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January 2011



Recent Posts



No dark sarcasm in the classroom:

The Frontal Cortex reports on an interesting study that found that the personality characteristics teachers define as creative are the same ones that make their pupils least likeable in the classroom.

Eric Barker recently referred me to this interesting study, which looked at how elementary school teachers perceived creativity in their students. While the teachers said they wanted creative kids in their classroom, they actually didn’t. In fact, when they were asked to rate their students on a variety of personality measures – the list included everything from “individualistic” to “risk-seeking” to “accepting of authority” – the traits mostly closely aligned with creative thinking were also closely associated with their “least favorite” students. As the researchers note, “Judgments for the favorite student were negatively correlated with creativity; judgments for the least favorite student were positively correlated with creativity.”

This shouldn’t be too surprising: Would you really want a little Picasso in your class? How about a baby Gertrude Stein? Or a teenage Eminem? The point is that the classroom isn’t designed for impulsive expression – that’s called talking out of turn. Instead, it’s all about obeying group dynamics and exerting focused attention. Those are important life skills, of course, but decades of psychological research suggest that such skills have little to do with creativity.

This is a classic example of the conflict where an institution that imposes strict group standards of behaviour claims to promote individuality and self-expression.

A lovely study published last year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology demonstrated how people who don’t go along with a task for justifiable moral reasons are typically rejected by the group, even when the individuals in the group might otherwise agree with their moral stand.

In other words, we like rebels as long as they are not bothering us.

Link to Frontal Cortex on ‘Classroom Creativity’.




Video Training Program Helps Teachers Handle Behavior Problems

Article Date: 09 Apr 2010 – 0:00 PDT

Behavior problems in the classroom can interfere with instruction, child development and academic achievement. Yet, many teachers do not have the training they need to deal with behavior problems. Now, University of Missouri researchers will use a $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to evaluate the effectiveness of a video training program designed to help teachers understand and react effectively to behavior issues.

“Although much is known about effective classroom behavior management strategies, many teachers are not adequately trained to deal with behavior problems in the classroom,” said Wendy Reinke, assistant professor in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology in the MU College of Education. “Many teachers have reported that student behavior is becoming more challenging, and more students with disabilities are integrated into regular classroom settings. Lack of training in classroom management is one of the biggest reasons teachers decide to leave the profession.”

MU researchers will evaluate the “Incredible Years” program that uses brief vignettes of actual teacher-child interactions to demonstrate how to manage classroom disturbances. Teachers are given an opportunity to role-play similar scenarios and to give and discuss effective classroom practices. The program promotes teachers’ knowledge and use of good classroom management practices, including effective praise, proactive teaching strategies, consistent consequences and effective reprimands.

For the project, MU researchers will examine 100 classrooms in 20 elementary schools in a large urban school district near St. Louis. They will split the classroom teachers into two groups. One group of teachers will be introduced to the Incredible Years program. The other group of teachers will continue the current training program offered by the school district.

The researchers will observe the classrooms and measure academic achievement, disruptive behaviors and prosocial behaviors, such as teachers’ ratings, to determine if there is a difference between the group that received the intervention and the group that didn’t. If the program makes a difference in classroom performance, part of the money will be awarded to expand and continue the program. Reinke hopes to sustain the program in the district by training teachers who can then share the information with colleagues.

“This unique approach for training classroom management skills hasn’t been tested as a stand-alone intervention,” Reinke said. “The grant will allow us to better understand how well the Incredible Years program works, and give school districts the opportunity to implement the program and improve student learning.”

Reinke, along with Keith Herman and Melissa Stormont, associate professors in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology, were awarded the grant, which is one of the largest research grants in the history of the MU College of Education. It also is the first grant ever awarded to a professor at MU from the IES under the Efficacy and Replication category of awards.

Carolyn Webster-Stratton, a professor at the University of Washington, developed the Incredible Years Series, which includes teacher, parent and child programs. The American Psychological Association Division 12 Task force has identified the IY Series as an effective treatment for children with conduct problems.

Kelsey Jackson
University of Missouri-Columbia


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