Thursday, October 18, 2007

Use of Peer Pressure

Using peer pressure has been an important tool in my class for behavior management. Here are ways that I have used it.
 No one leaves this room until all the trash is picked up. One student says,” But that isn’t my trash!” I don’t care whose trash it is, it needs to be picked up and no late passes will be given. Take it up with the person whose trash it is when you leave class. After that day, every class period, all the trash is picked up before the bell rings.
 If the whole class has their homework for the day, I will put a marble in the jar. When there are 27 marbles, we will watch a movie. Students start applying pressure on the ones who didn’t do their homework.
 Give points to the class for good behavior (Define what you consider good behavior beforehand). At the end of the quarter, the class who has the most points, will get a pizza party.
 If no one goes to time out this morning, then I will add 10 minutes to recess.
 If everyone makes a 90 or higher on the test, I will give everyone a piece of candy. If one person doesn’t make it, no one gets any candy. (Kids start encouraging each other to study and even help each other.)


Michelle said...

Dear Pat,
I am compelled to first mention how much I enjoyed your blog. After reading this post on peer pressure, I browsed through your blog and found it very engaging. Your blog highlights issues in the education of children that I find very noteworthy and I am grateful people, like yourself, who are taking time to comment on these critical issues. Too often people in your position, who have the experience and first-hand knowledge, find themselves stretched too thin to take the time and energy to provide insight into issues that plague society as a whole. However, that being said, I must say I felt your post on peer pressure was slightly off target. By this I mean that I agree there is such a thing as positive peer pressure, but I do not believe it is the place of teachers to attempt to impose this on their students.

Positive peer pressure, in my opinion, is a natural evolution among children who feel a competitive camaraderie with one another. Children on sports team who race with their friends to see who is faster or a group of friends who study for a test together and then compare test scores later, these are groups in which the natural path might be for the individuals within these groups to feel the pressure to push themselves to be better. But your post seems to point to a much more artificial form of positive peer pressure, and it is this contrived environment that leads me to conclude this may not be the best way to motivate your class. I believe in positive reinforcement just as much as the next psychology major does, however I cannot shake the feeling that this system you have designed might lead to children being targeted, perhaps even outside of class, for ruining the reward for everyone.

This system may in fact be working for your classes; however I feel the pressure put upon children should not come from an authority figure. Imposing rules which are designed to single out the child who failed to complete an assignment for reasons the child will most likely not disclose is setting up a system in which children point fingers and potentially harass others because their rewards is based on the action of others. I also would be remiss not to mention that these reasons could be as simple as the child choosing to play video games instead of completing their homework or as drastic as having an abusive parent and a horrifying home life, and there is no sure way to tell which is which when the child fails to turn in their assignment. My position is that true positive peer pressure comes from within the group of peers and should not be superimposed upon a group, and especially not from an authority figure. I thank you for your post as it was quite compelling and I look forward to reading more from you.

loonyhiker said...

MMR: Thank you so much for your comments. I feel that by using peer pressure in this way, it is a real life situation and I've been lucky that it has worked for me over 29 years. It has turned out to be a positive teaching tool for me because they will find situations like this in the real world and it teaches teamwork. They will find that this happens many times in many workplaces. When I've had my students evaluate me at the end of every year (on the computer and anonymous), this has never been a concern for them so I have been fortunate that this has worked for me. I am hoping that some of my posts will give teachers some ideas to try but it might not work for all teachers or all students. Thanks for reading my blog!

ng2000 said...

Valuable resource of peer pressure news summaries:

loonyhiker said...

ng2000: Thank you for the link and I look forward to checking it out.

Anonymous said...

I would have to say that I agree with MMR. There is a very thin line between peer pressure and bullying and it is difficult for a teacher to monitor the situation and make sure it's on the right side of the line if they are the perpetrator of the pressure in the first place.
Also, as a former student of a misguided fourth grade teacher who touted the powers of positive peer pressure I will say that it is easy for it to get out of hand. In that event a single isolated student learns what it is to stand at the front of the room having an entire class at their back watching the teacher scream at them for making poor choices.

Like I said. The line is fine, the scars are lasting.