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THE IDEAL SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT: Building Social And Emotional Competence In Students
A school is a place where children and adolescents have their initial education and academic learning. It is, indeed, the place where a child receives his/her first formal education. The initial stages of life of an individual are spent in a school. A child, usually, enters school at the age of five and stays there till the age of seventeen or eighteen. This means each person begins his/her school-life at early childhood and ends it at late adolescence. Thus, the time spent by an individual in school is known to be the most critical phase of human development. The main aim of a school is to provide education and train students for academic achievement and build their intellectual ability. The environment outside the school premises is completely different from what it is inside. A school is known for its protectiveness and discipline. An individual spends so much of his/her early as well as critical life in school that it can become difficult for him/her when he/she passes out of school and steps into the unpredictable and somewhat unsafe environment that exists outside the school. This gives an indication that apart from focusing on academic achievement, schools should also give a lot of importance to the social and emotional competence of students in order to make him/her cope and adjust to the stressful life and deal with varied life situations once he/she moves out of school and enters to face the unpredictable world. Social and emotional competence refers to the capacity to recognize and manage emotions, solve problems effectively, and establish and maintain positive relationships with others. Learning of social and emotional competence should be in-built within the curriculum of the school so that each and every student is able to have maximum advantage from it and by the time he/she completes school, grows into a person who is fully secure as far as personal growth and adjustment is concerned. Social and emotional competence will also be very helpful for students to overcome many of the psychological and emotional problems that they face during their time in school. Some schools categorize students in different sections in each standard (grade) according to the academic ability and/or the intelligence quotient (IQ) of the students to develop a sense of competition and to enhance their academic achievement. Instead of this it would be much better to categorize students in different sections according to their personalities rather than academic performance or IQ. It would be much more beneficial if students with similar personalities are kept together in one section. For instance, all introverts in one section and all extroverts in the other section. Likewise, students with a high need for affiliation can be put in one section and students with low need for affiliation in the other section, etc. This will be a very good platform to encourage healthy interaction between students. Students with similar personalities will obviously gel very well with each other and will have many common needs and interests to share among each other. Once they mix-up well among each other and thus develop good communication skills, the students can later be gradually moved in and interchanged with students of different personalities to develop a much more healthy interaction and also build the ability to interact with different kinds of people. This will also be very helpful for many students in overcoming the problems of the feeling of being left out and being unwanted, which is known to be quite common in schools. A school is a place where students meet different fellow students and get to know each other and develop friendships. The students also form small or large groups according to their needs and interests. But, unfortunately, some students do not find themselves to be a part of any group and develop feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem causing them to feel unwanted. This will obviously not happen if students are made to interact with other students who have similar personalities. Therefore, keeping students with similar personalities together in one section will be very good in enhancing the emotional wellbeing of the students that will contribute in a major way in building the social and emotional competence of the students. Schools should also hold training sessions to train students in building their Social Intelligence. Social Intelligence is the ability to act wisely in human relationships. It is the level of mastery of the particular cluster of knowledge and skills relevant to interpersonal situations. Social Intelligence involves cognitive skills and attentional control to be empathetic, sensitive, influential, inspiring, compassionate, exciting, humorous, charming, etc. in interpersonal situations.

Within Social Intelligence comes Emotional Intelligence. It is a kind of Social Intelligence.Emotional Intelligence is the ability to use our emotions in a rational and intelligent manner. It is the ability or capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships and use this information to guide ones thinking and actions. It is about expressing our emotions in the

right way, at the right moment, in the right proportion, for the right reason, and towards the right object. Emotional Intelligence involves knowing ones emotions, managing emotions,motivating oneself, recognizing and understanding emotions in others, and handling relationships.

Social Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are very useful in enhancing the overall personality of an individual. They can be very useful in diverse life situations and provide a lot of help in the social adjustment of individuals. Thus, the skills of Social Intelligence will obviously be of a lot of significance for students, especially if learnt from an earlier age. Students should be discouraged in getting involved in social comparisons and the school authorities should play a big part in this. When individuals evaluate themselves by comparing them to others, then it is known as social comparison. Students generally have a habit of comparing themselves with others. This should be strictly discouraged, because each student is unique in their own way. Each student has his/her own unique strengths and abilities and they should be made to believe in them and have confidence in them. Social comparison is an incorrect and inadequate way of evaluating oneself. When students compare themselves to others, then it can give them a negative picture about themselves. This may create some kind of confusion among the students and lead them to evaluate themselves as someone who is unworthy and may develop the feelings of inferiority complex. A student may not be good in a certain aspect compared to the other student, but that does not mean that there is something wrong with that student. That student obviously may have some kind of ability in which he/she is extremely efficient or has the potential to be so. Students should be encouraged to believe in themselves, have their own way of thinking, use their unique abilities to move forward in life, and create their own identity rather than comparing themselves with others. Students should be made to build a positive and high self-esteem. Self-esteem is known as the self-worth and selfevaluation of an individual. It is perhaps the most important attitude that an individual has about himself/herself. It depends on the opinion of others as well as how one perceives specific experiences. Self-esteem is a very important aspect of an individuals personality and depending on its degree (high or low) can affect an individuals life in many ways. A high self-esteem has a lot of benefits and plays a big role in adjustment, emotional stability, optimism, and goal attainment. A person with high self-esteem perceives himself/herself as better, more capable, and of greater worth than does someone with low self-esteem. A high self-esteem can make students realize their real potential and accordingly set goals in life. It helps in developing their own interests and build-in confidence and self-belief about their abilities and about the goals that they have set for themselves. It also makes them understand the true meaning of success and failure. Success and failure depends on what an individual gives importance to. If a student is aware about the things that are important to him/her, then he/she will use their potential in a proper manner and try to become more and more competent in things that he/she values. All this tells a lot about the significance of having a high self-esteem and this is why schools should take special care in increasing the self-esteem of students. In schools, students should be helped to enhance their creativity. They should be encouraged to use and develop their own creative ideas. Creativity is the ability to produce something that is novel as well as useful and appropriate. The enhancement of creativity in a student can help him/her to identify their own interests and real potentials. Creativity may not be necessarily confined to a particular task. Being creative can also be helpful in many other aspects of everyday life. A student may like to do things in his/her own unique and creative style depending on his/her own comfort level and satisfaction. Rather than forcing students to follow the old conventional style of doing particular things, it will be much better if he/she is allowed to do things on his/her own way, which in turn will make it interesting for him/her and will also lead to enhancing his/her abilities. Creativity can also be helpful in using decision making and problem solving, regarding various aspects of ones life, in an appropriate manner. Rather than making the same stereotypical decisions, a student may use his/her creativity and make decisions that suit him/her. In this way, a student can make important as well as appropriate decisions of his/her life regarding his/her career as well as other facets of life. Thus, creativity can be a very important factor in a students life and rather than being curbed, should be enhanced and encouraged among students. There is no doubt that academic achievement and intellectual ability are very important aspects of students life. However, social and emotional competence enables students to use that academic and intellectual ability in an appropriate manner. There is no use of having good academic and intellectual abilities without being able to apply them appropriately.

On the other hand, students with limited academic and intellectual abilities can achieve a lot more if they have a strong social and emotional competence. Due to their social and emotional competence, they have a realization of their strengths and weaknesses and have the ability to use it pertinently throughout life. This may not really be possible with being limited to only academic and intellectual abilities. The skills of social and emotional competence are very useful and helpful in adjustment, coping with stress, realization of real abilities and interests, goal attainment, emotional wellbeing, and satisfaction in life. Such benefits cannot be provided by academic and intellectual abilities and this is where social and emotional competence score over them. In fact, research shows that most of the times social and emotional competence is much more important than academic and intellectual abilities and is more helpful in achieving success and happiness in life. Learning of any kind is most affective at the time of childhood and adolescence. This is why schools should take up the responsibility in providing the learning of social and emotional competence. Also, learning of such skills at an early age will train them perfectly to use it effectively in the later stages of life, when such skills will be needed the most. A curriculum comprising of learning of academic and intellectual abilities as well as social and emotional competence is the true sense of education. When such learning is provided, in a school, to all of its students like any other form of education, then it will enable to build the ideal school environment.

Our Ideal Learning Environment As our world becomes a global village rather than isolated regions, we envision a school that will allow us to bring up-to-the-minute information directly to the classroom opening a window to the outside-world. We envision: y students that can access, analyze, and synthesize information in pursuit of solutions to real-life problems. y students that work cooperatively with others and are receptive to new ideas. y students that value education and maintain excellent attendance and disciplinary records. y students that study wherever needed information is to be found. y students and teachers provided with computer technology that can be readily transported anywhere. y teachers that guide and facilitate learning. y teachers that team with their colleagues in order to fully utilize talents. y teachers that target learning experiences at the varied learning modalities of all students. y teachers that design cross-curricular learning experiences. y educators that are free to experiment with ideas and technologies. y educators that are provided with sufficient time and monetary resources to plan, visit model programs, attend conferences, and workshops to gain the insight needed to continue revitalization of the educational process at the classroom level. y educators that have unlimited access to colleagues by phone, electronic mail, voice mail, etc. y parents that are consistently involved in school activities and in the education of their child. y classrooms that provide on-line research opportunities to students and teachers including telecommunications, encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc. y classrooms equipped with a television monitor, telephone, and wiring for computers that allows unlimited access to the outside world. y classrooms equipped with individual and small group instructional capabilities including computer clusters. y classrooms equipped with high quality large group instructional capabilities. y classrooms that are designed to accommodate the needs of the future including carpeting, electrical power, phone lines, air conditioning and windows. y classrooms that facilitate multi-media learning activities. y schools that provide opportunities for community access during the day, evening, and weekends. y schools that are open year-round and utilize a flexible scheduling concept.

Essay: "My Ideal School Environment"

Tuesday, 01 March 2011 10:34 Ralli Fefvronia Are you satisfied with your school: What would you change if you could and how do you imagine the ideal school environment? Our students were called to compete on this significant subject for every student, every time. It was more of an opportunity to deposit their personal thoughts, wishes and expectations and simultaneously a cry of protest against an educational establishment that is deprived of structures and imagination.

Our students response is indicative of their appetence for change and improvement. We selected as better written essay that of G.A., an A grade student, and at the same time we mention certain extracts from other works in order to give the possibility to even more voices of students to be heard lighting up, thus, a wider spectrum of problems Precious helpers in our effort were the philologists of our school, Mrs Kantara Helen, Mrs Nenou Helen and Mrs Chrisostomidou Elpida. Katerina A' grade Undoubtedly, nowadays the world is characterized by an elementary prosperity that prevails in both science and culture. We all seek material bliss and strive to achieve it in every possible way. Yet, many of us, especially those who have the ability to change things ignore the most important asset which is education. So as a student, I would like to express my views on both teaching and teachers-students relationships. In other words, I would like to present an ideal school environment. Each school day is full of information aiming at the education of students. But what is the value of education when it is clearly systematic? Absolutely none. The dominant learning model creates students who are forced to memorize the syllabus to get a good grade or later to claim a place in a university. But if the situation was different, if changed, if the teaching method was simpler and the students were reading in their own way without the known methods of "rote" knowledge, this knowledge would be richer and more useful. We want a school with less information and more culture. The method of teaching however is not the only characteristic of a school environment. Teachers have a dominant role both with their behavior as individuals and with their transmissibility. Nobody can deny that teachers and students form a vital link. So far I have been taught by many teachers who have made their work a way of life. They are interested in their work; they are close to their students and try to improve themselves constantly by participating in seminars and other in-learning activities. On the other hand, many teachers working in public schools simply teach to secure their salary in a way that resembles more of a chore, rather than of inspired teaching. When there is not transmissibility by the teachers there cant be acceptability on the students part. We need conscientious teachers who handle each student in the same way and try to help them do their best. This is the difference between a good teacher and an indifferent one. Summing up, the ideal school environment will be the place where students have real and substantial knowledge and develop critical thinking skills and they are not just vessels with the ability to parrot entire books. The method of memorization may be impressive but it is short-termed and there is an expiration date. So, this negative way of learning and teachers working without a conscience should have no place in the ideal school environment. Let us not forget that education is the most important asset of a nation and that is why we should protect and guide it towards continuous blooming and not let it decline. Some additional thoughts from other papers. Athena B grade The environment should become more pleasant (colour in the walls) and more generally the whole building should be upgraded. The classrooms should be comfortable so that the students wont be so tired and always in a hurry to get away. They should also be equipped with PCs in order that the student wont limit oneself to the course book alone and he/she will comprehend better and easier the course. Jim A grade An ideal school must have complete and organised facilities, that is, it should be attractive, modern, with fully equipped rooms and laboratories and one big, decent library. Anna A grade A big courtyard and more grounds would be essential so that the students could be kept busy during the breaks. We also need more colour in our school in order to feel it more familiar and more important tear off the bars from all over the place because the students want to feel that they spend seven hours a day in a beautiful and hospitable place and not in a prison-like environment that limits and suppresses them. Menia A grade The most important aspect, in my opinion, is that of the relations during the school schedule. When the relations between teachers-students and students with each other are not good, this has negative cocenquences on the learning process. On the contrary, when there are mutual understanding and communication channels then school becomes more attractive for the students to be there. They do not consider it simply as an obligation, a chore. They tend to view school as something good and constructive altogether.

How To Maintain The School Properly?

An ideal school should be a centre of attraction and joy to which children love is Hock and not a place of boredom and soul killing routine to which they come as a painful necessity under parental compulsion. Therefore, an ideal school and its campus should be a thing of beauty that is a joy forever. To beautify the school plant and make it a model, regular maintenance is essential. The flower beds, the garden, the lawns, the furniture etc., should be properly maintained. The playground should be regularly leveled and should be tidy. Annual white-washing, coloring, repairing and regular cleaning of the school building should be made. The entire school campus should be neat and clean.

The headmaster and his staff should see that the maintenance is properly done. A special committee of the staff and the students should be formed for the efficient maintenance of the school plant. As far as practicable our schools should be guided by the philosophy of universal participation in games and sports. If games and sports are good for a few, they are good for all. It is an essential part of the total education. How happy a child feels when he runs a race and plays a game. It rouses in him enthusiasm, alertness and joyousness. Therefore, the old distinction between the few sportsmen and the majority of non-sportsmen has to go and games and sports should be universal. Play is accepted as the natural agency of education. Schools therefore, should provide open spaces for playgrounds. The Education Commission says: "Playgrounds and open spaces students' recreation are essential. It may not always be easy to secure enough playground and open spaces in a crowded city, but such open spaces as are available must be conserved to be utilized by groups of schools, if necessary. It is desirable that in all cities, more particularly in the big cities, a committee representative of the school management, headmasters, city authorities and others interested in the physical welfare of the students together with representatives of the state should be organized to promote "play-centre movement" and from time to time see that the playgrounds available in the city are effectively used by the school-going population.

By Montie W. Stone Now that the traditional one-size-fits-all attitude toward learning styles has changed, classrooms dont look much like they used to. Gone are the straight rows of forward-facing desks, the dusty and boring ABC posters and the ominous teachers desk that dominated the front of the room. Kids Enabled talked to teachers about how changes in the classroom are making it easier for kids with learning differences to experience success. Todays teachers are thinking outside of the box the box that we used to call the classroom. In thinking about the ideal classroom for children with learning differences, Kids Enabled decided to go straight to the source and interviewed local educators on what they believe makes a classroom ideal for learning. Creating a learning-friendly environment involves not only the structural elements of a classroom such as desk placement and color choice, but thoughtful and informed consideration of the diversity of learning styles as well. While perfection is not possible in an imperfect world, there are many accommodations that make learning more fun and less difficult for children with learning differences. Lighten up! Even simple adjustments can enhance a learning environment. Peggy Price, an educator at Coralwood School in DeKalb County, says it plainly, Its the little things. Many classroom teachers start with changing the lighting from glaring, fluorescent lights to table or floor lamps and natural sunlight from the windows. Since lighting can influence both mood and performance, many teachers strive to create both well-lit and dimly lit areas to allow for different stimulation levels of their students. Similarly, color choice has been shown to influence attitudes, behavior and learning. It has even been found that color affects attention span and sense of time. Educational planner Kathie Engelbrecht insists that, Color is important and it can have benefits for the classroomThe mental stimulation passively received by the colorhelps the student and teacher stay focused. Younger kids are stimulated by bright colors while older students respond better to blue and green since those colors are less stimulating. Knowing that color does make a difference helps teachers make informed decisions about how to decorate the classroom. Silence is golden (not!) The old assumption is that children need silence in order to concentrate and learn. Todays research shows that a little bit of background or white noise can actually help some children concentrate. Educator Liz Walsh of The Howard School states, Its important to be mindful of individual childrens preferences. Choose moments of silence in the classroom, and offer individual children the option of working with headphones and music. The use of music in the classroom can positively affect the learning atmosphere. Some teachers play non-distracting, quiet background music to get the creative juices flowing. Matthew Carden, a teacher at the Orion School, uses music in the background during certain activities such as handwriting or art and found that Sinatra was a hit with the kids! Students engaged in creative activities can benefit from harmonious and calming tunes. In contrast, other activities may need more upbeat tempos to help students maintain focus. In the afternoon, students often need more, not less, stimulation. Some teachers interviewed used music and dance to help the children get exercise after lunch, which helps their concentration levels in the afternoon. Take a break! Since it is not usually possible for children to completely separate themselves from the class, noise reduction headphones are useful to block sound for children who are distracted or over-stimulated. When students need more help to regulate their senses than the headphones can provide, and a separate break room is not an option, teachers can use another part of the classroom specifically for this purpose.

In these instances, teachers can use body socks, bean bag chairs to nestle into, pillows covered in a variety of fabrics, sensory brushes or a cubbyhole. Some classes have weighted blankets or vests to help soothe a child who needs to regulate his sensory intake. This is a time when dimmed lighting and low dividers can be useful. These dividers allow the teacher to still see everyone, yet the students feel sufficiently buffeted from the stimulation of the classroom. Sit still! Effective teachers know that telling a fidgety child to stop fidgeting is counter-productive. In fact, many of todays educators realize that keeping hands busy helps keep the brain active and receptive. Mark Rapport, an ADHD researcher, believes kids use their fidgety movements to keep themselves focused, much in the same way adults use caffeine to maintain concentration. In the classroom, teachers use straws, gum, fruit licorice, mints, and fidgets (small toys) of many shapes, substances and sizes to help students keep their senses awake and alert. Some classes keep a sensory box where students can find items such as gloves to fill with different textures such as rice, flour and sugar to satisfy their sensory needs. Other teachers place Velcro inside or under student desks to give a tactile sensation while sitting and listening to a lesson. Ursula Daniels of the Coralwood School says, It doesnt have to be expensive. Be willing to recycle and be creative with materials. Solutions, like the use of Velcro, can be simple and inexpensive. One small fix is the use of pencil grips or varied thickness of triangular pencils. The use of manipulatives (various objects designed to be moved or arranged by hand) is an excellent way to develop motor skills and grasp abstract problems. These can vary from foam or magnetic letters to blocks, puzzles and play foam to teaching tiles and play money. The list is as extensive as the educational benefits, and the cost is minimal. Parents and teachers can Google manipulatives in the classroom to begin exploring the great ideas online. Wake up! Teachers agree that keeping students alert and focused is a priority. There are many simple products and accommodations that help keep children engaged in their lessons. Some children benefit from sitting on inflatable disks at their desks. There are also plastic cushions available that have a nubby side and a smooth side for students who have a hard time sitting still. These students are given the ability to move in their seat without disrupting the rest of the class. Opportunities for actual gross motor movement will also help children focus and stay alert during instructional activities at different points during the day. Some teachers have found that allowing students to choose different places in the classroom for work: at their desk, on the floor, in a rocking chair, on a stool or at taller tables can help them refocus and stay sharp. Even bathroom and water breaks are opportunities for the students to move their limbs and wake up their bodies. Stay on schedule! Transitioning can create anxiety for many children with learning differences and can make introducing a new topic very difficult. Its important to give children the time they need to prepare, both mentally and physically, to move on to their next activity or lesson. Many teachers use a large and very visible classroom timer, such as the Time Timer, to provide a visual cue to help students prepare for transitions. A picture schedule for the day, or a Where am I going next? board by the door, are also useful in easing transition. Both visual and auditory cues help warn kids about the upcoming transition so they can begin thinking about and planning for what is about to change. The writing on the wall All the teachers interviewed agreed that classroom walls should be used as space to convey the most important information of the classroom. Hanging the students work on the walls lets them know they are important and valued, and gives them ownership of their work and the classroom space. Having the students brainstorm and then write the list of classroom rules for the wall also gives them ownership of their behavior. However, its worth noting that the walls can become too busy and can create visual confusion and chaos. Teachers say, Less is more, when it comes to classroom walls. The information posted should be well-organized and easy to read. What is on the walls should have value to the learning experience and serve a clear purpose. Important items to include may be a list of learned words or a word wall, rules and expectations, class schedules and current student projects. Seating flexibility and structure When teaching a classroom full of students with diverse learning styles, teachers know that a strict seating plan doesnt work. It is not always automatic that a child with attention issues needs to be seated front-and-center. Sometimes a child may need to sit in the back row or in an area that offers less distractions and more room to spread out. Recent studies show that some students learn better when being allowed to stand at their desks as they work. For example, my daughter, Leah, concentrates better while half-standing at her desk. When her kindergarten teacher continued to bring up this problem at conferences, my response was Is this an awful thing? If she isnt disturbing the other students, and its helping her to learn, please let her continue. The teacher realized it was more important to accommodate Leah than to enforce a rule that was counterproductive to learning.

Other students may use small lap desks that can be taken to the floor or out into the hall. Flexibility and creativity create a space that appeals to all students. Secluded areas in the room (centers) for individuals or small groups of students can provide a customized learning space that accommodates different learning styles. Some teachers have the resources to place a variety of seating options in their classrooms. Rocking chairs, bean bag chairs, cube or lounge chairs, or wedge cushions all contribute to the ability of the classroom to accommodate the learner.

How Does Your Child Learn? Visual learners tend to get information through reading learn from pictures are drawn to paintings, crafts and other arts Auditory learners are good at listening to instructions are usually sensitive to variations in spoken words may enjoy studying with music in the background may not get bored as quickly in lecture classes Tactile/Kinesthetic learners like to find out things for themselves are more active see their environment as something to be explored (movement) like to tinker with objects and toys to see how they work are usually doers, not thinkers

The ideal classroom Lighting, color, music, visually appealing walls, separate areas for various activities, opportunity for movement and flexibility in the room all work together to create a classroom most conducive to learning! Combine these elements with classroom teachers who are excited about what theyre teaching, and you have a learning environment that nurtures the whole child socially, emotionally and academically. Ursula Daniels reminds us that teaching is not about the four walls. You have to think about how to use other spaces available to you. Wherever they [our students] need to learn and grow, we need to be able to go there. This philosophy can also be applied as however our kids learn. We need to be willing, as teachers and parents, to go there and acknowledge and respect how they learn. Not only will the student experience greater success, so will the teacher!

Components of an Ideal Classroom Environment

By Katie Tonarely, eHow Contributor updated December 18, 2010 Children learn best when they feel comfortable in their classroom environment. Teachers, then, can work to incorporate strategies that help create the ideal classroom environment. Positive classroom environments don't all look the same, but they generally have many of the same elements. These ideas can be modified to fit any school situation. Student Collaboration Spencer Kagan, author of "Cooperative Learning," says that students learn best when they're able to collaborate with their peers in what he calls cooperative learning groups. These groups generally consist of four students, all at different ability levels. In these groups, higher-achieving students are able to help lower-achieving students. The teacher, then, relies on students to work together and solve problems. After a lecture, for instance, the teacher will have the groups work together to answer questions instead of requiring that students complete the work on their own. Students Are Involved in the Learning Process In the Spring 1996 issue of the "Virginia Community Colleges Association Journal," researcher Ann Cooper Bartholomay found that students felt that their input wasn't used as much as it should be with regards to course planning. Students preferred situations that allowed them to collaborate with their fellow students and the teacher. Students also appreciated when the teacher allowed them to pursue personal interests. For instance, when planning an assessment, the teacher can provide three or four project ideas so that students can choose the assignment that best fits their learning style. The Classroom Follows a Predictable Schedule Children are more likely to feel comfortable in their learning environment if they know what comes next. Harry Wong, author of "The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher," says that teachers should have a similar daily agenda, and it should be posted. That way, students will always know, for example, that independent reading time comes after math. Kids Enabled says that transitions can be difficult for students, but if they know what comes next and are given time to prepare, they're likely to be successful. Kids Enabled suggests using a timer for activities so that students know how much time they have to complete tasks. That way, they're not completely surprised when they have to stop what they're doing. If a child is caught off guard, he could act out, which could cause problems for the class. Wong also suggests using a transition signal, such as a raised hand, to alert students that it's time to transition.
Components of an Ideal Classroom Environment |

Quote from the Book, The Superior Educator A Calm and Assertive Approach to Classroom Management and Large Group Motivation, Copyright November 20th, 2008, Stephen T. McClard Another consideration is how your desks are placed. In my classroom, this is done by placing the students logically to maximize sound quality. Instrument grouping and placement is a huge deal with a band. How they sound to the audience and to the director depends on good placement. I have three oboes in beginning band this year. Have you ever heard an oboea beginning oboe with a soft reed? How can I describe the sound? Its just like screaming monkeys in heat. Until an oboe player learns proper technique, everyone suffers. As with any instrument, placement of the oboes is a big consideration. Some days I want to put the oboes out in the hall with duct tape over their mouths, but normally I place them behind the rest of the band until they gain control of their sound. I take great care in making sure their placement produces optimal results for the enjoyment of the audience and the pain it causes my ears. Placement is important, but not nearly as important as the steps that are taken next. My normal procedure with a new oboe player is to find a double reed instructor to give them specialized assistance. As time passes, typical oboists learn to shave their reeds and gain control of their airflow. Before long with the proper guidance, they slowly develop vibrato and a characteristic tone quality. This does not come overnight, and the steps taken by me along the way are critical to movement forward for the oboist. Imagine what you might do to make the classroom a better place and then act. Think about how changes could benefit the students in a positive way, and then make it happen. Use your best skills, and draw on the skills of others to get things organized. You might build a book-reading loft, organize your chairs in a certain way, buy some cabinets, or pick a different color for the walls. The point is this: Do anything you can to make your room a happier, safer, and more productive place for kids to learn. Have an idea and be the first in your hall to be amazing. Watch all the other teachers copy your ideas.

The Ideal Classroom?

On February 10, 2011, in Embodying Visionary Leadership, by George Sir Ken Robinson was in Red Deer last night, and I am glad that I took the time to catch his lecture. It was a fantastic opportunity to hear him in person and go beyond the 20 minute clips that I usually hear on the Internet. Although those short messages are very powerful, the expansion of his ideas was extremely powerful. Sir Ken talked about the importance of personalized education, the power of creativity, and the impact of passion in the classroom. As he spoke of these ideas, I thought a lot about our new 1-1 computer initiative that we have in our grade 5 and 6 classrooms. As we rolled out the computers, and let the students know that these were their computers, I watched with excitement as they personalized their browsers, screens, and made the computers their own. I know this having this access to technology and ownership of a device is only one facet of what we can do in the classroom, but it is something that is becoming a part of our lives. One of the questions that was asked of Sir Ken last night was essentially the antithesis of what I believe. The participant basically asked that with all of this technology and how students are so wired, how could we have kids be passionate about education. I was perplexed by this question until Sir Ken referred to Mark Prensky and his terms, digital natives and digital immigrants. It was discussed how immigrants in history have held onto the old ways while the younger generation (the digital natives) have embraced and define the new culture. Whether you agree with the term digital natives or digital immigrants, it is evident how our younger generation is embracing and using this technology to connect. So as we see this opportunity for our students to connect and personalize social media, it is also apparent that this is not the answer for all students. It may be part of the answer for some, but the personalized, creative, and passionate ideas in schools need more. Essentially, what does this look like in a school? Yes, I believe that we need to find ways to unleash the talent in our students and give them ownership in the classroom, but my big question is, what does this look like in a classroom setting? We all talk about our classrooms encouraging creativity, building upon student passion, and being personalized, but not enough people are talking about what that looks like. If you were to envision a classroom in school that embraced these ideas, what would it look like?

Effective Schools: Structure, Environment and Processes Research shows that certain elements of school structure and process go hand-in-hand with high levels of student performance. The core elements, which can be shaped by good policy and effective leadership, are

Staffing and professional development. A uniformly able teaching staff is essential to ensuring student achievement. Schools where teachers teach out of field or where they are poorly prepared in their subjects, where teacher morale and engagement are low, where teachers are unable to teach well to diverse student needs, and where incompetent teaching is tolerated are severely handicapped in the pursuit of excellence. Sound leadership can do a lot to ensure the quality of a school's instructional staff. Some important decisions remain in the hands of officials at the state and district level, but principals can do much to build teacher excellence. As in all organizations, having teachers who share the principal's commitment to excellence is essential. If they aren't already on board, teachers should be given the chance to come around; but if they will not subscribe to the school vision advocated by the principal, they should be relocated to a school where they can make a more positive contribution. All teachers need opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills. Many district policies make inadequate provisions for effective teacher professional development. This is a handicap but not an excuse for a principal's lack of emphasis and effort in this area. Principals must first model a commitment to learning. They should create a climate that values collaboration and constructive sharing of best classroom practices. Formal professional development has its place, and opportunities to attend special workshops, trainings, and conferences that are related to the teachers' practice are important, but there are many other ways to incorporate learning into a teacher's in-school routine. At its best, professional development takes place in the course of the teacher's regular practice, not as an adjunct or out-of-school fillip. Principals and teachers should work together to ensure that all instructional staff engage in collaborative scrutiny and discussion of student work, review student performance data and deliberate over their implications for good teaching practice, hold staff meetings that make time for substantive instructional discussions as well as administrative matters, and willingly participate in collegial observations to share unusually effective practices. Flexible staffing patterns can also help ensure that good teachers are available in adequate numbers for the school academic mission. Where the principal has discretion over staff allocation and budget, and where teachers and administrators work as a team, it is possible to allocate resources to maximize the teacher-student ratio and relationships. Finally, principals must work with others to create a shared commitment to excellence. Assistant principals need not be condemned solely to chores of student discipline, department chairs can provide invaluable instructional leadership, and teachers can be given opportunities to work on committees or to pursue individual projects that contribute to raising student performance. Organization of the curriculum. A school's curriculum must be aligned with its goals for student achievement and with district or state curriculum and testing requirements. Official policy to the contrary, studies show that alignment of these elements is often poor. Principals can bring school and community resources to bear to ensure that alignment is a reality. Other research indicates that schools often artificially limit access to the most demanding courses. Schools can ensure that the most demanding courses are not scheduled "on the curve" but are offered so that all who can benefit are in fact able to do so. Testing and assessment constitute a powerful instructional tool that is too often used to sort and screen rather than to diagnose needs and target instructional resources where they can help the most. Principals and teachers who want to be leaders of student learning should consider using multiple forms of assessment; assessments that require real performance and demonstrated competence; student portfolios; and test data for analysis and decision-making in a cycle of continuous school improvement. Allocation of time and space. The most effective organizations arrange their structure to support the values they espouse. Schools operate today on essentially the same schedule and physical plant they did prior to World War II! Since then, the country's population has changed, the numbers of school-age youth and the graduation rate have risen dramatically, our collective knowledge base has exploded, and technology has moved us into and beyond the space age to a time of "virtual reality." Time and space in schools need to be used differently to match these conditions. Time is needed to teach complex material. Block scheduling can make that time available, and year-round schooling can stop the learning slide that often comes with the extended summer break. Time is also needed for teacher planning, coordination, and staff development. Right now, there is simply no time in a school day for such things. American schools lag behind their Japanese and German counterparts in providing adequate time for planning and coordination. In some communities, schools have persuaded parents and the school board to set aside a half-day for such work. Schools have sometimes reorganized the teaching schedule to create time for planning, coordination, and staff development. And savvy principals use meetings and other administrative occasions as an occasion for focusing on the school's academic mission and engaging staff in fruitful interactions. Teachers also need space to interact as a professional community, engage in collaborative planning and coordination, discuss student work, and share lesson plans. A collegial community of teachers. Teachers have come to operate as independent units in their schools. Many are isolated in their classrooms and reluctant to work collaboratively or open their practice to others. This development denies the school of much of their talent and of the benefits that sharing and collaboration offer. In a school with a strong sense of internal community, teachers share common goals for student achievement, work collaboratively to provide challenging instruction, and share collective responsibility for the success of each student.

Climate of achievement. Many factors in a school work to promote or impede student achievement. In schools that promote student achievement, several factors combine to crate a climate that nourishes strong academic performance. Such factors include tangible expressions of high expectations, including, for example, an explicit, meaningful statement of academic mission; goals that drive high performance; a system of data collection, analysis, and decision-making that uses performance measures to improve daily operations; a system-wide focus on academics, so that the substantive work and symbols of the school emphasize its commitment to student achievement; public display of excellent student work products; and ceremonies and rituals that celebrate excellent individual and collective performance. Firm, fair, and timely discipline. Considerate, disciplined behavior results from a combination of factors. These include effective adult modeling, meaningful school work, and a policy of firm, fair, and timely discipline. Students must understand that good behavior is valued in the school, and explicit policies must define what behavior is not acceptable and how it will be punished. Punishment must be administered consistently and with respect for due process. A sense of community. A growing body of research demonstrates that schools with a sense of community enhance student performance. Community stems from a sense that one is known as an individual and that one has valued relationships with others. These qualities can be enhanced through school structures and processes such as smaller schools or sub-schools, small student/teacher groups that meet regularly, classes that move together from year to year, and lower teacher/student ratios. Teachers must also appreciate that their roles extend beyond the classroom and into the halls, the cafeteria, and the home and community. Effective teachers realize that much of the work of school takes place outside the physical school building, and they use those venues as places to relate to and influence students.

Creating an effective school

In recent years it has been my privilege to serve as headteacher in two successful comprehensive schools. I joined The Hathershaw College of Technology and Sport, in Oldham, in September 2002 before moving on to Parrs Wood High School in Manchester in September 2005. On the face of it these are two very different schools with very different needs. However, there are basic principles that apply to any school seeking to become an effective school. Hathershaw is an 1116 mixed comprehensive school with only about half the number of students that there are at Parrs Wood (see the school context at the bottom), but it serves some of the most deprived wards in the country. It achieved technology college status in 2001 and dual specialist status for technology and sport in 2004. As with Parrs Wood, the school is a leading edge school. While roughly the same proportion of students are from minority ethnic backgrounds, the local area around Hathershaw has suffered from high levels of racial tension in the past and 38% of students are entitled to free school meals. On entry to the school, Key Stage 2 pupil performance is in the bottom 5% in the country; Key Stage 3 performance is better but still below national expectations. However, KS4 performance is typically in the top 40% of schools in the country (based on prior attainment), with more than 50% of students expected to achieve five A* to C grades at GCSE. In 2004, 58% of the students achieved this. The school regularly achieves recognition for value-added performance between KS2 and KS4 and for school improvement (in 2002 only 29% of students attained GCSE five A* to C GCSEs). Compare these statistics to those on Parrs Wood. Observing effective schools An effective school is a school in which students achieve high standards that they can use in their future education or the workplace, a school where students feel safe and happy. It promotes those values that will help pupils to become good and responsible citizens, enable them to become involved in their community and become good family members. We all write these sorts of things in our school mission statements and school documents, but we are all too often distracted from them in day-to-day planning. High standards are not the preserve of a few socially advantaged individuals and we should never lower our expectations on the basis of social background. For that reason, contextual data can leave us too easily satisfied with poor performance. The Fischer Family Trust and the school Panda (performance and assessment) both provide schools with contextual value-added data that evaluates expected pupil progress based on social indicators such as free school meals. While this is a good measure to use to monitor the improvement of schools as institutions, it should not be used to set lower targets or have lower expectations for individual students. I am privileged to have worked in some effective schools with staff who have developed highly effective strategies. There are many highly effective schools across the country. Visiting them with an open mind makes you come away with a burning desire to develop something of what you have seen for your own school. I would recommend this as a strategy for headteachers as well as for teachers, support staff and students from across the school. Establishing priorities in your own school will necessarily come from a consultation with school stakeholders. I have sometimes found it useful to hold visioning days, where stakeholders are invited to identify future priorities for the school and these are then used to help the senior team set priorities within the school improvement plan. When

doing this it is important to involve all stakeholders: teachers, support staff, students, parents, governors, partner schools and multi-agency groups that work with the school. Improving behaviour The starting point in any school has to be behaviour. We all know how to tackle the acts of extreme verbal or physical violence that sometimes occur in our schools. They are distressing but they are, in general, infrequent and are not the main distraction from helping students to learn. The behaviour problems that cause a real problem in schools are generally low level, but can render everything else we attempt to do virtually useless. Lack of attention from students, talking out of turn and petty squabbles in the classroom are far more likely to undermine effective teaching than anything else. It is this type of behaviour that teachers rarely deal with effectively or refer to other school leaders. If it is dealt with, it is too often done through ad hoc detentions and so on; these are inconsistently implemented by staff and lead students to understand that the consequences of their poor behaviour are not actually very severe. While it is important that we continually support teachers to create a classroom environment in which they are in charge and which encourages good behaviour, we also have a duty as school leaders to manage the consequences of poor behaviour centrally. Ninestiles School in Birmingham has developed this through its Behaviour for Learning programme. The basic structure of this programme has been adopted and developed to good effect by a number of schools across the country. This is what is used at Hathershaw and we are developing our own model now at Parrs Wood. The approach is simple: no pupil is allowed to disrupt another students learning or to make anyone feel uncomfortable, threatened or unhappy. Students are made aware of the consequences of doing these things and all adults in the school are empowered to record the fact that a pupil has breached this code, preferably electronically. A central team of staff, including senior staff and support staff, ensures that the consequences are always carried out. Students and parents regard the programme as fair and consistent. It empowers all staff, given all staff do exactly the same thing when a student misbehaves. It also ensures that teachers carry on doing their job, teaching the wellbehaved students who are all too often left waiting while they watch teachers trying to deal with uncooperative students. Rewards for learning are equally important and can be administered in precisely the same way. The idea that students can gain rewards that have monetary value and can be spent in a school rewards shop is particularly effective. Behaviour for learning strategies can have dramatic effects on a school in terms of pulling the whole school community together around a common focus. Creating right learning environment We are trying to develop schools that are professional learning environments, where students feel that they are in school to learn and will be supported from the moment they walk in through the door. The new building at Parrs Wood lends itself to creating this through well thought out planning when the school was built. Whatever type of building we have, it will usually be possible to create the space to celebrate student achievement and ensure that everyone who visits the school and every student who enters the school knows how well students achieve and how well they, as individuals, will achieve in the future. Once in the school, this needs reinforcing through classroom and corridor display. Traditional school environments were developed along the principles of the Victorian factory and this is not appropriate to helping students learn in the 21st century. One of the most powerful reminders of the Victorian era is the school bell. The absence of bells has little effect on punctuality and tends to lead to a better flow of students along our overcrowded corridors because lessons begin and end over a five-minute period rather than the instant a bell rings. The issue of corridor behaviour and overcrowding may seem trivial but it is an aspect of school life that students do not like and sometimes fear. Certainly, overcrowded corridors and the poor behaviour that often accompanies them undermines our attempts to create professional learning environments. We need to tackle the school factory environment through creative timetabling and school organisation. One way we have gone about this is to create a continuous day. Achieving personalised learning in practice Creating the right culture, environment and ethos in a school, where students know they have come to learn, have high self-esteem and trust the school to deliver, are essential precursors to good teaching and learning. No amount of effort to improve standards of teaching will have much impact unless they are in place. However, having established the right culture, the classroom experience must deliver and meet the individual needs of every pupil. This requires each teacher to know the needs of each individual pupil, and for structures to exist where students can be assigned to the right teaching groups to meet those needs, rather than being made to fill spaces in classes created by a predetermined timetable. The personalising learning agenda presents us with many challenges. First of all, it is now essential that every teacher has instant access to student data in the classroom in a useful form. This means that either every classroom needs a computer or every teacher needs a laptop that will access the school network. National data relating to progress between key stages is available for most subjects taught at KS4. It is reliable and rigorous and can be used effectively to promote student learning.

Target-setting In the classroom, teachers need to know the mean national expectation for each student in their subject (what the average student achieves nationally with the same prior attainment). They need to know the upper quartile expectation (what the top 25% of pupils achieve with the same prior attainment) and any school-specific factor. So, if your science department usually performs in the top 5% of schools nationally, you would want to know the expectation for a pupil performing in the top 5% band of students with the same prior attainment. Teachers sometimes question this approach but it would be difficult to justify setting targets that aimed to achieve lower than the mean expectation for students with the same prior attainment. For many of our schools, we would want to be in the top 25% or better of schools nationally. All of this information should be shared with students and parents, who should monitor alongside teachers the progress made in class against mean national expectation, upper quartile expectation and any additional band that you might wish to create. Many schools now hold review days where parents, teachers and students meet to discuss progress towards targets, among other things, and these are often more successful and better attended than conventional parents evenings. It is worthwhile to produce progress-to-target reports (in the way described above) for parents on a very regular basis, rather than written reports at the end of each year. Behaviour, attendance and punctuality data can also be added, and such reports can be easily produced electronically, again releasing teachers to teach. The parents of students causing concern can then be targeted for individual interviews. Sometimes teachers raise the issue of social context in relation to the way we use data. However, social issues for most students (although not all) do not change significantly between key stages. If the national data is based, as it is, on prior attainment then there is generally no reason to expect student progress to be less in KS3 or KS4 than it was in KS2, so it is still reasonable to expect the student to meet mean national expectations or better. It is not reasonable to accept that socially deprived students should achieve less than other pupils. It is certainly not acceptable that we should set lower standards for those pupils or be satisfied that we did a good job because they achieved good grades given their social background. Contextual information, when applied at student level, risks us lowering our expectations. It may also have a place at institutional level in determining whether a school is making adequate improvement, but never with individual pupils. If students and parents are aware of their likely attainment at an individual subject level, this will influence the subjects they want to study and should influence the individual curriculum plans we devise with parents and pupils. In turn, this should attempt to maximise attainment while ensuring that the curriculum provides appropriate educational and career pathways. These individual curriculum plans must increasingly allow students access to courses or modules across institutions, regardless of their age. Pupils should be able to study the appropriate courses, not the ones that the school has available or the ones it has deemed to be appropriate for their age group. I am currently studying the work Leigh City Technology College has done on mixed age vertical groupings, with a view to developing the right structures for Parrs Wood. Rivington and Blackrod High School has also worked on vertical groupings and effective partnerships for delivering courses with other institutions. Meanwhile, we do what we can to adhere to the principle that the needs of the student come first and to accommodate flexible curriculum arrangements as far as we can within current constraints. All of this depends on having quality staff in place to deliver this in practice. Empowering leadership A few years ago it was common to assume that the effectiveness of a school revolved around the quality of the headteacher. Consequently, the idea of the superhead who could swoop into an underperforming school, solve all of its problems and swoop out again was prevalent. It is now generally accepted that such a model, so dependent on short-term, top-down management, was nonsense. However, the headteacher does have a crucial role to play. The key role for a headteacher is that of empowerment, creating a culture in which the vast intellect, ability and talent of the staff is not only valued, but fully utilised. If headteachers do not make it clear that all staff (teaching and support staff) have the authority to make decisions, to be innovative and creative, then they will assume that they do not. If that happens, the vast wealth of knowledge and experience that exists in all schools will remain untapped. Right structure If headteachers create flatter leadership structures that ask all staff to contribute to problem-solving, that do not start out with preconceived solutions that everybody else is supposed to guess, then that collective knowledge and experience will be used to move the school forward. Structures need to reinforce the notion that every member of staff can make decisions within their own sphere of influence. This is not to say that staff are not accountable for their decisions; it is important that they are. It is not to say that a headteacher or other senior leader should not put forward their own views or solutions; they should. It is not to say that we should not sometimes judge that, on this occasion, this is a matter that the headteacher needs to decide. However, it is important to listen to all members of staff (and parents and students for that matter), to be clear about which decisions you are making and which ones they are able to make and to trust them to make many more decisions than has been the case traditionally in schools.

Relying on collaboration Creating the effective school is not something we do in isolation. The period in history when schools were made to operate in competition with one another, seeking to bring about improvement without sharing their ideas with others is over. The new thinking is about collaboration, sharing ideas and networking and this is an environment in which educationists are rather more at ease. I am grateful to those who have shared their thinking with me and look forward to future dialogue, which I trust will help us all to develop excellent schools for all young people. Choosing the appropriate networks to work with is a matter of personal choice and school context. It is useful to work with local school leaders through local authorities. Leadership incentive grants, Excellence in Cities and so on can develop initiatives that may directly involve students across a locality. It is worth developing relationships through national networks too. The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust is an organisation that can enable you to do this very effectively for more details, The advantage to working in networks outside your own locality is twofold: l on the one hand the range of strategies to which you become exposed is greater and will involve schools that have developed differently and under different constraints l it is often easier to look objectively at a school when you do not have a predetermined image of the school and when you are not in competition with it for pupils. Future plans Future challenges for Parrs Wood are similar to those for most schools across the country. We are committed to the idea that every student should succeed and achieve, although they may demonstrate this in many ways. The Government has set a considerable challenge for us through its 1419 agenda, which opens up the curriculum to deliver a range of vocational and academic routes. It has also challenged us to set a new expectation that most students will continue education in a coherent and planned way to the age of 19 rather than 16, with GCSE and equivalent qualifications only a marker along the way. To meet the challenge of this huge curriculum entitlement, we must collaborate with other schools and colleges in a way we have not seen before. Schools and colleges will need to refine their provision to meet the needs of all students, rather than persuade pupils that the provision we have traditionally offered is what they want. To do this, the collaborative spirit will have to replace the competitive spirit, especially between post-16 providers. The future is not so much about being an effective school as it is about being in an effective collaboration to provide broad-ranging personalised learning. School context Parrs Wood High School is an 1119 mixed comprehensive school with dual specialist status for technology and performing arts. It is a leading-edge school, serving nearly 2,000 students, including 450 in the sixth form. The school is housed in a five-year-old building, facilitated by an unusual land swap arrangement with a leisure company who has developed part of the old school site. Parrs Wood is a genuinely comprehensive school, with roughly 40% of minority ethnic students. The school serves a community that is socially very diverse, including some of the most privileged and some of the more deprived wards in Manchester; 23% of students are entitled to free school meals. The school enjoys a very good reputation, locally and nationally, as a successful, innovative school and has done for many years. On entry to the school, Key Stage 2 student performance is broadly in line with national expectations. More than 70% of students consistently achieve at least Level 5 across core subjects at KS3. At Key Stage 4, 58% of students achieved five or more A* to C grades (2005). At KS5, 95% of students achieved AE grades at GCE A level, with nearly all students gaining their first choice higher education place. Results across the school have been consistently good for many years, although improvement at KS4 is a current focus for us. Excellence visits Excellence visits are perhaps the most effective form of continuing professional development (CPD). Not only do they enable your school community to see first hand how things work in school and relate this to their own school context but very often they lead to relationships developing between staff in schools and this forms the basis for long-term networking. If you seek to do this you might want to consult the book Excellence in education: the making of great schools(ISBN 1-84312-213-8) by Cyril Taylor and Conor Ryan, published by David Fulton Publishers. The book serves as an excellent directory of good practice across the country. Running a continuous day Parrs Wood has 2,000 students. Every time a lesson ends, we need to avoid all 2,000 of them meeting together in the corridors between lessons, at breaktimes and at lunchtime. We have made some progress. In common with many schools, we have different lunchtimes for different year groups, but we are also experimenting with structures that might eventually lead us to a continuous day. The continuous day concept is simply the notion that we should timetable lunch, break and lesson change just as we timetable lessons. The objective is to create a calm professional environment in which students move around in smaller, calmer groups. Some schools have managed to achieve a situation where staff take their classes down to break or lunch during an extended lesson, and return to continue the lesson. These relationships between staff and pupils are indicative of highly effective learning environments.

Engaging teachers All of the developments discussed here rely on having the right staff doing the right jobs. Teachers should be involved in promoting the positive values of the school and the school ethos, planning and implementing the most effective and motivational lessons possible. Teachers will be supporting all students to ensure that they are learning as well as possible and monitoring the progress of all pupils so that they can act where progress is inadequate. That is a huge job. School leaders should not allow teachers to become bogged down in excessive report writing, investigating behavioural issues, performing social care (beyond that which we would expect from any caring teacher in that it could be provided in the classroom), school duties, cover for absent colleagues (unless there is a clear educational reason for doing so), ICT technical support or the myriad of other jobs that schools have dreamed up for teachers over the years. Workforce reform has moved us on considerably with this. It is not that we should not do these things in school; it is simply that we should employ the right people to do them, and they are not teachers. Many of these activities are so important that we need professional staff to see them as their main role in school. We should not leave them in the hands of teachers who may be able to fit them in between lessons, at break or at lunchtime, while trying to focus on their teaching activities. Social Development Theory (Vygotsky)

Summary: Social Development Theory argues that social interaction precedes development; consciousness and cognition are the end product of socialization and social behavior. Originator: Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934). Key terms: Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) Vygotskys Social Development Theory Vygotskys Social Development Theory is the work of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), who lived during Russian Revolution. Vygotskys work was largely unkown to the West until it was published in 1962. Vygotskys theory is one of the foundations of constructivism. It asserts three major themes: Major themes: 1. Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development. In contrast to Jean Piagets understanding of child development (in which development necessarily precedes learning), Vygotsky felt social learning precedes development. He states: Every function in the childs cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). (Vygotsky, 1978). 2. The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). The MKO refers to anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. The MKO is normally thought of as being a teacher, coach, or older adult, but the MKO could also be peers, a younger person, or even computers. 3. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD is the distance between a students ability to perform a task under adult guidance and/or with peer collaboration and the students ability solving the problem independently. According to Vygotsky, learning occurred in this zone. Vygotsky focused on the connections between people and the sociocultural context in which they act and interact in shared experiences (Crawford, 1996). According to Vygotsky, humans use tools that develop from a culture, such as speech and writing, to mediate their social environments. Initially children develop these tools to serve solely as social functions, ways to communicate needs. Vygotsky believed that the internalization of these tools led to higher thinking skills. Applications of the Vygotskys Social Development Theory Many schools have traditionally held a transmissionist or instructionist model in which a teacher or lecturer transmits information to students. In contrast, Vygotskys theory promotes learning contexts in which students play an active role in learning. Roles of the teacher and student are therefore shifted, as a teacher should collaborate with his or her students in order to help facilitate meaning construction in students. Learning therefore becomes a reciprocal experience for the students and teacher.