August 26th, 2008

Classroom Management to Promote Learning


Here’s a definition for classroom management: “the provisions and procedures necessary to establish and maintain an environment in which instruction and learning can occur.” The definition is attributed to W. Doyle, in a source I wasn’t able to locate online. I’ve never really thought about a definition for classroom management. I’ve always considered it a euphemism for classroom discipline—a nicer way of describing disruptive behavior and teachers’ need to deal with students behaving badly.

I like this definition because the stance is proactive and positive. It’s something put in place up front, not to prevent things that might occur, but to affirm the centrality of teaching and learning in all classroom endeavors.

This definition for classroom management appears in a study that looked at student compliance in classrooms. Students were asked to think about a specific class and a time in that class when the teacher asked them to do something and whether or not they complied with the request. Ninety-one percent reported that they complied or partially complied (meaning they did part of it or did it without making much effort, for example) with the teacher’s request.

Are these students dreaming? Confusing what they intended to do with what they actually did? Or, are teachers dreaming, imagining a whole lot more resistance and challenge than actually exists? I sometimes wonder if classroom discipline issues are not made worse by a raft of policies and prohibitions that name problems and make them issues before they ever emerge. What if we stopped anticipating challenges to our authority and invited students to join us in making the provisions and establishing procedures necessary for teaching and learning to occur? Would the same policies emerge? Would it make a difference if they were established to advance learning instead of erected as barriers against bad behavior.

Reference: Burroughs, N. R. (2007). A reinvestigation of the relationship of teacher nonverbal immediacy and student compliance-resistance with learning. Communication Education, 56 (4), 453-475.

—Maryellen Weimer