Peer-orientation in schools

I have recently submitted speaking assignment 2 devoted to my experience of attending the 9th NIS international research-to-practice conference. While speaking about my general impression of the conference I also talked about the ideas of students’ peer-orientation and its implications in education introduced by Gordon Neufeld, a Canadian developmental psychologist. In this blog I would like to continue this topic and expand more on what teachers can do to prevent negative consequences of peer-orientation.

As I have previously explained peer-orientation is the process of children revolving around each other, or, in other words, the situation where students become more attached to their peers rather than their family members. The problem with peer-orientation is that being less attached to their families, that is a natural source of care, and instead orienting on their peers, children find themselves in a competing rather than caring environment. This environment makes the children more vulnerable to anxiety, suicide, frustration, drugs and bullying, which, in its turn, hinders academic achievement. Another significant implication for education is that no matter how good the teacher is, peer-oriented students tend to follow their peers instead of their teachers, and thus gain less from academic learning than they possibly could.

Neufeld argues that to prevent the negative consequences of peer-orientation and to establish the leading role of the teacher, student-teacher relationship should be cultivated. For this purpose, Neufeld suggests teachers to use his model of the primary instruments of attachment, which includes three concrete steps: collecting, bridging and matchmaking.

The first step is collecting, or establishing positive and friendly relationships with children. During the class, the teacher can collect students’ eyes and see that there is eye contact between the children and the teacher. Smiling and nodding is another technique used in collecting. The teacher starts to smile and nod to collect student smiles and nods in return. Special individual greetings are also of use during this stage. With shy students the psychologist suggests collecting ears, or to make sure that the students is connected to the teacher through listening to him or her.

Bridging is the technique used for maintaining the connection with students when separated with them. To make the students feel more secure and safe during the time the teacher and the students do not see each other, the teacher bridges the times of contact by saying when the students will see him or her. This is very close to what mothers do. They say: “I am always going to stay your mom” or “Will see you in the evening”.

Finally, matchmaking is establishing new connections using the ones you already have. Teachers can connect students to students, teachers to teachers, parents to students, parents to teachers or vice versa.

The argument here is that using these three simple steps allows teachers to improve the learning environment for the children and, by doing so, make the learning process more productive.

What do you think of the idea of peer-orientation and the techniques to combat its negative impact on students’ learning abilities? Do you agree that competitive environment is destructive or are you in the opposite camp seeing the competition as the driver of the progress? How important is teacher-student relationship in your eyes?

Photo credits to: http://www.vibs.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/children-600×400.jpg

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “Peer-orientation in schools

  1. Dear Sasha, thanks for this engaging and informative post! I agree that peer-orientation is very common among teenagers nowadays and I suppose there are some reasons for this issue, such as parents are too busy with earning living that little time as well as energy can be devoted on their children; digital world has stolen much of time from both parents and children. These factors contribute to the alienation and distant relationship among them. After reading your post, i have searched for Neufeld’s talk online and have learned some solutions to the problem. Parents should be conscious and responsible for the mutual relationship, and created a family environment in which children can really feel at home, relaxed, not-defensible, and feel easy to share their secrets without worrying criticism from parents. More importantly, parental love should be expressed by parents through paying more attention on their chilren in order to avoid their children falling in the “attachment hunger”. Anyway, your post has offered me interesting knowledge about parenting, and i really appreciate that!

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  2. Dear sashaxxxx, thank you for your post! However, after reading it I had mixed feelings about the approach and the problem itself. When children become too attached to their peers and less to their family members they suffer from anxiety, their academic performance decreases and so on… But I was surprised to see that among all the approaches there was nothing about parent-teacher cooperation. As I see this problem, it is more about the family environment than peers. I believe that having healthy family relationships solves many children’s problems or at least empowers them to cope with them better. So I wouldn’t think that teacher can play a crucial role in this. On the other hand, I should probably follow Sharapat812’s example and search for some more information on that and maybe it will give me more understanding of the issue. Thank you for your informative post! It has definitely given me some food for thought!

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    1. Dear @mariaminu, you are right saying that parents are highly responsible for making closer relationship with their children and in this way establish comfortable environment for the children to develop. And Gordon Neufeld indeed talked about this in a separate session that preceded the one that was devoted to peer-orientation. Regarding your comment about the role of the teacher, I believe the teacher is the agent who works within school to prevent peer-orientation and has to make the children less peer-oriented and more teacher oriented. Teacher-student relationship are more family-like in terms of its hierarchical nature. Children do not feel the need to compete with teachers but instead receive care and support from them

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      1. Now it makes sense for me. My research is about family language policy and I now wonder how families solve the problem of peer-orientation and how it is reflected in their daily communication. I will try to find more Gordon Neufeld’s works. Thank you!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your post! I think that healthy relationships among peers, teachers, and family play an important role in education. I would like to highlight the importance of teacher student relationships. Positive relationships between students and teaches might be extremely beneficial at all levels of an education, within the classroom and across the school environment as a whole. The positive teacher-student relationships can raise the learners’ self-esteem and can increase their engagement in the classroom. I liked the presentation of Gordon Neufeld who have presented a valuable information on how the educators and learners can experience these benefits with the use of various methods that include communicating positive expectations and demonstrating caring within the classroom environment.

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  4. Thank you, Sasha, for your interesting post. I would like to answer your second question about the competitive environment in the classroom.
    I assume that the competitiveness of students during the class practice has more drawbacks than benefits. Firstly, it interrupts the learning process overall, secondly, it can negatively affect the psychology of students since they tend to compare themselves with their peers. We have to be aware that each student is unique and has different abilities and skills and if someone learns faster or better than others it does not necessarily mean that others have to be same or better. It is just matter of personality and identity of the students. Thus, I suppose that each student deserves individual approach and we should not compare them with their peers relying on our subjective opinions.

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  5. Dear @sashaxxxx thank you for your interesting post. The term peer-orientation that you brought up made me think of the students of boarding schools that spend most of their times at school returning to home only at weekends. It will be logical to assume that those students are more peer-oriented since they are surrounded by their peers all the time. But does that automatically mean that they grow up in a more competitive environment and, thus, are more inclined to anxiety and stress? If yes, I wonder how the teachers of boarding schools such as Kazakh-Turkish lyceum in Kazakhstan deal with this issue.

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    1. Dear @ariyavvv, Gordon Neufeld also referred to children in boarding schools as those that are disconnected from their families. I believe you are right when saying they are the ones who experience peer-orientation the most. Curious about Kazakh-Turkish lyceums as well. @yassawi859 might have the answer

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