How practical is ecological approach to classroom management

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An ecological approach to classroom and behaviour management accounts for the distinct individuality of each teaching setting. Such environments constitute a fusion of the many unique experiences, needs and expectations of their individual occupants. Hence, an ecological perspective embraces, attends to and nourishes this heterogeneity through the construction and maintenance of proactive, inclusive and positive learning environments. In the secondary school setting, this needs-based approach is both valuable and practical. (Arthur-Kelly, Lyons, Butterfield & Gordon, 2003)

Bronfenbrenner (1979, p.16) posits that "behavior evolves as an interplay between person and environment." In the secondary classroom socio-cultural factors that have helped to shape each individual are also at play. These include race, family dynamics, gender, socioeconomic status, values and attitudes (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2003). As students mature, their histories of interacting with significant others must also be considered. For example, children with easygoing dispositions generally evoke positive reactions from social counterparts whereas those with less favourable dispositions attract negative, impatient or punitive responses. These bi-directional relationships may have contributed to lasting developmental effects (Berk, 2009). In educational settings coercive interactions, deficient teaching strategies and unfavourable learning environments may also lead to ingrained behavioural deficits (Conroy, Sutherland, Haydon, Stormont & Harmon, 2009).

Using an ecological approach, the classroom may be viewed as an ecology consisting of connected and intertwined personalities, activities, procedures and occurrences, all of which may impact upon behaviour (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2003). In comprehensively examining student behaviour, it is essential that all ecological contributions are identified and

considered. With this approach, the relationship between the adolescent and influential environment factors is considered most critical rather than any suspected or diagnosed issues that the student may present with (Johnson & Fullwood, 2006). This facilitates proactive manipulation or adjustment of the environmental context in which the behaviour occurs. Additionally, it ensures that actions are not merely reactive but seek to address causative imbalances (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2003).

An ecological approach concerns itself with the construction and maintenance of positive learning environments comprised of effective preventative measures, targeted interventions where necessary and the fostering of student self-discipline. The provision of well delivered, engaging classroom activities that are perceived as worthwhile and meaningful by students, and attention to building positive, cooperative relationships are also imperative. An inclusive environment where students feel safe to contribute is created. In this way, classroom management becomes a collaborative process. The teacher's task involves a cycle of providing structure, warmth and guidance, encouraging participation and belongingness, then monitoring and adjusting as necessary. (Osher, Bear, Sprague & Doyle, 2010)

In secondary classrooms, teachers face multiple challenges. By employing an ecological approach, the learning environment is enhanced, allowing students to share the burden by learning to participate constructively within a nurturing, dynamic system (Osher et al., 2010). Much research exists that extols the ecological approach as both practical and successful (Osher et al., 2010). Moreover, it is positively correlated with social and personal developmental gains and enhanced academic outcomes (McLeod, Fisher & Hoover, 2003; Osher et al., 2010).



Arthur-Kelly, M., Lyons, G., Butterfield, N., & Gordon, C. (2003). Classroom management:

Creating positive learning environments. (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Cengage Learning Australia.

Berk, L. E. (2009) Child development. (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and

design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Conroy, M., Sutherland, K., Haydon, T., Stormont, M., & Harmon, J. (2009). Preventing and

ameliorating young children's chronic problem behaviors: An ecological classroom-

based approach, Psychology in the Schools, 46, 1, 3-17.

Johnson, H. L., & Fullwood, H. L. (2006). Disturbing behaviors in the secondary

classroom: How do general educators perceive problem behaviors? Journal of

Instructional Psychology, 33, 1, 20-39.

McLeod, J., Fisher, J., & Hoover, G. (2003). The key elements of classroom management:

Managing time and space, student behaviour and instructional strategies. Alexandria,

VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Osher, D., Bear, G. G., Sprague, J. R. & Doyle, W. (2010). How can we improve school

discipline? Educational Researcher, 39, 1, 48-58.


PART 2- TASK 4: In what ways could communication methods based on mutual respect alter the classroom ecosystem? How could these affect disruptive children as well as those who already exhibit positive behaviour?

In the secondary school setting, effective communication skills are a vital component of positive learning environments. They enable teachers to alter the classroom ecology in such as way as to develop mutually respectful reciprocal interactions with students that serve to augment classroom experiences and outcomes. Well-developed communication methods may be used to enhance interpersonal exchanges, promote effective problem-solving and expedite conflict resolution. These are the vital building blocks that serve to build trust and understanding. Moreover, they assist greatly in facilitating warm reciprocal student/teacher relationships and productive learning environments which in turn, foster positive behaviour and learning outcomes. The use of effective communication processes in secondary classrooms has the potential to benefit students who exhibit disruptive behaviours as well as those who do not (Arthur-Kelly, Lyons, Butterfield & Gordon, 2003).

Many secondary school students perceive this time period to be especially challenging. Developmentally, such students are experiencing considerable upheaval as they begin to negotiate the maze to emotional, social, physical and cognitive maturity. The secondary school years are further complicated as adolescents begin to consolidate their sense of identity, strive for greater autonomy and freedom and expand their social networks. These momentous changes may cause many students to flounder and struggle both behaviourally and academically. Fortunately, through the use of effective interpersonal communication techniques teachers are able to build respectful, reciprocal relationships that bolster secondary students throughout this tumultuous journey. (Martin, 2010)


Effective communication skills have long been regarded as the backbone of classroom management that results in the creation and maintenance of positive learning environments (den Brok, Fisher, Wubbels, Brekelmans & Rickards, 2006). As such, communication and more specifically, teacher interpersonal skills may be viewed as the single most influential tool in altering classroom ecology to facilitate positive behavioural and academic outcomes (den Brok, Fisher, Wubbels, Brekelmans & Rickards, 2006). Much research also supports the notion that effective teacher interpersonal behaviour is positively correlated with greater student cognitive and behavioural outcomes (den Brok, Levy, Brekelmans & Wubbels, 2006; Fraser & Walberg, 2005; Urdan, & Schoenfelder, 2006). More particularly, student motivation, learning and degree of compliance are predominantly shaped by their perception of their relationship with their teacher (den Brok, Levy, Brekelmans & Wubbels, 2006).

During the tumultuous secondary school years students care a great deal about establishing positive relationships with their teachers and the level of support this provides. Hence, students who exhibit challenging behaviours and their counterparts who do not, both respond with far greater enthusiasm, pronounced engagement and augmented effort, behaviourally and academically, when they perceive that their teachers care about them (Urdan, & Schoenfelder, 2006). By using effective communication skills, teachers are equipped with the tools to impart this powerful belief in their students, thus leading to respectful reciprocal relationships, positively altered classroom ecology, increased compliance and associated behavioural and academic growth.



Arthur-Kelly, M., Lyons, G., Butterfield, N., & Gordon, C. (2003). Classroom management:

Creating positive learning environments. (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Cengage Learning Australia.

den Brok, P., Fisher, D., Wubbels, T., Brekelmans, M., & Rickards, T. (2006). Secondary

teachers' interpersonal behaviour in Singapore, Brunei and Australia: A

cross-national comparison. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 26, 1, 79-95.

den Brok, P., Levy, J., Brekelmans, M., & Wubbels, T. (2006). The effect of teacher

interpersonal behaviour on students' subject-specific motivation. The Journal of Classroom Interaction, 40, 2, 2-33.

Fraser, B. J., & Walberg, H. J. (2005). Research on teacher-student relationships and learning

environments: Context, retrospect and prospect. International Journal of Educational Research, 43, 103-109.

Martin, A. (2010). Building classroom success: Eliminating academic fear and failure.

London: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Urdan, T., & Schoenfelder, E. (2006). Classroom effects on student motivation: Goal

structures, social relationships, and competence beliefs. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 331-349.


PART 3- TASK 7: Read the four scenarios on pages 174-176 in Arthur-Kelly et al., [2006] and using goal-centred theory identify in each of the four scenarios:

a. How the child achieving his or her goal of misbehaviour helps the child to belong?

b. How might the teacher restructure the learning environment to avoid future recurrences of these problems?

Scenario 1: Liana is a pain (Attention)

Liana requests continuous attention that commands teacher concern and assistance in order to fulfil her need for social belonging (Edwards, 2008). Liana mistakenly believes that she only matters when the teacher is actively paying her attention (NSW Department of Education, 1987).

Scenario 2: Maria pouts (Power)

Maria demonstrates a power focussed approach. By refusing to cooperate, Maria announces to her teacher and peers that she can prove her societal worth by doing whatever she likes. Asserting her authority enables Maria to achieve her goal of feeling powerful and important within the group. (Balson, 1992)

Scenario 3: Ivan is violent (Revenge)

Ivan seeks revenge. He feels misunderstood, unfairly treated and hurt. These feelings have accumulated over time as a result of negative interactions with others and negative student appraisals (Balson, 1992). To cope with such strong emotions and to achieve his goal of feeling uniqueness and group belonging, Ivan resorts to forcing others to share his pain (Ming-tak & Wai-shing, 2008).

Scenario 4: Rodney is lazy (Inadequacy)

Rodney has become extremely discouraged and entrenched in a firm belief of his own inadequacy and inability. This belief acts like a shield which protects Rodney from further


humiliation. By demonstrating such pervasive disability, Rodney hopes that nothing will ever be expected of him. This affords him special status within the group as he is increasingly able to manipulate others into leaving him alone (Balson, 1992).

To prevent perpetuating the abovementioned behaviours in a secondary school setting the teacher needs to reconstruct the classroom environment to promote positive behaviour. This may be achieved by conveying a genuine sense of caring, respect and inclusivity to all students. Additionally, adolescents need to feel empowered by being recognised for positive behaviours and receiving opportunities to 'shine'. Teachers needs to impart the belief that the classroom is a welcoming place where students are valued, encouraged and treated fairly. (Arthur-Kelly, Lyons, Butterfield & Gordon, 2003)

Four factors are involved, the first being the establishment of democratically negotiated class rules with coordinated logical consequences. The second factor is the inclusive formulation of an effective conflict resolution mechanism, perhaps taking the shape of class discussion or negotiation meetings. Thirdly, the teacher should provide regular positive feedback and encouragement to all students, thus nurturing their need for belonging. Lastly, the teacher should employ specialised approaches to address the needs of discouraged students. (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2003)

This may involve using strategies such as regularly rewarding attention-seekers when they display appropriate behaviour (Tauber, 2007). Power seekers might be enlisted to assist, exercise judgement or to tutor others with subsequent teacher encouragement (Nelsen, 2000). For revenge-focussed students, the teacher could focus on strengthening classroom relationships, perhaps by regularly manoeuvring situations that allow the student to 'shine' in front of peers so that their negative appraisals begin to diminish (Ming-tak & Wai-shing,


2008). Genuine support and encouragement may be expressed for students who display inadequacy. Additionally, carefully tailored learning situations may be used to enable frequent experiences of success and acknowledgement. Particular attention should be paid to expressing faith in ability at every opportunity (Ming-tak & Wai-shing, 2008).



Arthur-Kelly, M., Lyons, G., Butterfield, N., & Gordon, C. (2003). Classroom management:

Creating positive learning environments. (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Cengage Learning Australia.

Balson, M. (1992). Understanding classroom behaviour. (3rd ed.). Hawthorn, VIC: ACER.

Edwards, C. H. (2008). Classroom discipline and management. (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John

Wiley & Sons.

Ming-tak, H., & Wai-shing, L. (2008). Classroom management: Creating a positive learning

environment. Aberdeen, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Tauber, R. T. (2007). Classroom management: Sound theory and effective practice. (4th ed.).

Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Nelsen, J. (2000). Positive discipline: For teachers. Retrieved 25 November, 2010, from

NSW Department of Education. (1987). Understanding the roles and directing the

characters... goals of misbehaviour and how to respond. Retrieved 25 November, 2010, from


PART 4- TASK 9: Discuss the view put in Chapter 9 that you should develop and apply a model of classroom management that is aligned with both your personal philosophy of learning and teaching, and your personal approach to classroom management.

It is crucial that pre-service teachers establish a model of classroom management that is in agreement with their personal learning/teaching philosophy and individual approach to classroom management. In constructing such an integrated structure, it is necessary to consider the contribution of personal values and beliefs as well as the various theories associated with instruction, pedagogy, development, behaviour, curriculum and assessment and the complex environmental attributes that constitute classrooms. A congruent and amalgamated philosophy, classroom management model and personal approach are prerequisites for facilitating success in dynamic secondary classroom ecologies. (Arthur-Kelly, Lyons, Butterfield & Gordon, 2003) The process of developing such structures may be viewed as equally important as it enables the pre-service teacher to focus on and articulate a personal rationale (Goodyear & Allchin, nd.). For pre-service secondary school teachers, this integrated approach is akin to a blueprint, designed as a guide that all future classroom interactions may be evaluated against (Bosch, 2006).

The process of creating an aligned teaching/learning philosophy, classroom management approach and model may be viewed as an essential planning phase (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2003). During this process, the pre-service teacher clarifies their assumptions, knowledge and beliefs regarding effective teaching/learning, the importance of classroom management, the theories that drive one's personal approach and the importance of ecological factors. Employing such scrutiny allows the pre-service teacher to reveal any discrepancies between their beliefs and intended actions and to develop a unique, consistent personal style. Any inconsistencies may be rectified, thus averting potential impediment to teaching practice (Osterman & Kottkamp, 1993).


Pre-service secondary teachers are wise to conduct a thorough self-examination of their values, beliefs and their theoretical underpinnings prior to settling on a model of classroom management and corresponding learning/teaching philosophy. This synchronised technique engenders a surefooted base that maximises the potential for successful classroom interactions and achievements. Subsequent to employing this unifying approach, intentions, goals and methodology may be clearly communicated to all stakeholders (Raymond, 1997). Moreover, this framework allows the success of outcomes to be accurately measured and serves as a guide for reflective practice (Titus & Gremler, 2010). This is especially important in secondary classrooms where a persistent, consistent and systematic approach is essential for the respectful and unambiguous communication that is a requirement in building positive learning environments (Arthur-Kelly et al., 2003).

It is the pre-service teacher's beliefs and values systems that drive their teaching practices and behaviour. An aligned model and approach to classroom management and personal philosophy of learning and teaching leads to consistent patterns of classroom communication and instruction and a well coordinated teaching style. Indeed, Heimlich and Norland (2002, p. 17) describe teaching style "as a predilection toward teaching behaviour and the congruence between an educator's teaching behaviour and teaching beliefs." Furthermore, the decisions that pre-service teachers make and the actions that ensue are reflections of their conscious beliefs regarding what constitutes effective teaching/learning. A teaching style marred by incongruity, lacks pedagogical reflection and direction, hence minimising the likelihood of effective and coordinated teaching practices (Titus & Gremler, 2010).