Following the children’s lead and balancing time within the classroom schedule between child-directed and teacher-directed activities are not uncommon to those responsible for children’s learning in early education classrooms. Intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to expand their understanding of ideas and concepts important to early childhood development. However, many times as teachers prepare to begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
RSP as defined by CLASS is “the degree to which the teacher’s interactions with students and classroom activities place an emphasis on students’ interests, motivations, and points of view and encourage student responsibility and autonomy.” Keywords within this definition that can help teachers understand the importance of RSP in all types of interactions are degree, student, and classroom activities. Teachers know that joining children’s play during free choice provides easy opportunities to follow their lead and add to the depth of the activity through questions and participation. The same can be said for teacher-directed activities. By knowing your students and walking through the activity, anticipating student responses and level of engagement, the teacher’s ability for flexibility within the activity and opportunities for student expression of their ideas increases. The degree to which this occurs in teacher-directed activities may look different than child-directed activities. However, what this looks like also relies on the understanding of perspective. Defining perspective as a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view: true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion (New Oxford American Dictionary), demonstrates that perspective involves attitude and regard. So you may be wondering, “What does this look like?”
Let’s take a look at a typical teacher-directed activity. During small group, the teacher has planned to use pictures of animals to have students classify whether the animal is a farm or zoo animal. The teacher holds up a picture of a lion and the students identify it as a zoo animal. The teacher holds up a picture of a horse and the students identify it as a farm animal. The teacher continues until all the animals have been identified. Some children start making animal sounds and the teacher immediately asks the children to stop with a statement such as, “We are only deciding where the animals live, not making noises!” The children comply and continue. Leading the activity in this way, the teacher sticks to her agenda, accomplishing her goal of classification of the animal types. However, she shows little flexibility or student focus, one of the indicators for this dimension.
Taking this same activity, a teacher can increase the degree of RSP, while still meeting the goal.
This time, the teacher tells the children they are going to look at some pictures of animals and decide whether they live on the farm or in the zoo. The teacher passes out a picture to each child, asks them to look at the picture and think about where it lives. She tells the children they will be going to the dramatic play area if they think their animal lives on the farm and to the block area if they think their animal lives in the zoo. As the teacher calls on the children to identify their animal, she asks them about why they think it is a farm or zoo animal (Flexibility and Student Focus and Student Expression) and the children go to the designated areas (some making animal noises and moving like their animal (Restriction of Movement). One child has a picture of a duck and says, “Zoo.” The teacher asks why he thinks the duck should go to the zoo. The child responds that he went to the zoo and there were ducks. The teacher tells the child he can decide (Support for Autonomy and Leadership) if his duck is a zoo duck or a farm duck (Flexibility and Student Focus). The child quacks and waddles to the block area (Restriction of Movement). The goal of classification is achieved when there are two groups of children at the end of the activity.
The degree of RSP is increased due to this teacher’s attitude toward and regard for the importance of child input within the activity. The second scenario provides evidence of all the indicators included in the RSP Dimension!
What does this mean?
Remembering to focus on Regard for Student Perspectives may mean letting go of pre-planned expectations to incorporate ideas offered by students. But, it can also level the playing field when teachers take cues from their student’s ideas. It sets the stage for student engagement and learning, positive relationships and increases opportunities for effective interactions.