As children mature from toddler to adolescent, they often value peer model more than parent model. However, they still look to others to guide their behaviors. Learning from positive peer behavior and interactions is one of the strongest arguments for inclusion and heterogeneous grouping in classes. Strouse et al.’s (2018) study indicates that no significant learning occurred when the parents did not provide appropriate social cues such as modeling responses to the prompts, how and what to gaze at, and attention points. Yet schools don’t take always these factors into consideration when grouping students into classes. Schools often prefer grouping students homogeneously as it decreases the demands for teachers to create different lessons to meet the needs of a variety of academic levels within the same class. However, the toddlers in the study benefited from an additional individual modeling thinking-processes and behaviors along with the teacher’s instruction. In the same way, providing the struggling student with peers who model appropriate communication, critical thinking, and self-regulation allows the struggling student opportunities to imitate those behaviors that will make them better students.
Of course, one difficulty in implementing this model is finding the right combination of high performing, average, and struggling students in one class. Another challenge is determining if value added from peer interaction outweighs the loss of a teacher providing targeted instruction. In other words, because of the challenge of individualizing instruction for a variety of academic levels within the same class, a teacher will often develop instruction aimed at reaching the average, or worse, to the lowest achievement level.
Application to Supervisor Relationships
Effective techniques used by the co-viewing parent and teacher in the study are surprisingly similar to those strategies that are effective between administrators and adult learners during mandatory professional development. To successfully launch new mandatory initiatives, I have found that a supervisor must be present to provide context. That is, the supervisor must introduce and emphasize that the information being presented is important (i.e. set up the learning environment). He or she must provide social cues such as modeling attention and interest. The supervisor should also provide verbal cognitive support such as asking participants questions and giving them positive feedback in order to maintain adult interest.
Perhaps the intent of Strouse et al.’s (2018) study did not have anything to do with adult learning. However, I found many similarities between my actions as a teacher, principal, and coach and the actions performed by the co-viewing parent. Perhaps when adults are not driving their own learning experience and are not authentically engaged in learning (as is often the case with mandatory professional development), they require the same learning supports toddlers do.
· All learners can benefit from an online environment that includes opportunities for the learner to be guided and questions to be answered in real-time. This can be accomplished by setting up collaborative sessions using applications such as Facetime or Zoom.
· Students need positive modeling of best practices; peers can be the best models. Teachers embarking on the on-line learning platform can benefit from learning from more proficient peers, too.
· Learning outcomes improve for both adults and adolescent learners when there is a guiding presence that informs the learner that a topic is important and provides guiding questions regarding focus points.