Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shibaura Institute of Technology Students make more rules

Yesterday was the first days of classes for the 英語総合1A (Global Issues) and Writing 1A courses at Shibaura Institute of technology. We made some class rules together. You can see them below.

Class rules for students made by 英語総合1A (Global Issues) students:

My favourite rules from the 英語総合1A (Global Issues) class are:
  • Students should speak English Loudly
  • Students should enjoy the class
Now here are the rules for me.

My favourite rule for me is:
  • The teacher should make the tests easier.
This is an example of a negotiated rule.  Originally, this rule was, "The teacher must make easy tests." I promised to make the tests easier by preparing the students well.

Now here are class rules made by Writing 1A students. First, rules for students:

My favourute rule is:
  • Students should try to like Michael
Next are the rules for me.


I like all these rules. The Writing 1A class thought of many rules for me. My favourites are:
  • Michael must not forget to smile
  • Michael must be funny and make us laugh.
There are many examples of negotiated rules here. For example, the first rule for me originally was, "Michael must remember the names of all the students in this class." I said,  "無理!" That's impossible. So the students softened the rule. 

This task was based on a task designed by my colleague Dave Rear at Shibaura Institute of Technology. Thanks Dave!
What do you think of the class rules? Please leave a comment.


  1. It's been awhile since i've done negotiated class rules, but after being reminding by your great example here. I think I'll try them again. It's certainly an interesting task. I guess I wonder, though, about how negotiated rules like this work beyond the task itself. The thing about rules is that they're meant to be followed consistently throughout the entire course and when we mix the light hearted with the more serious. can we really do that? Of course we can, but with so many rules floating around how would you do that? A rule keeper? Rules posted in the classroom somewhere?

  2. Hi Charnelsan,
    Thanks for your comments. You make interesting observations and pose interesting questions.
    I must admit that I'm not at a stage yet where I'm able to do this with learners who are unmotivated - the ones that will often be the learners that behave inappropriately. They are also often the ones that aren't proficient enough to do a task like this. Sad, because, in theory, these are the learners that can benefit most from a bit of "ownership" in the class. I'm hoping I can find a way to give ALL my students a sense of ownership in the classroom.
    In the case of these classes, it's unlikely that I will have to remind them of the rules for them, but they might have to remind me of the rules for me. I don't have my own classroom, so I can post the rules there. Posting them on my blog will have to suffice. I might put the rules for me on my desktop.
    Thanks gain!

  3. Michael,

    Great stuff and I really like being able to "spy" on a teacher and get into their classroom! I'm nosy.

    A couple things -- one thing I always try to do when negotiating and listing rules with students is to make it a rule to always phrase the rule positively. Instead of "Students shouldn't speak Japanese" for example -- try, " Students should speak English".....etc..... This might even be a grammar activity for them, to rephrase!

    Two, did they speak in Japanese when coming up with these rules? I do think this is one time when it is entirely appropriate to use the L1.

    Great stuff, thanks for the inside look!


  4. Hi David,
    Thanks for the comment.
    I agree that rules should be phrased positively, if possible. Some of them would be difficult for my students, even the ones at Shibaura. For example, "Students shouldn't use their cell phones" Could be, "Students should keep their cell phones in their bags." There's more needed there than just changing the "shouldn't" to "should". Nevertheless, I still agree with you. It's always best to be positive.
    The students did use Japanese when they were brainstorming their rules. They aren't able to do this in English yet.
    Thanks again!

  5. ellen pham3:45 am

    First I have to say, Adorable! It is as much about the feeling, or emotional base you (all) are creating for the class, as it is about the rules themselves. Also, what insight you (all) get when you negotiate rules for the teacher, too.

    About the testing... have you tried group tests? I had a professor who did this in graduate school. It was a highly motivated group, it turned testing into a learning experience, and though I still studied/ prepared hard for the exams, it took all the fear out of it.

    He did two types, In the first type, the group (4 students, as I recall) had to submit one test. Interesting, and a big learning experience when everyone did not agree on the same answer. With the second type, which I believe was done for the final exam, we had the support of the group but could submit individual answers.

    I don't know anything about your teaching situation, Michael, ages, # of students, school policies, what exactly the students are preparing for, so I can't tell if these ideas are practical, but the process of not working alone and being able to pool knowledge really changed the character of testing in a positive way... no negatives that I can think of.

    I think much of the emotional benefits of group testing could be gotten with pair testing, which might be more practical to implement. But, contrary to general opinion, group testing produced more learning benefits than individual testing could.

  6. I like this Michael. I think it is really empowering for Japanese students, who for the most part are accustomed to very traditional student teacher roles. It lets them be active decision makers and start assuming control of their learning.
    I think it's also good as a teacher to try and see through the eyes of a student. What do they expect of us? Does what we expect of ourselves match? Finding out what they want and expect goes a long way to helping them achieve it.

    I think it also sets a tone that there are rules and expectations; in junior and senior high schools where native speakers often have no role in grading, pastoral care / disclipine, Japanese students can have the impression that foreign teachers are lax.
    Whether the negotiated rules are referred back to much again in the future or not, is not really that important. The process of doing it, I suspect is a paradigm shift for those students with a teacher centred learning outlook.