The majority of the time, good classroom management is unnoticed. While outbursts and disturbances are unavoidable during the school year, they can be reduced by using subtle strategies that operate behind the scenes to foster a positive classroom atmosphere.
According to a new study, there is a considerable difference in how novice and experienced teachers approach classroom management, which can take years of experience and training to close. While there’s no substitute for experience in the classroom, understanding the correct strategies and mindsets can put novice teachers on the fast track to implementing strategies that succeed but may seem counterintuitive or hazardous. Meanwhile, more seasoned educators can benefit from new perspectives that can help them improve or expand their existing repertoire.
Researchers watched video recordings of a high school classroom with 39 novice and expert teachers school leaders and mentors in charge of teaching new teachers for the study. While pupils worked, an educator could be seen offering instructions or wandering about the classroom in each video. A disruptive event occurred during each video, ranging from students chatting too loudly to students refusing to engage in the lecture. The teachers in the study gave their opinions on what happened in the classroom, criticised the observed teacher’s own classroom management skills, and proposed their own alternatives.
Here are six teacher-tested tactics for making changes in your own classroom this year, as well as how great teachers tackled classroom management.
VIEWING THE MAJOR PICTURE
While both novice and expert teachers used reactive strategies to address student misbehaviour, for example, reprimanding students with “Eyes on me!” if they were being disruptive expert teachers were far more likely to consider how proactive strategies could have prevented the misbehaviour in the first place.
The researchers discovered that new teachers had a more comprehensive understanding of classroom management and its complexity, conceiving of discipline in the broader context of how lessons were organised and executed, how clearly the teacher communicated expectations, and even how the physical environment was arranged, whereas expert teachers had a more comprehensive understanding of classroom management and its complexity, conceiving of discipline in the broader context of how lessons were organised and executed, how clearly the teacher communicated expectations, and even how the physical environment was arranged.
SEARCHING FOR ROOT CAUSES
Expert teachers were better at deciphering the causes and influences of their students’ actions. Inexperienced teachers were more inclined to focus entirely on correcting conduct when students weren’t paying attention, but expert teachers accepted the possibility that the behaviours were situational and explored solutions to improve the learning environment to avoid repeated disruptions.
Experienced teachers had a “more sophisticated and integrated” understanding of student misbehaviour than beginner teachers, forming a holistic image of their students.
AN APPROPRIATE BALANCE BETWEEN AUTHORITY AND AUTONOMY
Creating a set of rules and then enforcing them is ineffective, especially with older students. Expert teachers eventually come to understand the classroom as an ecosystem with a delicate balance between teacher authority and student autonomy. Instead of emphasising “order and discipline,” they “viewed student behaviour in the context of teacher behaviour, thinking about reasons and solutions.”
When pupils act out, it’s often because they’re displaying typical, healthy developmental tendencies. A healthy classroom, according to the most experienced teachers, is one in which pupils are given some fair flexibility in their behaviour and are taught how to think about others and self-regulate.
CHOOSING YOUR POSITION AND TONE
Expert teachers were more proficient in monitoring the classroom, frequently because they also had more positional awareness, ensuring that they occupied areas where students and student work would be visible. One teacher, for example, said he “walks through the rows and looks at what they (students) are doing” on a regular basis, which is a popular method for keeping students on task when completing autonomous work.
Expert teachers were also aware of how their body language, facial expressions, presence, and emotional control influenced their students’ emotional states.
“Emotions are contagious, and pupils are less likely to react defensively when a teacher can model a calm presence through their tone, facial expression, and posture. Work to convey enthusiasm and, if at all possible, keep your cool.
IMPROVING YOUR ADAPTABILITY
Successful classroom management necessitates the adaptive deployment of a repertoire of varied tactics. If a student is acting out because they’re having a bad day, a different approach will be required than if they’re frustrated by the difficulty of a lesson or are perplexed by the instructions, it was discovered that the latter issues account for 20% of classroom misbehaviour.
As teachers gain expertise, they experience a “change in viewpoint” from “seeing pieces versus seeing the whole.” Expert instructors possessed “adaptive expertise,” which allowed them to draw from a range of tactics depending on the environment, whereas rookie teachers relied more on routines and punishments, essentially following a script when it came to regulating pupils’ conduct.
1. Make a plan for your surroundings: Your classroom has a significant impact on your kids’ conduct. According to a 2018 study, highly decorated classrooms made it more difficult for students to concentrate on a lecture, leading to off-task or disruptive behaviour. While some visual aspects of the classroom might aid learning—for example, anchor charts, maps, photographs of role models, and displays of student work an overabundance of decorations can overstimulate.
2. Seating arrangements are also important: Students who chose their own seat rather than being allocated one were three times more likely to be disruptive. If you’re going to allow students to choose their seat many teachers believe it improves classroom behaviour do so only on a case-by-case basis, and set clear rules to let students know the consequences of repeated misbehaviour.
3. Participate in the creation of norms: Displaying a list of rules and expecting compliance is a typical classroom management blunder. It may be more constructive to have a discussion with your kids about why rules exist, and then come up with a set of guiding principles that everyone agrees on. By co-creating classroom norms with his students, high school teacher instils a sense of shared responsibility and ownership over the classroom’s civility. Together, they identify guidelines such as treating others with respect, and they evaluate the guidelines’ feasibility over the course of the year, discarding those that don’t seem valuable, meaningful, or useful.
4. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution: Determine how to assess the scope of the issue and respond accordingly, a high school teacher can create a series of tiered choices framed “as consequences, not punishments” to give pupils greater power when they disobey. Low-level misbehaviour, for example, might be met with a “gentle” response, such as using nonverbal hand signals to encourage students to pay attention or try “drive-by discipline,” such as quickly saying the child’s name to disrupt the behaviour without getting drawn into a larger battle.
Kids understand the consequences, which become more severe as the misconduct continues: students may be asked to change seats or take a time-out to reflect on their actions. If the student’s behaviour does not improve, the most severe consequences—detention or a meeting with parents—are applied.
5. Take into account what isn’t spoken: Student conduct is influenced by nonverbal communication such as eye contact, body language, and even how you position yourself in the room.
“Presence is critical to classroom management and efficient teaching delivery, and it’s a talent we can develop with practice. To develop your teaching presence you can videotape yourself while you’re teaching or get guidance from trustworthy colleagues circulate in locations where you can see and be seen, and use eye contact to connect with your students, project confidence and accessibility, and develop rapport.
6. Relationships, relationships, relationships, and more relationships: At the end of the day, effective classroom management begins and ends with solid interpersonal relationships. Greeting pupils at the door sets a favourable tone for the remainder of the day, enhancing academic engagement and behaviour considerably. A study found that doing prosocial activities like regular check-ins or morning meetings throughout the school year can reduce disturbances by up to 75%.
Finally, getting to know students’ personal life through get-to-know-you surveys other identity activities might provide insight into the underlying causes of behaviour. Students can create their own “identity portraits” to express both visible and hidden aspects of themselves, such as religion, race, or hobbies. You can also utilise writing prompts like “What inspires you?” or “What do you want to do after high school?” to elicit information that can be used to strengthen relationships and relate classroom content to students’ interests.
7. Choose your conflicts wisely (but do battle when you have to). Students who are regularly the subject of negative attention, for example, getting called out for not paying attention or speaking with another student, are more likely to become disengaged and apathetic, which leads to greater behavioural concerns in the future. Choose your battles, avoid escalating the situation if at all possible, and keep in mind that the most effective classroom management strategies are based on building relationships and increasing engagement with the content.