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Case study: Classroom Management

To be an effective teacher in the year 2010 and beyond teachers need to consider their students in the classroom and how managing the classroom is impacted by the theories of teaching and learning. Classroom management consists of “actions teachers take to create an environment that supports and facilitates academic and social-emotional learning” (Evertson & Weinstein, 2006, p.4 as cited in Eggen et al., 2010, p.354). The fundamental principals needed in planning and creating effective classroom management will lead to creating a productive learning environment and therefore allowing teachers to be effective in the year 2010 and beyond. As stated in Eggen et al., 2010, the five principals include

Developmental Differences

Management and Instruction

Organisation

Rules and Procedures

The first days of school.

Developmental Differences

It is easy to understand from Piaget’s stages of development and cognitive theory that students thinking, understanding, behaviour and experiences are different in each developmental stage.

“Students think, act, and feel differently at different stages of development, and teachers need to respond to the differences as they plan” (Emmer et al., 2006; Evertson et al., 2006 as cited in Eggen et al., 2010, p.357).

Piaget’s research identified that construction of knowledge occurs primarily in the child’s interaction with physical objects. As a child moves through the developmental stages, teachers continue to use concrete experiences and provide opportunities to include more abstract and detailed information as the final stage of development allow for formal thought shown by thinking abstractly, systematically and hypothetically therefore allowing students to modify existing schemas (Eggen et al., 2010). When planning for effective classroom management, another view that can be considered is Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of development. Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist, also believed, as Piaget did, that children construct knowledge for themselves, although Vygotsky’s research indicated that construction of knowledge occurs when it is first “socially constructed and then internalised” (Eggen et al., 2010, p.49). Both views from Piaget and Vygotsky suggest that need to move from the traditional classroom where teaching takes place and teachers are the focus, towards creating a new environment consisting of learning activities that utilise these characteristics and places the student in a cognitively active role (Eggen et al., 2010).

Management and Instruction

Management and instruction are interdependent, “as you plan for classroom management, you must simultaneously plan for effective instruction” (Good and Brophy, 2008 as cited in Eggen et al., 2010, p.357), put simply planning and delivery work together. Effective instruction is clear and concise; it communicates the intended information or request eliminating the possibility of interpretation. Effective teachers in the year 2010 and beyond take advantage of resources available such as, the internet, the curriculum, books, articles and their experiences to plan their lessons while making use of different modes of delivering this information, for instance, using a Smartboard, computers, projectors, diagrams, models or any other method to allow their students at any developmental level to make sense of, and understand the information being taught (Eggen et al., 2010).

Organisation

Preparation and routines are the key components of organisation and ultimately an orderly learning environment (Eggen et al., 2010). To achieve an orderly learning environment at all developmental levels, organisation is essential for effective classroom management, organisation includes preparing materials in advance, starting classrooms and activities on time, making transitions quickly and smoothly and creating well-established routines. Eggen et al., (2010) suggest while creating routines within the classroom increases instructional time it also reduces the cognitive load on teachers and students and ultimately reduces the likelihood of management problems.

Rules and Procedures

“Regardless of your students’ developmental level, the cornerstone of an effective management system is a clearly understood and consistently monitored set of rules and procedures” (Eggen et al., 2010, p.358). Rules can consist of a small set of points on cardboard paper visible to all students in the classroom explaining acceptable behaviour while procedures are the guidelines that allow students to understand processes such as using a bell to stop the current activity and transition to the next. Teachers require their students to follow the rules and procedures as “they are the means for organising the classroom as an environment that supports learning” (Brophy, 1999). To achieve this, teachers use operant and classical conditioning to reinforce rules and procedures respectively.

Establishing rules that make sense and support students with clear examples is one method that follows Skinners theory of Operant Conditioning. “B. F. Skinner, (1953, 1954 as cited in Eggen et al., 2010, p.167) the most influential figure in operant conditioning, argued that behaviours are controlled more by consequences than by stimuli preceding behaviours.” Teachers condition learners, they reward and punish in order to reinforce behaviour as learners only respond to the stimulus provided, as this suggests learning occurs when a student exhibits a certain behaviour which is then followed by the consequence. The consequence being positive or negative influences the probability of similar behaviours recurring, therefore positive reinforcement increases the likelihood of positive behaviours and negative reinforcement increases the likelihood of negative behaviours (Eggen et al., 2010). Effective teachers use Skinner’s operant conditioning as a tool for managing student behaviour, assisting future learners to construct their understanding of the rules and procedures by relating them to their experiences; this allows the students to understand the meaning of those rules clearly.

Teachers can implement procedures in their classroom by understanding and applying Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning. Ivan Pavlov, a Russian scientist, originally discovered association as the key to effective learning (Eggen et al., 2010). For example, students associate the ring of the bell to transitioning to another activity. The unconditioned stimulus, “an object or event that causes an instinctive or reflexive (unlearned) physiological or emotional response” (Eggen et al., 2010, p.165) is represented by the bell and the conditioned stimulus “a formerly neutral stimulus that becomes associated with the unconditioned stimulus” (Eggen et al., 2010, p.165) is represented through the association of the teacher ringing the bell. The unconditioned response “is the instinctive or reflexive (unlearned) physiological or emotional response caused by the unconditioned stimulus” (Eggen et al., 2010, p.165) when ringing the bell results in the student’s stopping their current activity and transitioning to the next. With repetition the conditioned response “a learned physiological or emotional response that is similar to the unconditioned response” (Eggen et al., 2010, p.165) has now become a learned response producing similar results as the unconditioned response.

First days of the school year

Effective teachers establish guidelines within the first few days of school which sets the tone for the year. “Research consistently confirms that patterns of behaviour for the entire year are established in the first few days of school” (Gettinger & Kohler, 2006; V. F. Jones & Jones, 2004 as cited in Eggen et al., 2010, p.358). The four main guidelines for beginning the school year consist of establishing expectations, where teachers place emphasis on creating an orderly classroom environment and in turn allow for effective learning (Eggen et al., 2010). Planning structured Instructions which are vital for effective learning, by taking into consideration the students’ cognitive development, teachers are able to assess students and design appropriate activities (Eggen et al., 2010). Teaching rules and procedures can be valuable for students as they discuss classroom life, and allowing them to offer suggestions promotes understanding while consistently refreshing the rules and procedures “Being asked for input creates social contracts that can increase moral development, increase students feelings of autonomy, and contribute to motivation to learn” (Brophy, 2004; R. Ryan and Deci, 2000 as cited in Eggen et al., 2010, p.366). Communication with parents is necessary, to accommodate the future learner and changing from the traditional annual parent/teacher meeting, teachers can involve parents further in their child’s academic life via letter or phone by “encouraging parents to help with homework, read to their young children and monitor television viewing (Allen, 2007 as cited in Eggen et al., 2010, p.367).

Teachers are mentors and professionals (Eggen et al., 2010) who deliver information in a structured pattern allowing students to reach their potential. Effective teachers must have an enthusiasm for learning and educating, their passion drives them to be successful in making a positive difference in their students’ lives while continuously nurturing and inspiring them to achieve. As students develop and adjust to their learning environment, including the structure of the classroom, advancing technology, different behaviours and learning experiences, teachers are also required to continually evolve, think of different methods and ideas, taking into account developmental differences, instruction, organisation, initial contact with a student, rules and procedures to deliver the information to allow students to meet their objectives and create a positive learning environment. Combining these elements with the theories of Piaget, Vygotsky, Pavlov and Skinner allows for a greater understanding of the characteristics of future learners, and by meeting their needs teachers in the year 2010 and beyond will be able to engage students to think, create, analyse, evaluate and apply themselves (Nesbitt, 2007).

Conclusion

Without effective teachers, learners of the future will be little more than individuals attending school whilst sitting passively and listening to instructions. Understanding the characteristics of these future learners and the theories of teaching and learning from well known theorists such as Piaget, Vygotsky, Pavlov and Skinner, while simultaneously reflecting on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, allows us to recognise the impact motivation, classroom management and assessments have on learners and ultimately the direction and goals effective teachers in the year 2010 and beyond endeavour to achieve. 

 

Throughout this paper, we have established that learners construct knowledge from information that must make sense to them, by providing learners with opportunities to reach their full potential teachers are able to utilise and build upon their learners understanding through a caring, supportive and productive environment. Furthermore teachers of the year 2010 and beyond take advantage of the endless resources available while motivating and engaging the learner in effective learning activities and measuring their progress through formal and informal assessments.

 

Realising that teachers and students are only limited by their own imagination is empowering. As a teacher of the year 2010 and beyond this empowerment opens up a wealth of opportunity and adds a level of excitement while embracing the challenges of 21st century education.

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