Let's start with a greeting.
Hello! Bonjour! Ciao! שלום! Hola! 你好! Kia ora! 안녕! Hallo! Привет! Hi!
Welcome to the first post from Meet Me in the Gym. Through this and future posts, we hope to provide you, the teachers and practitioners, a resource of practical solutions for incorporating more research-based practices into your classroom.
Often, the hurdles to access research are difficult for those outside of academia. Academic journals often have paywalls (which aren’t cheap and few school districts pay for). Free sources like google scholar can be muddied with articles that aren’t even close to the topic area and can be difficult to navigate—and that’s if you have the right search terms. Once you’ve gone the lengths to find the article and battled the Black Night of Google (“it’s just a scratch. I’ve had worse”), it’s often riddled with industry jargon and contains few practical immediate takeaways.
All of this effort is on top of the full schedules of assessing, planning, teaching, mentoring, coaching and the million other tasks that educators, especially physical educators, are asked to do each day. And that is where we hope to help. Each month (and maybe more frequently in the future), MMitG will breakdown 1 or 2 research articles on a similar topic, giving the most practical bits. That way, you can take the information to your classroom knowing there is evidence to support what you are practicing.
Now it should be stated that not all research is great, some can be pretty bad, and just because it is “research” doesn’t mean that it is necessarily the best or most effective method to use. Yet, by looking at the research about the tasks that teachers do each day, we can be a little bit more confident in the possible outcomes.
I hope with this post and future posts, you will follow along and be able to pull out a nugget of information that would be helpful or beneficial in your classroom …
… and since today is our first post, we will start with a greeting.
Now, I am sure most of us have seen this past around social media:
… or this:
… and this:
… and especially this:
Each of these example is amazing and heartwarming. It reaches to the core each of us because, in a small way, every one of us wants to be acknowledged during our day and made to feel welcome.
… and guess what, it’s research-based.
Yet, as a physical educator, you might wonder how you can implement this into your teaching practice. Recalling my past life as an elementary physical educator having 700+ students across 3 schools, there is no possible way to remember all those unique handshakes… I have trouble most days remembering my email password. Also, as a physical educator, we may only have 30 with the class that week; so time is very precious.
Don’t fret though, according to the research, you don’t have to greet every child uniquely—you simply have to greet them. According to two research articles by Allday and colleagues, by greeting children at the door there will be increases in both on-task behavior and speed to task engagement.
Allday and Pakurar (1) using a single-subject, multiple baseline design demonstrated increased on-task behavior of three middle school students with histories of off-task behavior. On average on-task behavior during the first 10 minutes of class increased from 45% to 72% after the addition of the teacher greeting the students at the door and providing one positive statement, such as “I like your new shoes” or “I’m glad you’re here”.
“No specific scripts were given because of the need for this interaction to be perceived by students as sincere and consistent with the setting.” - Allday & Pakurar, p. 318
In a single subject design, it is important to note, that there are a small number of participants; yet, there is a very detailed account of how the intervention impacts each participant. A multiple baseline design, staggers the implementation of the intervention for certain participants, so that the recorded evidence further isolates any impact shown by the intervention, in this case, a teacher providing a greeting at the door (it’s important to note that these children were not all in the same class, and therefore would not notice that other children were receiving greetings when they were not). As seen in the figure presented in the article:
Its clear to see increases in on-task behavior occur after the greeting; however, the increases were not entirely universal, as Jon’s on-task during baseline overlaps greatly with the phase of greeting.
Even more powerful is Allday and colleagues (2) study that looked at the speed (or latency) to task engagement; which, in the time-constrained world of general and adapted physical education is paramount to the success of a lesson. In this second study, Allday et al. again used a single-subject, multiple baseline design to look at student latency to on-task appropriate behavior, including 2 high school students and 1 middle school student with a teacher reported history of higher rates of engaging in disruptive behaviors. Using a similar procedure as before, teachers were instructed to greet students with they name and a positive statement to encourage task engagement, such as, “Hi Joe, I am glad you are here! I appreciate you being prepared to work!” As before, the simple greeting encouraged on-task behavior and, in this instance, a rapid transition to engagement.
“Participating teachers anecdotally noted the ease of the intervention and its clear impact on the students’ behavior.” - Allday et al. (2011), p. 395
It’s very clear to see that for each student, time to on-task engagement decreased rapidly after the addition of a greeting at the beginning of class. In the case of Bill, his latency to task decreased almost 3 minutes. When considering that a physical education class may only be 30 minutes, that is 10% increase in possible instruction time.
When we consider the potential for this research, there are some potential limitations and hesitance to its use. One, both studies only included a handful of students and therefore make it difficult to suggest that this strategy will work with every child. Two, these were both done in academic classroom settings, not the gymnasium. There may be built-in advantages and disadvantages of a gymnasium that may change this outcome. And three, this intervention did not increase on-task behavior to 100% nor decrease latency to 0 seconds.
However, considering the children included and the massive amounts of “other stuff” that affects student behavior, adding a simple, “Hi, I’m glad you’re here”, may help you those extra few moments to really hook students into the lesson.
So will greeting your students capture all their attentions for the whole class, no. But, evidence shows it will give you a few minute advantage to use all the other tools in your trick bag to continue that engagement and on-task behavior.
So until next time…
Allday, R. A., & Pakurar, K. (2007). Effects of teacher greetings on student on-task behavior. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 317-320. https://dx.doi.org/10.1901%2Fjaba.2007.86-06
Allday, R. A., Bush, M., Ticknor, N., & Walker, L. (2011). Using teacher greetings to increase speed to task engagement. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 393-396. https://dx.doi.org/10.1901%2Fjaba.2011.44-393