This article explores a variety of classroom management strategies teachers use to create safe, respectful classroom environments. Discussion focuses on the critical importance of respecting diversity, developing relationships, and recognizing behaviors as a form of communication. Common classroom management techniques are provided such as setting clear expectations and consistently enforcing rules and expectations. Furthermore, more robust classroom management theories are highlighted including choice theory, congruent communication, class meetings, and respectful classrooms.
Keywords Behavior Contract; Choice Theory; Class Meeting; Congruent Communication; Cooperative Learning; Differentiated Instructional Methodologies; Modeling
Teaching Methods: Classroom Management
Classroom management techniques refer to the strategies that teachers employ to effectively create safe, respectful classroom environments that reinforce positive behaviors and eliminate behaviors that negatively impact learning opportunities. Management strategies range from specific "rules of thumb" recommended by educators such as ensuring expectations are clearly identified and responses are consistent to more comprehensive theories that emphasize human relationships and respect for diversity such as choice theory (Glasser, 1998).
Although there are common classroom management techniques used in most classrooms to create optimal learning opportunities for students, teachers often develop their own management systems from a variety of techniques that work well for their particular grade level or school population. Management techniques may work well in some classrooms but not in others. Teachers need to be acutely aware of the needs of different student populations.
No matter what techniques teachers employ, the behaviors they must respond to in the classroom setting generally are the same across grade levels and among different student demographics. When developing classroom management systems, teachers who recognize behavior as form of communication, respect diversity, and value human connections and relationships, find the most success in responding to common behavioral issues.
Most Common Behavior Problems
Bullock & Brown (1972) conducted a study to identify the most common behavior problems that teachers face in the classroom setting. Their research pinpointed ten challenges including acting out, aggression, hyperactivity, poor social relationships, defiance, immaturity, poor academic achievement, poor attention span, and inadequate self concept (Wilhite et al., 2007). Although this study was conducted nearly half a century ago, the challenges identified continue to pose problems for teachers today.
Tulley & Chiu (1998) approached research on common behavioral challenges from a different perspective by surveying a group of sixth grade students to identify the top discipline problems experienced in class. The students indicated that disruptions, defiance, aggression, incomplete work and other miscellaneous behaviors are among the most common challenges experienced. Their study further illuminated six discipline strategies that teachers most often employ to respond to the common challenges discussed: rote punishment, removal punishment, explanation, presentation punishment, threats and warnings, and no action or ignoring the behavior completely (Tulley & Chiu, 1998). Although these are the most common responses, they are ineffective at managing classroom behavior and they create disrespectful and unsafe classroom environments.
The challenges described above as well as the common responses teachers employ are representative of what occurs in many classrooms across the nation from Kindergarten through Grade 12. In fact, over the years, the challenges described have become more complex and the responses have become more intricate given the changing context of the world in which we live. Holliday (2005) indicates that schools and teachers are expected to recognize and expertly control emotional, social and cognitive variables that influence student learning. Furthermore, Holliday asserts that teachers are increasingly expected to fill the gap caused by poor parenting, poverty and learning disabilities (p. 23).
In order to successfully address these issues, teachers need to ensure they have a strong classroom management system in place that appropriately responds to behavioral challenges and creates a safe, respectful classroom environment. Although behavioral issues differ from school to school and even classroom to classroom, effective management techniques ensure that challenges are minimal and learning opportunities are maximized.
Whether teachers develop an eclectic collection of classroom management techniques or subscribe to a specific management theory, one common thread runs through all management systems - acknowledgement of and respect for diversity. Manning & Bucher (2005) indicate that teachers must recognize student diversity and aim to understand student perceptions of and reactions to diversity. They state that students demonstrate culture, gender, social class, and developmental differences. All of these characteristics must be considered when implementing classroom management strategies (Manning & Bucher, 2005). In addition, Mills & Keddie found that, across many parts of the world, at the same time that the student population is becoming increasingly diverse, bringing to classrooms divergent racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic experiences, the teacher population is becoming more homogeneous, primarily white and middle class (Mills & Keddie, 2012).
Behaviors are a form of communication. When students misbehave, become distracted, have difficulty handing in assignments on time, or experience any other common difficulty in the classroom, they communicate to teachers that some element of the experience is not working for them. Teachers must be acutely aware of the diverse backgrounds and needs that students bring to the classroom and must develop management strategies that are responsive and respectful of these differences.
A second common thread that runs through all classroom management systems and all classroom experiences, in general, is the critical importance of human relationships. No classroom can operate effectively unless teachers and students develop relationships and understand the unique qualities that each individual brings to the partnership. Holliday (2005) emphasizes that in order to effectively manage a classroom, teachers must build the human connection first, sometimes one student at a time. Holliday (2005) further highlights that in order for students to connect to curriculum and become engaged in learning, teachers must create classroom environments that communicate their love and passion for the material and reasons it is important for students to learn the material. Most important, teachers must do everything possible to communicate that they will help every student succeed.
As noted, no "cookie cutter" classroom management system exists. Effective classroom management strategies come from years of experience working with students and years of research related to the types of responses most effective at eliminating undesirable behaviors in the classroom. The following discussion highlights some of the most common classroom management techniques that teachers employ as well as more specific management theories such as choice theory (Glasser, 1998), congruent communication (Ginott, 1972), class meetings (Glasser, 1969), and respectful classrooms (Wessler, 2003; Miller & Pedro, 2006).
Common Classroom Management Techniques
Babkie (2006) provides a comprehensive overview of common classroom management practices. First and foremost, Lock suggests that it is extremely important for teachers to establish rules and communicate clear expectations from the first day of class. Students need to know the parameters and boundaries that exist in a classroom and must have a clear understanding of the consequences that will occur should they cross a boundary. Rules and expectations are the foundation of any classroom management system and must be concise and fair to ensure that students internalize standards for behavior.
Babkie (2006) asserts that once rules and expectations are clearly established and communicated, teachers need to be consistent and fair when enforcing rules. The quickest way to undermine any classroom management system is to enforce expectations for one situation and not the next. When this happens, students become confused and often misinterpret when certain behaviors are acceptable and others are not.
Another common classroom management technique involves establishing clearly defined routines (Babkie, 2006). For example, teachers may develop specific routines students should follow when handing...
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