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Virginia Journal of Education

Your Classroom


A ‘Corporate Classroom’? How It Might Work.


By Albert Walter Jones III and Bridget Graham

In our information age, with advances in computer technology and the explosion of the Internet, public schools must adapt, looking to corporations as a model for organizing schools instead of the agricultural model of the past.

Corporations use quantitative data in every area, from quality control to marketing and advertising to research and development. Business does not test—nor can it afford to test—every product or service it provides. Instead, companies use random sampling as a less expensive statistical means for acquiring needed data, increasing production and improving services. By contrast, schools persist in increasingly testing every student, without a clear sense of how to interpret or use the data being gathered.

If this situation is to change, schools need to look and function more like the corporate settings in which many of their graduates will ultimately work. As an example, we might need to throw out all classroom desks and replace them with conference tables. Our schools and their leaders should mirror the age in which we live, not the age in which our parents and grandparents lived. We believe students will embrace these changes, because they’re eager to race into the future and should be able to do so unhindered. 

What might a corporate classroom look like? It could be a vibrant place where:

• teachers don’t lecture, give homework or keep a gradebook

• there are no desks, only conference tables

• each student has a job description and each job has standards of performance

• teachers have student assistants

• students lead instructional teams cooperatively and every child gets an opportunity to be a leader

• students routinely present lessons in the form of professional workshops

• every child is a student and every student is a teacher

• teachers conference with each student periodically

• multiple texts and resources are used every day

• teachers function largely as learning resources

• students analyze and evaluate their own performance 

• students are taught how to study, not just how to do homework

• students are taught to work in groups, teams, departments

• students are taught to set goals and monitor progress

• students take responsibility for themselves and others

• students plan, organize, implement and evaluate

• students learn presentation, research and technology skills

• students learn how to motivate themselves and others

• students are given time to prepare and collaborate with each other

• students learn how to set reward mechanisms for themselves, and

• the environment is cooperative and constructive.

Let’s take a look at a corporate classroom in action and see how this might work in a single class period.   

When you first walk in, you’ll see students moving about; some are sitting, some are standing and talking to their team captain. The captain is filling out the team report form. It documents how many study point each team member has earned that day, and how many the team has earned that day and week. Study points are a close approximation to how much time it takes the average student to perform a specific task. There is a study point menu that indicates how many points a student earns for the task, which must be documented in his or her personal notebook and verified by the team captain.

Five minutes into the period, the team captains, the teacher assistant and the teacher discuss the reports and hear a very brief update detailing which team is presenting the workshop for the day. The teacher acknowledges outstanding performances of individuals and teams and introduces the lesson and the team making today’s presentation.  

The student-driven workshop team must make use of handouts, visuals, technology, a learning experience, a reward mechanism and an assessment. The other teams comment on, question and evaluate the performance of the team presentation, both orally and in writing.

The remaining class time is spent preparing for the next day’s activities and lessons, with the teacher functioning as a manager/consultant working with individuals and teams to solve problems. At times, the class might reinforce the lesson of the day by having a team competition to earn extra study points.

Students in a corporate classroom acquire a deeper level of subject area mastery because they teach, learn and experience material in a variety of ways. They also develop skills vital to their success in higher education and the workplace, including how to set goals, meet standards, become self-motivated, monitor and adjust, self-evaluate, work cooperatively, work individually and master information. Students grow from being validated by their peers and the pressure now on them is to be the best they can be.

In addition to getting a look at how the real world actually works, students in a corporate classroom also learn how they work best, how they fit in, and what talents they bring to the world of work. You forget what you memorize, but an experience can last a lifetime and play a major role in who you become.

In the real world we spend a lot of time working with peers around conference tables and at workshops, seminars, staff development and in-house training sessions. Our students are future adults and they appreciate and respond better when the expectations are high and the work experience is real.

The real world of business, which we’ve tried to emulate, values people who can work not only as individuals, but cooperatively in teams, groups, departments and divisions. Our students will need to have good social skills, because in the end, “people do for people.” It’s all personal, and it’s all collaborative!

Jones and Graham, members of the Richmond Education Association, teach at Blackwell Elementary School.



9 Things Teachers Do Gladly

No matter how many standards you need to check off, how many IEPs you're monitoring, how many tests your students sit for, or how often you’re asked to shift gears:

1. You do what you are born to do. You do what you are called to do.
2. You do what students need you to do.
3. You make time to touch their hearts every day.
4. You look into students' eyes, and they see in yours that you love them.
5. You serve as the voice of reason, courage and hope.
6. You assure them with your poise and presence that the world is a beautiful place, and that they are beautiful creatures.
7. You tell them that they matter, that they are geniuses and that the world needs their contribution.
8. You choose your words carefully, so that those words help students envision success, stretch their thinking, and advance independent behaviors and actions. Well-chosen words will stick with your students the rest of their lives.
9. You teach.

--from the blog of longtime teacher and author Angela Maiers


Top-Notch Advice—Free!

Who’s in a better position to give you helpful advice than your colleagues across the country who are in classrooms trying to accomplish the same things you strive for every day? Get connected with them through NEA’s Works4Me, a website and free weekly newsletter with practical classroom tips written by teachers, for teachers.

Works4Me features tips you can use on classroom management, teaching techniques, curriculum, content and more, and you can also contribute your own strategies. When you sign up at, you’ll begin receiving the weekly e-newsletter. You’ll also have access to an online discussion board, where you can post questions you’d like answered or offer your own advice.


Asking the Right Questions

Here are some discussion questions for educators looking to build a community of creative teachers and active learners:

• What catches our students’ attention? How can we tap into their passions to develop active learning experiences that will spark their imaginations?

• In our curriculum, where are there opportunities for interdisciplinary projects and active learning? How can we make it fun?

• How can we team up to create a project that helps our students apply what they’re learning to the real world?

• What resources are available to help us? Can resources be pooled? Are there underutilized funding sources?


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