Maze Bright Teachers in the Classroom


  • John K. Butler


Last year’s ABSEL conference included a panel discussion on building trust in the classroom (Butler, Crino, Howard, Markulis, Strang, & Malik, 2001). The panel members argued that success in teaching depends on teachers’ abilities to earn the trust of their students, and they identified ten conditions of trust that teachers can pursue. This paper extends the panel’s work by offering some concrete suggestions on how teachers can earn trust by developing sensitivity to some of the subtle behaviors occurring in the classroom. The approach to sensitivity offered here comprises eight aspects of “maze brightness.” Maze bright teachers are aware of the informal and subtle cues, patterns, values, risks, influence processes, norms, and priorities that characterize their classroom dynamics. Consequently, they can build trust in the teacher-student relationship. This trust enables students to take risks in the classroom and to become involved in interactive exercises and simulations, which can facilitate effective learning. Examples of teachers’ maze bright and maze dull behaviors are offered. Also included is a preliminary instrument with 28 semantic-differential items intended to measure maze brightness.