Managing pupils and adults
A key decision we make is how we choose to organise children for teaching purposes. Our choices must be made with regard to both pedagogical and practical considerations and always with the over-riding principle of ‘fitness for purpose’. Some 30 years ago Alexander, Rose & Woodhead addressed this issue:
- Alexander, R., Rose, J. and Woodhead, C. (1992) Curriculum Organisation and Curriculum Practice in Primary Schools: a Discussion Paper, London: HMSO.
Many believe that class size is a vital factor in effective learning. Headteachers, governors, teachers and parents appear to be consistent in terms of wanting smaller classes and there have been many research studies which support their point of view. However, findings are not entirely consistent. Blatchford draws together some of the arguments:
- Blatchford, P. (2003). The Class Size Debate: is small better? Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Whole-class activities are used with classes of all sizes. These sessions can be highly interactive with a great deal of pupil participation - see Mujis & Reynolds (Reading 8.7), and Mercer & Hodgkinson.
- Mercer, N. and Hodgkinson, S. (2008) Exploring Talk in School. London: SAGE
- Muijs, D. and Reynolds, D (2011) Effective Teaching: Evidence and Practice. London: SAGE. (Reading 8.7)
However, classwork can challenge both the teacher and the listener. For example, whilst some believe that whole class teaching can ‘pull along’ the less able, others recognise that engagement can be uneven, with some children ‘opting out’ even though they retain an apparent ‘listening posture’. Some children may be reluctant to face the risks involved in contributing to the whole-class, whilst there is evidence of teachers addressing questions only to children in a V-shaped wedge in the centre of the room, or to particular groups or individuals:
- Wragg, T. (2001) Class Management in the Primary School. London: RoutledgeFalmer.
- Wragg, E. C. (2001). Class Management in the Secondary School (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.
- Hayes, D. (2003). Planning, teaching and class management in primary schools. London: David Fulton.
Children spend a great deal of time working individually. This approach has its limitations. For example, it has been shown that most teacher time is spent monitoring children’s work, rather than in developing their understanding. At the end of the last century, Galton et al. demonstrated the unchanging nature of this position over time:
- Galton, M., Hargreaves, L., Comber, C., Wall, D. and Pell, A. (1999) Inside the Primary Classroom: Twenty Years On, London: Routledge.
‘Groups’ are likely to exist in some form in every classroom. However, their form and function may vary considerably. Although groups are very commonly formed for task allocation, seating purposes and teaching purposes, relatively little collaborative group work has been found by observers. Baines et al. consider strategies for making group work in schools more effective for learning, whilst Kutnick & Blatchford use the SPRing project results to draw conclusions about effective group work. Dagley & English provide a broad analysis from a number of perspectives.
- Baines, E., Blatchford, P., Kutnick, P., Chowne, A., Ota, C. and Berdondini, L. (2008) Promoting Effective Group Work in Primary Classrooms: Developing Relationships to Enhance Learning and Inclusion, London: Routledge.
- Kutnick, P., & Blatchford, P. (2014). Effective group work in primary school classrooms the SPRinG approach. New York: Springer.
- Dagley, J., & English, E. (2013). Group Work in Schools. London: SAGE.
Meanwhile, Mercer & Littleton illustrate the benefits of group work where there are shared perspectives on how talk will take place:
- Mercer, N., & Littleton, K. (2007). Dialogue and the Development of Children’s Thinking: A Sociocultural Approach. Routledge.
Hopkins & Harris et al. weigh the benefits of whole class teaching and co-operative group work, whilst Ireson & Hallam (with Davies) provide an insight into the efficacy of ability grouping. Gillies and Ashman, in contrast, focus their attention on international research into co-operative learning in groups:
- Hopkins, D., Harris, A., Singleton, C. & Watts, R. (2000) Creating the Conditions for Teaching and Learning, London: David Fulton.
- Ireson, J. & Hallam, S. (2001) Ability Grouping in Education, London: Sage.
- Hallam, S., Ireson, J. and Davies, J. (2002) Effective Pupil Grouping in the Primary School, London: David Fulton.
- Gillies, R. & Ashman, A. (eds) (2003) Cooperative Learning: The Social And Intellectual Outcomes Of Learning In Groups. London: RoutledgeFalmer.
General texts that place the notion of group work in a wider frame of understanding, and look at classroom organisation more generally include Dean, Mercier et al., Jolliffe, Watkins and, with an Australian perspective, Gillies:
- Dean, J. (2004) The Effective Primary School Classroom, London: Routledge.
- Dean, J. (2008) Organising learning in the Primary School Classroom, London: Routledge.
- Mercier, C., Philpott, C. And Scott, H. (2012) Professional Issues in Secondary Teaching. London: SAGE.
- Jolliffe, W. (2007) Cooperative Learning in the Classroom, London: Paul Chapman.
- Watkins, C. (2002) Classrooms as Learning Communities, London: Routledge.
- Gillies, R.M. (2007) Cooperative Learning: Integrating Theory and Practice, London: Sage
Arguably the purpose of developing particular approaches to teaching and classroom organisation in formal education is to develop independent learners, a theme taken up by Williams:
- Williams, J. (2003) Promoting Independent Learning in the Primary Classroom, Maidenhead: Open University Press.
The whole issue of class and group dynamics and their effect on other aspects of classroom management are considered by several authors, including in a classic text by Wragg:
- Wragg, T. (2001) Class Management in the Primary School, London: RoutledgeFalmer.
Parental involvement is particularly significant in work with young children and has a justifiably high profile in early years work. Wolfendale, building on her early work in this area, connects the notion of school effectiveness with parental involvement in a volume jointly edited with Bastiani, whilst Honrby provides a perspective from New Zealand:
- Wolfendale, S. & Bastiani, J. (eds) (2000) The Contribution of Parents to School Effectiveness, London: David Fulton.
- Hornby, G. (2011) Parental involvement in childhood education building effective school-family partnerships. New York: Springer.
A wide range of patterns of parental involvement exist, some of which are focused on special needs and inclusion:
- Wolfendale, S. (2002) Parent partnership services for special educational needs: celebrations and challenges. London: David Fulton.
- Todd, L. (2006) Partnerships for Inclusive Education: a critical approach to collaborative working. London: Routledge.
The benefits of involving parents in their children’s learning is explored further by Whalley and in a volume edited by Crozier and Reay. Thomas and Pattison (Reading 2.10) consider how children learn at home.
- Whalley, M. (2000) Involving Parents in their Children’s Learning, London: Paul Chapman
- Crozier, G. and Reay, D. (eds) (2004) Parent Participation: Activating Partnership In Schooling, Stoke-on-Trent: Tretham.
- Thomas, A. And Pattison, H. (2007) How Children Learn at Home. London: Continuum (Reading 2.10).
There are many excellent studies of home-school relations, including that by Rogoff et al. Interestingly, some studies report that both parents and teachers, and perhaps the children, have mixed feelings on the question of parental involvement in classrooms.
- Rogoff, B., Goodman Turkanis, C. and Bartlett, L. (2001) Learning Together: Children and Adults in a School Community. Oxford: Oxford University Press
- Edwards, R. and Alldred, P. (2000) ‘Children’s Understanding of Home-school Relations’, Education 3-13, 28(3), 41-5.
- Crozier, G. and Reay, D. (2005) Activating Participation: Parents and Teachers. Working Towards Partnership. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham.
The number of support staff in schools has continued to increase in recent years. It is easy to slip into the mistaken belief that the ‘classroom assistants’ are a homogeneous group, but see Hancock on this issue. Sood, in Cole (ed), looks at the ways in which teachers can respond positively to working with classroom colleagues:
- Hancock, R. (2001) Classroom Assistants in the Primary School: Employment and Deployment, Buckingham: Open University Press.
- Sood, K. (2005) ‘Working with Other Professionals’, in Cole, M. (ed) Professional Values and Practice: Meeting the Standards, London: David Fulton
The responsibilities and practices of support staff have been brought into sharp focus with school workforce re-modelling. Increasingly, guides for classroom assistants are focusing on the assistant role as a teaching role, where a knowledge of children’s learning is key:
- Cowdray, M. (2012). Children’s Learning in Primary Schools: a guide for teaching assistants. London: Routledge.
For evaluative research on the effectiveness of teaching assistants, see Blatchford et al.; this is supported by guidance for school leaders and teachers.
- Blatchford, P., Russell, A. and Webster, R. (2012) Reassessing the Impact of Teaching Assistants: How Research Challenges Practice and Policy, Abingdon: Routledge.
- Russell, A., Webster, R., & Blatchford, P. (2012). Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants: guidance for school leaders and teachers. London: Routledge.
In studies of ‘room management’, it is suggested that the quality of classroom teaching is very greatly enhanced if all the adults in a classroom plan together so that they understand and carry out specific activities in a co-ordinated and coherent fashion - see Lorenz and Vincett, Cremin & Thomas:
- Lacey, P. (2001) Support Partnerships: Collaboration in Action, London: David Fulton.
- Vincett, K., Cremin, H. & Thomas, G. (2005) Teachers and Assistants Working Together, Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Fascinating insights into the perspectives of classroom assistants are provided by O’Brien & Garner and Dillow:
- O’Brien, T. and Garner, P. (2001) Untold Stories: Learning Support Assistants and Their Work, Stoke-on Trent: Trentham
- Dillow, C. (2010) Supporting Stories: Being a Teaching Assistant. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Press.
Record keeping is vital where several adults may be in the classroom. Ideas for record keeping appear in many different subject-based books and are influenced by the assessment requirements of the curriculum. This is likely to change dramatically in England from September 2014, with the introduction of new National Curriculum assessment requirements:
- NAHT (2014) Report of the NAHT Commission on Assessment. Haywards Heath: NAHT