To most Teachers, the notion that context is a primary driver of both behaviour and engagement stands to reason.
If you’re reading this at home on the couch with the quiet hum of a kettle warming up in the background, you’ll likely engage with the message pretty well. And your behaviour is likely to also be impacted by just sitting in that context. The laptop might be poised on a cushion on your lap, and you’ve likely removed your shoes and elevated your feet.
All because your context is the lounge room. Nobody told you to demonstrate those behaviours, nobody promised you dojo points, and nobody threatened a penalty if you didn’t. The context all but made you do it.
But, if you’re catching this blog on your phone during Friday afternoon drinks at a noisy pub while you wait for a friend to return from the loo … both your engagement with the text and your conduct will be different.
Just because you’re at the pub.
And what you might notice is that both the engagement and the behaviour differences occur around the exact same content.
Teachers regularly miss an opportunity in classrooms to create context where students will engage and behave at their best by not adjusting the context. We’re too busy adjusting style, instruction or content in order to manage or captivate our students.
Those chairs and tables aren’t bolted to the floor, people. And you mostly have an army of furniture removalists sitting in your classroom dying for a crack at some brief physical activity anyway.
If you want them to see a display or demonstration, sure, position them in front-facing rows.
If you want them to listen to you and each other, instruct in a circle and ensure your room is geared for it.
If you want them to collaborate, seat them in groups of approximately four.
My personal best for having a group of Year 10 students completely transforming the context of their own classroom from one purpose to another is 31 seconds.
It’s time well spent.
And my record for Year 1 students is 41 seconds.
Beat that! No, really.
Keep fighting that good fight,
PS. I wrote a book loaded with thinking and strategy such as this not long ago called “Restoring Teaching”. If you click here, you can get a free copy in your hand pronto (paying just the P&H), but if you want to order more for your staff then just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. The thing is, we’re not a book publisher – we just want Australian educators to be more generously supported.
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