Marcel Proust wrote, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."  Too long we educators have talked about our "teaching."  Today, however, our testimonials need to be about "learning."  It is time for us to open our eyes to a new landscape, a 21st century classroom.  The wonderful Samuel Johnson said, "The supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things - the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the good and the genuine to the bad and the counterfeit." We will be rethinking teaching and learning here.

Pedagogy or Podogagy? Classrooms of pods? But I thought pods create chaos?

The Power of Peer Influence to Address Student Behavioral Problems


A program in which students learn in interdependent peer groups shows promise for preventing risky behaviors.


Mark J. Van Ryzin and Cary J. Roseth


May 2018


As children reach adolescence, peer groups gain a special power to influence their behavior, thanks m part to developmental changes that emphasize the vital importance of being accepted among friends and associates (Steinberg & Monahan, 2007). Groups of friends establish certain social norms, and behavior that adheres to these norms is rewarded with expressions of support and approval, whereas behavior that deviates from group norms may bring disapproval or rejection.


When group norms promote positive behavior, such as getting good grades, these peer influences can be beneficial. Unfortunately, some peer groups will take on antisocial behavioral norms that reinforce delinquent behavior. Thus, during the middle school years, teachers may notice groups of students using tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs or engaging in other risky behavior. Once these negative behavioral norms are established, they can be difficult to change. What's more, they can attract other students who are predisposed to similar behaviors into the group, a process known as homophily. When homophily occurs among bullies, for example, bullying behavior is socially reinforced, causing it to continue and even grow among group members. Research on adolescent behavior reveals that associating with the wrong peer group can put students at risk for a variety of negative long-term outcomes, including school dropout, substance abuse, and violent behavior (Farmer et al., 2003; Van Ryzin & Dishian, 2013, 2014).


Many prevention and social-emotional learning (SEL) programs have attempted to counteract negative peer influence by targeting behaviors such as bullying and alcohol and drug use, yet these programs have several weaknesses. First, research on these programs often reports small effects or no effects at all (Greenberg et al., 2003; Tobler et al., 2 000; Wilson, Gottfredson, & Najaka, 2001 ). Even if schools implement the programs exactly as specified, the benefits may be too small to justify the ongoing use of the program. Second, many of these programs are expensive and complex, requiring schools to sacrifice a great deal of instructional time. Third, sustaining these programs may be difficult, given the need to enroll new staff in official training programs and repurchase program materials or licenses year after year. Finally, many programs tend to follow a "cookbook" approach, in which teachers are required to follow a program manual word-for-word and step-by-step, which can be frustrating for teachers accustomed to a greater degree of control.


Student autonomy - but a teacher centered coercive model has worked for so long. Says who? Rethinking.

Autonomy, Belongingness, and Engagement in School as Contributors to Adolescent Psychological Well-Being

Mark J. Van Ryzin, Amy A. Gravely, Cary J. Roseth

Journal of Youth and Adolescence



Abstract:  Self-determination theory emphasizes the importance of school-based autonomy and belongingness to academic achievement and psychological adjustment, and the theory posits a model in which engagement in school mediates the influence of autonomy and belongingness on these outcomes. To date, this model has only been evaluated on academic outcomes. Utilizing short-term longitudinal data (5-month timeframe) from a set of secondary schools in the rural Midwest (N = 283, M age = 15.3, 51.9% male, 86.2% White), we extend the model to include a measure of positive adjustment (i.e., hope). We also find a direct link between peer-related belongingness (i.e., peer support) and positive adjustment that is not mediated by engagement in school. A reciprocal relationship between academic autonomy, teacher-related belongingness (i.e., teacher support) and engagement in learning is supported, but this reciprocal relationship does not extend to peer-related belongingness. The implications of these findings for secondary schools are discussed.




Self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan 2000; Deci et al. 1991) has long emphasized the importance of autonomy and belongingness to success in school. For example, high autonomy learning situations (i.e., situations that provide students with a high degree of choice and self-direction in school) have been found to stimulate student motivation, engagement, and academic achievement (Deci et al. 1981a, b; Flink et al. 1990; Patrick et al. 1993; Ryan and Grolnick 1986; Vansteenkiste et al. 2004). Higher levels of autonomy in school are also related to lower dropout rates (Vallerand and Bissonnette 1992). In contrast, a controlling approach by teachers creates a reduced perception of autonomy in students, which can interfere with performance on complex learning tasks (Grolnick and Ryan 1987).


Academic autonomy has also been found to be essential to psychological well-being (Ryan and Deci 2000). Lower levels of academic autonomy are associated with higher levels of anxiety and negative coping strategies in school, whereas higher levels of autonomy are associated with positive coping strategies (Ryan and Connell 1989). In general, increasing amounts of choice and self-direction both inside and outside of school are critical to adolescent psychological development (Steinberg 1990), and a lack of autonomy during this period can lead to various forms of psychopathology (Ryan et al. 1995) and increased participation in high-risk behaviors (Williams et al. 2000). In short, academic autonomy is an important contributor to adolescent achievement and development.


Belongingness, or the feeling of being supported and accepted by others, is also critical to adolescents’ success in school. In the literature, support from friends, peers and teachers have all been found to promote higher levels of motivation, engagement and academic achievement. For example, the number and/or quality of school friendships have been linked to higher levels of school competence, involvement in the classroom, prosocial behavior and academic achievement (Berndt and Keefe 1995; Cauce 1986; Wentzel et al. 2004). Acceptance and support from the wider peer group can influence engagement in school, prosocial behavior, and academic achievement (Marks 2000; Wentzel 1994; Wentzel and Caldwell 1997), while socially rejected students can have higher levels of academic and behavioral problems (DeRosier et al. 1994) and can be at risk of dropping out of school (Parker and Asher 1987). Finally, supportive teacher-student relationships have been linked to student motivation, engagement, interest in school, prosocial behavior and academic achievement (Roeser and Eccles 1998; Roeser et al. 1998; Ryan and Grolnick 1986; Ryan et al. 1994; Wentzel 1994, 1997, 1998).


Belongingness in school can also influence more general adjustment and well-being (Dubow et al. 1991). Belongingness becomes especially important to well-being as children enter adolescence. During this time, the ability to establish and maintain positive peer relations is linked to higher levels of sociability, perceived competence, and self-esteem, and reduced hostility, anxiousness, and depression (Buhrmester 1990). Like autonomy, belongingness in school is clearly vital to adolescents.


When assessed together, both academic autonomy and belongingness in school have been found to contribute independently to student engagement and academic achievement (Connell and Wellborn 1991; Flink et al. 1990; Ryan and Deci 2000; Ryan and Powelson 1991; Wentzel et al. 2004). These factors also independently predict psychological adjustment, with adjustment conceptualized as lower levels of psychological problems, such as emotional distress and depressive affect (Eccles et al. 1997; Roeser and Eccles 1998; Roeser et al. 1998).


Self-Determination Theory Model


Self-determination theory posits a model linking academic autonomy and belongingness in school to engagement, achievement, and psychological adjustment. In this model, the satisfaction of the need for autonomy and belongingness in the school context contributes to higher levels of engagement in school, which in turn stimulates the development of skills and abilities as well as psychological adjustment (Connell and Wellborn 1991). In other words, the effect of autonomy and belongingness on achievement and adjustment is not direct, but is mediated by engagement.


In support of this hypothesis, Connell and Wellborn (1991) presented cross-sectional evidence from a series of studies involving both primary and secondary school students. Other research has linked academic autonomy and belongingness in school to engagement (e.g., Marks 2000; Patrick et al. 1993; Ryan et al. 1994), and engagement in turn has been found to predict academic achievement and school completion (Fredricks et al. 2004). However, given that the seminal work by Connell and Wellborn (1991) was limited to achievement-related outcomes, we contend that the ability of engagement to mediate the relationship between autonomy, belongingness, and psychological adjustment must be more clearly defined by empirical evidence. We are particularly interested in the influence of academic autonomy and belongingness in school on positive measures of adjustment. The exploration of this topic is one of the primary goals of this study



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"Always it is by bridges that we live."

                                          Philip Larkin

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