How to Motivate Staff through Performance Observation
Students putting their heads on desks is a sign that classroom and student management by the teacher needs to be addressed. “You cannot coerce a child to sit-up and work,” some may argue. If this scenario is the case, certainly something else more motivating for the students to persevere in completing class assignments should be introduced. “The Hawthorne Effect,” the alteration of behavior by the subjects . . . due to their awareness of being observed, lends support to classroom and student management.
Research shares teachers’ complaints that their students will drift into idleness if teachers are not watching the students while they work. “Some apathetic students will venture to fall asleep,” teachers lament, producing sounds of snoring with the entire class giggling when I voice “sit-up!”
Usually teachers do not concern themselves with students drifting into never-never land the first few days of school, a sign that students are giving the teacher time to prove his or her worthiness of teaching. Students will notice the extent they are being watched and will calculate the number of times they can swindle their way into inattentiveness.
Applying the tenets of the Hawthorne Effect, introduced decades hence, postulates individuals will perform better if they believe they are being watched. The Hawthorne Effect can facilitate classroom instruction if teachers adopt a strategy of withitness in the classroom. Simply walking the room, being in the moment, and allowing students autonomy would be enough initially to engage the students.
Walking the room adds proximity to classroom management, allowing the teacher the opportunity to spot engagement in instruction, extending immediate feedback of direction or compliment: “Sara, you have placed a comma where a semicolon belongs,” or “Good job, Sara, with your incorporation of the semicolon.” Savvy teachers can keep themselves moving around, looking left and right, turning forwards and backwards without displaying any movement of awkwardness.
Other students will notice that the teacher is watching students complete their class work and will be motivated to carry on to keep from being singled out. Being in the moment while students work enhances the Hawthorne Effect in motivating students to perform.
Some teachers may counter that inevitably there will be students who will not work regardless of the teacher working the room, being in the moment. If this scenario is a problem, the teacher may extend autonomy to the students to complete the assignment in his or her own way.
Autonomous learning is extremely instrumental in motivating students to work because students can create lessons in ways they understand. Autonomous learning could also be helpful to teachers, relieving some of the monotonous grading that comes with same styles of work presented by students.
Watching students manage their behavior and providing immediate feedback may reinforce continuance in students remaining on task. The Hawthorne Effect brings with it many opportunities for teachers to add feedback based on their observations, including vis a vis facial expression, commenting on assignments, providing a private discourse.
In essence, teachers may control classroom management by observing their students and by affording students the opportunity to complete assignments in their own way. Many motivational theories exist that can aid classroom instruction, and the ideas behind the Hawthorne Effect is one of those theories that work.
Below are ideas to help teachers manage their classroom and student behavior:
(1) Set rules up front so that students will know what to expect.
(2) Alert students that they will be monitored for completing assignments.
(3) Support the idea of autonomous learning where possible.
(4) Walk isles, stopping to share immediate feedback.
(5) Present immediate grades (next day if possible).
(6) Record passing grade on assignments submitted so students know their efforts will be appreciated.
7) Provide praise to individual students in front of their peers and simultaneously encourage other students to do their best.
(8) Ask students to sit-up where appropriate and steer them back on task.
(9) Speak with students privately about off task behavior, and contact their parents forthwith to ask for their support.
(10) Google The Hawthorne Effect to determine other avenues about if that may aid classroom and student management instruction.
Cynthia Mathews, Ed.D. (2020)