by Christopher Paslay
When it comes to education reform in America, we know what’s in fashion: The need for a comprehensive data system to track student achievement; the need to adopt international benchmark standards to improve assessments; the need to implement performance pay for teachers to raise their overall quality.
We’ve also heard about the importance of good instructional strategies and “rigorous” curriculum.
However, little has been said about classroom management. Without an orderly classroom, instructional strategies and curriculum don’t make much difference; you have to crawl before you can walk.
Recently I was perusing the September 2003 issue of Educational Leadership and found an interesting article on Classroom management.
Titled “The Key to Classroom Management,” the article was organized around several research studies, all of which support the importance of classroom management and show that it is perhaps the biggest factor in student achievement. The article was also about the dynamics of classroom management, and shed light on why some teachers have highly organized classrooms while others struggle to keep order and control.
The article broke classroom management into three categories. The first was setting Appropriate Levels of Dominance. “In contrast to the more negative connotation of the term dominance as forceful control or command over others,” the authors stated, “dominance is defined as the teacher’s ability to provide clear purpose and strong guidance regarding both academics and student behavior.”
In order to bring about this appropriate dominance, teachers must establish clear expectations and consequences, which can be done by reinforcing acceptable behavior and providing consequences for unacceptable behavior. Teachers must also establish clear learning goals, which can be achieved through the use of rubrics and charts that state lesson objectives. Finally, teachers must exhibit assertive behavior—they must use firm body language and tone of voice, and persist until students respond with acceptable behavior.
Next, the article talked about Appropriate Levels of Cooperation. The authors defined cooperation as “a concern for the needs and opinions of others”. Teachers can achieve this by providing flexible learning goals (allowing students to help set learning objectives), by taking a personal interest in their students (talking informally with students before or after class about their interests), and by using equitable and positive classroom behaviors (making eye contact and calling all students by name).
Finally, the idea of establishing an Awareness of High-Needs Students was mentioned. According to the authors, 12-22 percent of all students in school suffer from mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders, and relatively few receive mental health services. So teachers need to be aware of the special needs of their students, so they can interact with them appropriately.
In closing, the article provided the following advice: Don’t leave relationships to chance. The relationship between a teacher and his or her students is essential in providing a solid foundation for classroom management. Because studies prove that classroom management is important to student achievement, student-teacher relationships should not be left to chance; they should not be dictated by the personalities of those involved.
Improving education starts with improving classroom management. It was refreshing to come across this article in Educational Leadership—to read about practical strategies that can have a significant impact on student achievement.