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The topic on this week's Behind the classroom door are from northern Illinois universities College of Education as permissiveness versus authoritarianism in the classroom. Here is the modern writer Dean Robert after top. It is interesting and even frightening to realize that there are many swings mood on the part of the general public reflected in the schools with regard to permissiveness of authoritarianism in the classroom and in the home as far as that goes. Seems to me that a generation ago there was a very rigid type of discipline that we hope to follow often didn't. Child had to sit still in the school not mu have permission for everything he did and the same prevailed at the home. There was more corporal punishment that was more severe discipline and children were supposed to be like miniature adults. Well then there was a swing away from this. I suppose attributed to prevention. Progressive Education and incorrectly so.
And now we are wondering at least the public seems to be wondering if the protests and some of the undesirable things that we see happening in connection with the schools are the result of excessive permissiveness. And so perhaps we're in a swing back in this direction. How do you feel about that. Dr. Laughlin Well I think that every classroom needs an auth already figure and this authority should be the classroom teacher where there is no authority figure the control in the classroom usually breaks down and the room becomes a scene of confusion. And I don't think that the right kind of learning can take place if there is an atmosphere of confusion in the classroom. I could give an example of this. I attended a PTA meeting a short time ago. And after the formal part of the meeting a
father approached me and said that he had a child and rolled in the primary in a primary room in the school and that the teacher was a beginner from a nearby teacher training institution. Then he asked me this question he said what do you think of progressive education. Well this question sort of took me by surprise but in discussing with them I learned that. This beginning teacher had lost control of the group and that confusion reigned and the father thought because this teacher was nul fresh out of the university that she was using the most modern method of classroom management and he was bothered. Well I pointed out that this beginning teacher had lost probably lost control of the group and that it was not an unusual situation for a beginner especially when this teacher found herself going fronted by a
lively group of children and that with more experience she would probably find herself getting better control of them over the wonder of the leader is that there actually was a teacher education institution would be teaching a prospective teacher. Well in this case the the father apparently thought that the teacher training institution was responsible for the behavior which is which the teacher was showing in this classroom. Don't you think though that a teacher is really showing her inexperience. Or better than the type of teacher education program she had. Well definitely but the father did not tend to put it in that manner and I tried to point out to him that this was not something that she had been taught to do in the well in the course of the situation.
Of course there are tremendous individual differences among beginning teachers who are experienced teachers as far as that goes. I don't believe that there is any theory or any philosophy that is taught by any institution. That leaves a beginning teacher to give excessive freedom or permissiveness in the classroom. You just can't get work accomplished learning cannot take place unless there is a reasonably controlled working atmosphere and I think any successful teachers is accomplishing this. I wonder if the parents comment actually doesn't tell us more about the parent than the school situation it seems to me that if a parent raises children in an authoritarian home and his child goes to school the child expects the teacher to be an authoritarian. And if the teacher tends to be somewhat permissive it may take some time before the child
develops self-discipline but it does seem to me that the primary function of the school in terms of student behavior is to gradually prepare the child for self discipline. After all in life somebody isn't going to be standing there constantly reprimanding person in person doesn't behave in. Thought a manner that suits a middle class society. Well basically the objectivity is gradually to introduce the child to the freedom of behavior and self-control. I'd like to want to consult Dr. Fox when you say soft discipline now would you assume then that there would be no controls in that classroom that the children would be free and have no carry on that type of behavior which each felt was appropriate in that situation. Oh I think that if we have a classroom the teacher has to be in control of the classroom but the
classroom consists of a learning environment. I mean after all the child goes to school to learn. Now in order for the child to learn. I think there are certain things that have to be present in a classroom. We do need a teacher in control. However I think as you go upward in the grades there is less need for the teacher to be in complete control of a classroom or at least to be an authoritarian figure in the classroom. I think we need an absence of fear as much as possible. Many cases of that with young children. If a teacher is too much of an authoritarian figure. Children are actually in fear of that teacher. And I think that we have enough evidence certainly to prove that fear takes away from child's learning ability rather than to add to it. It would seem to me then that the rules and regulations would be
essential in the classroom because they would provide the child limits with them within which a child can and can act behave. I think what we're really saying here is that. We're looking for the right degree of authoritarianism and the right degree of permissiveness in the classroom because as I said earlier he mentioned the fact that if a classroom were too permissive and if the atmosphere were too permissive it would handicap learning. And if you carry it to the other extreme if the classroom has to authoritarian enough in an environment as Ray said you're going to have fear and learning doesn't take place. If there's too much fear and of course going back again to the permissive atmosphere in a classroom if we're going to do the things with children that we're trying to do today such things as bringing out their. Their talents to get children to express themselves if we're going to do that sort
of thing try to identify the individual interests the needs of children then the classroom can't be highly authoritarian and it can't be too permissive for the reasons that the deal stated. Well it would seem to me then that we agree that there should be a loss already in the classroom. No this authority can be permissive but nevertheless there would be a loss already figure present home to a lot of those permissiveness. Yes there must be and if the teacher if the classroom situation or environment is too permissive and the teacher doesn't have control of the room then as you said earlier than she would he can't teach. I can I can remember a situation with a beginning teacher several years ago where the teacher lacked control and she and as a matter of fact her first problem was was this. The children would turn off the lights every time she'd turn around to face the border right on the border every time she talked to a child the lights would go out in the room
and she didn't have enough control of that group to prevent this from happening and I'd say that's it you ation was very undesired was that teach YOUR was working up to this point. She had something basically weak in the way she was handling the classroom. It's been interesting to me to observe teachers who had strong leadership ability. They don't have a disciplinary episodes. There's just something about the way they act and the way they operate. They keep that classroom moving along in an interesting way. And so they don't have this kind of conflict with their students whereas a teacher who lacks the leadership qualities or perhaps hasn't had enough time to acquire them on the job does run into difficulty. But the turning off of those lights was not the first thing that occurred you can be pretty sure the children had judged this teacher as being weak and not in control of the situation before they arrived at that point. I think also although most of these things seem to happen in new
teachers. And it certainly gives some direction to school administrators in terms of the assignment of the new teachers. I think it may be true or at the secondary level than at the elementary but at the present time there are many schools in which a new teacher lacking seniority in the system tends to be assigned to the worst classes the classes are grouped according to ability often the new teacher winds up with the lowest group and tends to find. Himself faced with more discipline problems than a teacher who has been there for fish an length of time to be assigned to a college preparatory group. It seems to me that the teaching profession is rather negligent. In this example and similar examples in professional sports for example in football in baseball the novice doesn't participate in
games first year second year perhaps third year only after he's Observateur a length of time and received additional coaching does he become a member of the first team and participate. Here we thrust a beginning teacher right into this classroom. Now it may be that our student teaching an internship programs if they're good enough are the minor leagues of the teaching profession and this is where the beginning teacher gets a chance to make mistakes and to try out ideas and to learn things under the surveillance of an experienced teacher. You know the fact of the matter is teaching is a very difficult task. I was just going to say I think the student teaching and the internship program would certainly help a teacher aquire techniques that would help him maintain a good classroom. However I do think that on the first year and on a particular job it's important for the school to continue an
in-service program without any tear because each school is different and certainly in some schools discipline is a major problem and others it isn't as much of a problem. I think some of the experiments with team teaching differentiated instruction and which a new teacher is assisted and works under the direct supervision of the Master Teacher may. Help us retain people in the profession who normally would quit because of the difficulties with a bad disciplined situation where large cities sometimes have a practice of permitting teachers after a few years of experience to ask for a transfer to a better school and we discover in some of the large cities that beginning teachers have a choice of three or four schools all bad or difficult should be just the other way should be the opposite. Arts I don't think that teachers are as permissive as we're led to believe.
The teachers that I know are mostly what I would classify as authoritarian and but I also recall that when working with teachers in the school principle that the very best teachers that I had in my building I would classify as being permissive and I think someone else would too. But they weren't permissive but they had excellent control. I agree with Lloyd I think if we look at the classroom as a learning situation or a learning environment then it's important for us to look at some research that has been done in terms of different types of teachers to see which type of teacher produces the best learning situation the limpet and white studies I think perhaps are the most famous. These were conducted in the boy's clubs however in the classroom type situation. So certainly I think we can draw some conclusions from that. On the lip and white studies there were three groups of
teachers three types of teachers ranging from a dominant leader and group control and the less a fair or directed type and the learning situation was much better in the group controlled classroom than in the other two group control versus the dominant leader. Less a fairer being of course the poor as meaning that complete permissiveness would be bad or nothing would be accomplished under those circumstances and least all schools that I know about still administer standardized achievement tests so the teacher who is in charge of a group of fifth graders let's say realizes that her his or her teaching is going to be measured somewhat by the results of the standardized test but more than that there's no teacher that goes into a classroom who doesn't realize that if that
atmosphere isn't pretty pretty much under control that the teacher will be driven out of the room and the teacher will lose his job. If there is complete permissiveness in the classroom and I just don't think it prevails I think I would. I would settle for the kind of control that we have in the typical classroom in the home. I have a feeling that if there is a loosening up of I don't want to call it discipline but the teaching of children how to control themselves that is to be attributed to the whole middle school as well. Actually doing a better job than the home and teaching children responsibilities. Thinking I had when I supervise student teachers and I saw them one of the school systems in St. Paul had a supervisor in charge of the elementary schools who claim that the best way to
tell whether the teacher had control wasn't by the noise element which so many supervisors use in other words how much noise is going on in the classroom. But what happened to the children when the teacher left the room. Did the children continue about at the same level that they were or do they become worse or what. What did occur and also in the loop in a way studies that I mentioned earlier. It was interesting that when the teacher left the room in the less a fair group in other words the completely permissive group the work effort actually increased by 20 percent. Another in history teacher out of the room and the students did more because student leaders took over while in the dominant leadership group. The work efficiency fell very rapidly meaning as long as the teacher was their course there was a semblance of order and at least there was an appearance of work.
Seems to me even surprising when you think about the millions of teachers that are trying to control groups of children from all I suppose an optimum 25 to as many as 45 children in the classroom. But there aren't more problems related to lack of control and I think we have to recognize that teaching is not easy and to try to visualise oneself in front of a group of third graders or fifth graders or boys at the secondary school level who are in a poetry class and trying to motivate them and to move them ahead and to teach them something about living with each other. Is truly a complicated and refined art. You know it's a wonder that teachers do as well as they do. Well I think that the highly authoritarian teacher simply cannot do the things that we want accomplished in the school such as for example we want highly motivated children we want to base the instructional
program on the child on their capabilities and on their interests and needs. And these are things that you cannot accomplish in a classroom where the teacher is what I would call highly authoritarian or she doesn't give a he or she doesn't give the children a chance to do these things on their own. I mean damn tough you're mentioning poetry of some example is also important. We cannot expect a teacher of every academic subject matter to have the same degree of permissiveness with them as classroom. I think some subjects social studies for example lend themselves far greater to group control small groups working together and certainly would require less authoritarian teacher than other areas such as mathematics for example it seems to me. The
teacher has to play a greater direct role with students and therefore that teacher may actually appear to be in authority or at least of authoritarian figure to a far greater degree than you would expect a social studies teacher or art. Art in music come to mind is a very difficult subject to teach because you don't want to quell the enthusiasm the spontaneity and the creativity of the learner. At the same time you have to have a working atmosphere and this is a refined skill that very few teachers have. Fortunately they acquire this along the way and they are able to arrive at an understanding with the children. But there are limits to their behavior. I think many beginning teachers get in trouble with discipline when they try group work as Ray was mentioning and I know that. I've watched teachers do a good job been in on this in the classroom and I
found that a good teacher can now handle groups and every level. You know there were instant and that can occur at the in the garden level first grade level as well as the upper grades and I mention this because I've had many people many people talk to me about this who think that you can only start group work let's say you know at an intermediate grade level or a higher grade level but actually it can begin at the Pentagon. I think by classifying that teacher Lloyd as a good teacher indicates of course a person who is good in group work and I think teachers have different personalities just the same way that students have different personalities. And it would be a mistake on our part to expect all teachers to have the type of personality that would lend itself very well to the group work. That's one reason I have very much in favor of differentiated instruction. I think some
teachers may lecture much better than others. And. The differentiated instruction permits the person who is a good lecturer to play a part in teaching situation. Person who is good in terms of small groups can play a major part but I think subject matter fields tend to draw different personalities and in general a mathematics teacher would have a different type of personality than a teacher in the third grade for example. This is good though. Yes I think kind of learning about people you want to know so I think should come in contact with just as many different types of personalities apart of teachers as possible. You know I am I have to admit that I am dismayed and frightened at some of the things happening particularly in the high schools where people are being injured and and their strikes on the part of
students and where they're weak some of it's racial so much just protest some of it just seems to be that groups of students. Want to get some attention. This worries me and I don't know what the real cause is or what the real solution is except that I'm sure that schools and homes and public authorities have to work together and then yes I do recall that the first strikes that I remember were instituted by parents that perish or the ones who actually taught their children into remaining away from school because of something they were objecting that was taking place in the school system. For me it seems that for many years our society has worked to make the schools reflect society at one time schools were accused of being an ivory tower.
Therefore if you did not have strike some certain degree of unrest within a school situation there. I think it would be safe to say that the school was not reflecting society because society had strikes riots protests groups. But if the school is going to reflect society then I think we may have some of that within the school. But I'm firmly convinced that there is a civilized way protesting or a civilized way of expressing your opinion and this takes some form of debate and discussion. And not destruction or interference with the rights of others. And I believe that there can be ferment on a high school campus or a college campus there can even be a lot of discussion going on at the elementary school level and we erred. We are thus encouraging in and enabling young people to to think actively about problems in our society but I
just cannot understand or sympathize with the destructive aspects. I think it's the role of the school to teach students to participate actively in a democracy in a constructive manner and perhaps the fact that school is in the past were very authoritarian and Tim the disc Welsh efforts on the part of students to play a greater role in determining their own education. Lead to what is happening in our society today and what we need to do is to try to teach students how to play a proper role in our society and how to influence the direction that society will take or Dr long but I'm always made the point that there is a place for authority there's a place for authority in a democracy there's a place for authority in the schools. And surely the teacher in the administrative group or the individuals who are fundamentally the authority figures and should be they have the
responsibility for providing a sound education. Well I think this could raise the question of how democratic should a classroom or a school be allowed to get. I think and all of these situations in order to a happy democratic structure you must have authority. Well you say that with authority first of all and lead in to these. My definition I know my writing principles. My definition of a democratic way of operating includes authority. I think we can view. A school room or a community as being fully democratic Aron's and it still has authority figures. Perhaps that's one of the problems I think that some teachers may have an interpreted progressive education. Leaning toward Anarky in a classroom rather than democracy but too often trepidation of democracy as everyone does what he wishes.
That's not democracy very naive in simple point of view and I still maintain that the teacher who is not keeping a degree of order that enables the children to progress readily is doing so because he can't do anything else he just is a weak individual and he can't control it and perhaps some people misinterpret this as progressive Surely it's not progressive because we realize that he and live together in a complex urban society and surely we're becoming more urban every day. We have to learn how to share. We have to know how to protest and do indicate that we are not in harmony with laws or rules but to do it in a civilized way. I don't like the term dialogue that C keeps creeping into the conversation. Nowadays I think it's not a dialogue I think it's an exchange of ideas among many different people. But we have to do it in a civilized way and the school should should seek to do this. I think what we are saying is
that permissiveness versus rigid control that we want permissiveness within the military of the individual to control himself and to work with others to the end that we can live together and work together successfully behind the classroom door produced by WFIU Af-Am and cooperation with the College of Education at Northern Illinois University each week focuses its attention. Odd one of the many challenging aspects of public school education. The program is moderated by Dr. Robert F. top dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. Today's guest were Dr. Reitman B Fox associate dean of the College of Education. Dr. Leo Laughlin head of the Department of Administration and services and Dr. Lloyd Leonard head of the department of elementary education. Next week's topic will be an ovations in the classroom. This program is distributed by the national
educational radio network.
Behind the Classroom Door
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Behind the Classroom Door is a radio series from WNIU-FM about education in the United States. In each episode, faculty from the Northern Illinois University College of Education address specific issues related to public school education and operation. The program is produced in cooperation with Northern Illinois University and distributed by the National Educational Radio Network.
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