Who is primarily responsible for student behavior? Who makes decisions about how the classroom will run and how you will treat each other? Is time spent on behavioral issues worthwhile? How important are individual differences of students?
The way you answer these questions and more can help you decide which Theory of Influence you support. While each of the theory tags used on this website are addressed briefly below, we encourage you to read more fully about the theories in chapter 4 of Levin and Nolan’s excellent book. Instead of just using the three theories, our tags include blended positions between them. This is justified since the three are not totally separate from each other but rather are points on a continuum.
This theory suggests that students need to be primarily responsible for their own behavior. Developing these abilities is time well spent since the goal is to create citizens who can participate actively and effectively in society. This is possible because students do have the ability to control their own behavior when given responsibilities. Therefore, these classrooms demonstrate a high level of student involvement in decision making, self-direction, and collaboration. Students take ownership of their space, their actions, and even their learning. It is important to remember, however, that teachers in these rooms are not passive or absent. They play a critical role that needs to be deeply understood and effectively executed for success to be possible.
Student Directed & Collaborative
These classrooms are marked by a blend of ideas from both theories. They could be right in the middle or closer to one or the other. Many teachers who believe in the principles found in the Student Directed theory are actually in this group because the ideals of the Student Directed theory have many practical challenges in a classroom setting.
This theory is best identified by the joint effort and joint responsibility of students and teachers. Many of the same ideas espoused by Student Directed theories are believed by these teachers as well; however, the Collaborative view is that the needs of the class are typically placed above the needs of the individual. Students are still given much responsibility but choices may be limited. Teachers include students in a number of decision making processes. They may override student ideas, though, in favor of something they believe to better meet the needs of the whole class.
Collaborative & Teacher Directed
These classrooms are marked by a blend of ideas from both theories. They could be right in the middle or closer to one or the other. Many teachers who believe in the principles found in the Teacher Directed theory are actually in this group because they desire more student involvement while still personally maintaining control.
This theory believes that students grow and develop best when they internalize rules and expectations set by adults. Behavior of students, then, is primarily the responsibility of caring teachers. When done effectively, time spent on behavior is minimal. A structured system of rules, rewards, and consequences are critical to ensure it stays minimal. Teachers set the expectations and students follow the expectations. The responsibility for decisions in the room rest solely with the teacher – though student input could be involved. It is important to remember that teachers who follow the Teacher Directed theory are not mean or cruel, cross or indifferent – nor should they feel like they need to remain distant and aloof. These teachers care deeply for their students and want what is best for them.