20 Jan 2023
By Mark Richards,
Noise is something that prompts much thought and discussion in education circles. On one hand, some teachers worry about the noise level in their classrooms. There’s a misconception that a noisy classroom is a disruptive classroom.
This is not the case, necessarily. Sometimes, the best learning takes place in noisy environments. A noisy classroom can be the sign of engaged and inspired students. On the other hand, there is a feeling that if you walk past the classroom and you cannot hear the class, this is a sign that the students must be working really well.
So, which view is correct? In truth, it’s difficult to say. However, although most teachers would probably say that they would prefer to have a quiet classroom rather than a noisy one: what do you do if you want to engage pupils – but they are just not responding?
The law of averages
The law of averages dictates that in a typical class of 30, you might have 4 or 5 students that will always have their hand up, and always respond positively to everything the teachers says. You might also have 4 or 5 students that will never contribute to a lesson, unless you literally force them too.
In the middle – the majority – there are pupils that could go one way or the other. It’s really down to how the teacher manages this particular group that can determine whether the class environment is as positive as it can be.
Approaches to improve engagement
Perhaps the most important thing for a teacher to have if they want to improve engagement in a quiet classroom is empathy. The ability to put ourselves in our students’ shoes is really important for all teachers. Understanding what the concerns, worries and anxieties are for are students makes it easier for us to create the climate and conditions for learning that are conducive for student engagement.
With all the pressures that teachers are under, it can be difficult to remain positive at all times. But positivity really is infectious. Students will feed off our own positivity. Being positive is far likely to encourage engagement from reluctant learners than putting the under pressure will. Once again, it comes down to the culture that we create in the classroom. We must emphasise and reinforce that we are all in it together. We all learn from each other and making mistakes can be an important part of that process.
Vary our approach
Often, if a class is not engaging in a way we would like, it’s a sign that we need to adopt a different approach. There are a multitude of varied questioning styles we can choose from. If we can extend are questioning repertoire as much as we can and retain a flexible approach, we are far more likely to draw out the type of responses we’d like to see from our students.
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