Rules, or no rules

Classroom management is always an interesting topic of debate when brought up around teachers.  Some think that it’s better to give the students clear instructions and rules, while others think that having a few core values as the only rules is better.  But, after reading Dr. Richard Curwin’s blog post on the topic and Matt Giesbrecht’s description of Classroom Dojo, a moderated but self-managed classroom, it’s much easier to take a side in the debate.

Curwin’s post focuses on how having a few basic ‘values’ without strict rules is actually a bad thing.  This is because a value cannot be regulated, and so teachers have unstated rules that students don’t know about until they cross the line.  On the other hand, when giving strict rules with values as an overarching theme, students both know what the rules are and why they are in place.  Saying that you only have one rule is a deception, but giving clear guidelines and instruction allows students freedom to work within those boundaries without fear or desire to cross them.

Giesbrecht gave a brief explanation of Classroom Dojo, an app in which the teacher and other students (at the teacher’s discretion of course) can give points to other students based on what they are doing well, or detract points if a student breaks a rule.  He explains that though some might have objections to the clear format of letting students know via overhead projector can be a way to shame students, it in fact encourages quick behavioral correction.  This video gives a quick explanation of the Classroom Dojo app.

I absolutely agree with the idea of giving clear rules, as talked about in Curwin’s article, especially when they are accompanied by overarching values explaining why each rule is in place.  Setting up what I call ‘preemptive’ classroom management strategies I think is the most effective way to manage a classroom.  But leaving space open to help tackle problems that will eventually pop up is also wise, as one cannot be prepared for everything.  As for Classroom Dojo, I think that it has some really good potential, but that I might have difficulty integrating it into a classroom.  I don’t know, if nothing else it would be a good thing to try out.

What do you guys think, should classrooms have more or less rules?  Should teachers be absolute rulers in their classrooms, or should they merely moderate while the students judge themselves?

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3 thoughts on “Rules, or no rules

  1. Very interesting post! I agree that students need clearly stated rules and guidelines to help them function efficiently in a classroom. This will level the playing field, especially for students from different cultures who are accustomed to different norms than what we expect. It’s only fair that we explicitly tell them what we expect! Otherwise they will have to stumble through their school year not knowing appropriate classroom behaviour in our culture.

  2. I agree with Dojo being a difficult thing to incorporate into a classroom especially because I visualize myself with older students.
    The strategy of making expectations clear before hands seems to be the most logical strategy. That being said, I also feel that a lot about classroom management has to be learned through trial and error as you go. While less rules is better, you have to be thoughtful in choosing those rules. Students can’t remember everything and we as teachers can’t list everything. Also I think there is something to be said for different students needing different classroom management.
    In my limited experience different students respond to different strategies. For example, in my first placement the teacher swore that the only thing her class would ever respond to was bribes through a point system. This wouldn’t be my preferred method but it worked for her.

  3. I’m also concerned with how ClassDojo might shame students. In watching the video, it said that friends could see each other’s avatars and compare points. I thought this was a bad idea because it could allow students to make fun of each other by shaming students for having “too high” of a score, or a score that might be embarrassingly low. If you do try out this application, how would you deal with students picking on each other for their score?

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