Some things happen above surface, others below, not only metaphorically speaking. This is true for classroom practices as well. There is an overt world of interaction and communication, and a silent, implicit, and covert interplay of carrying out tasks and talks. Practices are not straightforward and up-front but negotiated and constructed (1). All the time. A lot depends on the gatekeepers, the networked key persons in the classroom. The teacher is probably one of them (provided the authority of the classroom rests with hem or her) and furthermore a few ‘star’ pupils. Together they determine quite conspicuously the classroom ecosphere of rules and conventions. This silent social contract, however, has a major impact on effort given to tasks, motivation to participate, and intention to learn. Even up to a point that some pupils are denied full access to the ‘community’.
Of course it has been researched what makes classrooms a place of learning and participation, and what hinders it. A recent study on mathematics learning in Estonia comparing classroom practices with those customary in Russian related schools showed that teacher’s positive support together with a structured classroom atmosphere made the difference in learning outcomes between both groups.
There was, however, one significant finding, not so much highlighted in the article itself that attracts attention. It is the negative impact of indefinite, instable teacher behavior. As if when a teacher is self-doubting about where to go and what to do a classroom ecosphere is created that it ruled by dissimilar conventions and expectations (2). At the surface classroom practices would appear to be functional and targeted but under the surface (some, many, a lot of) pupils have lack of confidence and miss a clear task orientation. It is not always what it seems, certainly when diving a bit deeper into what rules classroom behaviors. It definitely will show when longer being immersed into a class.
Reelika Suviste, Noona Kiuru, Anu Palu & Eve Kikas (2016) Classroom management practices and their associations with children’s mathematics skills in two cultural groups, Educational Psychology, 36:2, 216-235, To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2014.993927