Jeremy Barnett and Matthew Greenhalgh
The same class, the same teacher, but a different response from two students who sit beside each other and are good friends. These three examples from Japan and Sweden illustrate a more general truth about learning and teaching. These examples raise the question of how aware teachers can be of what is going on in young people's minds as they sit, head down taking notes, or apparently listening and how teachers accommodate to the very different expectations that young people have of their teachers, classmates and the pace of teaching.
The first example, from Japan, follows Takayo and Kaori of 5B, while the second example follows another pair of students from 5C. The third example, from Sweden, follows Fredrik and Elin, boy and girl, again living out separate and distinct lives in the same school and classroom.
During my first shadowing in Japan I spent two days with class 5B and observed the same teaching approach that was predominant for the majority of the time. The response to this from students was different in the case of the two students, Takayo and Kaori, whom I was shadowing.
At the beginning of every lesson the class would take quite a long time to settle down. I noticed that it was only a small group of students who caused the unsettling atmosphere. On a number of occasions this would last for the majority of the lesson and would result in the teacher having to stop the lesson to speak to the disruptive students. Sometimes the teacher would direct a random question to one of the boys, which would stop the socialising for a little while. When the teacher selected the students to answer questions, many of them didn't seem too confident. During my shadowing in Japan I was told by some students that they do not feel confident expressing their views in front of their classmates as they are worried about making mistakes. This may be a very important cultural factor contributing to our understanding of what is going on in this classroom.
Takayo's response to this style of teaching was similar to that of the majority of students in the class. She was well focused and concentrated for the duration