Excerpted from TEACHING MARTIAL ARTS by Sang H. Kim
Deft management is an integral part of teaching. How you manage your school atmosphere determines how your students perceive your teaching skills. A well managed classroom is identified by four characteristics.
- Students know what they are expected to do and are generally successful at it.
- Students are busy in teacher led activities.
- There is minimal waste of time, confusion or disruption.
- A no-nonsense, work oriented tone prevails but there is a relaxed pleasant atmosphere. (Brophy, 1979, Good, 1982)
The first three are directly related to your ability to accurately set clear objectives and to plan a course of action. However, number four is perhaps the most difficult and deficient area for martial arts instructors. Many instructors create a work oriented tone in their school, but few can combine it with a pleasant atmosphere. Often the atmosphere is tense and harsh. Punishment is meted out frequently and junior students are subjected to the demands of their seniors without regard for their welfare.
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This is an atmosphere that must be consigned to the history books if the martial arts are to become an accepted means of education. Successful instructors are the ones who make training enjoyable and rewarding for students. Enjoyable and pleasant should not be confused with fun. They connote a feeling of wanting to attend class and of truly liking training as a means of self-fulfillment. This is why pursuits like chess and piano playing are so widely practiced. They require hard work and dedication, but they also provide the practitioner with a pleasant sense of accomplishment.
So how can an instructor provide his students with an atmosphere they will like and respect. Basically there are four types of class management techniques. (Michaels, 1977)
- Individual competition - Only a small number of students can gain the greatest rewards and only at the expense of others. Example: Only the top five test applicants are promoted to black belt and all others fail.
- Individual reward - All rewards/achievements are independent of other students. Example: Students test for black belt based on their level of skill and all students who meet the set criteria pass.
- Group competition - Groups of students compete with other groups for available rewards. Example: The group who learns their form the fastest receive a rest period.
- Group reward - Rewards are given on the basis of the quality of the groups' performance independent of other groups. Example: All groups who learn their form during the allotted time receive a rest period.
Which structure you implement depends on the results you are trying to achieve. Cooperative learning (group reward and individual reward) leads to success in classroom tasks, a high degree of commitment to learning, curiosity about new subjects and high intrinsic motivation.
On the other hand, competitive learning (individual competition and group competition) leads to low expectations for success, low commitment to learning, lack of persistence, a winners vs. losers atmosphere, the avoidance of failure through nonparticipation, low effort and low levels of aspiration. (Johnson & Johnson, 1974, 1978) Competitive learning should only be utilized when all members of the class are able to compete effectively. If some students are obviously disadvantaged, they will become easily discouraged and resent your teaching methods.