something of value, humor, belonging to a group just to mention a few. What would happen if instead of doing the same old lecture each day you mix things up a bit? Do something unexpected:

  • Play a game (humor) which encourages competition (belonging to a group)
  • Sit with your students (the element of surprise) in the classroom to work on a project
  • Put out a few toys or a hands on activity table for students when they arrive early (achievable challenge)
  • Take a few minutes to show students short cuts or trick ways to remember the information and point out why the information is useful to them (something of value).

Simply changing your routine provides students with a fresh viewpoint when trying to master information.

Am I asking you to do away with your pedagogy? No, not in the least. Research has shown that rituals are successful. Evidence of this surfaces in the article “Why Rituals Work”; Scientific American;     May 14, 2013 |By Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton. The authors present the following information in support of rituals,

“Rituals take an extraordinary array of shapes and forms. At times performed in communal or religious settings, at times performed in solitude; at times involving fixed, repeated sequences of actions, at other times not. People engage in rituals with the intention of achieving a wide set of desired outcomes, from reducing their anxiety to boosting their confidence, alleviating their grief to performing well in a competition – or even making it rain.”

classroom2So what are you asked to do? Take the time to evaluate your methods of instruction. See where you could do something different. Step outside of your comfort zone. You may be surprised to find that student involvement and interest  increase. You may even find that some of these students that you’d almost given up on, are suddenly right in there with you– learning and having fun doing it!

Have a great term and, by all means, enjoy yourself!!

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One comment on “How Predictable Are You?

  1. The words “fresh viewpoint”stood out. You make a good point that freshness doesn’t depend on scrapping ritual but on keeping it fresh with bits of surprise.

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