What exactly do we mean by classroom management? The way I see it, we have to split this particular subject right down the middle: we have the physical side (arranging furniture, placement of the whiteboard, seating plans, etc.) and we have the emotional side. The various theories I’ll be introducing and discussing over the course of several posts focus on the latter, encompassing the methods of organization, administration, teaching and enforcing discipline in our classroom.
While I’ll be interspersing these posts with a series focusing on the physical nature of classroom management, these ‘emotional posts’ shall consider how particular theories provide models for explaining how students learn, thus suggesting techniques for enhancing learning and decreasing distraction in our learning environments.
Additionally, I hope these posts will help show you how knowledge of classroom management can help you investigate how you function in a classroom, and how you might reflect on changes you’d like to make to how you manage things.
In today’s post I’ll introduce and briefly summarize some of the things I’ll be discussing throughout this blog series.
1. The notion of teacher presence
When we are managing our classrooms, the kind and amount of presence we as teachers uphold are important in establishing – and understanding – the dynamics of the learning environment. So, what’s best?
- Domineering teachers can ruin a learner’s sense of autonomy, reinforcing the notion that they are not as important a part of the class as the teacher.
- On the other hand, being too free with students can result in a state of anarchy in which no learning can occur.
As teachers we must achieve some kind of equilibrium; we need a noticeable physical presence in the classroom, while still focusing on getting learners to self-impose positive norms. What we are aiming for is learners developing appropriate behavior through self-discipline, rather than the danger of punishment.
2. The notion of assertive discipline
How we might best keep control in our learning environments is the central theme that many theories of classroom management attempt to address. As a teacher you might often feel the need to maintain strict discipline in your learning environment by threatening students with some form of punishment or other assertive techniques.
Such thinking is based heavily on the behaviorist notion that learning is a process of negative or positive reinforcement. While such an approach may be effective in certain situation (I will be looking at the good and the bad of behaviorism soon), a number of other techniques have shown to be more helpful in the long term.
3. The notion of learner self control
Not all theories look at the notion of discipline, however. In the ‘other camp’ are those theories that focus on learner control; these suggest that it’s better for learners to discover internal control, to learn how to take control of their behavior and take responsibility for the choices they make.
Is there a downside to this? Nurturing and facilitating self control takes considerably more time than adopting threatening behaviorist stance; nevertheless, it is unquestionably more valuable to learners in the long run.
4. The notion of teacher organization
The more organized we are as teachers, the more effective we can be in our learning environment. As a general rule of thumb, all learners are likely to respond positively to a structured environment; this is especially the case for adult learners.
Put simply, learners are more receptive when the guidance given is more focused; they behave better because they have respect for teachers, rather than because they fear negative consequences.
Summing up and looking forward
A range of theories hint at the conditions in which learning best occurs; generally, this means structured environments, through demonstration, observation, and through classroom activities that focus on doing, rather than merely memorizing rules. We will be exploring these, plus the points I’ve introduced today, in upcoming posts. Join me again soon, when I’ll be introducing the theories of Behaviorism, Choice, Student-Directed Learning and Assertive Discipline.
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