Behavior influencing techniques

Prevention is indeed better than cure. It avoids waste of energy, time and resources. Prevention allows teachers to nurture positive working relationships with students. Students respect teachers who take necessary steps to prevent misbehavior rather than waiting to react toward them when they do surface. Reacting to misbehavior is risky as it could lead to loss of control and encourage impulsive actions. Nasty battles between teachers and students could be averted if the former were more proactive in their approaches to dealing with classroom issues.

Teachers could set up preventive measures that would effectively guard both themselves and their learners. These strategies are not difficult to follow. With practice, they would become an integral part of teaching-learning processes. If applied consistently, these strategies would yield positive outcomes and nurture internally driven behavior in students.


The most useful of these preventive measures is proximity. Teachers who use the principle of proximity to their advantage experience fewer disruptions. Proximity requires little time and effort to implement. It accomplishes what shouting and screaming at students do without having to make a scene or leaving deep psychological scars. It is a soft, but powerful way of telling students that you are aware of what is happening. It is a diplomatic way communicating that you are watching their behavior and do not tolerate any misconduct.

Moving toward a student who does not pay attention during a lesson and quickly moving away from him is an example of using proximity to one’s advantage in teaching. The key is not to be present near a student until everyone realizes that he is in trouble. As long as the concerned student is aware that the teacher is responding to his misbehavior, the goal of proximity has been successful.

Interest boosting

Another technique that works almost all the time with all levels of learners is interest boosting. I still remember when in Year 10, I skipped school and locked myself in the study to complete the chemistry textbook in one day. I did it with ease and understood the contents therein without any problem. I topped the class in the subject for the next two years until graduating from high school. However, I was not excelling in other subjects.

The difference was caused by the level of interest in the subjects taught. Our hemistry teacher inspired interest in the subject by holding high expectation, relating lessons to real-life experiences, believing in every student and their potential to succeed, and treating everyone kindly and fairly. Once interest in a subject increases, there is no time to waste in misbehavior. Most disruptions correlate directly to students’ feeling of boredom with subjects and/or teachers.

Hurdle helping

Students display inappropriate behavior when they feel a lack control over what happens in the classroom. They do so to express frustrations. This is particularly true if the perceived lack of control springs from one’s inability to cope with lessons. Hurdle helping technique could be employed when students feel overwhelmed by an academic task. Assisting students with a particularly difficult task redirects their attention to the task itself. Instead of giving up and engaging in unnecessary behavior, students try harder and smarter, recognizing that they are not facing the difficulty alone.

Program re-structuring

When someone does a stand-up comedy, he has to constantly gauge his live audience and be flexible in effectively sharing jokes to amuse people. The same applies to teachers. If one is not careful to continually gauge students’ responses, they may run the risk of losing their attention and willingness to learn – which spirals into uncontrollable behavior. In teaching, being flexible simply implies a teacher’s willingness to change anything that does not appeal to young learners; and creatively replacing what does not work with what does!

Real-time feedback

One of the major weaknesses of teaching according to the old paradigm is the lack of planned time (during instruction) to continually gauge learning outcomes through effective feedback mechanisms. Hence, a teacher would go on teaching a lesson for a full period and not know how much of learning had taken place. Without checking for student understanding, it is difficult to know for sure if instructional objectives are met.

Hi-tech solution

For those schools that have got the money, classroom or audience response systems are readily available to efficiently elicit instant feedback from students. A teacher who uses clickers for example, could frequently check for student understanding while instruction is in progress. He does so without interrupting the overall flow of learning.

The teacher simply flashes a quick review question through the main computer. Student view the question in their clicker screen and input their answers. The question is related to the content being taught; hence the system allows the teachers to elicit student feedback in real-time. In a split of a second, the teacher views how many students understood a concept. He also gets a glimpse of how many of them find the concept difficult. This information is projected either in table or graph format.

Unsophisticated alternative

What if a school does not have the money to invest in expensive gadgets like the clickers? Good news! There is an alternative to clickers. Although the effect of the two may vary significantly, they accomplish the same purpose.

The turn-to-your-neighbour strategy is an unsophisticated way of eliciting feedback from students to gauge their understanding at any given time during instruction. The teacher simply builds the procedure into a lesson at different intervals in the course of instruction. Students are asked to review a concept with another student in the classroom, usually the one seated next to him. It must be emphasized that students share their understanding about what is being taught in their own words – and not merely reflect what is given on the board or textbook. This also helps them to personalize knowledge, which enhances assimilation.

From time to time, the teacher could ask students to work with someone he has not greeted for the day, or someone who was born in the same month, etc. – obviously, this would consume more time.  The key is to be creative, without taking away much instructional time.


The advantages of the above-mentioned approaches are many. While using clickers provides visual evidence of student understanding, turn-to-your-neighbour method allows for active participation of students, in relatively comfortable environment, to explore and gauge their own understanding of contents discussed.

Both strategies could be used as powerful diagnostic tools to instantly improve teaching. In other words, teachers could apply corrective measures to move in the right direction in their own teaching while a lesson is in progress (real-time evidence-based instruction). The diagnostic nature of these approaches makes them effective damage-control measures.

Students feel safe and more willing to communicate how much and how well they are learning when asked to provide feedback through these two strategies. These methods are non-threatening and allow students to explore their own comfort zone and stretch it gradually. Without such an aid, more than ninety-five percent of students in a typical classroom do not provide any kind of feedback about their learning. Most of them do so because of emotional reasons – fear of being wrong and unappreciated.

Both clickers and turn-to-your-neighbour could be easily built into lessons as they do not take much time to implement. However, both elicit the kind of feedback that would enhance teaching and make everyone in the classroom happier.

Psychology of relocating: How to help children cope and excel in a new environment

Relocating from one place to another may not be a big deal for parents (or adults in general), but it has a tremendous psychological impact on children. Adults usually celebrate relocation because it involves job promotion, improvement in working conditions and a better prospect for career growth. One would not go through the ordeal of uprooting if it did not have a significant payoff.

Difference in psychological response

Adults, having had their needs for belonging and love fulfilled through marriage and/or having a more stable companion, move on to actively pursuing achievement and growth needs. They invariably pay little or no attention to other basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, sex, love, etc. Adults tend to take these for granted as they are readily available and/or purchased as long as one has a stable income.

Children on the other hand, experience just the opposite. For them, achievement is a secondary need. In fact, many children do not understand why adults are overly engrossed in thinking about and doing everything they can to succeed (Note: children’s perception of “success” as modeled by parents is having lots of money and being able to buy whatever one desires, when he/she wants them).

Hence the motivators that encourage parents and children to adjust and function effectively in a new environment are different. Often, parents expect children to fit in because they could do so. On the contrary, parents should understand that the psychological experiences of their children are considerably different from their own. In fact, children perceive past, present and future realities differently. Sometimes, there are no obvious or clear cut explanation to what and how children think and feel. As mysterious as this may sound, parents could still learn to understand the psychological dynamism experienced by children in such a circumstance.

Existential origin

Relocating is one of the most devastating events in a child’s life. It could be perceived as a big blow that shatters all that he/she has believed in thus far. Children spend a lot of time formulating their own understanding of everything around them, including people and how they relate to them as well as each other, hence establishing and believing in a unique sense of meaning of life. Relocating creates a situation in which a child’s existing meaning of life comes under question. It takes a considerable amount of time and experiencing life in a new physical and social context before he/she comes up with another unique sense of meaning. This sense of meaning is a pre-requisite for effective functioning in all other areas of life.

Since a number of variables are involved in the process of establishing a stable sense of meaning of life in a new environment, children could easily spiral into experiencing loneliness, depression and apathy. As the severity of the situation gets worse, the child withdraws from people, activities and school. He starts living in a different world, construed purely in his mind, often unchecked against reality. He questions everything new and may become skeptical about all that used to be meaningful. Consequently, the child develops irreversible thinking patterns that debilitate normal functioning. While parents are pre-occupied with achievement and career advancement, the child is pre-occupied with emotional insecurities to the extent that it affects his or school performances.

How to help?

Parents and teachers of children who have relocated need to be more deliberate in making the transition smooth. Often, adults talk about making the transition smooth, but hardly do anything concrete to understanding the psyche of children before executing a series of actions. Parents and teachers could help to put this off at an early stage if they give serious thoughts to some of the following guidelines.

Be there, literally!

Give the child a sense that “we are in this together!” Children who feel that they are not being dumped in a new environment feel more connected to their significant adults and may cope with changes more realistically. Their feelings about the change should be explored on a regular basis. Questions should be asked about how they are coping with the new arrangements. They should be given opportunities to indicate if there are things that should be done differently. Listening is the first step to alleviating the dire effects of relocating. The second step requires that parents and teachers use the information they gather from children to respond more constructively to their psychological needs in a timely manner.

Making friends

Adults should see to it that children do make friends in the new environment. Sometimes, simply telling the child, “go make yourself some new friends” will not suffice. Parents and teachers should carefully select and introduce potential friend(s) to the child being relocated. This is done by matching the child’s personality patterns with that of other children in the school and/or neighborhood. The potential friend(s) should have common values, attitudes and preferences if positive connections are to be made. Ultimately, every relationship forged with a new friend should boost the child’s self-image. This is accomplished when the new friend(s) consistently provide favorable feedback and keep away from passing demeaning comments. This gives the child the courage and cognitive balance needed to form his or her new sense of meaning of life.

Getting the priorities right

Lastly, adults should acknowledge and tell children that achievement is not more important than psychological and social adjustments. This is a concrete sign of empathy. Children appreciate it when parents and teachers understand what’s important to them. There should be no pressure put on the child to perform and achieve before he or she gets back the lost psychological and cognitive balance. Once proper psychological adjustments are made, the child is back on track to excel at home and school.

Educational Videos Resources

Posted with permission from author, Edward Roy Krishnan, PhD to advocate for engaging teaching methods and inspiring students to love learning

Educational Videos

Are you tired of picking through youtube and other video sharing sites to find quality films to use in a classroom setting? is a brand new site that features over one thousand short educational films covering a variety of interesting topics including the environment, art, science, history and more. Teaching your students about Photosynthesis? Watch the Photosynthesis Song!

The videos are each handpicked by our team in order to find the best films in terms of content, length and entertainment value. Each video is organized by its subject matter and categorized, making it easy to find quality films fast.

Be sure to also check out the recently launched “How-To” category, which features fun, instructional videos that teach various skills including How to Levitate.

More than meets the eye

One may express amusement at the thought of the existence of a true correlation between physical appearance and/or demeanor and students’ academic achievement. While it lacks sufficient empirical evidence, the claim may hold some truth. Good looking students do perform better at school, and conversely, students who under-perform are often untidy and “poorly maintained.”

Interpersonal attraction

The connection between physical appearance and/or demeanor and academic achievement is indirect, in that there are other variables at work to make the former possible. Being humans, teachers are naturally inclined to be attracted to good looking students. This attraction results in increased attention, frequent constructive feedback and role/power sharing by the teacher. Consequently, these positive behaviors increase a student’s motivation to learn and achieve.

Obviously, this is not the situation we want to have in schools. Every student, whether “attractive” or not, has the right to having undivided attention, constructive feedback and opportunities for role/power sharing from the teacher. Most students under-perform because one or more of the abovementioned elements is missing in the learning process. It is a teacher’s primary duty to provide such an experience to students. Making it happen for all students is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

Bias and favoritism

Despite the fact that humans naturally succumb to personal biases resulting primarily from interpersonal attraction, teachers need to be conscious about their responses to every child. Responding to people based on “attraction-at-first-sight” may work for others but should not be entertained in a learning environment. When a teacher does not deliberately shun such an experience, he or she invariably engages in favoritism, which may manifest itself through various forms of discrimination that arise from stereotypical thinking and prejudiced feeling toward students.

Favoritism is a quality that shatters the trust students have in their mentor. Learning is severely affected when there is no or lack of trusting relationship between students and teacher.

Overcoming natural tendencies

One simple way to work against the attraction-at-first-sight effect is to get to know students by spending more time with each one of them (within instruction and school time). This works because it is not just a matter of mental choice but involves concrete actions toward removing whatever stereotype or prejudice a teacher may hold toward a student or a group of students. All of us are familiar with the experience of not liking someone at first sight; however, as time passes and we get to know that person, we suddenly realize that our pre-conceptions based on our attraction-at-first-sight instinct were wrong. The same could be applied with students. Research in social psychology have established that familiarity with people facilitates and enhances interpersonal attraction in a significant way.

But where does a teacher find time to get to know more about each student when they are handling twenty to thirty students at one go?

The 2×4 technique

The 2×4 strategy allows a teacher to interact with a pre-selected student for two minutes, for four consecutive weeks. This is ideally done just before the class begins or ends. Each day of the week could be dedicated to one child. The teacher could cover a total of five students in each 4-week slot, and then move on to the next set of five students. The teacher should use his or her judgment and ethical guidelines to choose appropriate subjects to talk about, giving emphasis to getting to know students better.

The 2×4 exercise would allow the teacher to check for and clear misconceptions about students, particularly the ones the teacher was not keen on knowing in the first place because of the attraction-at-first-sight effect. More importantly, this strategy allows both the parties to identify similarities and celebrate the same to become a closely knit learning organization.

Why teach with heart?

Surveys done by educational researchers in the field of social-emotional well-being indicate that students want to succeed at school. They want to avoid bad company, attend and be on time to all classes, have nothing to do with drugs, despise delinquent behaviors, make teachers and parents proud of their accomplishments and respect the elders. Most importantly, every student surveyed expressed a genuine desire to get good grades.


These are what they said they want. However, the picture we see in schools is different. Why? Research further indicate that most students get distracted from their inner conviction of what they should and should not do at school because of how they are treated.

Students who do not find learning meaningful will eventually be put off by schooling and start engaging in unhealthy behaviors. They do this to justify the act of being in school by force. To reduce the effect of cognitive dissonance (a phenomenon when one behaves contrary to what he/she thinks and feels, causing intense disturbance in thinking and behavior), they convince themselves that if they don’t go to school to study, they would do so for some other reasons. Most often, the reasons are counterproductive, and sometimes, damaging to life and future.

Re-defining teaching

This is why teachers need to take their jobs seriously. Teaching is not merely passing down information. It is passing down information to humans who yearn to become better and possibly the best. Every time I come across an actor being recognized as the “chosen one” by a “wise person” (in movies), I think of teachers having to do the same with each and every child, on a daily basis.

Each student is chosen to do something important in life. Teachers need to look beyond lesson delivery, to the immense possibilities and potential of every child. Lessons taught from this point of view will not just inform students, but inspire them to continue nurturing their quest for knowledge and practical wisdom.

Belief affects practice

Most teachers do not think this way. Many are comfortable continuing in their belief that only a few are destined to greatness; others will have to be satisfied with mediocre, if not shoddier future. As long as teachers view students this way, schools will continue producing ill-adjusted individuals who are utterly confused about life and everything they hold dear. A major chunk of student populations in all schools around the world experience dissatisfaction and hate learning on the grounds of emotional conflicts and frustrations.

In other words, students fail not because they lack the intelligence, but because they choose to rebel against a system that do not cater to their emotional as well as cognitive needs. Obviously, when a teacher thinks that only a few would eventually succeed, he/she would invest most of his/her energy and time on these students – and knowingly or unknowingly neglect the rest. If students are not cognitively challenged, they become bored, and this affects their emotional senses – and soon, they are spiraling downward at the speed no one could imagine.

Change we need

If we continue this way, we would have a world that is inhabited by predominantly insensitive, irresponsible, and selfish individuals, and a handful of brilliant individuals who will constantly try to protect themselves from the former. This is not the aim of education. Education is supposed to make everyone productive and happy. It is supposed to help us celebrate shared values and appreciate others.

The way we teach today determines the kind of world we would have in the future. Teachers do not teach for students to pass tests, but for them to become better humans. As the famous 20th century educator Dr. Haim Gnott puts it, “Fish swim, birds fly, and people feel,” – our primary duty then, is to teach with heart.

Responsible use of research findings

Almost all educational research focus on identifying predictors of academic achievement. This is so because success in its simplest form has always been defined as how well an individual does at school. Although assessment of academic achievement has evolved over the years, the fundamental principle behind what it is, how it is expressed, and why it is used remain unchanged.

Limitation of data

Researchers use school grades in various forms (e.g., letter grade, pass-fail, GPA and CGPA, percentage, percentile ranks, etc.) as primary data to test a number of hypotheses and statistical prediction models. Examples of hypotheses would be, “There is a significant difference in academic achievement of students studying at private and public schools,” and “Academic self-perception, goal-valuation, attitude toward teachers and classes, attitude toward school and motivation predict academic achievement.”

A close examination of these hypotheses indicates that both heavily rely on obtaining valid data on academic achievement of students, which is the dependent (or outcome) variable. To test these hypotheses correctly and make sensible use of the findings thereafter, a researcher has to make sure that data collected on academic achievement truly reflects students’ actual achievement levels. Otherwise, the outcome of the study is just plain useless.

Extraneous variables

From a research perspective, data is valid when it is collected from individuals who undergo similar experiences and possess as many comparable characteristics as possible, i.e., if a researcher wants to study the effect of cooperative learning on third graders’ end-of-unit performance in science, he must make sure that all the participants in both experimental and control groups are exposed to the same unit of instruction, are of the same age, come from similar socio-economic background, have no additional tutorial after school, do not watch educational videos that would enhance their understanding of the unit, etc.

If these are not kept constant, then the eventual differences in the end-of-unit science test scores cannot be attributed to the use of cooperative learning strategies alone.

In other words, when a researcher is unable to correlate academic achievement with a variable of his interest with certainty, he is allowing an uncontrollable number of other factors to become potential predictors of achievement. These other factors are known as extraneous variables. In reality, no degree of caution could be taken to minimize or remove extraneous variables. This is an inherent weakness in all educational research.

Re-visiting hypotheses

The first hypothesis cannot be tested using data collected from existing school records (e.g., previous semester’s or academic year’s achievement records). This is so because there are huge differences in assessment practices in private and public schools. Hence if one discovers a significant difference in achievement between students studying in private and public settings, it is highly possible that the difference is not due to actual difference in how well students perform in these two different settings. Rather, the difference may be due to dissimilarities in assessment practices (one would assume that private school teachers would use more authentic assessment compared to their public school counterparts).

The second hypothesis attempts to find out which of the five psychological factors significantly predict academic achievement. However, differences in scores on all five variables could reflect the extent to which students of differing language skills understood and interpreted the items. Hence, instead of measuring psychological characteristics as truly experienced by students, the researcher has systematically measured their language abilities, reducing internal and external validity of the study.

Teacher’s responsibility

Teachers must be careful how they use information derived from educational research. Instead of focusing on findings, conclusions and recommendations, they must pay extra attention to the overall soundness of research (how the research was done, how and what type of data was collected, etc.), before determining its usefulness. This explains why research design is a core subject in all teacher training programs.

Wild-goose chase

According to Peter Airasian, the author of educational assessment textbooks, “assessment is the process of collecting, synthesizing, and interpreting information to aid classroom decision-making. It includes information gathered about pupils, instruction, and classroom climate.” I particularly like this definition because it is comprehensive. When taken seriously and applied in schools, this approach to assessment produces a significant difference in the way students learn and continue learning.


Limited understanding about the role of assessment in the processes of teaching and learning has created situations where teachers provide letter grades and percentage scores without explaining the former. Parents and students are left to interpret and evaluate how well learning took place on their own. Parents usually end up labeling and mislabeling children as being stupid, smart, or average. Hence the actual aim of schooling, which is to ensure that every student learns, is not achieved when assessment is done in such a manner.


For any assessment to be valid and useful, it should indicate what students have learned and how well they have learned it. Essential aspects of learning must be clearly explained and elaborated. More importantly, assessment results should be used to hold constructive discussion sessions among teachers, between teachers and parents, between teachers and students, between administrators and teachers, and between administrators and parents. These sessions allow everyone involved in the processes of teaching and learning to take responsibility and engage in positive actions to increase achievement levels. Without such sessions, school-wide testing and results reporting are vain attempts.


This is the first step in the assessment process. Most teachers are trained in constructing assessment tools. However, not all teachers know how to construct valid tests. A valid test is one that accurately measures learning. Tricking students with questions that cover contents outside of class scope may sound fun, but should be avoided by all means as it injures the overall credibility of a test. Some teachers feel proud when students fail their test – they think that the subject matter is hard and their teaching is complex – what they don’t realize is that they have failed in making learning happen! Hence students’ failures in tests often reflect poor teaching and/or use of invalid assessment tools, NOT students’ ability to learn.


Testing is just one type of assessment. There are other types which may include projects, oral presentations, journal entries, portfolios, group investigation, etc. Good assessment of learning requires a balanced measurement of performances on various assessment types to accurately reflect the diverse ways students’ master a particular body of knowledge.


Scores don’t mean a thing if not meaningfully interpreted. Every score tells a story – story about the journey of a child in the process of learning. Good interpretation leads to complete understanding of a child’s ability. Sadly, this is one aspect of assessment that is hardly covered in teacher training. It is the last chapter in most assessment textbooks and professors skim through the same due to time constraints. In my opinion, all textbooks should start with this topic. Teachers need to start with the end in mind if they were to succeed using assessment results effectively.


Assessment results are supposed to improve teaching and learning. Teachers should use assessment results to reflect on and improve teaching practices, pupils’ learning experiences, overall classroom climate and how these interrelate. Spending extensive time conferencing with students and parents, engaging in lengthy discussion about achievement scores and presenting definite plans to celebrate strengths and remedy weaknesses are some ways to accomplishing this. Additionally, teachers could report mastery of learning outcomes along with letter grades and percentage scores to enhance parents’ and students’ understanding of assessment results.

Bridging knowledge

One way to remember facts better and faster is to connect them with other more familiar objects and events. From a neuroscientific point of view, this is helpful because it involves leveraging on brain cells’ immense capacity to interconnect with one another. This implies that learning of one fact can be enhanced by connecting it to another related or unrelated fact. The physical make-up of the brain allows for this to take place without any problem.

Additionally, people prefer to work on things that they already know than things that they are unaware of. It is common for people to reject new ideas simply because they do not know enough about it. All these go to show that it is educationally sound for teachers to teach new ideas/concepts by connecting them to existing ones, particularly the ones students readily identify with.

Teaching with analogy, TWA

Teachers naturally use analogies when answering student questions – e.g. when I teach the difference between zero-order correlation coefficient (relationship between two variables without the effect of a third variable removed/controlled) and partial correlation coefficient (relationship between two variables when the effect of a third variable is removed/controlled), I tell students that it is similar to looking at the quality of relationship between a couple (two variables) in the presence and absence of a mother-in-law (third variable).

When I provide this analogy, the difference between these two types of correlation become clear and it is easily recalled the next time students need to use the concepts to interpret relationships between variables. Also, notice that I used an analogy that invariably creates excitement among people because everyone has something to say about the topic. This adds to overall eagerness of students to learn concepts.

It helps to bring in the actual object a concept is being compared to – e.g. when teaching the human eye, its parts and functions, it is advisable to use TWA with the aid of an actual Single-lens Reflex (SLR) camera. When connecting an idea with an event, it is helpful to re-enact the event in the class and discuss how the event and its elements connect to the idea being taught.

Additional advantage

Utilizing TWA strategy allows students to engage in higher order thinking skills such as comparing, contrasting, analyzing, interpreting and synthesizing – they do so without much prodding by teachers. In other words, they learn to think critically in a natural way.


Almost every concept or idea taught could be connected to another object or event in life. However, the key is to connect new learning with things that students are familiar with and passionate about.

For this purpose, teachers need to know their students well. Personally, I do so by keeping track of what makes students tick at any point in time. Watching movies that they watch, playing games that they play and reading books that they read – could all contribute to this end. While arguably silly, these are some ways to get close to the hearts of students in order to reach their minds.

For example, I use Power Puff Girls cartoon characters to illustrate to student-teachers about the weakness of traditional education – i.e. the disproportionate head-to-body size indicates that traditional education developed only the head (the girls over-sized heads), but not the body and heart (unusually small bodies).

When teaching about the brain, its parts and functions, a teacher could bring in a brain model and ask students to compare each region and its functions to a factory that produces a variety of “cool stuffs” under one roof. Allowing students to figure out similarities among elements of the brain model and a factory encourages them to take responsibility for their own learning and make it a highly personalized experience.

Leveraging group processes

For many teachers, dividing a class into small groups and ensuring high degree of engagement in group tasks indicate successful implementation of co-operative teaching methods. This is a simplistic view of the whole phenomenon. Lack of proper understanding of group dynamics lead to situations where only a few students benefit from co-operative learning assignments, one or two outspoken students dominate discussions, inferior quality products are produced, and hostility prevails due to misunderstanding (negative group dynamics) among peers.

An effective implementation of co-operative teaching procedures requires not only the technical know-how of applying them. More importantly, teachers must know how to deliberately leverage on principles of group processes that determine the eventual success of group work. Students cannot be expected to get together and work on producing high quality learning products if they are not made aware of the social-emotional consequences of working with their peers.


A typical group work setting involves five psychological stages, namely, forming, storming, norming, performing, and self-renewal. While most people are unaware of their existence, these five stages manifest themselves in a variety of ways in different classroom situations and contexts. The individual and collective experiences of group members at each stage determine success or failure. It is also important for members of the group to move from one stage to another, without skipping or failing in any one.

Usually, teachers assume that successful groups accomplish their tasks well because they have no problem forming and performing. Contrary to this belief, groups only succeed when they go through the complete circle of the five-stage process. This is the reason why students should not be rushed when they work in co-operative groups.


At the initial forming stage, group members need to feel that they are accepted by others. Teachers need to be careful with group compositions, particularly if students are allowed to choose their own members. Normally, high performing students tend to team up with others with similar abilities. This should be avoided because it does not represent real-world experiences which are characterized by high degree of diversity.

Teachers need to appropriately mix students to form balanced groups. The first stage is the most difficult to pass because students from different backgrounds, abilities, preferences and expectations learn to trust and accept each other in a fairly short period of time. This is an important milestone to cross – once successful, the next four stages can be achieved fairly easily. When group members do not feel accepted, the resulting performance suffers.


Small group members who feel accepted proceed to discussing about ideas that relate to the task. This involves perspective taking, agreeing to disagree (dissolving differences), taking turns, listening with respect, playing distinct roles and sharing responsibilities. If unsuccessful, the group will be characterized by high level of hostility among members, power struggles, domination of roles and dissatisfaction with division of duties.


Once differences are settled and division of roles and responsibilities are accepted, students in small groups proceed to creating a work culture that defines their unique individual and group identities. Although a group is made up of individuals, norming allows them to become united. A united group is able to pursue academic goals more effectively than a disunited one.


If a group passes through each of the above-mentioned stages successfully, they would have little or no problem performing the assigned task. The quality of performance is dependent upon the collective effect of all the stages on individual members of the group.


Lastly, giving students an opportunity to reflect on their individual as well as collective contributions to the group is vital to ensure continual improvement. Students could be asked to reflect on the quality of learning products (outcomes) and interpersonal interactions. Ending co-operative learning sessions without this stage is like having a good meal without dessert.