Pre-service teachers in like those elsewhere, are concerned about classroom discipline. Before they did their teaching practices, they had expressed grave concern about how to handle students misbehavior positively and effectively. This essay is based on listening to their inner voices and recognizing their needs. A sample of 25 pre-service teachers was surveyed on perceptions of the success of classroom management strategies. First, the participants were asked to respond to the types of behaviors pre-service teachers viewed as inappropriate classroom behaviors before their teaching practices. Secondly, the research examined the perceived success of classroom management strategies reported by pre-service teachers when they finished their teaching practices. The pre-service teachers were teaching in secondary school classrooms in the areas of language education and mathematics education. Compared the two interviews, results indicated that talking, inattention, and not bringing required materials to class were the majority of the responses when identifying behavior problems. The most successful strategy reported in handling discipline behavior problems was detention and the least successful strategies reported were eliminate source of problems and verbal reprimand. Implications for pre-service teacher education in HKIEd are discussed.
Pre-service teachers clearly wish to teach effectively and make learning meaningful for students during their teaching practice. However, they are often frustrated in attaining their goals because of behavioral and academic problems of some students. Many pre-service teachers asked: how can a good classroom be created and maintained? Many researchers believe that improving the ability of teachers to effectively manage classroom behavior requires a systematic approach to teacher preparation and ongoing professional development. However, pre-service teachers learnt various literature, research evidence and examples of classroom management from Western societies. Therefore they sometimes could not deal with students misbehavior problems better in Eastern context.
In Hong Kong society, Chinese culture has a significant influence on the social behavior of most people, even though Western culture and trends in globalization have produced some profound and extensive changes in the society. The nature of culture is that it can be inherited from one generation to another and can be shared in common by all members of a society (Hue and; Li, 2008). What is going on in the classroom is related to the wider context in which the school is located, and cannot exclude itself from the influence of the culture to which it belongs. As a result, there is no single best way to manage classrooms and no one model or theory can address the great variety of circumstances and difficulties teachers encounter.
Classroom behavior problems are a principle source of stress and burnout of pre-service teachers (Giallo & Little, 2003). Failure to address misbehavior compromise the learning environment whereby academic activities are interrupted, curriculum content is not covered, teacher authority is undermined, and most importantly, there are decreased opportunities to learn (Cains & Brown, 1996; Giallo & Little, 2003). In other word, nowadays, a good classroom management is no longer viewed as a matter of exerting control over the learners, but more recently it has been perceived as the art of establishing a good climate and managing instruction effectively. Pre-service teachers need to gain students respect and confidence by showing concern for their needs and this is reflected and realized in their preparation of lessons that actively engage the students.
Effective management is a key factor contributing to a positive classroom environment. Classroom management has been defined in many different ways, depending on which of its aspects one focuses on, the particular philosophical positions held, and the operational approaches adopted. However, it is commonly referred to as the application of standards set in the classroom for positive student behavior. It has been identified as a critical skill for beginning teachers and pre-service teachers (Armstrong & Savage, 1990).
Classroom management has become a major concern of pre-service teacher. Brook and Grady (1996) found classroom management and discipline were consistently ranked as major problems by beginning teachers (or pre-service teachers). A recent research by Oliver and Reschly (2007) also attests to the fact that classroom organization and behavior management competencies significantly influence the persistence of new teachers in teaching careers. New teachers typically express concerns about lacking effective means to handle the significant disruptive behavior of students (Browers & Tomic, 2000). Pre-service teachers who have problems with behavior management and classroom discipline are frequently ineffective in the classroom, and they often report high levels of stress and symptoms of burnout (Oliver & Reschly, 2007). Stress related to classroom management was the most influential factor in failure among pre-service teachers.
- Chinese approaches to classroom management
Hong Kong teachers are used to borrowing ideas from the three schools of Chinese philosophy ï¿½VLegalism, Daoism and Confucianism ï¿½V and using many sayings from their classic texts to describe how they manage their classrooms (Hue & Li, 2008). They are also used as references for how students should be cultivated as educated citizens, in terms of their moral, social, emotional and personal selves.
Legalism was one of the three main philosophic schools, its representatives including Han Feizi and Li Si. It believed that a ruler has absolute power and authority, whereas his subjects hold junior positions in society and are considered inferiors (Bond, 1986). Within the relationships dominated by such a concept of power, there is little room for morality and humanity (Hue, 2007). As regards classroom management, the school of Legalism provides teachers with many ideas about how the social setting of the classroom can be managed, and it can be seen in how they construe their roles and classroom incidents (Hue, 2005a). According to this perspective, students behavior and conduct should be controlled by the rule and the power to establish and maintain rules, give orders and commands, build up a punishment-and-reward system and use the skills of impression management.
Daoism was found by Lao Zi. Many aspects of Chinese culture have been influenced deeply by Daoist philosophic thought, such as the concepts of action through inaction, the power of emptiness, the relativism of human values and the search for a long life (Hue, 2007). It places emphasis upon spontaneity and teaches that individuals should follow natural ways appropriate to themselves (Hue, 2008). In the classroom the natural potential of students should be released and kept flowing like a running river, rather than being bounded by any artificial institutional arrangements (Bond, 1986). In essence, most Daoists feel that teachers should appreciate students and respect each individuals capabilities, rather than lead them to desire a life predicated on the demands of institutions, or other external forces, that is always beyond their reach (Hue & Li, 2008).
Confucianism, which was founded by Confucius, is credited with shaping much of Chinese thought. The ethical values of Confucianism are grounded upon three areas: social norm, righteousness, and human-heartedness. In relation to classroom management, Confucianism serves as a major reference for the social behavior of teachers and students and how their roles should be played out (Hue, 2005a). For instance, teachers should take a positive view of students and believe that their nature is originally good; teachers have to relate to their students with genuineness, empathy and caringï¿½Xthe key qualities of interpersonal relationships; and teachers have an important role in helping students to understand the Way or the principles of life.
The three schools of Chinese philosophy have a profound effect on society and on the classroom lives of teachers and students. First, in Chinese culture, teaching has been based on a tradition which emerged from a hierarchically organized society. In such a society, one group of individuals is regarded as being superior to another, and this superior-inferior continuum is applied to teacher-student relationship (Bond & Hwang, 1986; Hue & Li, 2008). Consequently, teachers have the authority to define the legitimacy of subject knowledge and have the right to decide on students standards in various aspects of life. In most cases, students are expected to show conformity and obedience. If students want to challenge teachers judgment, teachers might condemn them by saying, no order of seniors and juniors. Any misbehavior which appears to be intended to overturn the hierarchical relationship between teacher and students is socially, culturally and politically unacceptable in all schooling contexts (Hue, 2007).
Secondly, collectivism and conformity are strongly emphasized in Chinese society (Yang, 1981). Chinese students are generally encouraged to prioritize collective over individual interests. In Hong Kong classrooms, when students thought of themselves, there was a clear tendency to use more group-related concepts, such as being attentive to others, and being respectful and polite to them. The fact that teachers warned students that they would be punished if they spoke to a very talkative student was further evidence that group pressure was commonly used as a strategy for managing students misbehavior in classroom (Hue, 2007).
Finally, Chinese people are used to playing the social game of face which has special meanings in interpersonal interaction (Bond & Lee, 1988). One common proverb about face is A man need face as a tree needs its bark. Commonly, enhancing ones face is used when individuals are assertive enough to know the behaviors and attitudes which are most praised by others in their social network, and act accordingly. In contract, in losing face, individuals fail to play the social roles that are expected (Hu, 1994). Such failure will cause them to feel deeply ashamed and embarrassed, and finally to lose confidence in interacting with others in the social group to which they belong. In the classroom, teachers and students are deeply concerned with their own and others social self-image and face. Since losing face has such negative effects, there is considerable potential for this issue to create a tense relationship between teachers and students.
There is evidence to show that pupil behavior is largely shaped by the school environment and teachers (Hue, 2008); and teachers should therefore work together to examine school factors that are influencing pupils behavior. Classroom management is best viewed and approached as an ongoing activity in which teachers pay more attention to preventive discipline, reflect on their own practices to improve their classroom management, and then take action to handle misbehavior. The research questions to be answered were the following:
1. Which behaviors do pre-service teachers identify as behavior problem in classroom management? Have you ever experienced behavior problems in Hong Kong classrooms when you were teaching?
2. What classroom management strategies were identified as most successful and least successful by pre-service teachers?
One purpose of this study was to determine types of behaviors pre-service teachers viewed as inappropriate classroom behaviors. Secondly, the researcher examined the perceived success of classroom management strategies reported by pre-service teachers.
This study began in the end of October 2010 and ended in 2011. During this period, a total of 25 pre-service teachers agreed to participate in the study. The pre-service teachers were in the English language education, Chinese language education and mathematics educations. All were studying their education courses at HKIEd. Each pre-service teacher received 30 hours of instruction related to classroom management in their courses.
They were invited to participate in this study of classroom management technique by joining a group interview before and after their teaching practices. They were asked to identify those classroom behavior problems they were experiencing as well as to answer how they addressed the behavior and how well they believed they handled the problems.
The participants in this study with less than three years teaching experience completed their teaching practice in local schools. Ten were placed in senior secondary schools and fifty were placed in junior secondary schools. The pre-service teacher sample was comprised of 5 (20%) males and 20 (80%) females, with the mean age ranging between 20 and 24 years. Each pre-service teacher was placed with supporting teachers who had at least five years of teaching experience.
All participating pre-service teachers were selected for interview twice. The first interview was conducted at the end of October 2010, which was one week before their teaching practices. The interview was conducted in group interview setting, five teachers were a group. The interviews were carried out over a one-week period. The interview was semi-structured, with the interviewer designing uptake questions based on interviewees responses. The core interview schedule included questions like the following:
The second interview was conducted around January 2011, 10 to 13 weeks after the first interview. During the second interview, participating pre-service teachers were required to complete a questionnaire during the interview. The questionnaire required pre-service teachers to respond multiple choice questions and ranking. The interview was still conducted in a semi-structured way. The second interview asked participant for their response to their own experience in classroom management during their teaching practices. All interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed.
After data collection, the qualitative and quantitative data were analyzed separately. Content analysis was used to analyze the questionnaire entries. Content analysis is a summarizing, quantitative analysis of message that relies on the scientific method and is not limited as to the types of variables that may be measure or the context in which messages are created or presented (Neuendorf, 2002).
Twenty-five sets of questionnaires comprised the data for this study. The interview provided the questionnaire to them and read as well. The average length of the questionnaire was three pages. Questionnaires were entered into the computer using Excel software.
Answer from interview was examined for descriptors of classroom problems that pre-service teachers perceived as problems and what classroom management strategy was employed as they reacted to the problem. Examples of major categories of problems were be late for class, cheating, clean up, disruptive, disrespect, fighting, profanity, sleeping and talking. Examples of classroom management strategies identified, as how they reacted to the problem were argued with students, eliminate source of problem, confiscate materials and record a demerit.
The interview validated the findings of the study be reading each questionnaire and listening to the record of interview. The data were summarized through the use of frequencies. The information reported here are the thoughts of pre-service teachers about classroom behavior and strategies, not that of the researchers.
Talking, inattention, and not bringing required materials were the most identified students behavior problems in classroom while tobacco, profanity and fighting were less identified as students behavior problems. All behaviors are presented in Table 1.
Talking was reported as the most identified students behavior problem. Around 90% pre-service teachers faced this problem in their class. Pre-service teachers reflected talking was including whisper, being loud, talkative, answering questions without permission etc. below are two quotations from two pre-service teachers who were in different schools:
I cant believe they(students) have so many things to talk. Always talk, talk, talk! However, when I asked to do speaking practice or answer my questions, no one responded!
once I asked two students why they always talked. They said they were just discussing the questions related to the subject. I didnt know how to respond to them because their reason was reasonable and strong! But they are really annoying.
Inattention was reported as the second most identified students behavior problem. However, compared with talking, pre-service teachers felt inattention brought them more stresses than talking. According to their interviews, pre-service teachers considered if inattention happened frequently in their classroom, it meant their lessons were boring and less attractive to students:
When I saw students looked outside the window or played their fingers, I realized that lesson was failed. I got frustrated and angry easily because I had prepared this lesson for more than three weeks but no one appreciated this. Sometimes even I wished they could say something irrelevant rather than sitting there like a puppet.
Fighting and Profanity were counted as the least identified students behavior problems. During the second interview, pre-service teachers explained the influence of media made them choose fighting and profanity as behavior problems before their teaching practices began:
When I was young, I watched Stephen Chows movie ï¿½V fight back to school. The story was about experience of a teacher in a band 5 school. That was a horrible experience. Students were always fighting and saying profanity. So I believed that was based on real life. Actually, the life in a band 3 school was not as bad as Stephen in the movie.
Ive never been to a band 3 school before my teaching practice. When I noticed my teaching practice school was a band 3 school, I searched the Internet for some information. In one video clip, a group of band 3 students spoke profanity to their teachers! I couldnt imagine that my students would do the same thing to me one dayï¿½KLater, I found things were not so bad. Although my students were not friendly and spoke profanity sometimes after lessons, they tried to behave well during the lesson.
The most successful strategy reported in handling behavior problems was detention and take student to office. As shown in table 2, eliminate source of problem and verbal reprimand was the least successful strategies in handling behavior problem. Other successful and unsuccessful strategies reported in rank order are listed in Table 2.
Many pre-service teachers chose the same strategy as the most successful while others saw it as the least successful way to handle the behavior. For example, ignored behavior, walk out of class, punish to stand still were reported as less successful strategies to handle students behavior problems; however, some pre-service teachers regarded them as most successful strategies. Usually pre-service teachers tried the methods they learnt from modules first. If the strategy worked, so they considered it as most successful strategy without trying another one; if it did not stop the problem, it was identified as least successful. Below are some examples of how one student reported a strategy as most successful while another reported that same strategy as the least successful way to address a behavior. Both pre-service teachers responded to a behavior with a ignored behavior. In describing a successful way to handle a behavior problem, one pre-service teacher said:
A boy was talking to another boy loudly while I asked them to do the worksheet. I was angry and walked to him. I asked him to be quiet, however, he asked, who are you? I argued with him immediately. The class was boiling and some students began to cause commotion. I found it was useless to argue with him so I stopped. I persuade that he was not here and continued my lesson. Other students found I did not care about that boy anymore so they gradually stopped commotion. Perhaps few minutes later, the boy became quiet. I guessed my ignorance made him feel boring. Anyway, sometimes ignorance is a good way to deal with their noise.
Quotation from another pre-service teacher who considered ignored behavior as least successful strategy:
It happened in my second week. I taught grammar in my S.4 class. When I distributed the worksheets, I saw a girl was sending message. At that moment, I wanted to stop her. But I told myself that she would see the error of her way and stopped it. Besides I was only a student teacher, if I did stop her, she would regard me as a bad guy and bring more troubles to me in the future. However, the girl didnt stop and even shared with her neighbor happily. Sometimes I thought they would be grateful to me when I gave them face, unfortunately that was totally wrong. I gave them face and thenï¿½KI lost mine.
As noted in Table 2, detention and take student to office were found to be the most two successful methods to deal with students behavior problems. The following quotation from three pre-service teachers illustrates how a pre-service teacher described his or her most successful strategies.
Sometimes I dont like detention or take student to office. It may break the relationship between me and students. But I have to admit that these two are more powerful and successful than any other strategies.
My school is band 3 school and my students are post-90s. They never care about anything except their face. Although the lecturer taught never use such ways to control students, it works on band 3 studentsï¿½KIn such schools, teacher should show teachers power.
I know my students may not respect me as Im just a student teacher. So when I tried to use some touching methods to handle their problems, I found it was just waste of time. Nobody listened to me. I have to use these methods even sometime I felt guilty. I understand if I bring them to the office, many teachers will join me and blame on students. That may hurt students in some way but they need a lesson.
In this research, students behavior problems are influenced by teachers preparation, school context, self-motivation and even teachers background.
As most participating pre-service teachers were from Mainland China, they met more obstacles like language of instruction and lack of understanding of local culture when dealing with students. Many of them reflected they could not use Cantonese fluently or understand some Cantonese profanity words, as a result, the communication between them and students could not go on. Also, they could not judge whether students had inappropriate behavior as some pre-service teachers did not understand Cantonese profanity.
Moreover, as most behavior problems taken place in Band 3 or Band 2 schools, pre-service teachers considered the school context as another factor when handling students misbehaviors. In most contexts, teachers in Band 3 or Band2 schools exercise their power directly in managing classes, believing that administering punishment and scolding are the most appropriate ways to control students misbehavior and get respect for their authority; and students become used to being treated strictly and constantly disciplined. Therefore, when a student-teacher tried to adopt a touching way to manage students, the effect was not as good as using a harsh one.
Another problem raised here is the social game of face. According to the result of table 2 and interview, pre-service teachers were deeply concerned with their own self-image and face. At one extreme, some of them may adopt an authoritarian approach and favour controlling the classroom with firm and strict punishments. At the other extreme, some pre-service teachers might resort to give students complete freedom in return for less confrontation with them. According to Glasser (1998), a good manager is able to steer the class in an open and democratic manner that gets students to participate in every aspect of school life. That means students can share power with the teacher in the processes of creating a pleasant atmosphere conducive to effective instruction and learning. In return, teacher authority is reinforced through a more student-centered teaching approach with produces a stimulating classroom environment with better behavior and learning. If Glassers view is correct, we have to find the reasons why pre-service teachers still regard punishment as a powerful or even unique strategy to handle students misbehaviors.
First, Chinese people have generally used practices such as control, punishment, and discipline for socializing children into the social value of conformity and collectivism (Hue & Li, 2008). In Hong Kong classrooms, students are expected to show obedience to the senior members of the school. Teachers tend to restrict and control students behavior from a very young age, often using harsh disciplinary practice to ensure conformity (Hue, 2008), and affective manipulation such as scolding and punishment (Hue 2008).
Secondly, building a good communication and relationship with students is essential, but it takes a long time to do. It is commonly understood that students like teachers who are warm and friendly. Studies also have shown that a positive classroom climate supported by high quality teacher-pupil relationships is able to meet pupils need s and enhance their classroom learning (Hui & Li, 2008). However, the teaching practice continued eight weeks that was not long enough for a pre-service teacher to build a close relationship with students. Usually, pre-service teachers had to teach their first lesson in the first week. Students had no extra time for them to be prepared to accept their new teachers. Meanwhile, their supporting teachers feelings should be taken into consideration. If a pre-service teacher built a good teacher-students relationship, his/her supporting teacher might feel the statue and authority were threatened.
Thirdly, managing classroom discipline problems in a student-centered approach is not practical for a pre-service teacher. According to Gordons (1989) Teacher Effectiveness Training, the student-centered approach is based on teacher-student relationships built upon trust, goodwill and genuine communication. As most pre-service teachers could not build a good teacher-students relationship within several weeks, the pre-service teachers could not play a role of consultant when dealing with students behavior problems. The reality of pre-service teacher was they often dealt with the immediate problem and had no time to consider the history and personality style of the students. So that they followed their reaction to solve these problems and the most common ways was to punishment.
Finding suggested that effectively managing the classroom is much more difficult for pre-service teachers, who may be assigned to classes with a large percentage of at-risk students. Pre-service teachers are more reactive and more likely to respond to a students inappropriate behavior by removing the students from instruction (Oliver & Reschly, 2008). Changes to Classroom Management Module should focus on following recommendation:
First of all, except for the existing coursework (providing instructional approaches for classroom management), the module may implement the approaches and theories through guided practice with feedback. Moreover, module can address the challenges facing pre-service teachers in creating a positive classroom context. Different from normal teachers, pre-service teachers are less powerful and familiar with school context. The challenges should concern on individual level rather than a school-wide level. The examples in this study can be used as case studies to initiate discussion regarding ways to handle a variety of classroom management problems.
This research is mainly based on twenty-five pre-services teachers that most of them with Mainland background. Further research needs to be conducted into the suggestions from experienced teachers, the thoughts from students perspectives and the feedback from HKIEd staff in order to improve teacher classroom management education so that the transition from pre-service to in-service teaching can be smoother for the pre-service teachers.