a buzz-cut classroom

What role does structure play in the learning environment?

Colin Powell says that kids need structure. He uses his military speech to distinguish proper etiquette for students. "At ease" means students can chit chat and "at attention" means perfect posture and military stance - a level of uniformity. 

His matter of fact rhetoric and austere persona demand a cut-and-dry level of attention. He says you will be amazed at how soldiers act once they trust their drill sergeant. Drill sergeants in school - I don't know how I feel about that. And I REALLY want to hear your opinion!

Children, once fed by their mothers, give the mother a respect unmatched by another. Likewise, students once fed by a teacher give respect and thats "when the education process begins," says Powell. 

Hmmmm. I have to admit, I agree there. From my experience and with other teachers and administrators I've talked with, we all admit that if you don't have a student's attention learning struggles to take place.

But, here's the gray area….Is it the teachers role to instill these military-like demands of respect. I believe it actually boils down to the structure of the learning environment. If the class is a set of 6 x 5 rows to fit 30 students, then perhaps a military-like disciplinary approach is in order to make order…and make learning. This is the learning that began before the Industrial Revolution and did very well - REALLY WELL - to make factory workers who take orders and produce product. Is this what we need students to do now?

Turns the rows into round tables, add in smart-tablets, an internet connection with a spice of personalized curriculum and then this military-like, cookie cutter, sir yes sir may not be the best disciplinary approach. 

I believe it's important to question just as it's important to listen. Powell has a very good point; a raucous class will not learn effectively. And a quiet buzz-cut classroom that doesn't ask "Why?" doesn't learn either. 

I cannot wait to hear your thoughts on this. Post links, TED talks, drop names, and let's get this conversation going. 

Thanks to Phil O'Brien from Climbing Fish for bringing this to my attention (pun intended).