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How to Use Social Cubism to Promote Student Engagement

Social Cubism
(Byrne & Carter, 2000)

How to Use Social Cubism to Promote Student Engagement
By Dr. Manes Pierre
Associate Faculty
University of Phoenix
West Florida Campus
Former Hillsborough County Schools Educator

Last fall, I had the honor of being one of the presenters at the Hillsborough County Middle Schools and the Florida League of Middle Schools. The participants wanted to find out how to handle the discipline issues in their classrooms, particularly students with severe emotional issues. This article is designed to share the strategies with a wider audience, given the fact the results were phenomenal, in terms of reducing incidents of classroom disruptions during instructions. I design the steps for teachers, teacher leaders, trainers, reading coaches, librarians, or school administrators who would like to consider using this guide that I used for my workshop.

Let us begin with the title of the presentation, “How to Use Social Cubism to Promote Student Engagement?” Social Cubism (Byrne & Carter, 2000) is a concept that emerged through conflict resolution during the 1990's. According to Byrne and Carter every conflict has six sides just like the shape of a cube. After being in the education field for the past 14 years, I have customized the cube to engage students by learning about their likes and dislikes, cultural background, language, demographics, socio-economic status, and psycho-cultural norms. This presentation is designed to align the strategies of Danielson's Framework for Teaching in order to fully engage students in learning. Social Cubism is a great supplement to your tool box, when utilized with fidelity. In order for the experience to work for you, your building, your students, the trainer or teacher leader in your building should adhere to the following steps:

1. The two objectives of using Social Cubism in the classroom:
• Participants will identify techniques through Social Cubism, in order to get students interested in learning by making positive connections in the classroom.
• Participants will explore ways to mesh Danielson’s Framework for Teaching with a customized Social Cube, in order to promote academic success for all learners.

2. Suggested norms during the workshop:
• Keep cellular phones on vibrate.
• Respect others while they are speaking (e.g., do not talk when someone else is talking).
• Respect others’ points of view(s).
• Please contribute to class discussions.
• Begin and end on time.

3. Remember to have an ice breaker. You are free to consider using the one below:
• Write down 2 or 3 things that you think are important for a successful classroom environment. Write them by order of importance:
a) ________________________________________
b) ________________________________________
c) ________________________________________

4. Once you have gone over the above steps, and the participants have shared their insights, you should explain what Social Cubism is, so there is a clear understanding of its framework. If you choose Prezi, or PowerPoint, you can simply refer to the following quote from the following social scientists, whom I admire for their huge contributions in the study of conflict resolution and analysis:
“Social Cubism is a form of conflict resolution strategy that aims at resolving a particular conflict by looking at the various elements of its root.”
(Byrne and Carter, 2000)

5. Now that the framework has been referenced, the trainer, or teacher leader conducting this workshop, should consider customizing the social cube to reflect the realities of the middle-school student, or the high-school student. According to Sears, from National Education Association, building positive relationships with students in the classroom is paramount to effective classroom management (2013). I recommend these bullets under this segment of the workshop:
• Get to know your students.
• Individualize each one of your students.
• Watch what you say to your students.
• Keep trying to reach them.
Personal notes: One of the realities about our students is that no amount of testing will quantify their complex academic needs. We have to do what it takes to make every child feel welcome in class as each one of them is sharing his or her gift of learning. Have your participants examine the social cube below, and have each one of them chart on a piece of paper, for approximately 10 minutes, or so what each segment of the cube represents to each one of them individually:

Figure. 1 (Byrne & Carter, 2000)

After the participants have jotted down their personal connections to each of the segments of the cube, have them post their responses on a poster board, or the black board. Then, proceed to share the list below, and let them see how closely related their responses were to this list:

Social Cube Explained
Economic Factors
Parties tend to strive for dominance of one another.
Religious Factors
Groups tend to form enclaves while seeking dominance through religious schools and separation.
Political Factors
Groups form partition via federalism or nationalism.
Psycho-cultural Factors
Groups tend to maintain identity through traditions, values, holidays, ethnicity, and symbolism, among others.
Historical Factors
Celebration or reenactments of historical events tend to emphasize ethnic cohesion.
Demographic Factors
Groups tend to perceive each other as potential threats as birth rates increase or decrease within a shared region or territory.
(Byrne & Carter, 2000)

6. In this segment of the workshop, the participants should be introduced to the customized version of the social cube. In this slide, discuss Tomchick (2013) steps of building positive rapport with students (school setting):

• High Expectations for all Students
• Appropriate Self-Disclosure
• Networking with students’ family members or guardians
• Building a sense of community in the classroom
• Using rituals
• Using traditions
At this point, the presenter or teacher leader should invite the participants to ask their questions. Q & A is critical here, since you want your teachers to clearly understand the framework of using this for effective classroom management with the middle-school students who may be at risk of failing, or repeating class. We all know that a child who is not doing well in middle school is likely to drop out in high school, which will pave the way for the prison pipeline. By having high expectations, sharing appropriate personal experiences that inspire students to excel in school, networking with students’ family members, building a sense of community in the classroom, using rituals, and using traditions are effective strategies to keeping students’ interests in being in your class. Give your students as many reasons as possible to report to school every day. Allow your participants to share as many strategies as possible. My workshop is not a one-side-fit-all approach. Individual teacher’s personality and connection to his or her student should be part of the strategy. What works for teacher A might not work for teacher B, and vice versa. After 10 minutes or so, transition to the picture below:

Walking in the shoe of a middle-school student

Figure 2. (Children International Summer Villages, Knoxville, TN, summer, 2006)

At this point, spend another 10 minutes going around the room, asking participants to share their impression of the rendition of Figure 3. Jot down their contributions on the whiteboard, chart paper, or on the screen, so there is a visual of their responses for everyone else to see. Share your reflection as well, at this point, as the presenter, or teacher leader, or school administrator, or trainer.

7. Now, it is time to have the participants complete this “Think-Pair-Share” activity by telling them to:
• Draw on an easel, or construction paper the 6
components of the social cube of a middle school
student (replace the following components of the cube with a picture: high expectations for all students, appropriate self-disclosure, networking with family and friends, building a sense of community in the classroom, using rituals, and using traditions).
• Then, have the group leaders share their illustrations.
Remember to record each group’s description of their illustrations on sticky notes, so you can help each of the participants to learn from each other’s viewpoints. Sharing each other viewpoints here makes the experience worthwhile, since commonalities and differences are clearly conveyed. That exercise is the deliverable or follow up of the “Walking in the Shoe of Middle School Student” topic.

8. This next topic was well liked by all of the participants during my presentation. I am sure you will help to keep your participants engaged, when you decide to present that part in your building. This one will mesh the “Cube” and the “Square.” My reasoning behind that analogy is that establishing a culture of learning and managing students’ behaviors during instructions are the most important elements in effectively engaging students in learning (Danielson, 2007).

Danielson’s FFT (2b – 2d) and Social Cubism (Danielson 4 Domains)
1. Planning & preparation
2. The classroom environment
3. Instruction
4. Professional responsibilities
Figure 3. Danielson (2007)

As you move toward the end of the workshop, it is indispensable that each participant can make the connections from the common links of the findings. Therefore, engage them with the exercise below:

Meshing the Two Frameworks: Social Cubism and Framework for Teaching

1. Based on the findings of Danielson’s FFT and Tomchick’s Importance of Student-Teacher Rapport in the Middle School Classroom, which one of the FFT’s 4 domains is the most critical from the perspective of a middle school student? (Planning & Preparation, Classroom Environment, Instruction, or Professional Responsibilities)

2. Have your team leader share its relevance to students’ success.

Remember to conclude the workshop with an exit ticket, in order to assess your participants’ acquisition of the topics being presented. You could consider using the one below, or you could create your own:

Exit Ticket

1. What did you learn from today’s workshop?

2. How can you apply what you learned today with your middle school students?


Byrne, S. & Carter, N. (N.D.). Social Cubism. Retrieved on July 16, 2014, from

Danielson, C. (2007). Enhance professional Practice. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Sears, N. (N.D.). Building Relationships with Students. National Education Association. Retrieved on June 7, 2014, from

Tomchick, B. E. (N.D.). Importance of Student-Teacher Rapport in the Middle School Classroom. Retrieved on July 14, 2014, from

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