Sunday, October 4, 2009

Classroom Culture

I wasn't really sure how to define classroom culture, so I Googled "classroom culture." This is what I got from

"Perhaps the best definition of culture which I’ve ever heard is “the way things are around here”. It sums it up nicely. Classroom culture means the often unspoken and frequently unconscious assumptions about how people (both the teacher and the students) will behave during the lessons – Where will people sit, or stand? Who will speak, when, and what about? What types of behaviour are appreciated, tolerated or frowned upon?"

So with that definition in mind, I will launch in to a ramble of what I perceive to be my CT's classroom culture.
  • My CT is the one who does most of the talking during class while writing down information on a sheet of paper under a doc cam. Students are expected to sit and take notes (in a specific format) on what my cooperating teacher says. When he's done showing/explaining something, often students will be given an assignment to work on. If they have questions, they are expected to ask their group questions and then, if their questions are still unanswered to ask the teacher. Sometimes the CT is actively helping students, but sometimes he is at his desk working. The messages that I infer from this format is that the teacher is the authority on mathematical knowledge. He also knows the best way for students to learn, which is by taking notes using an inflexible format. Given the lack of two-way dialogue, I also get the sense that the teacher is not interested in understanding how the students think about problems.
  • When the CT assigns classwork to students, he usually says something about how if they don't finish, it will become homework, and that they need to do the assignment to get their five points. Sometimes he offers an extra point if a student finishes the assignment in class that day. Rarely is an explanation or demonstration given as to why the math the students are doing is useful or important. What these behaviors indicate about the classroom culture is that math should be done quickly to just get it done and out of the way. It should be done for extrinsic rewards, not because it is interesting, useful, or beautiful.
  • In order to motivate students to finish their classwork, the CT will often say something like, if you don't get it done in class, it will become homework. Several students do not in any real way attempt the classwork. Some have their math book out but are talking or doing something other than math. Some don't even make any pretense of working and have nothing out on the desk. When asked, these students generally say that they don't have to do the classwork because they can do it for homework instead. Though unintentional, the classroom culture permits students to not work or learn during class as long as they say they are going to do it at home (many of these students don't actually do their work at home either).
There is probably more I could say about the classroom culture, but this is all I'm going to say for now.

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