One of the areas that new teachers feel most unprepared for when they enter the classroom for the first time is behaviour management. While simply being on the job allows you to intuitively learn techniques that ensure your survival, they don’t necessarily result in the best experiences for your students.
As Robert & Jana Marzano and Debra Pickering’s book, Classroom Management That Works, states: “Effective learning can’t take place in poorly managed classrooms.” Employing classroom management techniques aren’t just an optional extra, but an essential, accounting for huge differences in students’ results.
Here are eleven evidence-based classroom behaviour management strategies, which even though directed at teachers, can give parents ideas of how to set boundaries and stem unwanted behaviour from their children at home.
Effective Classroom Management Strategies
We all remember the teacher from school who could put the fear of God into us, but this ruling-through-fear approach is becoming less and less common. There is no questioning that the teacher should be the authority in the classroom, but experts support the need for the educator to achieve this through assertiveness and confidence, rather than brute force and aggression.
So how can a teacher assert their position in the classroom without becoming adversarial? Many of the behaviour management strategies highlighted here are about operating in good faith, creating an orderly and rules-based environment in the service of students’ progress and safety, rather than a desire for control at any cost.
Establish rapport with all students
Establishing rapport with students shows that you respect them and have their best interests at heart. With a new class, simple things such as learning their first names quickly, and taking each student aside individually to learn a few things about them can go a long way.
Be proactive, rather than reactive
According to a recent meta-analysis undertaken regarding behaviour management strategies in the classroom, many teachers, especially those that are newer and with less confidence, persist in using reactive strategies, despite evidence that they do not work as well as proactive strategies in successfully changing student behaviour.
For example, the proactive strategy of setting clear expectations and consequences, when done confidently, can prevent much misbehaviour before it occurs. While reactive strategies are also essential, they don’t need to be the main tool in the teacher’s arsenal.
Be assertive, not a tyrant
Don’t smile till Easter is a common teaching refrain, referring to the practice of being tough until you have whipped the class into shape. When this is achieved, the teacher, confident in their dominance, can slowly relax things. This, however, speaks more to the teacher as a dictator, rather than a facilitator of learning. Setting clear boundaries in a non-threatening way, focusing on assertiveness and confidence, allows skilled teachers to manage the classroom without ever having to be stiff or uncompromising.
Value positive expectations and rewards
Any mention of managing classroom behaviour usually draws up negative connotations; but rather than focusing on avoiding punishment, we should put more stock into positive praise as a motivator. While this is something that Australian teachers tend to do quite well, it should be repeated that personal attention, positive notes to parents, awards, and privileges can be powerful motivators, even for high school students, reinforcing positive behaviour and effort.
Negotiate classroom rules
One of the most common proactive behaviour management strategies is to create visible class rules. According to the experts, you get bonus points if these rules are made in negotiation with the class. Doing this requires a certain level of confidence, which is why beginning teachers may be hesitant to seek class input; however, it is definitely worth it. The fact that students see their needs and opinions respected and considered by the teacher is a chance to foster the mutual respect that makes for a positive class atmosphere.
Model positive behaviours yourself
This is especially true for younger students, but pupils of any age take cues from the adult in the room. If a teacher spends a lot of time looking at their phone, expresses boredom, comes late to class, or acts in an unprofessional manner, it is much more difficult to argue that the class demonstrate exemplary behaviour.
Avoid whole class punishment
Often practiced by the teacher who has lost control, whole class punishment is not desirable as it penalises the children who haven’t done anything wrong. If students feel as if even good behaviour can have adverse consequences, it may cause them to act out at the unfairness of the situation, creating more problems for you as the teacher.
Always follow-through on consequences – don't be erratic
It is tempting in the heat of the moment to threaten some punishment, only to find that it is unworkable or was too high-handed, which goes back to the benefits of setting out clear class rules and consequences as part of your classroom management strategies. Extremely important is the need to be consistent when applying these rules. If students know there is some wriggle room, or inconsistency in application, they will test the boundaries.
Drawing on Classroom Management That Works, the Classcraft website focuses on mental set, or the teacher’s state of mind. A big component of this is the ability of an educator to be aware of what is occurring around them so they can attend to any issues quickly and effectively. Walking around the class and actively monitoring shows you are on top of things and are interested in the students’ work.
Raise your voice but don’t yell
Once a teacher yells, as sure as day is night, students will try to make it happen again. Raising your voice shows authority—yelling often shows a loss of control and aggression, that, as mentioned above, isn’t conducive to a mutually respectful learning environment. In addition, it doesn’t faze many students who may face worse at home, only serving to raise your blood pressure and damage your vocal cords.
Let students save face
Shame and humiliation were the currency of schools in Australia 50 years ago, but thinking has definitely changed, with respect and dignity now prized. While students can still be called out for obvious misbehaviour, in a situation where a direct challenge to the teacher is made, efforts should be made by the teacher to deescalate the situation above any other method.
In a typical scenario where a student won’t sit down or settle, giving them the option to leave the room and calm down, rather than directly threatening them in front of the class with punishment, may yield better results. This is especially true if you can quickly join them outside to ask them one-to-one whether they have an issue that’s causing their misbehaviour.
How to manage a classroom in a changing climate
The curriculum is not the only thing that is undergoing frequent change; the way we relate to students and the values we try to instill in them are also constantly evolving based on wider societal trends. Modern classroom management skills reflect this, with respect and understanding at the heart. Despite this, the teacher should still be the boss, gaining students respect and trust through assertiveness and confidence. Meanwhile, at home, parents can use these same skills on a smaller scale to create better relationships with their children.
- Classroom Management that Works: Research-based Strategies for Every Teacher
- Effective classroom management strategies and classroom management programs for educational practice
- Classroom Management Strategies – Ball State University