Category Archives: ECS 301

Classroom Management: Where Trial & Error = Most Successful Venture

Classroom management – the one single entity that a majority of pre-service educators fear.

Every semester when we enter our new courses, we optimistically flip through the course outlines to find ‘classroom management’ under the listed topics to be covered. When this does not happen, we ask, “Well when are we going to learn about classroom management?” The overarching concept of classroom management is overwhelming, as there is no concrete ‘how-to’ manual for educators to follow. Classroom management strategies differ depending on the educator and the students within their classroom – implementing strategies they deem to be effective for their learning environment.

The vagueness among strategy selection only increases the difficulty of trying to find one’s own classroom management niche – how are we supposed to know what will work? I do not believe that classroom management is something which can be ‘taught'; rather, a trial and error approach to explore potential strategies for implementation may be the most successful venture.

After reading The Great “Respect” Deception by Dr. Richard Kerwin, I have began to construct a personal teaching philosophy in regards to classroom management. The following is an informal, thought process breakdown of my journey thus far alongside classroom management:

  • Classroom rules and expectations must be clearly outlined for students in order to be consistently reinforced. How can we have classroom expectations without making students aware of said expectations? The ‘surprise’ element of miscommunication sets everyone up for failure – each decision made becomes a ‘guess’, not necessarily intentionally.
  • Classroom expectations should not include values such as “respect, kindness, leadership, etc.”, rather expectations should be implemented to aid in fostering personal values and growth. When we ask students to “be respectful”, what are we meaning by this? Being respectful is not a rule; it is something that we will work towards becoming as a result of our choices and actions. We should work to inspire students to develop a positive, strong set of personal values – this is done via our choices and actions. (Having “respect” as a classroom goal is vital; however, students need to explore what this may look/feel/sound like within a classroom setting before they can be expected to honour this value).
  • Classroom Point-Based Systems – How effective might these be? This I am unsure of – what is the significance in reiterating positive or negative behaviour infront of the entire classroom? Students who successfully obtain points  are aware of their behaviour; students who ‘lose’ points are also aware of their behaviour – do we need a visual display reinforcing this information? If students are self-aware, they will not need a points-based system to dictate whether or not they are a ‘good’ student. However, some educators may find point-based systems to be successful within their classroom environments – I wonder, though, what educational value does this hold?

As I continue on my journey towards becoming an educator, I am trying to further educate myself on classroom management strategies which I may one day integrate into my future classroom. I am in no way an expert; I continue trying to explore the concept that is classroom management – I am unsure as to whether or not I will ever fully wrap my mind around the diversity of strategies available. However, I do know that the trial and error process will become my best companion until I have found my niche within this vital aspect of education.

Inquiry Based Learning – You’ve Got A Good Thing Goin’ On.

“Inquiry is not asking questions and finding answers. Inquiry is wrestling with dilemmas and seeking epiphanies. Inquiry is being comfortable living in the soup.” – Educon, 2013


As part of an in-class exploration, we collaboratively unpacked the Crab Apple Jelly “Me to We” Project currently being inquired on by students at Mother Teresa Middle School in Regina, Saskatchewan. Alongside the inquiry-based learning process, we mapped out a project plan – outlining what a project such as this might look like in a middle years classroom.

We began by discussing a time-frame by which we thought this project would occur, taking into consideration time accounted for brainstorming, collecting materials, canning the jelly and selling the product. My lack of experience with actual implementation of inquiry-based learning in a middle years classroom led me to believe we may have over-projected time-wise. However, we would want our students to unpack the experience to the extent they so chose to – taking as little or as much time as needed, within reason.

Upon delving into the Saskatchewan curriculum, we quickly found that making cross-curricular connections would not be an issue – the basis of the project fit seamlessly into almost every subject area. I believe that cross-curricular connections are an important aspect of inquiry-based learning, as it allows for easy transition between subject areas, while allowing students to make meaningful connections throughout the broad areas of learning. A learning experience that encompasses ample opportunities for personal growth provides the framework for shared experiences to occur in the classroom and community – as evident in the Crab Apple Jelly Project.

We included an exploration alongside Treaty Education into the project plan as we felt as though it was an integral component to student learning. There were multiple areas by which connections could be made within the Treaty Education Outcomes & Indicators Document; however, we chose the outcomes found to be most significant focusing on Treaty relationships and worldviews. Additionally, assessment and differentiation work hand-in-hand during an inquiry-based learning experience, as the tools and strategies used must reflect student interest, learning styles and the foundation of student learning within the project itself. A brief break-down of exemplar assessment strategies can be found in the image below (KWL chart, journaling, conversations/dialogue, visual representations, etc.).

Throughout the remainder of my pre-internship, I hope to further explore inquiry-based learning alongside the students in my co-operative classroom. I presume there will be a combination of successes and challenges; feelings of triumph and defeat; multiple ‘detours’ along the way – all of which will keep the experience interesting! Let’s face it – inquiry-based learning, you’ve got a good thing goin’ on!

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 6.11.09 PM




What is assessment and how do we effectively use it in the classroom? The answer to this question, for myself anyways, remains unknown. Looking back at my experience in school, assessment was based around tests – I pushed myself to get “good grades” and based my self-worth on how “well” I was doing in school. Years later, we still see schools as competitive institutions, which I believe is a result of living in a success-driven society. Recollections of stress, anxiety and fear still resonate with me when thinking about assessment. This is something that I hope students in my classroom will never experience. Today, as a pre-service teacher, I find assessment petrifying – but how can I move away from the negativity? I still have not found the “key” to successful assessment and am unsure if I ever will. However, I have compiled a few thoughts on how I might approach assessment at this point in my journey to becoming an educator.

  • Assessment needs to be based off of entire life experience, not just learning that takes place in the classroom – what could potentially affect learning?
  • Pre-assessment is vitally important – we need to know what prior knowledge and experience students are bringing to the classroom. We cannot assume or have pre-set expectations of students, as this only sets them up for failure. Once we have completed a pre-assessment, planning learning experiences that cater to the learning styles of all students can be achieved.
  • Differentiated assessment – we need to ensure students are not penalized as a result of oppressive assessment tools. If a student’s learning does not reflect success through an assessment, it could mean that the assessment tool in place is not conducive to their learning style – CHANGE IT UP!
  • Self-reflective teaching practices – allows me to continuously adapt my teaching and assessment strategies to ensure they are effective in supporting success in all learners.
  • Allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge in multiple ways – assessed in ways that honor their unique learning styles. Learning that takes place cross-curricular opens up more opportunities to represent learning = more opportunities for a variety of assessments.
  • Have students brainstorm ideas on how they should be assessed – what things should we as educators be looking for when we look at your learning processes? For example: constructing a rubric for an assignment alongside the students, both parties are contributing to the assessment process. Students become leaders in the assessment process – taking responsibility and ownership over their learning.
  • Ensure students are aware of what they are being assessed on and what the assessment will look like – no surprises. It is also important to deliver these instructions in multiple ways (orally, written, pictorially, etc.).
  • Anecdotal records based on observations – showing a progression/growth – assessment that takes place over time.
  • Including students in the assessment process – conferencing/goal setting conversations, self-assessment, and peer-assessment. This allows educators to get more of a “full-picture” idea of student progress – over-time collecting observations.
  • Assessment must reflect what is being taught (instruction) – how can we assess students on something they have yet to learn?
  • Giving students feedback on their work > always assigning a grade – allows students to take constructive feedback and apply it to future learning experiences. This fosters self-confidence/worth, rather than lowering confidence (if a student does not get a grade they are satisfied with).
  • Encouraging students to self-reflect (ex: journal writing) – we as educators can see a reflection of their journey, as well as they can use this as a tool to help them self-assess their learning.
  • Assessment does not solely need to take place at the end of a learning experience – assessment can be ongoing.

Despite reflecting on what my future assessment experiences may look like, there are still things I am unsure of. How am I able to assign a “grade” to all learning experiences? Some learning experiences benefit the student by experiencing personal growth and reflection – how can I place a “grade” on something like that? How do we extend knowledge and learning beyond the summative assessment of an experience? Do we need to perform summative assessment in order to ensure our students have met the delivered outcomes? I believe that the first step in exploring assessment is self-reflection – if we do not reflect, we may not notice areas of improvement within ourselves. Assessment is a journey that I will forever be trying to navigate through alongside students – assessment will be a process involving “we” rather than “me”.

One Size Does NOT Fit All.

“Differentiation is a philosophy or mindset that enables educators to plan strategically in order to reach the needs of the diverse learners in classrooms today so that they can achieve targeted standards – not a set of tools, but a belief system or mindset that educators embrace to meet the unique needs of every learner.” (Chapman and Gregory, p. 2)

As our classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse, the need for differentiation to be implemented by all educators is crucial. We cannot simply expose children to learning experiences that cater to the needs of a select group – one size does NOT fit all. In order for children to fully immerse themselves into learning, their experiences need to be authentically tweaked to fit their learning styles, interests, prior knowledge and personalities. Every student that enters the classroom brings perspectives and narratives unique to each individual – differentiation allows for students to explore multiple perspectives and narratives, while learning to honor and appreciate diversity. If we as educators hope to provide every student with a positive school experience, differentiation should be at the heart of our teaching practices.

There is a multitude of ways to differentiate in the classroom. The following are some ways to differentiate, along with examples of how I will achieve this throughout my journey as an educator: (Chapman and Gregory, pp. 3-5)

  • Content: Includes what is being taught and the materials used to deliver information. Assignments given to students must cater to their learning styles, while also challenging them to develop new skills. When students are provided with a diversity of materials, deeper learning and ownership of knowledge acquisition can take place. This can include presenting content to students through a variety of mediums (for example, print and digital). Learning experiences need to be authentic and relevant – when a student can connect what they are learning to prior knowledge or experiences, critical thinking and reflection can occur.
  • Assessment Tools – Performing a pre-assessment of prior knowledge and interests is important when differentiating. If we are able to understand what students know about content we will be teaching, we can better plan learning experiences suited to fit their learning styles. Assessment of learning can occur in many different ways and how we assess each student can be decided based on personalities. For example, some students may benefit from having conference-style conversations to discuss their learning progress, while other students may find this intimidating and prefer to be assessed through observation and anecdotal records.
  • Performance Tasks – Allowing students to present their knowledge in a variety of ways is an effective way to differentiate performance tasks. Giving students choice in terms of how they show what they know fosters all learning styles and multiple intelligences. Allowing choice also encourages students to take ownership and responsibility over their learning – if they are doing something they are interested in, their engagement level will be higher!
  • Instructional Strategies – Differentiating instructional strategies involves delivering information in a variety of ways. For example, instead of only delivering instructions for a task orally, you might include written and pictorial instructions to cater to more than one learning style. When one provides students with learning experiences that take different forms (games, lecture style, individual work, group work, etc.), learning remains exciting and appealing to all students. Differentiation of classroom environment can also influence instruction – how the classroom is structured can help students remain engaged in learning. This can include a diversity of seating arrangements, as well as using brain breaks, fidgets, noise blockers, etc.

How will I differentiate? The thought of providing all students with learning experiences that meet their needs is exceedingly overwhelming. I do not expect myself to ever be able to master the task of differentiating, however, I hope to try to provide positive learning experiences that cater to individual needs. Reflective teaching practices will allow me to adapt my teaching and assessment strategies, as well as classroom environment, as necessary – asking myself what is working, what is not, what could be changed, etc. Looking back on my personal school experiences as a child, I remember instances where I felt as though some experiences did not reflect my learning style – the effects of experiences such as this can be detrimental. Therefore, ensuring students feel confident and competent while learning is important; differentiation is the vital tool every educator needs in their toolbox in order to achieve this.

Gregory, G., & Chapman, C. (2013). One Size Doesn’t Fit All. In Differentiated Instructional Strategies: One Size Doesn’t Fit All (pp. 1-10). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Listening Wholeheartedly – A Response to Nel Noddings

“To get new ideas, to move ahead, we – as educators – should listen to our children and students. When we listen to them, we learn what they are going through, and this knowledge can be used to shape what we do in teaching. It can help us to select and arrange curriculum, plan lessons, choose instructional methods, and seek better modes for evaluation. What we learn from students should induce us to reflect on all we do and all we are asked to do.” (Noddings, p. 154)

I believe in the importance of listening to and learning from children – through building relationships and coming to honor their individuality, authentic learning can take place. However, where do we begin on this complex journey? Why should we go above and beyond to try to relate to each and every child in our classroom (although can we ever fully understand narratives that are not our own?)? Do the social constructs, barriers and limitations woven throughout the field of education allow for these types of student-teacher relationships to be built? Education and learning are complex entities, which require students to pursue knowledge in predicated ways. In order to help guide our students through the complexities, we must come to know where their passion lies (what interests them, what gets them excited). Coming to know our students in meaningful ways can be a challenging, but is a task worth exploring.

Before children even enter the classroom, they already have preconceived perceptions as to what will be expected of them throughout their time in school. Feelings of anxiety, fear, insecurity, as well as inadequacy ebb and flow inside many children. In a society where success is greatly influenced by academic achievement, pressure is placed on children to achieve high grades in order to ensure a successful future and to obtain happiness. Despite that many children, as well as educators, might believe this to be true, there is fallacy among the idea that good grades lead to future happiness (Noddings, p. 157). Living and learning in these aggressive ways leave little room to develop passion in terms of knowledge acquisition. The focus should lie on encouraging children to become excited about learning, while giving them choice and advocacy in regards to their learning (needs, wants, goals, dreams). Children need to be given opportunities to explore the realm of learning. While providing choice and personal advocacy is important, children still need to be challenged as well – pushed out of their comfort zone and encouraged to try new things (that may not necessarily fall under their category of “interests”).

I truly believe in feedback-focused education, opposed to assigning a grade to everything that takes place in my classroom. Think of all the possibilities opened up by merely having a conversation with a child in regards to their learning – conferencing with students to see where they are at and where they see themselves going. Focusing on goal setting and comparing ones’ self to their own strengths, working together to create high-quality learning experiences (Noddings, p. 158). However, as educators are we able to achieve this kind of learning and assessment? Immersed so deeply in a system that constantly drives the importance of grades – is this dream possible? How easy will it be to stray from the competition-driven education experience we know all too well?

Oppression lies deep within the curriculum and the education system, this is something we cannot deny. However, we can help our students to become advocates for their own learning – teaching them the importance of and skills required to make informed decisions about their futures. With all of the pressure to meet both the clearly outlined, as well as the hidden, standards, are students actually learning to their fullest potential? Listening to our students and encouraging them to become life-long learners and to find passion in the acquisition of the diversity of knowledge around them is something educators should strive for. Listening wholeheartedly – something that seems so simplistic, but can open the door to countless opportunities for students – should be at the heart of our teaching practices.

Noddings, N. (2004). Learning from Our Students. ProQuest Education Journals, 154-159.