Slogans for Classroom Management

©1999 Steven Dooley

edited 4/19/14

As a potential science teacher I have been hearing some slogans in my time here at Widener. I have pulled out three and will attempt to interpret them better for myself.

First Slogan: Get them interested.


How and in what? are the big questions this slogan leaves me with. Yes a teacher can activate intrinsic motivation if they can find a way to interest their students in the topic. But what comes first the interest or the topic?

Some would say the topic as if there is a topic out there that all students are interested in. Well there are some but they are not usually considered topics for school. However that interest might be channeled into a specific area that is a school topic and that can lead to the interest.

Rather, to interest the students the teacher needs to have knowledge of what the students in their class might be interested in. Finding that interest is most of the battle as once it is found the student can be engaged in the topics through that interest.

How do you find out what the students are interested in, especially on the first day of class? An idea may be to use more commonly know interests for the age group at first and through experience with the class find out more specific individual interests.

The slogan may then be rewritten:

Get to know your students and their interests. Use their interests and personalities as guides and approach material in ways that they will find interesting.
Second Slogan: Set them to work on a good problem


What is meant by good? What is good? How do you "set them to work"?

If you define a good problem as one that is of interest to the student, involves some higher order thinking and not just memorization of busy work, then I think you may have something. By using their interests and asking them to investigate topics that use those interests a teacher can do a lot of science with his or her students.

The slogan may then be rewritten:

With knowledge of students interests a teacher can use those interests to develop problems for them to investigate that will produce the desired learning.
Third Slogan: Less is More


Less what? And how can less of something be more of it? This seams to be a contradiction in terms.

If what is meant is that, in curriculum development, schools are expected to turn out students that know a large number of topics, it is easy to focus on learning all the topics as isolated facts at the expense of any underlying theme that may connect them. Rather than "covering the water front" (another slogan) schools may be more effective and students better served if the underlying themes were explored and well understood as they may serve as a unifying question that may lead to deeper understanding.

For Example, what good is the ability to analyze a simple electric circuit if a student is memorizing the solution for that circuit and cannot trouble shoot a flashlight? Would it not be better if the student understood how a flash light worked and the physics behind it on an intuitive or conceptual level.

To that end, if teachers can focus on understanding what is electricity and how it behaves, the students can then formulate ways to explain why it behaves that way. Then when they need to analyze a circuit they will be equipped with the basic knowledge to read a text on circuit analysis and figure it out for them selves.

The slogan may then be rewritten:

Find the core material that is behind a body of knowledge. Give the students experience with this core material so that they may understand it. Then additional learning can build on that understanding. Last, let the students do the additional learning later in life as they need it.