Practical skills like classroom management and positive behavior strategies are vitally important tools in a teacher's toolkit. Most of these skills are learned on the job, rather than in the university classroom, so inexperienced teachers often struggle with creating a positive environment in their classrooms.
Why is classroom management important, and how does it affect student learning? Let's explore this issue together.
What Is Classroom Management?
Classroom management is a process, as well as a set of skills and strategies, that teachers and schools use to create and maintain appropriate behavior of students in the classroom.
Education researchers have studied this topic and identified evidence-based classroom management strategies that are effective in enhancing social behavior and increasing academic achievement. These principles can work across almost all subject areas, grade levels, and developmental differences.
Why Is Classroom Management Important?
Proper classroom management creates an ideal environment for learning. This is important for teacher and student safety, happiness and productivity. A successful classroom management system will help prevent teacher burnout and reduce the need for yelling, scolding or other stressful discipline methods that cause friction between teacher and student. This kind of environment enhances learning, as well as social/emotional development.
Managing a classroom is more than simply establishing a set of rules. It takes a school-wide effort to create a positive classroom environment.
What Do Teachers Need to Succeed?
At the school-wide level, teachers and staff work to create a positive school culture by setting positive expectations of behavior. This takes a mindset change throughout the school, and many schools now use norms, instead of rules. Here's an example of a norm vs. a rule.
Norm—Walk quietly in the hallway.
Rule—Do not yell or run in the hallway.
To succeed, teachers need the support of their administration in setting up a coherent school-wide structure and behavior systems.
Support and training for new teachers is critical, as well. First year teachers indicated on this survey that one of their top three needs is professional development activities related to classroom management.
What Is the Best Approach for Implementing a Classroom Management System?
Researches have identified several systems and models that are effective in classroom management, such as positive behavior support (PBS) and social and emotional learning (SEL). These models use a three tiered system.
Tier 1: the universal level sets school-wide expectations for behavior, systems for communicating those expectations to staff, students and families, training for teachers, and methods for recording/reporting student behavior.
Tier 2: the secondary level of intervention uses evidence-based programs such as First Steps to Success, meant for groups of students who need this level of support.
Tier 3: the tertiary level is individualized for students not responding to second-tier, using evidence-based programs. Teachers should consult with school psychologist/special education instructors to identify and analyze student needs at this stage. Read more about these kinds of programs here. http://www.apa.org/education/k12/classroom-mgmt.aspx
8 Positive Techniques for Teachers
1. Use specific language and rules.
2. Only use rules and consequences you're willing to enforce.
3. Always enforce classroom norms and never ignore behavior that violates them.
4. Be consistent in your treatment of students and behaviors.
5. Be fair and moderate. Don't use harsh or embarrassing punishments.
6. Use positive behavior systems—never physical punishments.
7. Avoid out-of-school suspensions whenever possible (see the APA Task Force on Zero Tolerance report).
8. Collaborate and problem-solve with your colleagues, school psychologist and special education professionals.
This highly practical list provides daily strategies that work. For example, strategy #1 is this: Follow the first step of hypnosis.
"A hypnotist's first induction technique often involves directing subjects to focus on something they're already doing. "Feel your eyes getting tired" is a good opening, because everybody's eyes feel tired all the time, but we don't notice until someone points it out.
Teachers, like hypnotists, can string along a series of requests by asking students to do something most are already doing, then waiting for 100-percent compliance, and finally issuing another directive, etc. It's better for teachers to say, "Point your eyes toward me" and wait for compliance, instead of saying, "Stop talking, turn around, turn to page 237, take out a pencil, and head your paper with 'Geology Frame.'"