Verifiable ethnographic models of teachers' routine plans for managing first-grade students during reading seatwork



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Current cognitive models of interactive teaching are inadequate. Such models acknowledge that teachers have routine plans but the characteristics of those plans are not identified. Classroom research offers no explanation why a teacher would select one course of action instead of another or even if the teacher considered more than one course of action. Very little cognitive-focused work has been done to describe the mental process by which teachers managed their students. To address the problem, three questions were asked. What information do teachers consider relevant before responding to off-task student behavior (during reading seatwork)? What is the mental process whereby teachers select a course of action? And, finally, can a model for verifying those management selections be developed and tested? Techniques taken from cognitive ethnography made it possible to systematically identify various factors that the teachers were routinely considering while making management selections. Once having identified these factors, it was possible to formulate a set of hypotheses about the management rules each teacher was following. The hypotheses read like a list of instructions: "If there is a group problem, such as the whole class getting noisy, select a group alert." Generally speaking, the statements considered the type of student behavior that was involved and whether or not the behavior was repeated before a strategy was selected. As found in other studies, mild misbehaviors routinely received mild desists and disruptive behaviors were treated more severely. Only one teacher systematically considered student characteristics such as personality before taking action, but all the teachers treated some disallowed behaviors less seriously due to mitigating factors. The factor most likely to reduce culpability was a student's inabilty to control self. Special circumstances also influenced the way the behavior was treated. If the disallowed behavior was related to inappropriate or insufficient seatwork, those circumstances could be adjusted by the teacher. If the disallowed behavior was related to student circumstances, such as student questions, illness, or accident, the teacher might respond accordingly. Using the hypotheses related to each teacher's plan, the findings were successfully tested on new data. Prediction rates for each teacher's plan ranged from 92[percent] to 100[percent] while inter-rater reliability rates ranged from 94[percent] to 98[percent]. Based on features that were common to the selection plans of the three teachers, a third model was developed. Over 200 cases from the test data were processed through the model, testing the ability of the model to reflect in a more generalized way how the teachers responded to management problems. The testing process produced only one teacher error. The model identifies several critical considerations that the teachers might make in order to take appropriate action. First, the teacher identifies the type of behavior, then determines if there are any special circumstances to cause the action not to be a misbehavior such as illness. If there are no special circumstances and the behavior is disallowed, the teacher may determine that the misbehavior is related to academics, such as not completing work. In such cases, usually a mild desist is selected. If the disallowed behavior is not related to academics, it usually is related to classroom rules. In the case of a violation of a classroom rule, if there are mitigating circumstances, such as early in the school year, a mild desist usually is selected. If there are no mitigating circumstances, the teacher determines if sufficient warning has been given to the student. If the teacher determines that the student has not been warned enough, a mild desist is selected. Finally, if sufficient warning has been given, a strong desist is selected. At each point of consideration, it is possible for a teacher to make a mistake and exacerbate the problem. For example, if a teacher fails to see that the cause of numerous student questions are related to such special circumstances as the improper organization of the seatwork, the time-wasting behavior may increase over time. Accurate identification of the cause of off-task behavior appears to be a critical management decision, and teachers need opportunity to learn this skill. Preservice/inservice developers need to provide simulated experiences that provide opportunity for teachers to evaluate and respond to classroom situations. The simulated experiences should include contextual clues as well as information about student characteristics and history.



Reading (Primary), First grade (Education), Classroom management