What is Classroom Management?
In education, classroom management is key, so what is it exactly? Most educators think of classroom management as the overall system of strategies, rules, and procedures dictating how the classroom is run. Classroom management can encompass the teacher's system for disciplining student behavior, the basic guidelines governing how the classroom operates, or even the schoolwide system for conflict resolution. It can also involve the physical layout of the classroom and the expectations for how students interact with one another and class materials.
Over time, many different theories of classroom managements have developed, and classroom management techniques naturally vary depending on the age and other demographic identity factors of students. Classroom management strategies are often consistent to some extent within a school, though different teachers may also approach classroom management quite differently.
In recent years, increased attention has been paid in educational research and practice to the ways that classroom management can affect student learning and achievement. The consensus is that a well-managed classroom is one where students are equipped to participate in learning, and where students feel emotionally and physically safe. The daily routines of the classroom and the teacher's approach to consequences or punishment play a huge role in how secure students feel with their environment, allowing them to remain on-task and productive.
Classroom Management Philosophy & Theories
There are many different theories and philosophies regarding classroom management, and one thing many teachers aim to do over the course of their careers is to develop their own personal classroom management philosophy. The overarching theories of classroom management inform teachers and administrators as they go about their daily routines and interactions with students.
- One important theorist of classroom management is Thomas Gordon, whose ideas also guide social and emotional curricula. Gordon believed in the primacy of positive relationships, making I-statements when resolving conflicts, and developing a personal investment in the classroom community.
- Glasser's Choice theory teaches students to set personal goals and make choices that will help them meet those goals. This theory places a great deal of emphasis on student autonomy and motivation to learn.
- Ginott's Congruent Communication theory holds that students will ultimately behave as their teachers do, so when teachers behave appropriately, students will model that type of behavior consistently.
- Finally, Harry Wong's theory of classroom management focuses on establishing routines and community early in the school year prior to focusing on learning or having fun. This approach tends to be popular with teachers because it includes hands-on advice for struggling practitioners.
There are plenty of options when it comes to theories and philosophies of classroom management. As a teacher, the key is to identify the values important to you and brainstorm how to incorporate them in the classroom (while also adhering to the goals and philosophies promoted at your school).
Effective Classroom Management
There is no single magical way to engage in effective classroom management, particularly because it can mean different things to different teachers! Some teachers consider classroom management effective when the students are silent, while others are more interested in a noisy, bubbling learning community. There are some overall classroom management tips, or bits of advice, that can be helpful to teachers at any level who are trying to figure out their stance.
One of the first things to think about in effective classroom management is the age of the students. Preschool teachers might be focusing on helping students keep their hands to themselves, but this is less of a concern at the high school level.
- For early childhood education, younger students need clear, simple rules and a sense that the teacher is looking out for them. Preschool classroom management often includes poetry or music, simple icons, and a lot of repetition and routine.
- Kindergarten classroom management will be similar, but remember that kids can be surprisingly smart. While it can be tiresome to remind children of rules over and over, if you let one student slide, they'll start pushing your boundaries more. Teachers at this level need to stay consistent to promote consistently good behavior.
- Effective middle school classroom management necessitates understanding the developmental needs of adolescents. This might mean offering them more autonomy, taking their investment in peer relationships seriously, and developing a strong rapport with students.
- For effective high school classroom management teachers will focus on getting students interested in setting goals and managing their behavior according to these goals.
- At any age, it is important to be clear with students about what you expect and why. Effective classroom management should be fair, and you cannot be fair without letting students know what you want them to do each day. Most well-managed classrooms incorporate opportunities for students to help set basic norms, values, and expectations that they agree to live by while they are in school.
Classroom discipline is the aspect of management that deals with handling negative behaviors when they occur, and also teaching students to engage in desired behaviors when they are in the classroom. As with all aspects of classroom management, classroom discipline techniques and strategies will vary depending on the values, goals, and philosophies of the teacher and school.
Many classroom management techniques today focus strongly on what is called positive classroom discipline. Positive discipline focuses on emphasizing desired behavior in students, providing very specific praise to students who are doing well behaviorally, and building strong relationships with and among students.
Some classroom discipline techniques involve making a classroom discipline plan, which is more assertive than democratic, in that it specifies the exact rules for students and what happens if they follow or break them. For example, a classroom discipline plan might reward the whole class with something like a marble in a jar every time a good behavior is demonstrated, and the class might work together toward earning a reward like a pajama party or a movie in class.
Some students might also function best with individual discipline plans, or behavior management plans. An especially talkative student might work with the teacher on a discipline plan that teaches the student how to control the impulse toward excessive talking or calling out.
Classroom discipline sometimes also includes choosing consequences or punishments for students who violate classroom rules. Such consequences range from time-outs in the classroom, to talking with parents about the issues, to suspension or even expulsion in more serious cases.