M4U3A2 – Malin Matus – Creating High Performance Learning Environments

The following are three analysis of the videos; Roller Coaster Physics: STEM in Action (Teaching Channel, 2012), 3rd grade Chinese–math class.avi (Chen, 2011) and Whole Brain Teaching Richwood High – The Basics (roxishayne, 2011). For each video I will analyze the; academic expectations, the behavior expectations, the norms and procedures, as well as, my personal reaction to the teaching scenario.

Roller Coaster Physics: STEM in Action

Academic Expectations
I believe the teacher has high expectations for her students in this scenario.  She communicates to them using scientific language. She expects them to know, understand and use physics and engineering terminology. Some of the vocabulary used to describe the designs I didn’t even know. The students are also expected to participate in rigorous design process. They must explain their reasoning to her on design modifications.

Behavior Expectations
Most certainly the students are held to high behavior standard. They are required to collaborate on their designs and be responsible for specialized roles which contribute to the success of their project. The teacher says that when they collaborate they are expected to respect other peoples opinions and idea and they are expected to express themselves clearly.

Norms and Procedures
It is a bit harder to get a sense of what kind of norms or procedures are used. Definitely, there are some behavior based norms, respect to others for example. The teacher mentions that she usually starts off the lesson with a Chime where one group member begins a recap of the previous days work and the other group members then respond.

I think this STEM lesson is superb. It has so many elements of good teaching practice; collaboration, problem solving, blended learning and multiple intelligence activation. I really like how these kids are being given, essentially a real world problem to solve and are taught to solve it as seasoned engineers would. It’s not dumbed down for them, it challenges them, it makes them think. I also, really like that failure as a roadway to success is incorporated because a growth mindset is essential to becoming a good problem solver.

3rd grade Chinese–math class.avi

Academic Expectations
Due to the language barrier it is difficult to get an idea of the teacher’s academic expectations. However, in an article on Chinese math lessons Wei (2014) states, “In order to understand multiplication, pupils have to memorise the multiplication rhyme” and this can clearly be seen in the video. Wei, goes on to say that Chinese math education is rigorous in terms of expecting the students to master content and mathematical language. Furthermore, because of societal values there are high expectations for children.

Behavior Expectations
This very short video makes it hard to assess what behavior expectations the teacher has for the students. I can not say whether or not they could be considered high as we only see her interact with the students for a couple of minutes. However, she certainly does expect them to listen to her quietly and to listen to a peer answer quietly as well.

Norms and Procedures
The times table chant at the beginning of the lesson is obviously a common procedure as well as the chant and clap routine that I’m guessing is a transition signal for the students. Again a very short clip with out any explicit explanation of the lesson make it difficult to know what other norms or procedures may be in place.

There wasn’t much lesson in this video to form an opinion on. The lesson looks pretty standard to what you would expect after reading the Wei article on Chinese math instruction, teacher driven direct instruction. I liked their clap-chant though that seemed fun. However, if it were me teaching math to those kids I’d be doing it differently. Either in small groups or using stations.

Whole Brain Teaching Richwood High – The Basics

Academic Expectations
In this short video it is difficult to get a sense of whether or not the teacher had high academic expectations for her students. This is because, hardly any content is shown in the video. However, I can extrapolate from the fact that she has the students seated in small groups, that she has them teaching each other content and engaging in pair work, that she does have fairly high standards.

Behavior Expectations
I believe that the teacher in the video has high behavior expectations for her students. She uses the Whole Brain Teaching method and she has her students well trained to follow the procedures she has set. They give her their attention when she calls for it and they promptly transition to work when she signals. To me this is a sign of high behavior expectations.

Norms and Procedures
She has many norms and procedures. Respect and dignity for all is one of the norms chanted by her and the students. She has several different procedures in place from the Whole Brain Teaching method; class-yes to call attention to her, teach-ok to have the students repeat content to each other, scoreboard, and various cheers to create positive feelings.

My first thought was “Wow! this teacher is using Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) with grade 9 students and it’s working”. Of course, I am likely seeing the best of her classes and a lesson that worked out well but I was surprised that 9th graders seemed happy to be doing class-yes and other “kiddie” things. I use WBT techniques in my ESL classes so I feel a kinship with this teacher and I enjoyed seeing her students smiling while they learned. I think WBT is an effective way to teach and manage a class.

Summary – Setting Up a High Performance Learning Environment.

To begin the vital statistics of my students and classes. I teach both 7th and 8th grade English as a second language (ESL) to Japanese students at a private middle school in Tokyo, Japan. I have three levels of English students my 7th grade SA students who are the most proficient in the 7th grade. For my SA classes I have 20-30 students in a class. I also teach 8th grade A and B courses. The As are the middle proficiency group in the 8th grade and the Bs are the lowest proficiency group. For my A classes I have about 30 students per class and for the Bs I have about 15. All the ESL classes are team taught with a Japanese teacher of English and we divide up the 5 English periods a week between us in the following ratios by level. For SA classes its native English teacher to Japanese teacher of English 3:2, for A classes its 2:3 and for B courses it’s 1:4. As can be seen from these ratios the most proficient students is where I have the most chance to influence the learning environment. So for this exercise I will focus on my SA class.

Compared to the three learning scenarios I watched how would I set up my learning environment. Most certainly I would avoid the direct instruction approach in the Chinese math lesson. Of course some direct instruction is necessary but I think it is complete death to student interest and at the middle school lesson if I just lectured from the front all class I would only put them to sleep. Ideally I would aim for the collaborative approach seen in both the STEM class and the WBT class. Every term students have to complete an English presentation and I want my students to collaborate in small groups to tackle a more realistic English situation they may encounter in their lives or in pursuit of their future goals. To foster a learning environment where students can take on such a challenge and succeed I have three key action points:

  1.  Develop a classroom norm of mutual trust and respect. As done in the STEM lesson and the WBT lesson students will be taught how to communicate with respect to the teacher and one another. This is then reinforced with WBT techniques of the rule chant and other procedures.
  2. Foster a growth mind-set for learning English. Teach the students it is okay to fail and show them the value of sustained effort. This can be done with activities like  Q & A time challenges where a pair of students has to each answer a set list of questions, with their own answers in a given time limit. However, as they practice they will be rewarded for reducing the time it takes to complete. This will demonstrate how sustained effort leads to positive results.
  3. Make things fun. In both the STEM and WBT videos the students had a smile on their face while they were learning. I would strive to set activities that, although challenging, are fun and provide a sense of accomplishment when finished. Some silly and fun success chants like WBT’s “10 fingered woo” are a good addition.

This concludes my action plan for setting up a high performance learning environment. Think very key norms and procedures need to be in place for success to happen and those must NOT be compromised.  On the other hand an overly strict and ridged environment stifles fun and I am a big believer that fun is a far better motivational tool than fear of getting a poor grade.


Chen, C. (2011, June 13). 3rd grade Chinese–math class.avi , Retrieved June 16, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7LseF6Db5g

Roxishayne. (2011, May 31). Whole Brain Teaching Richwood High – The Basics Retrieved June 16, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iXTtR7lfWU&feature=youtu.be

Teaching Channel. (2012). Roller Coaster Physics: STEM in Action Retrieved June 16, 2017, from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/teaching-stem-strategies

Wei, K. (2014, March 25). Explainer: what makes Chinese maths lessons so good? [Web log post]. Retrieved June 16, 2017, from http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-makes-chinese-maths-lessons-so-good-24380


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