Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Whole Brain Teaching - Guff or Great?

In my constant quest for classroom management techniques, I stumbled across Whole Brain Teaching. WBT is a structured classroom management approach which has had great results.

Immediate pros of WBT:
  • Structured - The drilling of routines and commands is hugely helpful to students, particularly those in my area of specialisation (pre-school to Grade 3).
  • Energetic - the gestures and sillyness of it keep students engaged, which is very difficult to do
  • Free - The materials (videos, articles and ebooks) are all free. They aren't trying to make money from educators. I was able to legally read their primary manual this weekend.
  • Easy to understand - By this, I mean that the many Youtube videos demonstrating WBT in the classroom are hugely helpful in seeing the techniques work in practice. Their techniques are not complicated and I feel any class I go to could use them.
  • Flexible - WBT seems as if it could work on students of many age groups, the founder of WBT uses his techniques on college-age students.
Immediate cons of WBT:
  • Their explanations of 'why' their techniques work feel very pseudo-sciency. The fact that it is named Whole Brain Teaching, to start with, makes many student teachers I talk to skeptical. I don't need to buy into their 'reason' for why tightly-executed, entertaining classroom management works, but still. I don't feel completely comfortable with using a system that may be based on pseudoscience- see Brain Gym.
  • By watching all of those WBT videos, I saw that often the students seem robotic/hypnotised. The Youtube comments tend to agree with me, though they are definitely not a source of real insight. You see students who are watching the teacher, following and matching her actions and even voice patterns correctly. It looks eerie, at times, from the outside. 

I've thought a lot about using WBT as the method of improving my classroom management during my next placement at a school, which is happening in about a month or so.

Obstacles to using WBT in my placement

The biggest one would be my host teacher. They might be fine with the idea of me using WBT, but not willing to use it themselves. The inconsistency might not let WBT work, it needs to be used daily. Alternatively, they might hate the idea entirely and not let me use it- which is totally their right as the head honcho.

Another is that I wanted to incorporate WBT into my research project, which I have to frame around, "How can I...?". My idea was to phrase it as, "How can I use WBT techniques to improve my classroom management". The concern is, though, that is WBT hasn't got many specific academic studies which were done on it (I've found one so far, and it was published in a WBT manual so might not even count). If it fails I may not have much of a research project. On the upside, perhaps it could make it a very interesting topic to present!

A great video of WBT, there are piles of them on Youtube (search "Whole Brain Teaching", add grade level if desired):



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