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Managing Classroom Behaviour

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by TianaVictorious, Jan 7, 2011.

  1. Recently I was called to cover a class. During this session a debate was conducted. From the outset everything was explained and the structure of conducting a debate was examined thoroughly with the students until they were comfortable and confident to move forwards. The students were seemingly enjoying themselves during the preparation and were seemingly excited to take part in the debate. Once all prepared the debate went under way. However, during the debate, Many times I had to pause and remind the students of the debating structure and rule which apply. They were continually trying to talk over each other and seemingly had no concept of guidelines, and neither respect for each other, in these circumstances. At the end of the debate, the students wanted to continue and again tried to continue despite the guidelines of a debate. I appreciate passion for a topic, but I felt it had became quite heated, if anything through their frustrations of not being able to intervene/interrupt their peers during the debating process when they felt they had something valid to add, over and above their prepared debate. I felt outside of my comfort zone with this behaviour when it became heated, also baring in mind that these students are adults students. Accordingly, I dealt with the situation as adequately as I could and went around to each of the student(s) to discuss why they are feeling so heated. The general response was frustration because they did not feel heard, because there was so much more they wanted to add, once they had heard to opposing debatable points. So as I did on the outset, I explained the whole concept of debates, that neither were right, or wrong, that what is important is the skills that they can gain etc...That to continue outside of the guidelines would not be acceptable in the professional world....and so on... Generally once, I spoke individually to these students the situation/class calmed. .I also asked each of the students how they felt generally about the debate and how they feel it went. They all were like "Can we do it again next week please"? So overall the outcome was positive. In addition to this at the beginning of the session I notice a couple of the students were quite, not contributing, and against wanting to be part of the debate...By the end of the session, these couple of students were smiling, contributing and it was clear to see they were enjoying themselves, so again, a positive there. I guess, I just felt out side of my comfort zone when some of the students became heated over the debate, it was quite overwhelming. Do you think I dealt with the situation adequately? Is there anything anyone would have done differently in this situation? Can any one advise?

    PGCE Student
  2. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    I don't think this is a behaviour issue at all, Tiana. The children were doing debates and it got out of hand because they were so engaged in it - good for you!
    If they are doing it again, issue them with the "rules" as success criteria, and get them to self and peer assess their engagement in the debate. You can then compare their behaviour this time with last time - and hopefully they will have learned why it's better to keep debates structured.
    You might also want to follow it up with some kind of writing which will allow them to express all those points they feel they didn't get to say during the debate.
  3. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    What a good idea!
  4. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Dear T
    This sounds like a terrific start: teaching the students about argumentation through the process of a formal debate is a great method. It sounds like they loved it, and they were engaged, so I'd say that it was a bit of a success :)
    Of course there are ways to get the best of of this task: left unchecked it becomes a monster, where the biggest personalities and loudest voices dominate, and the quiet voices of reason and reflectiveness are swamped by the din- I think this is what you were noticing, tacitly or otherwise.
    The structure of a formal debate is in many ways designed to encourage the best virtues of discussion, eg reasoning, listening and responding, everyone getting a chance to contribute, while discouraging some of the more callous elements: shouting matches and emotional responses. You can achieve this in many ways, but I tend to organise my debates in a fairly uncontroversial, commonly used way:
    One speaker proposes the motion for x minutes. No one else is allowed to interrupt.
    One person responds for x minutes. Again, not interruption allowed.
    The second speaker from the first group speaks for x minutes. Interruptions only allowed by consent of the speaker, and only by a designated gesture (hand on head, standing up, verbal exclamation, etc)
    Then the second speaker for the opposing group goes, with the same rules as (3)
    Repeat (2) and (3) as often as you wish.
    Then have x minutes of open floor argumentation, where anyone can speak as long as you, the chair allow them.
    Then have x minutes of open floor debating, where anyone can speak regardless.
    I usually score the whole thing and tell them who has 'won' the debate. It always goes down well, and as long as you've clearly explained the rules, and told them that they'll be marked down for unsolicited interruption, etc, they gradually learn to keep their powder dry until it's their turn. I also mark them for rhetoric, style, panache, and any other quality I'm trying to encourage. The more they (and you) do it, the better they'll get, and the more you'll enjoy it. This method works best with groups of 8-20; if you want to expand it to more, you just expand the open floor segments so that they don't end up texting their dealers or something. Of course, there are loads of other ways to run debates, so work with what you think is best.
    Good luck
  5. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    There were supposed to be numbered bullet points in the above post. Accordingly, I've sanctioned myself with five minutes in the monkey pit, in order to teach myself a good lesson.
  6. Wow! Thank you ALL for your responses. You have all given me some useful tips which I will most definitely take away with me and utilise.

    For the debate a formal structure was used, in fact we did not commence until all were comfortable with the process, i.e one speaker at a time, no one interrupts etc ...They did not seem to have any regard for this and I found my self having to intervene continuously throughout to remind them of this. I think it was for this reason that they're frustrations grew and, thus became heated at the end when they felt they had so much more to add.

    Definitely I agree, with practice this should improve and a topic that is not so hot should be debated, that was concluded following from this session.

    An extra thank you for perceiving this scenario as a success. Outside from this discussion I have only had negative perceptions when I have discussed. It is so refreshing, and relieving that that is not necessarily the case.

    many thanks
  7. Hi Raymond
    Thank you so much for your response. As I just mentioned it is refreshing, and some what relieving to see/read positive perceptions. This has really helped me reflect more effectively.

    Had i have taken the session the following week, i would have conducted another debate with them. Unfortunately, I was only covering and do so, only when required.

    It was my understanding however, that they were to write up / involve the debating session some how in to their course writing, but again, unfortunately I wasn't involved with that part - because i was only covering.

    However, your response has given me light, one to not believe that they're heated reactions/behaviour was a negative but two; you have given me strategy in how to deal with excess knowledge that the students felt they wanted to utilise but there was no room for under the rules of the debate.

    Invaluable advise, thank you!

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