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In this essay I will critically evaluate my personal and professional development with relation to QTS standards for classroom management. Using current theories and research I will identify problems and put forward possible solutions to improve my future practice. This will be achieved through reflective practice, in which I will keep a journal of my progression and identify key areas for development. Using this record of my developing class management, I will critically evaluate my own progression.
“If acting is the art of stopping people coughing, teaching is the art of stopping them throwing things around” (McManus 1995)
During my first placement in school, I was able to experiment with a variety of teaching techniques for all aspects of teaching. Due to the type of school I was placed at, the key factor I had to address was classroom management. The school had extensive problems with pupil behaviour, therefore before any meaningful learning could take place classroom management had to be dealt with. By the end of the placement my tutor gave me some extremely positive comments about my progress in this area and advised that I must continue to focus on classroom management to achieve outstanding lesson observations in the future. She explained that once I no longer had to think about discipline in the classroom and it became more natural, I would then be able to spend more time on other aspects of teaching. The importance of behaviour management to all aspiring teachers has been highlighted by many theorists over the years, “effective classroom management is essential to effective teaching” (Capel et al, 2005).
With this focus in mind I began my second placement with a strong motivation to develop my management techniques using all the resources available. This was an ideal area of development for me to use in my learning journal, where I could record my problems, try out new techniques and critically evaluate my progression. This would then provide me with a wealth of strong evidence to prove I had met the appropriate standards required to achieve Qualified Teaching Status (QTS). These standards, set by the government, cover the range of skills a teacher must have in order to teach satisfactory lessons. Several of these cover classroom management and through this assignment I will be able to asses how successfully I have achieved these standards.
Before I can begin to evaluate my practice I first need to set a clear definition of classroom management and what it will encompass. A clear and straightforward definition is given by Wragg (1993) “Class management is what teachers do to ensure that children engage in the task in hand, whatever that may be'”. Although simplistic this is essentially what all teachers must address every lesson. Before any meaningful teaching can take place, student’s behaviour in the classroom must be acceptable for all pupil’s to be able to learn. However, this essential concept then opens up a wide variety of variables which affect a student’s behaviour in lessons. It is these aspects of behaviour management which I will focus on in my reflective practice.
When studying classroom behaviour teachers of often talk about poor or bad behaviour shown by pupils but this can vary depending on the teachers point of view. Bad behaviour is therefore defined by the level of disruption caused to a child’s learning. Lawrence (1984) is quoted, “â€¦disruption amounted to anything which prevented the teacher from achieving worthwhile results with the pupils. Describing disruptive behaviour as, a ‘general refusal to be taught’, ‘doing no work’ or ‘refusal to obey'”. Knowing what is bad behaviour then allows the teachers establish techniques to anticipate and reduce its occurrence.
All student teachers hoping to develop their class management must accept the responsibility they have for all pupil’s behaviour. “Many teachers are understandably reluctant to acknowledge that the reason for pupils’ misbehaviour may be found as often in their teaching as in the pupils’ inability or failure to learn” (Charlton & David, 1989). Therefore teachers must understand that it is not solely the child or their background that is to blame for misbehaving. The teacher’s actions and decisions are possibly the most important factor effecting a pupil’s behaviour in their class. Having this in mind, a trainee teacher should take a greater responsibility of their management techniques and focus on improvements.
“Effective classroom management is based on these basic principles; expressing authority, conveying enthusiasm, proactivity and preparation.” (Bryson 1998). These four principles are the basic structure for establishing classroom management on which teachers can build their practice. However, developing these skills, especially as a student teacher, are notoriously complicated as they are often hard to practice. “List of qualities for those working with troublesome children: teachers must be stable, compassionate, sensitive, intelligent, resilient, mature and physically fit.” (Houghughi 1978) Behaviour management relies heavily on a teachers personality, mannerisms, acting ability and particulary confidence. “Teaching skills are difficult to get a purchase on because they are dynamic rather then mechanistic in character” (Eisner 1982). Yet there are many theorists who have developed techniques which can enhance and improve these skills. I will put into practice many of these theories during my placement and evaluate them in my reflective log. I will record the success or failure of these strategies and suggest ways in which they have enabled me to meet any QTS standards. In order to achieve this I must first establish an effective way to record and evaluate my classroom management using a reflective practice model.
“Although we all learn from experience, more and more experience does not guarantee more and more learning. We should not rely solely on our natural process of reflecting on experience, but actively seek ways to ensure that reflection itself become a habit.” (Beaty 1997).
Thus, to ensure progression is optimal a structured and focused method of reflection must be carried out by learners. During my time in placement B I will keep a journal describing my progress in improving classroom management during half a term. This will focus on one single year 8 class, who I have observed as having many behavioural issues. By recording the problems I faced and the successful and unsuccessful management techniques I used, I will have a detailed account of my teaching development. I will use this journal as a key source when relating classroom management theories to real life practice. This reflective procedure is essential for trainee teachers and is the key focus of this assignment.
Dewey (1933) is acknowledged as a major instigator in the twentieth century of the concept of reflection, drawing on the ideas of many classical theologians such as Plato, Aristotle, Confucius and Buddha (Houston, 1988). Since then several models of reflection have been presented in the last thirty years. Gibbs (1988), John (2000), Atkins & Murphy (1994) and Kolb (1984) have all produced differing models which offer different methods of reflection.
David Kolb (1984) believed that learning occurs in a cycle in which learners engage in and then observe and reflect on experiences. The learner can then integrate reflections into their own theory, allowing them to estimate how to react in the future. This basic outline is a good structure on which to base my journal but a more detailed and specific model for reflection would be of greater use.
Gibbs’s (1988) reflective cycle developed Kolb’s theories but adapted them into a more user-friendly model (appendix 1). Gibbs model suggests the learner describes what happens, explains their feelings at the time and then evaluates the positives and negatives of the experience. From this information the practitioner can then analyse the situation and make conclusions about what needs to be changed and what should remain. This allows the learner to set action plans to suggest what could be done in a similar situation in the future. This is a very accessible method for reflection which offers the learners opportunity to reflect on the key aspects of their learning and then use this information to set realistic targets. Christopher Johns (2000) is more critical of Gibbs’s cycle quoting “This might be useful for the novice reflective practitioner but remember, within a reflective perspective such structures are merely devices to help you reflect rather then impose a prescription of what reflection is.” Although I agree with Johns argument I believe I am still a novice reflective practitioner and so feel comfortable adopting Gibbs’ model.
Johns (1994) model for structured reflection (MSR) can be used as a guide for analysis or reflection on an experience and would be useful for more complex decision making and analysis. MSR supports the need for the learner to work with a supervisor throughout their learning experience. He refers to this as guided reflection, and recommends that students use a structured diary. Platzer et al (1997) identify this as a strength of the model, as it is one of the few models of reflection that refers to the development of supervisor based reflections. Rolfe et al (2001) criticises the MSR, as it only responds to a situation, which has been resolved. It does not give enough flexibility for the practitioner to evolve their practice as the situation changes. However I will incorporate the need for a learner to work with a supervisor, such as my subject tutor, into my own reflective practice as it gives me an experienced perspective on my development (see LDJ).
I will predominantly use Gibbs’s reflective cycle when evaluating my progression in classroom management but also incorporate Christopher Johns theory of supervisor supported reflection. I will organise it following Holly’s (1989) Log Diary Journal (LDJ) pro forma to structure each entry of my reflections. This will allow me to clearly state my lesson information, objectives, activities and dates in one column labelled Log. The second column, headed Diary, will contain a description of what occurred, my feelings on what had happened and evaluations of this experience, i.e. one half of Gibbs cycle. The final column, labelled Journal, will contain the second half of the cycle, analysing situations, drawing conclusions and setting targets. This section will also contain the comments and suggestions made by my subject tutor and supervisor. This model of reflection should then give me a sufficient amount of information to make significant progress in the classroom.
On arrival at Placement B I was given a timetable of the classes I would be teaching, giving me the opportunity to observe each class with their regular teacher over several weeks. Knowing the areas of development I needed to focus on during this placement I was aware that behaviour was going to be a key target. One group I was required to teach were a bottom set year 8 class. From the first lesson I observed with this group it was abundantly clear that the classroom management needed to be addressed. The class contained 18 pupils all with varying Special Educational Needs (SEN). These ranged from severe physical and mental disabilities to strong social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. This large array of barriers to learning meant the teacher had to differentiate each lesson in a very wide ranging way. Attainment levels were set comparatively high compared to children with similar learning difficulties and the class had not met their target grades as a group since joining the school. However after talking to the head of science the reason for the weak performance seemed to be caused by the poor behaviour shown in the classroom. During three weeks of observing the group classroom behaviour was the worst I have ever seen (LDJ log 1). The majority of students left their seats and often ran around the class arguing or fighting with other pupils. Equipment was continually thrown around the room and work torn up or dropped on the floor and ignored. Many pupils refused to even take their coats off in the classroom. Around 4 or 5 students were behaving very well and concentrated on the work set by the teacher. However the rest were at this point so accustomed to spending each science lesson misbehaving that they did not seam to know that this was not how to behave in a lab.
The reason for this poor behaviour was not simply caused by the pupils SEN and disabilities. Since beginning school a year and a half earlier the class have not had the same science teacher for more than a few months. The science department has had a lot of staff absences and so this class has had a lot of supply cover as their main teacher has been absent for 8 months. This lack of consistency has meant pupils have not yet learnt how to behave appropriately in a science lesson. This class therefore gave me the perfect opportunity to log my progression of classroom management in Placement B, with the hope of helping this class to begin some actual science learning. With this in mind I prepared for my first lesson with this group.
Classroom management “starts well before the students reach the classroom itself, involving careful preparation of both teaching and the room, alongside detailed planning.” Dymoke & Harrison (2008). After several weeks of observations I felt I was well prepared for my first lesson with 8E4. Yet after the first hours lesson I realised how unprepared I had been (Log 1). Although I had collected all the available data on each pupil and had observed the class with different supply teachers the behaviour was still far below what I had expected. One factor which I believe caused this was the time it took students to set up at the start of the session. Rutter et al (1979) reported that “where teachers were waiting for classes and able to supervise their entry there was less school disorder.” At the beginning of the first lesson I had trouble with the ICT equipment and so was unable to greet the students as they entered the room. I asked students to line up at the back of the room then sat students in a random order. This did not set the tone of the lesson well as it took far too long to organise and students were bored and easily distracted. The start of a lesson is vital in establishing the pace for the rest of the session but also informs students on what they should expect from the new teacher. Wragg (1984) showed that experienced teachers, when compared with students, were more likely to greet the pupils, occupy a central position in the room, wait for silence before speaking, issue directions authoritatively and use eye contact. Therefore I must always ensure that I have prepared for the start of each lesson and I set the tone I want for the following sessions in terms of behaviour. Marland (1975) points out that a straightforward start to lessons, with something that occupies pupils at their desk, allows the teacher to cope with interruptions and late-comers. I will try wherever possible to prepare fully for lessons and anticipate any behavioural problems in my planning to stop any issues arising. “We believe that the most effective way to manage behaviour problems is to prevent, or at lease minimise, their occurrence. Successful teachers were noted to be far more adept at preventing them.” (Charlton & David, 1989)
The first activity I had planned with this class was to create a set of simple classroom rules which students will design and follow (LP1).This was based on the work of McManus (1995) “One way of proceeding with classes that are already out offhand is to draw up jointly a short list of rules and make up some sort of bargain with the class.” Suggesting, “It is more effective to express the rules positively, so pupils know what they have to do rather then not do.” I had seen this done before and felt is was suitable for this already disruptive class. However when I asked the class to suggest their own classroom rules they gave knowingly silly or inappropriate suggestions. I had anticipated this happening and so had my own pre prepared rules. However when evaluating my lesson I now realise I should not have given in as quickly as I did in providing the class with some rules. If I had pushed students to state their own rules they would have produced a much more powerful management tool. Giving the students ownership of rule setting allows the teacher to transfer extra responsibility on those breaking the rules as they had agreed on how they should behave in the class. I will therefore ensure pupils always decide their own classroom regulations, giving myself more ways to manage behaviour.
Since the rules were set I have continually been reinforcing them at the beginning of each lesson. Bull and Solity (1987) note the importance of stressing to the class the natural consequences of keeping the rules, making it easier to withdraw the artificial system. This has been an area that my subject tutor suggested I need to improve (Log 1). Now that the classroom rules are known, when they are not followed by students I must show the consequences of pupil’s misbehaving. I had set out to use the whole school system of 2 warning then a room removal. However in the first few lessons I continued to give out warnings even when students should have been removed to a different class. In future I must be consistent with the schools discipline procedures and show to students I will follow through with my threats.
After the unsuccessful first lesson I had decided to set up a reward system for those in the class who do behave well in lessons. This would then act as an incentive for the rest of the group to change their own behaviour for the chance to earn a reward (Log 2). Bull & Solity (1987) suggest “Token rewards such as points are also useful as immediate rewards because they can be given for different behaviours and are relatively easy to administer at the time they are earned.” The raffle ticket system I set up did work very well. Though not successful enough to improve every child’s behaviour instantly, a large section of the class were visibly motivated by the reward. I was able to use the incentive of gaining a prize to ensure students sat at their desks and attempted the work set. Over the following lessons I continued the raffle system and it became an increasingly powerful tool for classroom management, especially when students saw others who had behaved well collecting their prizes (Log 6). This raffle ticket system has also worked well with slightly older classes I have taught and I will continue to use it in the future. This is a very useful technique for effective behaviour management.
In Log 3 I noted that “By teaching a more interesting and exciting topic I believe pupils are more likely to be engaged in the lesson and behaviour will improve”. My tutor had suggested in the previous lesson that the activities and success criteria set were not suitable for all the students in the class and that this could have been a reason for the poor behaviour. Gannaway (1984) found that “pupils were less likely to co-operate in lessons, especially ones judged boring, if there was too much writing.” With this in mind I planned lessons that I hoped would be more engaging to the students and therefore reduce behavioural issues. I spoke to the Head of Science in school who gave me permission to try a different subject topic with 8E4, as the planned scheme of work was very abstract and difficult to understand for students of this ability. Log 4 showed that “student’s were interested as soon as they entered the room and did not want to be removed from the lesson. The lesson was maintained in short chunks to keep the pace up and reduce the amount of disruption.” By choosing a subject (CSI) that was more exciting and accessible students behaviour did improve. Although this worked well for this class I will not have the luxury of picking my own scheme of work with other groups I teach. I therefore need to find ways of making the more boring and disengaging science topics more interesting for students.
“Studies have shown that pupils behave better and complete more work in rows. Further, pupils seated in the front and centre of the room are said to be more attentive.” (McManus 1995) Log 3 highlighted the need for a more structured seating plan. Rather then using the random collection from the first lesson I sat down and drew up a more considered plan. I put students into groups of 3 or 4 of mixed ability and equal gender. Based on the advice from my tutor this would mean those who struggle academically would be supported by the brighter pupils. Rewards would be awarded to groups, meaning the pupils had to work together and learn how to co-operate. This was a major issue in the class as many of the pupils are violent and hostile towards each other (Log 1,2,3). The new seating arrangements worked a lot better then the previous plan. I had intentionally placed the 3 most disruptive pupils at the front and centre of the room where I could constantly watch their actions. I maintained these groups over the next lessons and most groups eventually started to work together cohesively. Even though they still do not work together harmoniously, when compared to the first two lessons the behaviour has vastly improved.
After slowly building on the small steps of successful previous lessons Log 5 showed how it can all fall apart again. I attempted a practical experiment with the group which did not go as planned. “As soon as the practical began, students began messing around and acting in an unsafe manner. 3 pupils had to be removed and I also ended the practical early for safety reasons.” (Log 5) This experience highlighted to me that I need to develop a better awareness of what is occurring in my classrooms. Marland (1975) coined the term ‘lighthouse effect’ in which successful teachers frequently scan the class and regularly make remarks to show they are missing nothing. I do this too infrequently in my lessons and it is an area that needs to be strengthened as I progress.
After the lesson 5 disaster (Log 5) I planned a far more regimented practical for lesson 6 (LP6) based on classroom management theory. Partington and Hinchcliffe (1979) noted that “effective classroom managers prepared effectively and extensively; as well as the content they planned for organisational matters such as movement, time and the task of particular jobs.” With this in mind I structured the practical activity of lesson 6 extremely tightly. We completed the practical together as a group, doing one little step at a time. This meant all students knew exactly what to do and did not get confused or left behind. We did not move on to the next step until all students were ready. All behavioural issues could be dealt with much easier as students were keen to be involved and work at the same pace as the rest of the group. I was surprised at how well this structured approach worked and it will be the template for all future practicals.
At the end of my first half term at Placement B I had a detailed review meeting with my subject tutor. I asked about my progress in terms of classroom management and the areas I need to improve. The main target he suggested was to look at my own body language and research some theories on this subject. Kohl (1986) gave a very fitting description of his teacher training. “In one short week I went from informal Herb, with an open collar and sweater, to Mr Kohl with a suit and tie, a very controlled manner and an unnatural, stern look. My students had taught me that I had to establish my authority before I could teach them anything.” I need to follow Kohl’s lead and adapt my presence and demeanour in the classroom. Rather then appearing fragile or weak I need to portray my authority over the students. This can be achieved not only through my voice or my threats but in my gestures, stance and position in the classroom. Goffman (1968) observed that “impressions given off, as distinct from those deliberately given, are normally taken as a more accurate guide to a persons inner state.” I must constantly be aware of the signals I am portraying to the class and try to ensure they are the signs I want to give to the room.
Having experimented with several different classroom management techniques I have highlighted those which have improved my own practice and those which have not. Throughout these evaluations I have often felt that many strategies which I have observed or attempted often have the opposite effect. “‘Teachers’ control strategies can sometimes exacerbate rather than alleviate situations” (Cooper 1993). I do not necessarily believe that just because a class is well behaved or quiet that their learning is improved. Docking (1992) builds on this feeling, arguing “The word ‘control’ has mechanistic connotations, implying that teachers order their charges around without respecting their personhood. There is little room for discourse, listening to and trying to understand the voice of the pupil.” The best way for pupils to learn is most often when they are arguing or discussing a subject. To an observer this may appear to be bad behaviour and poor classroom management. Yet it is only when students are allowed to apply their knowledge in discussions with others that effective learning can really take place. I therefore need to focus my attention not on ensuing a classroom is silent and all pupils follow my commands but that students are making as much progression as possible.
Word Count 4, 323
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