The most effective classroom management

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Classroom management and management of student conduct are skills that teachers acquire over time. These skills almost never "jell" until after a minimum of few years of teaching experience. To be sure, effective teaching requires considerable skill in managing the myriad of tasks and situations that occur in the classroom each day. Skills such as effective classroom management are central to teaching and require "common sense," consistency, a sense of fairness, and courage. These skills also require that teachers understand in more than one way the psychological and developmental levels of their students. The skills associated with effective classroom management are only acquired with practice, feedback, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.

As previously mentioned, personal experience and research indicate that many beginning teachers have difficulty effectively managing their classrooms. Whereas classroom teachers with many years of experience have contributed to an understanding of what works and what doesn't work in managing classrooms and the behavior of students.

In the introduction of his 1986 literature review of classroom management, Walter Doyle contends, " Classroom teaching has two major task structures organized around the problems of (a) learning and (b) order." Without order a teacher is hard-pressed to promote student learning. As a result, according to Doyle, classroom management results in the coupling of order and learning. The progression of strategies teachers utilize to promote order and student engagement and learning, then, is what Doyle labels " classroom management."

For many educators, classroom or school management evokes several terms such as "order," "discipline," and " cooperation," These terms are casually mentioned sometimes but are not well defined, often leaving the reader to assume that they are either synonyms or antonyms. Doyle contends, "order, in classrooms as in conversations achieved with students and depends upon their willingness to follow along with the unfolding of the event." In other words, Doyle continues, order is not "absolute silence, or rigid conformity to rules, although these conditions are sometimes considered necessary specific purposes (e.g., a major test). Order in a classroom simply means that within acceptable limits the students are following the program of action necessary for a particular classroom event to be realized in the situation." Furthermore, order is much broader than discipline or cooperation. It includes: "organizing classroom groups, establishing rules and procedures, reacting to misbehavior, monitoring and pacing classroom events, and the like."

Another well-funded management plan at the classroom level is cooperative learning. Cooperative learning typically involves a small group of students - usually no longer than four - who are positively dependent upon each other when completing an assigned task. Mulryan (1994) observes, "Students manifested more time-on-task in the cooperative small-group setting than in the whole-class mathematics and reading-group settings." In a later study, Mulryan again concluded, "Students" engagement was much greater in the small-group than in the whole-class setting and … students were more activity engaged in the small-group setting." One option for teachers to consider when forming cooperative groups is to arrange students based on ability. For instance, heterogeneous groups would consist of low, middle and high achievers (based on achievement tests and teacher ranking). Students need to be taught how to take roles and interact in the groupings. Additionally, teachers must monitor and support students when in cooperative learning groups.

Many disruptive behaviors in the classroom can be alleviated before they become serious discipline problems. Such behaviors can be reduced by the teacher's ability to employ effective organizational practices. Such practices are at the heart of the teaching process and are essential to establishing and maintaining classroom control.

The following set of organizational practices should help to establish effective control of the classroom by the teacher:

1. Get off to a Good Start. The first "honeymoon" encounter between the teacher and the students is when they formulate their impressions of the teacher. Students sit quietly, raise their hands to respond and are generally well behaved. Students within a week will begin to test the waters to see what they can "get away with". It is during this period the effective teacher will establish the expected ground-rules for classroom behavior.

2. Learning School Policies. Prior to meeting the class for the first time, the teacher should become familiar with school policies concerning acceptable student behavior and disciplinary procedures. The teacher should definitely know what the school expects from both student and teacher in regard to discipline.

3. Establishing Rules. Establish a set of classroom rules to guide the behavior of students at once. Discuss the rationale of these rules with the students to ensure they understand and see the need for each rule. Keep the list of rules short. The rules most often involve paying attention, respect for others, excessive noise, securing materials and completion of homework.

4. Over planning Lessons. "Over plan" the lessons for the first week or two. It is important for the teacher to impress on the students from the outset that he or she is organized and confident of their ability to get through the syllabus.

5. Learning Names. Devise a seating arrangement whereby students' names are quickly learned. Calling a student by his or her name early in the year gives the student an increased sense of well being. It also gives a teacher greater control of situations. For example, "Nada, stop talking and finish your work" is more effective than "Let us stop talking and finish our work".

6. Be Firm and Consistent. A teacher can be firm yet still be supportive and friendly with students. A firm teacher can provide an environment where the students feel safe and secure. Many teachers report that it is easier to begin the year in a firm manner and relax later, than to begin in a relaxed manner and then try to become firm.

Some of the most important aspects of classroom management are preventative techniques which involve creating a positive classroom community with mutual respect between teacher and student. Teachers using the preventative approach offer warmth, acceptance, and support unconditionally- not based on a student's behavior. Fair rules and consequences are established and students are given frequent and consistent feedback regarding their behavior (Bear,2008). Preventative techniques also involve the strategic use of praise and rewards to inform students about their behavior rather than as means of controlling student behavior. In order to use rewards to inform students about their behavior, teachers must emphasize the value of the behavior that is rewarded and also explain to students the specific skills they demonstrated to earn the reward. Teachers should also encourage student collaboration in selecting rewards and defining appropriate behaviors that will earn rewards.

Time management is also one of the basic practices in classroom management. In their introductory text on teaching, Kauchak and Eggen (2008) explain classroom management in terms of time management. The goal of classroom management, to kauchak and Eggen, is to not only maintain order but to optimize student learning. They divide class time into four overlapping categories, namely allocated time, instructional time, engaged time, and academic learning time:

1. Allocated Time. It is the total time allotted for teaching, learning, and routine classroom procedures like attendance and announcements. Allocated time is also what appears on a student's schedule, for example "Introductory Algebra: 9:50-10:30a.m."

2. Instructional Time. It is what remains after routine classroom procedures are completed. That is to say, instructional time is the time wherein teaching and learning actually takes place. Teachers may spend two or three minutes taking attendance, for example, before their instruction begins.

3. Engaged Time. It is also called time on task. During engaged time, students participating actively in learning activities - asking and responding to questions, completing worksheets and exercises, preparing skits and presentations, etc.

4. Academic Learning Time. It occurs when students participate actively and are successful in learning activities. Effective classroom management maximizes academic learning time.

Positive Classrooms developed by Dr. Robert Di Giulio sees positive classroom management as the result of four factors: how teachers regard their students (spiritual dimension), how they set up the classroom environment (physical dimension), how skillfully they teach content( instructional dimension), and how well they address student behavior (managerial dimension).

There are many different practices that are used for good classroom management. As with all classroom management practices, a teacher should adapt what he/she likes to his/her classroom, taking account the age, ethnicity, and personality of the class as a group, and of himself/ herself as a teacher. The task of class management has become more difficult over the past few decades as young people's attitudes to

people in authority have changed dramatically. Some of the changes have led to greater self-confidence in students. Others - such as the acceptance of violence to achieve ends, attitudes to substance abuse and an increasing lack of respect for authority- have made classroom management and life in school generally more difficult, and more demanding, on those who are charged with maintaining a positive learning environment.

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