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A quiet classroom is a productive classroom!
Myth

Imagine you find yourself walking into a classroom filled with students quietly working by themselves. You stay for a little while and notice the pattern of the teacher talking which is promptly followed by students working both quietly and independently. Upon seeing this, one might find themselves thinking, “Wow! This teacher has some fantastic classroom management skills” or “How did they do that?!?” While keeping everyone quiet and focused may be a monumental accomplishment, it is essential to stop and think how this environment is benefiting student learning.

The reality is, learning is noisy!

When faced with the challenge of classroom management, there are many aspects a teacher needs to consider; but ultimately, the primary goal is to create an environment which can promote learning . Because of this, as teachers we have to put aside the stigma of keeping our students quiet as being a good thing. (Larrivee, 2008). Authors Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope share the story of Todd, a third and fourth grade teacher, “When people come into my class, they think it is too noisy...They could easily mistake noise and movement for bad teaching if they didn’t know what they were looking for.” (Kalantzis & Cope, 2011).

Noise does not mean extreme chaos or random socializing, noise simply means collaboration is happening among the students. Philosopher John Dewey comments “Not only is social life identical with communication, but all communication (and hence all genuine social life) is educative.” (Dewey, 2008). If being social is educative, it can only mean it is a way for all of us to learn. If you were look up "Learning" in the dictionary, you will find "The acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, practice, or study, or by being taught." When you take this definition and look at it in correlation with Frank Smith's classification of the classic view of learning, it is clear to see learning extends past listing, reading, and simply repeating back the information somehow. In Smiths view of learning, he states learning is “continual, effortless, inconspicuous, boundless, unpremeditated, independent of rewards and punishment, based on self-image, vicarious, never forgotten, inhibited by testing, a social activity, and growth." (Smith, 1998). That is quite a lot of responsibility for one person. Instead of solely becoming responsible for learning, why not share the wealth?

The beauty of collaboration includes having the ability to learn from others, process information, help each other, and learn new things that may have been unintentional to the original task. In an article about collaborative learning, Dr. Banerjee points out, "If everything goes according to plan, you’ll have a highly motivated and invested group of students who will take full ownership of their task. They will have a deeper understanding of the material you have assigned to them and will retain it for a longer period of time than if you had “taught” it to them. You’ll find a measurable improvement in their critical thinking abilities." (Banerjee, 2011). All of these positives have the ability to enhance the overall quality of learning both for students, and ourselves.

Looking back at story of Todd, the third and fourth grade, authors Kalantzis and Cope continue on to state, “You want it [the classroom] to be noisy … it has to be … engagement is noisy. A noisy classroom may raise eyebrows, but a quiet classroom may be one where the kids are not challenged. I mean, just because the classroom is quiet does not mean the kids are learning.” (Kalantzis & Cope, 2011). By letting our stigma of a "good" quiet class go, we can open the door for numerous learning opportunities for students of all backgrounds and abilities.


Resources

Banerjee, R. (2011). The benefits of collaborative learning. Bright Hub, Retrieved from http://www.brighthub.com/education/k-12/articles/70619.aspx

Dewey, J. (2008). Democracy and education. (pp. 6-9). United States: Seven Treasures Publications.

Kalantzis, M., & Cope, B. (2011). New learning: transforming designs for pedagogy and assessment. Retrieved from http://newlearningonline.com/new-learning/chapter-4-learning-civics/new-learning-is-noisy/

Larrivee, B. (2008). Authentic classroom management: creating a learning community and building reflective practice. (3rd ed., pp. 1-2). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Smith, F. (1998). The book of learning and forgetting. (pp. 1-2). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.