Behave yourself

This is number 19 in my series on learning theories. I'm working through the alphabet of psychologists and theorists, providing a brief overview of each theory, and how it can be applied in education. In my last post I featured the work of Carl Jung and his theories of synchronicity and archetypes. In this post, we will explore the work of Marie Jahoda on ideal mental health. As usual, this is a simplified interpretation of the theory, so if you wish to learn more, please read the associated literature.

The theory

What is normal? We all have opinions on this, and these are usually based upon our own unique and subjective experiences. When students behave badly during lessons, everyone is affected. Behavioural management can take up more time in some lessons than teaching. Normal behaviour (read 'acceptable') is therefore something all educators have a vested interest in, and the causes of bad behaviour have become the focus of a great deal of educational research. Some of the answers come from psychological research. Psychologists such as Marie Jahoda were interested in researching the characteristics of 'normal' human behaviour. Jahoda specifically focused on what became known as ideal mental health. She proposed 6 characteristics of normal behaviour:

  • Efficient self perception
  • Realistic self esteem and acceptance
  • True perception of the world
  • Self direction and productivity
  • Voluntary control of behaviour
  • Sustaining relationships and giving affection

How it can be applied in education

The above listed characteristics seem intuitive, but teachers need to be aware of them and their effects on learning. Children need to feel that they belong and are accepted. Teachers should be vigilant to the possibilities that some children may feel as though they are on the periphery of the group and that they don't feel welcome. This may be because of other children's behaviour, but it may also be because the child has a negative self perception or a lack self esteem. Much can be done to improve this, including teachers encouraging children to integrate into the group, meet incremental challenges, succeed and gradually build on their own self-worth. Children naturally and actively seek out friendship, and are happier when engaged in a circle of relationships with other of their own age group. Teachers should be aware of this, and the negative as well as positive aspects of relationships, and their effects on self-esteem. Often simple solutions such as the configuration of tables and chairs in the classroom can optimise good behaviour, promote useful collaborative learning relationships and largely eliminate the marginalisation of individuals.  

Self direction can also be encouraged through the inclusion of student centred approaches to education where children take more responsibility for their own learning. There are more tools and technologies available to teachers than there have ever been, which if used appropriately can promote children's productivity. Learning through making and building is becoming an important component of active learning, and children naturally want to create their own content, whether it is drawings, models and paintings, or blogs and videos.

Previous posts in this series:

1.  Anderson ACT-R Cognitive Architecture
2.  Argyris Double Loop Learning
3.  Bandura Social Learning Theory
4.  Bruner Scaffolding Theory
5.  Craik and Lockhart Levels of Processing
6.  Csíkszentmihályi Flow Theory
7.  Dewey Experiential Learning
8.  Engeström Activity Theory
9.  Ebbinghaus Learning and Forgetting Curves
10. Festinger Social Comparison Theory
11. Festinger Cognitive Dissonance Theory
12. Gardner Multiple Intelligences Theory
13. Gibson Affordances Theory
14. Gregory Visual Perception Hypothesis
15. Hase and Kenyon Heutagogy
16. Hull Drive Reduction Theory
17. Inhelder and Piaget Formal Operations Stage
18. Jung Archetypes and Synchronicity

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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Behave yourself by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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