Vincent Andrew in College, Teaching, Secondary Education Principal • Sayyidina Othman Secondary School Jul 12, 2016 · 3 min read · 1.8K

A Dialogue About Classroom Lessons (Part 1)

A Dialogue About Classroom Lessons (Part 1)


The aim of this article is to describe a series of lessons so that the reader can form an opinion about whether such a lesson is representative of lessons he/she has seen, read or experienced before. As you read the description, what implicit assumptions did the teacher make about teaching and learning? What kinds of lessons would help all students to learn better? Please feel free to share your thoughts at the end.

Background to lessons

The subject taught is Business. The students are 16-18 year olds preparing for their A-level examination. English is not their first language but almost all the 15 students taking this subject have at least a credit in O-level English. Each lesson is 1 hour long. The teacher has taught Economics for many years. This year is the first time he is teaching Business. The students are seated in three long rows. They are free to seat where they want. There are 11 girls and 4 boys taking the subject.

Lesson 1

The lesson had two aims. The first is to get students to reflect on what the best leadership style would be for a business/organisation. This lesson is a continuation of the previous week's lessons on Leadership Styles (Autocratic, Democratic and Laissez-faire) and McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y. The reflection and discussion took about 30 minutes. The second aim was to introduce to students the idea of formal versus informal leadership. 

The lesson started by collecting students' homework. The homework was based on a case study taken from a textbook. The case study focused on McGregor's Theory X and Y, methods of working, and leadership styles.

The teacher introduced a question on a slide "What is the best leadership style a leader should use?". He said that he wanted the students to think about the three leadership styles they had been taught before in previous lessons and also to consider McGregor's Theory X and Y. He gave them five minutes to articulate their thoughts on paper and "in point form" was acceptable. As the students worked on the task, he moved around the classroom. 

He then said he was interested to hear their thoughts. A hand was raised. The student gave his thoughts, the teacher wrote this on the board and obtained clarification about what he said. Three other students, each in turn, gave their thoughts. The teacher asked for clarification when he was not clear. He stood away from the students that voiced their thoughts.

The students' views are in Picture 1 below.

A Dialogue About Classroom Lessons (Part 1)

Next, the teacher showed them a slide containing the bullet points of how the textbook would approach the question "What is the best leadership style?" The teacher did not read the bullet points aloud. Instead he asked the students to consider whether their views matched that of the textbook or whether they had come up with something different. He gave them a few minutes to look at the whiteboard (Picture 1) and the slide (Picture 2 below).

A Dialogue About Classroom Lessons (Part 1)

The teacher asked, "Which point was made that you think is related to the bullet point?" A number of students highlighted the link between their thoughts and the bullet points in the slide. For each link that students were able to make a connection to, the teacher put a tick in red next to the point. See Picture 1.

There was one student who was not able to see the link. The teacher commented that perhaps over time he might be able to make the link. The teacher also asked if the class agreed with the assertion made in the slide - "no one right or wrong way of managing people". The assertion was taken from the textbook. Would they be happy with that? The teacher commented that it could be a possible conclusion (and not the only conclusion) to a question that asked about which leadership style was best.

The teacher moved to the next part of the lesson. He asked the students to write what they understood by formal and informal leaders. While the students were thinking, the teacher moved around the classroom. A student asked him, "Is a role model an informal leader?" The teacher turned this question around and asked him, "Can a formal leader be a role model? Can an informal leader be a role model?" There was a short discussion between the teacher and two students about what role models meant.

Four students gave their thoughts. One said a formal leader had authority over others. Another student said an informal leader does not have paper qualifications but may be regarded as an informal leader. The teacher showed them two definitions on a slide "just to be clear that everyone understands the definition".

He introduced the context for bringing up informal vs formal leadership. "What do informal leaders bring to an organisation? Do they benefit the organisation or are they seen as trouble makers? How should management react to informal leaders?" He directed them to read a case study from the textbook about informal leadership and tension in the workplace. As there was little time left, he asked them to focus on one question. After five minutes of working in pairs, the teacher got the students to respond to the discussion question. He got them to clarify what they meant. For example, a student said the workers in the organisation followed the lead of the informal leader because "he has so much influence over his workmates". The teacher asked, "Where did that influence come from?" Responses included "from friendship" and "he used to be a team leader". The students' responses were written on the board. See Picture 3 below.

A Dialogue About Classroom Lessons (Part 1)

The bell rang. The teacher asked the class to consider the second question in the case study for discussion the following day.


What are your thoughts about the above lesson? What are the implicit assumptions about teaching and learning in this lesson? What kinds of lessons would help all students to learn better?



Top picture: 

Pictures 1, 2, 3: Vincent Andrew

Vincent Andrew Jul 18, 2016 · #17

Thank you for the shares @John White, MBA.

Vincent Andrew Jul 17, 2016 · #16

#15 Point noted @CityVP Manjit. Thank you so much for your comment.

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CityVP Manjit Jul 17, 2016 · #15

#13 Take one step backwards Vincent. Your classroom is in a college, your classroom is part of a greater ecology of the college. That college operates and is organized no differently to a business organization, you have just not seen that you already exist in a business, the business of education and the school or college is a mirror of all other organizations with the same relational effects and leadership dimensions - use what you already have and then there is greater appreciation for what sits outside the ecology of your workplace. The students are eyes to the outside world already so leverage those eyes but first see where you are.

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Vincent Andrew Jul 17, 2016 · #14

Thank you for the shares @Franci Eugenia Hoffman!

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Vincent Andrew Jul 17, 2016 · #13

#12 You have just given me the impetus to look at something I have shelved @CityVP Manjit i.e. to give them some real experience outside the classroom, to experience what it's like to lead, to follow in a real business organisation. Thanks again for a great point Manjit!

CityVP Manjit Jul 17, 2016 · #12

#11 One thing to point out is that the resources available to young people are greater outside the classroom than they are in the set curriculum of the educational system. This means young people are teaching me about a world that they live in outside the class and in knowing that I can return their leadership with guidance. The power of you being a guide Vincent is greater than the power of you being a teacher in this age.

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Vincent Andrew Jul 17, 2016 · #11

#10 Great point @CityVP Manjit! "What is leadership if it rules uncertainty out of the equation." I find that in teaching Business, there are many different ways of solving or approaching just one issue. And students have to learn to evaluate each way. Nothing is certain in Business and the students that I teach I hope will appreciate its complexity. Thank you for the share too Manjit.

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CityVP Manjit Jul 17, 2016 · #10

The key thing about academic accounts of leadership is that this is not how leadership is practiced. So do we want our students to put label x and label y on things or assume that there are three forms of leadership, or do we want them to directly experience leadership. This is the moment leadership needs to flow through teacher both as formal and informal, and while we assume the leadership found in the students will be informal, there is still a network of leadership happening inside of that classroom. It requires skill and discernment to turn the classroom into action learning, and the risk of this is uncertainty of outcome. What is leadership if it rules uncertainty out of the equation. Here is a link to action learning

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