Welcoming Students With a Smile
A study published in 2007 that was widely recognised suggested that teachers welcoming students as they entered the classroom led to an increase in academic engagement that was 27 percentage points higher. What’s the issue? There were only three pupils involved in it.
Now, a new study that is far larger and more reputable has validated that claim: Greeting students at the entrance establishes a good tone, and it can improve participation and lessen disruptive behaviour. The study included 203 students who were spread throughout 10 classrooms. A sense of belonging can be fostered in students by spending a few seconds greeting them as they arrive at school. This provides them with the social and emotional support that helps them feel invested in their learning.
The opening few minutes of class are typically the most chaotic because students are transitioning from busy areas such as the corridor or the playground to the less hectic environment of the classroom. If disruptions are allowed to continue unchecked, they can become difficult to handle, but taking a proactive approach to the management of the classroom can help kids become focused and ready to study. Instead than dealing with disruptive behaviour as it occurs, preemptive strategies—such as greeting students at the door and modelling good behavior—reduce the incidence of such behaviour as teachers and students work together to develop a positive classroom culture.
According to the findings of the research, when teachers started class by greeting students at the door, academic engagement increased by 20 percentage points and disruptive behaviour decreased by 9 percentage points. This could potentially add “an additional hour of engagement over the course of a five-hour instructional day,” as stated by the researchers.
The researchers used a random assignment process to divide the ten middle school instructors they interviewed into two groups. The first group kicked off class by mentioning their students’ names and greeted them with a nonverbal greeting such as a handshake or a nod as they entered the classroom. The instructors also made use of precorrective comments, which are reminders of what should be done before the beginning of class. For example, one of the teachers would say, “Spend the next few minutes reviewing what we discussed yesterday.” If a kid had difficulties with their behaviour the day before, the teachers would frequently give them a positive message to urge them to better for the next day.
The second group of teachers participated in training sessions on classroom management that were provided by their institutions; however, they were not provided with any particular instructions for how to begin class.
Academic engagement, which refers to how attentive students are to their teacher or classwork, and disruptive behaviour, which includes speaking out of turn, leaving one’s seat, and distracting classmates, were both factors that researchers looked at during their observations of classrooms in the fall and spring. Both indicators improved in classrooms when teachers greeted their pupils, demonstrating what many educators already believe to be true: that it is equally as vital to satisfy the academic demands of kids as it is to address their emotional needs.
The authors of the study write that their findings “suggest that teachers who spend time on the front end to implement strategies such as the PGD [positive greetings at the door] will eventually save more time on the back end by spending less time reacting to problem behaviour and more time on instruction.” “The results from this study suggest that teachers who spend time on the front end to implement strategies such as the PGD [positive greetings at the door] will eventually save more time on the back end.”
Why do cheery greetings seem to be so effective? According to the authors of the study, when educators employ teaching methods such as these, they contribute to “the establishment of a positive classroom climate in which students experience a feeling of connection and belonging.” “Taking into consideration the findings of recent studies, which show that a sense of social belonging is often a by-product of accomplishment drive, this is of utmost importance.” To put it another way, when students get the impression that they are valued in the classroom, they are more ready to invest their time and energy into their education.
As long as students are comfortable with physical contact, nonverbal interpersonal exchanges such as a pleasant handshake or a thumbs-up can help make greets feel more genuine and establish trust. Other examples of such interactions include high-fives and giving the middle finger.
ADDRESSING UNDERLYING CAUSES OF MISBEHAVIOR
When one student exhibits disruptive behaviour, it has the potential to swiftly spread to other students and become a larger problem. And while the majority of educators do their best to react quickly, they frequently find that punishment is counterproductive. According to research, making an effort to correct the inappropriate behaviour of students may be fruitless because such an effort can result in resistance and even more inappropriate behaviour on the part of the students.
“Despite overwhelming evidence that such tactics are useless, many teachers rely on reactive approaches for classroom behaviour control,” the authors of the study add. “Despite overwhelming evidence that such strategies are ineffective, many teachers rely on reactive methods.”
Therefore, teachers should ask themselves, “How can I create a climate in the classroom that discourages misconduct in the first place?” rather than, “How can I address students’ inappropriate behavior?” Low-level disruptions and disengagement have less to do with the student and more to do with aspects that the instructor may influence, such as the teaching style and the use of stimulating activities. This is the case in many circumstances. For instance, one piece of research found that students were more likely to remain focused on the task at hand when teachers encouraged them to participate in classroom activities rather than lecturing to them. [Citation needed]
When teachers focused their attention on the positive conduct of students and avoided rushing to correct minor disruptions, not only did students have better behaviour, but their mental health and ability to concentrate also improved. This was the finding of another recent study that provides additional insights.
BENEFITS FOR TEACHERS, TOO
Not only is it beneficial to the students, but it can also be beneficial to the teacher’s mental health to have a classroom environment that is welcoming. 53% of educators report feeling stressed as a result of students’ disengagement or disruptive behaviour in the classroom. The following are examples of serious consequences: According to the findings of a study conducted in 2014, “teachers report classroom management to be one of the greatest concerns in their teaching,” which frequently results in teacher burnout, job dissatisfaction, and early departure from the profession.
All too often, teachers spend time and energy responding to misbehaviour with corrective discipline, such as telling students to stop talking or giving them a time-out. These may work in the short term, but they can damage teacher-student relationships while doing little to prevent future misbehavior. Research shows that it can be beneficial for student and teacher well-being to instead focus on creating a positive classroom environment.
The takeaway: Starting class by greeting your students at the door helps set a positive tone for the rest of the day, promoting their sense of belonging, boosting their academic engagement, and reducing disruptive behavior.