Even though today's educators have more research than ever on techniques to develop an effective learning community (Marzano, Nelson, Marchand-Martella, 2003), why, then, does the topic of classroom management remain one of the most significant concerns for pre-service teachers entering the teaching profession? (Achinstein & Barrett, 2004). For schools, the appropriate learning environment is critical to student success and strikes at the very heart of teaching (Hardin, 2008). What is the role of classroom management in meeting academic and social expectations in the classroom? Is there a connection between creating a supportive learning environment and academic performance?
Carolyn Evertson's Classroom Organization and Management Program (COMP), created after 30 years of research and more than 5,000 hours of classroom observation and developed from co-relational, descriptive, and experimental research, identified the following keys to successful strategies and practices in classroom management. The importance of the classroom is documented through research and described in the following characteristics of successful classroom managers:
- Organized classrooms that run smoothly with minimum disruptions consistently gained in achievement.
- Teachers who analyzed classroom tasks in precise detail determined the procedures and expectations required for students to be successful.
- Teachers in well-managed classrooms saw the classroom through the eyes of their students. As a result, they were better able to analyze the needs of students for information.
- Effective classroom managers monitored student behavior to quickly deal with off-task and disruptive behaviors that threaten their system.
- Teachers who were effective in classroom management clearly communicated needed information and reduced complicated tasks to step-by-step processes. These teachers had a good understanding of student skill levels.
- Teachers who were effective classroom managers kept students involved in academic work by organizing instruction.
- Teachers who were effective classroom managers created a workable management system and taught the system to their students from the first day of the school year.
- Teachers found that after the beginning of the year, classroom patterns were established and mid-year changes required stronger, more intensive interventions.
- Teachers who were successful at teaching academic and social skills had students who tended to stay focused on the task, engaged in appropriate behavior, and demonstrated higher achievement (Hardin, 2008).
In an interview with Marchant and Newman (1996), Evertson said, "For a long time, classroom management has been and still is associated with control and discipline, and with questions about the best way to get students to comply. We are simply saying that these notions of management are not compatible with building the kinds of learning communities we are trying to build where students have a stake in their own learning and their own community" (Harden, 2008, p. 31). When a classroom is viewed in a broader and more holistic sense, orchestrating every element of the classroom from instruction to classroom environment becomes important. This includes creating organized and orderly classrooms, establishing expectations, gaining student cooperation in tasks, and dealing with the procedural demands of the classroom. This approach contrasts to the more narrow view of classroom management as dealing with misbehavior and discipline. The broader view of classroom management shows increased engagement, reduction in inappropriate and disruptive behavior, promotion of student responsibility for academic work, and improved achievement scores. The teacher's ability to be proactive in choices related to classroom management instead of responding reactively to discipline issues increases instructional time and reduces behavior problems (Hardin, 2008).
Evertson and Harris (1996, 1999) note the following keys of COMP related to classroom management include:
- Effective classroom managers prevent problems rather that handling them.
- Management and instruction are integrally related.
- Students are active participants in the learning environment.
- Classroom management must take into account student differences in attention span, learning styles, and intelligence.
- Professional collaboration supports improved teaching practices (Hardin, 2008).
To implement COMP in the classroom to create a classroom plan, teachers can consider the follow step-by-step organization:
- Organize your classroom to maximize learning opportunities and to prevent inappropriate behavior.
- Establish classroom expectations involving students in the process.
- Establish classroom procedures to promote learning and good behavior.
- Plan lessons on classroom expectations and procedures. Teach students how to follow the expectations and procedures.
- Manage student work and provide for student accountability.
- Maintain good behavior by providing both positive reinforcement and reasonable consequences for behavior. Implement corrective consequences when students need to be guided toward other avenues for behavior.
- Plan and organize instruction to focus on the procedures that are needed to enhance learning.
- Maintain momentum and move the lesson along during instruction (Hardin, 2008).
The need for reviewing and analyzing classroom management to maximize instructional focus and instructional time becomes critical because of the nationwide research on new and different approaches to teaching. There is continued effort by blue-ribbon commissions, government reports, politicians, teachers, taxpayers, and researchers to reform education in this country (Zemelman, Daniels, Hyde, 2005). Ongoing discussion on the accountability of what to teach and how to teach it versus the focus of content and methodology continues to lead discussions (Zemelman, et al., 2005). Real reform should focus on common recommendations of national curriculum reports:
- LESS teacher-directed, whole-class instruction with students sitting, listening, receiving, and collecting information.
- LESS one-way communication of information from the teacher to the student.
- LESS rewarding of silence and non-participation in the classroom.
- LESS student time with textbooks, basal readers, fill-in-the-blank worksheets, workbooks, and seatwork.
- LESS attempts by teachers to "cover" large amounts of content.
- LESS memorization of details and facts.
- LESS emphasis on competition for grades in school.
- LESS tracking, leveling into "ability groups", and pull-out programs.
- LESS use of and reliance on state and standardized assessments (Zemelman et at., 2005).
This report suggests teachers consider and stress the following topics for maximum academic success:
- MORE hands-on, experiential, and inductive, learning.
- MORE active learning, with appropriate learning noise and movement including students doing, talking, and collaborating.
- MORE interactive roles for teachers, including facilitating, demonstrating, and modeling.
- MORE emphasis on higher-order skills.
- MORE in-depth study of fewer numbers of topics to allow students to internalize the fields' way of inquiry.
- MORE reading of real texts: non-fictional materials, related books, and primary sources.
- MORE student responsibility for their work : goal setting, record keeping, monitoring, sharing, exhibiting, and evaluation.
- MORE opportunities for students in choosing their own books, writing topics, team partnerships, and research projects.
- MORE modeling and implementing the principles of democracy in the classroom and school.
- MORE attention to different learning needs and cognitive styles of individual students.
- MORE collaborative opportunities and cooperative learning.
- MORE development of classrooms as interdependent communities.
- MORE heterogeneous classrooms that meet individual needs, not segregation of students.
- MORE delivery of special assistance to students in the regular classrooms.
- MORE cooperative, creative roles for teachers, parents, and administrators.
- MORE incorporation of descriptive evaluations of student achievement, including observation, anecdotal records, conference notes, and performance assessments rubrics (Zemelman et al., 2005).
Based on the above recommendations from national curriculum reports, instruction requires a non-traditional approach to teaching instead of a lecture setting. For schools and classrooms, having an active learning environment is critical to the teacher's ability to teach and the student's ability to learn. Classroom management is critical to create a classroom for an active, but organized learning situation. The quest for good classroom management has encouraged educators to develop a variety of approaches to classroom management based on principles of human development and nation wide research. Character Counts, Brain-based Classroom Management, Positive Behavior, The Honor System and Synergistic Discipline are currently being used in many classrooms throughout the learning community. A teacher may buy into one of the pre-developed plans, create a plan that reflects personal beliefs and classroom goals, or create a plan that is a combination of several ideas?
It is important to ask how classroom management is affected by the dispositions of teacher. The teacher's dispositions or prevailing moods are developed from values, commitments, ethics, how they were treated at home, motivations, experiences, and, hopefully, university field experiences. Caring dispositions set the tone for a classroom that shows motivation, a positive learning environment for students and a positive learning experience for the teacher (Diaz, Pelletier & Provenzo, 2006). Caring teachers who value fairness, honesty, social justice, and responsibility will pass those ideas along to their students. Teachers who believe that all students can learn seem to accomplish higher test scores. Teachers who believe in more academic achievement through participation increase time-on-task. Teachers who spend time establishing and teaching classroom routines have more instructional time. Teachers who organize the classroom setting prevent problems before they occur. Teachers who establish reinforcement for following the rules and provide consequences for breaking the rules are setting up an environment where students have clear guidelines and expectations. This, in turn, can provide a structure so that the teacher can use time to develop mutual respect within the learning community, inspire positive attitudes, foster motivation, and increases productivity (Diaz et al., 2006).
When the ideas of classroom management are discussed in reference to schools, it sometimes deals with managing discipline and behavior issues, but is it more of an umbrella term that focuses on everything from how the classroom is arranged, to establishing the rules, to student interactions with classmates and the teacher. Classroom management also includes how the rules are enforced and how school administration is involved in the classroom operation (Dias et al., 2006).
Most textbooks on classroom management tend to divide the topic into the components below that are considered to be the building blocks forecasting a positive learning community. Each of the following topics is analyzed and activities are provided to work through each area. Research shows that time spent at the beginning of school in discussions of how the classroom will operate and what the guidelines are for the treatment of others result in higher test scores on standardized testing, fewer discipline concerns, less stress for students and the teacher, and more time for teaching (Evertson & Emmer, 2009). Developing classroom procedures that establish routines for how the classroom will operate frees the teacher to spend more time on instruction.
Based on experience when working with new teachers, the following ideas seem to dominate the research in creating a positive learning environment (Achinstein & Barrett, 2004).
- Personal Philosophy: Developing a personal philosophy for creating a positive learning community.
- Analyzing dispositions to create a philosophy of teaching and learning.
- Understanding the students in the class – ethnicity, socio-economic status, community culture, special needs, learning styles, interest, and age.
- Arranging the Classroom: Arranging a positive learning environment that meets the learning needs of students, the philosophy of the teacher, the content area of the classroom and the age of the student.
- Classroom Procedures: Creating a classroom that maximizes opportunities for students to learn and interact positively with others.
- Classroom Expectations: How do students and the teacher treat each other?
- Planning a reinforcement system to acknowledge students who follow the classroom rules.
- Consequences: What happens when students ignore or choose to not to follow the classroom rules?
- Developing a plan for students who are unable to operate in the classroom system—what is the "Plan B"?
- Managing Individual Behavior: Documenting and tracking of student behavior.
- Involving Parents: Designing a plan for involving the parent/guardian in creating a positive class environment.