Two very different classrooms

On this page you will find a comparison between traditional classrooms established according to the demands of an industrial-age or factory economy, and win-win classrooms adapted to the needs the information age, particularly as these differences correspond to classroom values, priorities, motivators, authority relationships, desired (encouraged) student behaviors, and discipline goals.

Industrial Age:
The Traditional Classroom

Values, Priorities & Motivators

• Uniformity, sameness; fitting in.
• Stability, permanence, security (rigid roles)
• Competitive
• Motivation for cooperation: pleasing authority (approval-seeking), avoiding punishment, humiliation, rejection, disapproval; oriented to adult and adult’s reaction
• Outcome or product orientation
• Pleasing others regardless of personal needs
• Perfectionism
• Black-and-white thinking (or all-or-nothing thinking, dualism); tunnel vision
• Past or future orientation
• Personal worth is dependent on achievement, appearance, wealth, performance, etc.

Information Age:
The Win-Win Classroom

Values, Priorities & Motivators

• Diversity, personal potential and unfoldment; growth potential, personal fulfillment
• Flexibility, choices, personal control, (variable roles, expectations)
• Cooperation
• Motivation for cooperation: personal satisfaction; curiosity; positive consequences or outcomes that are unrelated to adult’s reaction; oriented to student
• Process or person orientation
• Self-care; doing for others with regard for personal needs
• Mistakes seen as a necessary and valuable part of growth
• Many options and alternatives; ability to see various points of view
• Present-time orientation
• Personal worth is unconditional, regardless of achievement, appearance, performance, etc.

Skills: Student Behaviors that are Encouraged or Reinforced

• Following orders, obedience, people-pleasing, asking permission, compliance, dependence
• Listening
• Respecting authority relationship while protecting existing hierarchy or power structure
• Avoiding conflict; peace at any price
• Self-sacrifice, self-abandonment; putting others first even at cost to self
• Not making waves; maintaining status quo
• Ability to “stuff” feelings, appear “fine;” impression management; blaming, making others responsible for how you feel
• Following; may include acceptance of imposed values without question or without regard to personal values, integrity
• Dependence on leader (credit or blame)

Skills: Student Behaviors that are Encouraged or Reinforced

• Taking initiative, making decisions within limits of rules or boundaries; self-caring choices
• Communicating
• Respecting authority relationship while networking, negotiating
• Personal integrity
• Self-care; maintaining personal boundaries; service and consideration with respect to personal needs
• Taking risks, trying new things; innovating
• Expressing feelings honestly, responsibly and non-disruptively
• Operating according to a personal value system as long as no one’s rights or boundaries are violated
• Assuming personal responsibility; teamwork

Authority Relationships

• Reactive
• Power-oriented; punitive
• Win-Lose (powering or permissive)
• Command-oriented; demands; few choices offered
• Teacher sets limits and determines what is and is not negotiable; enforces rules
• Student empowerment discouraged; initiative often punished or criticized; perceived as a threat to adult authority
• Manipulative
• Purpose for rules and boundaries power-based: “Because I said so”; not explained to students
• Teacher responsible for students’ behavior
• Tendency to take students’ behavior or misbehavior personally; vulnerability of self-worth or sense of adequacy to how kids act
• Rescuing behavior is common; warnings, inappropriate second chances; denying or making excuses for students’ misbehavior; protecting students from negative outcomes of choices or punishing undesirable choices
• Rules and boundaries established to protect teacher power
• Mistrust; belief that students are “always trying to get away with something” and will behave only in presence of authority they fear
• Teachers frightened by or uncomfortable with students’ expressions of feelings (especially anger, sadness or fear); denial of feel–ings; judgment, criticism, blaming, distracting or shaming students for their feelings
• Approval of students conditional on students’ cooperative, teacher-pleasing behavior
• Arrogance, self-centeredness, self-righteousness; “shoulds;” focus on teacher needs
• Double standards for adults and children; certain language, behaviors or attitudes teachers model are not tolerated (and punished) when students do the same things

Authority Relationships

• Proactive, preventative
• Goal- or consequence-oriented (positive or negative)
• Win-win (cooperative)
• Agreement- or negotiation-oriented; many choices may be offered
• Teacher sets limits and determines what is and is not negotiable; encourages self-enforcement
• Student empowerment and initiative encouraged within limits that respect everyone’s rights
• Direct
• Purpose for rules and boundaries is consequence-based, explained to students
• Students responsible for their own behavior
• Greater detachment from personal impact of students’ behavior (affect of students’ behavior on self-worth or adequacy of teacher) without loss of caring
• Students allowed to experience negative (but non-life-threatening) outcomes of choices; “poor choosing” (uncooperative, undesirable choices or behaviors) seen as “learning opportunities” or “teachable moments.”
• Rules or boundaries established to protect everyone’s rights, consider everyone’s needs
• Trust; belief that students will make responsible choices if given the opportunity (and reason) to do so; trust in students’ ability to function even in absence of authority
• Teachers accept and encourage students to feel feelings and express them constructively (without hurting others or themselves);
students accepted regardless of their feelings
• Acceptance of students regardless of their behavior
• No need to make student wrong for teacher to be right; respect for students’ needs
• Absence of double standards; teachers model behaviors they want children to exhibit

Discipline Goals

• Students make few decisions, have few opportunities to act independently
• Independence seen as threatening to power, undermining teacher’s role as authority, disciplinarian
• Punishment for infractions (often long-term and severe); rarely opportunities for self-correction (although remorse, shame and contrition may be accepted)
• Confusion of student behavior and worth
• Praise of student for cooperation, achievement, teacher-pleasing behavior (connecting student’s “goodness” to positive choices); emphasis on student, not deed and value of student’s choice to teacher
• Critical, judgmental; focus on negative
• Warnings, lectures, delayed consequences
• Problems with students often referred to outside authority for punishment (principal, counselor, coach, parent)
• Greater rigidity and uniformity in assignments, rewards; evaluation tends to be comparative (based on the performance of others)

Discipline Goals

• Students have opportunities to make decisions, act independently
• Independence seen as supporting cooperative relationship; frees teacher for instruction, guidance, facilitation
• Consequences for infractions (often the absence of positive consequences until behavior changes); self-correction encouraged; objective is improved behavior (re—morse, shame, contrition are not necessary).
• Separation of student behavior and worth
• Recognition of student cooperation or achievement without judging; emphasis on deed, not student (student’s worth is not an issue) and value of student’s choice to student.
• Focus on positive
• Immediate consequences (generally, removal of positive consequence)
• Personal responsibility for problems with students; teachers may contact outside authority as a resource, for ideas or support, or simply to let them know what’s going on and how they are going to handle the problem
• Greater diversity and flexibility in assignments, rewards; evaluation based on individual performance and ability

Needs of the Economy

• Ability to “fit in,” follow orders (chain of command), think inside the box, perform as directed; expectation that tasks/assignments would not vary much in one job description

Needs of the Economy

• Higher priority on networking, people skills, communication skills, creative thinking (“outside the box”) and problem solving, initiative, flexibility, adaptability; ability to multi-task, shift gears, change to shifting demands of the workplace; people with “vision and attitude.”

What is school usually like for kids with “vision and attitude” and other skills desired by the 21st-century workplace?

Excerpted and adapted from The Win-Win Classroom, revised edition, by Dr. Jane Bluestein © 2008, Corwin Publishing, Thousand Oaks, CA. An earlier version of this chart appeared in 21st Century Discipline, where I first compared the needs of two different social and economic realities.

© 1985, 2008, 2012, Dr. Jane Bluestein

Related links from The Win-Win Classroom:

Teacher Self-Assessment
Guidelines for Offering Students Choices
Dealing Successfully with your Students’ Parents
Getting Away with Success
Motivating Cooperative Behavior
Handling Negative Student Behavior

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4 thoughts on “Industrial Age vs. Information Age

  1. This information is helpful in regards to understanding the industrial mindset and the 21st century information age technology, that will have an impact in society to be more efficient in growth and development of an individual.

    1. I first noticed this comparison in the early 1980s. Even then I could see that the skills needed to build this country over the previous 200 years were simply not going to serve the needs of the current economy. I believe this is even more relevant today.

      Thank you for your comment.

  2. Even though you wrote this 7 years ago, many classrooms are still using the traditional classroom model. I am currently researching community-based learning and its impact on the development of 21st century college and career readiness skills (communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, etc.) for my doctoral dissertation. Have you shared this information in any journals or other peer-reviewed sources? I would love to cite you. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your comments. Actually, the original version of the material on this page appeared in one of my first books, 21st Century Discipline, which was released in 1985! The handout I used in my classes on which this is based is now more than 35 years old. We’ve known this for decades and colleagues and I have been sharing it as much as possible. (It now appears in The Win-Win Classroom, which I wrote to replace and expand the content in 21st Century Discipline.) So YES! Feel free to share this or any other resource on my site with anyone you’d like. I just ask for the usual citation, and still desperately want this information to not only get out there, but to start making a difference. Best of luck on your dissertation. Please let me know how it’s going, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.

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