Prior to taking your observations back to the classroom, it is important to have a sense as to what the data is that you are assessing. Likely you will have a numbering system for the order students became leaders as well as short but important notes about most or all of your students. First, we will organize the leader order data using a chart and, secondly, we will explore the use of the notes for making quick and easy changes in your room.
My article on facilitation, Ryan was able to identify a leadership order to his class using the ranking system. Now we will apply that data to the Hierarchy of Leadership pyramid. This is a simple way of visualizing the general breakdown of leadership in any classroom. The average classroom can be broken down into these three categories: Always Leaders, Sometimes Leaders, and Always Followers.
The top of the pyramid is where we see the “Always Leaders.” In a class of 30, there will likely be one to five of these leaders. These leaders are characterized as those who regularly take charge among their peers and who feel very comfortable in that role. They are often the most verbal in class, they can set the tone of behavior for others, and they will often have a good-sized group of friends with whom they are again the leader with significant sway among the group. Often times these leaders struggle with the follower role. Some of these leaders are keenly aware of their power and place among their peers while others may not be fully aware of how their actions affect those around them.
The next group down is known as the “Sometimes Leader.” They, in the right situations, will occasionally act as a leader. Often their leadership time comes when no “Always Leaders” are present or are unable or unwilling to lead. Their numbers may range from five to 10 in a class of 30. Most often, these leaders rise in situations involving less than the whole class group or in select situations, such as friend groups, school plays, teams, and other comfortable social landscapes to them. This group has a keen awareness of the social landscape and knows when they can or should step up and when they should not.
The third and final group is the “Always Follower” group. This is usually the largest group and the least homogenous group. They can range in size anywhere from 10 to 25 in a group of 30. While there are two distinct subgroups here, they can be generalized as being used to the role of following, but not necessarily as happy with the role. Again this group is highly aware of the social landscape and their role in it. The two subgroups of this category are ‘Group Members’ and ‘Independents.’
The “Group Member” subgroup are usually members of a social group, often led by an “Always Leader” where much of the decision making is done for them. For example, they will look to the leader to decide how to behave in class and what is okay to do and not to do. They will also often turn over power of the little school freedoms such as where to sit at lunch or what to do during recess to the “Always Leader.” These social groups are usually highly organized and have clear members, behaviors and norms.
The second subgroup is known as the “Independents.” These students often have a smaller and less organized social group with looser boundaries. The “Independents” are often just that, quite independent and behave with their own chosen set of rules and norms. Though independent, they will rarely, if ever, choose to lead among peers for a variety of reasons. They also may be shy, quiet, socially awkward, and have highly developed interests such as reading, a specific game, or a hobby. Also, they may be far more mature or far less mature than the class and they may have difficulty identifying with their peers. They spend much of their time alone.
Organize Your Data
Now that you understand the Leadership Pyramid, you can take your notes and place students into your own pyramid. Use their leadership number to write their name into the appropriate place on the pyramid. As you do this, look over your notes and think about your understanding of a student to place them most appropriately.
You may also want to color code your pyramid to uncover more useful information. The most simple way to do this is to take a pyramid that has nothing but names placed into the pyramid and then color code each student by shading their name. Perhaps you want to know who your verbal leaders and non-verbal leaders are. Another popular coding is to shade positive leaders and negative leaders. This gives a quick visual of what and where the energy is that affects classroom dynamics every day.