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