Diagnosing Classroom Learning Environments

Diagnosing Classroom Learning Environments

Diagnosing Classroom Learning Environments

Diagnosing Classroom Learning Environments

Excerpt

The teacher who wants to keep abreast of the new knowledge in the behavioral sciences and utilize it to improve his teaching techniques and professional effectiveness faces a formidable challenge. Fortunately this challenge is not solely the teacher's responsibility. Scientists from the various disciplines are seeking ways of collaborating with educational specialists to apply developments in the behavioral sciences to the classroom and to improve channels of communication to teachers.

Diagnosing Classroom Learning Environments is one of the three TEACHER RESOURCE BOOKLETS ON CLASSROOM SOCIAL RELATIONS AND LEARNING that grew out of such a cooperative research effort. At the Center for Research on Utilization of Scientific Knowledge at the University of Michigan, a team of social scientists and educational specialists for over a decade has been exploring some of the possibilities for cooperative research in the behavioral sciences and the application of the results of such research to the classroom. The projects have been supported by the U.S. Office of Education, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the McGregor Foundation.

The relation between classroom interpersonal relations and the effective learning of subject matter has been investigated through research questions such as these: What effect does the social power or social acceptance possessed or lacked by students have on their learning? What are the dynamics that make it difficult for a socially ineffective child to improve his status in the group? What kinds of perceptions and expectations do teachers and students have of one another? What are the effects of children of different ages learning together? How can the socially ineffective child be helped to use his learning potential better?

Data have been gathered from several hundred classrooms through the use of diagnostic tools dealing with classroom social structures; individual and group attitudes toward learning; significant environmental forces influencing both teachers and students; and the nature of the student-teacher interaction. On the basis of these data the teachers participating in the research projects modified many of the preliminary diagnostic instruments and developed plans for altering their teaching methods to improve the learning climate of the classroom. Much ingenuity was shown by the participating teachers in taking the step from "What do the data say?" to "What can be done in my classroom to improve mental health and learn-

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