Developing good classroom management is an integral skill that all educators and teachers must master. Classroom management is the way in which the teacher manages the time, spaces, instructional activities, resources, and expectations for learning. Classroom management also encompasses the important dynamic of the interaction between teacher and student, and interaction of the students with each other. Relationships are the key to successful collaboration in teaching and learning
The way a classroom is managed is in direct correlation to the relationships that develop and the outcomes of the learning that takes place in that classroom. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning describes SEL as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
Some of the aspects to consider when reflecting on your classroom management are:
Consider the actual space available and how it can be used most effectively. Look at the furniture, technology and teaching resources used. Are they arranged in a way that creates easy traffic flow? Does the teacher have access to the students? Is it easy for students to transition from one activity to another without disruption? Is there enough opportunity for interaction? Is it easy for the teacher to give as much supervision to the whole class as well as individuals or small groups? Can everyone see and access the teaching aids they need?
How have you personalized the learning environment?
What do the students want for group/individual spaces? Do students have voice and choice on where to sit and ownership of their learning environment? Is there a plan that students have created? How can students have input into the learning environment? What about the environment outside?
How do students demonstrate their skills outside the classroom?
In addition, is the learning environment warm, clean and welcoming place to be for teachers, students, parents and community?
Plan for Blocks of Time
Each teaching session is limited to a time frame, so planning the classroom time will ensure that as little time as possible is wasted. Keeping students actively engaged and having ownership over their learning during lessons means less discipline issues. By co-planning blocks of time, students do not get bored as they have had voice and choice of the learning time. Planning blocks could involve time to provide:
- Welcoming routines to open up to and greet the class
- Clarity of the learning targets so all learners know what, why, and how they are learning
- Instructional teaching and learning
- Student choice of work on tasks individually, with partners or in groups
- Assess whether the learning has taken place through formative checks for understanding, self assessments, or summative assessments
- Questions and think time to inquire, be able to answer, or wonder and be curious
- Closing the lesson, with clear instructions , and some preparation as to what will happen in the next lesson or lessons.
By planning the lesson time carefully, the teacher can ensure that there is enough time to cover/adjust the plan for personalized learning for all learners.. With conceptual inquiry-based service learning, much of the teaching and learning is student-directed, which means careful planning of time by the educator with students and partners to ensure there is enough time for all learning activities. With improved relationships, classroom management, students are able to move into the ‘zone of desired effects’ The research to support improving learning by Visible Learning as illustrated below:
Teachers need to be providing opportunities for; classroom discussion, feedback, and engaging instructional strategies such as Jigsaw. Teacher clarity and credibility are important, teachers need to reflect and seek feedback. As educators we need to improve our communication/collaboration so we can have the best effect size on learning, and achieve collective teacher efficacy.
Understand the Importance of High Expectations
Expect a high standard of conduct for students, and they are likely to live up to it. This is relevant for both academic and behavioural standards. The expectations should be made clear and concise with students, so there is no ambiguity as to what they are. This could include creating agreements such as; students raise their hand before speaking,respecting and listening to the opinions of others, norms of collaboration/communication, signals for feedback, and ownership of our own learning.
High expectations should extend to the educator’s own behaviour, for students to model. By being aware of our role and duty to be fair and respectful to students, there is less likelihood of ‘slipping up.’ Fairness, trust, and relationships are extremely important, and students who perceive their treatment as ‘unfair’ will be more likely to create discipline problems and focus less on the learning taking place.
The relationships that develop in the classroom are integral to the success of ALL learning. Not only does a positive relationship give the students and educator joy in learning, but creating the positive relationship teaches emotional life skills too.
Teachers can create this environment by greeting students by name at the door, being interested in the students, knowing students interests, passion, family and friends, remaining fair and unbiased, imparting warmth, humour, and positive recognition when appropriate.
Every teacher needs to be a champion to his/her learners. I love this: TED Talk by Rita Pierson on the most important role we have as educators. Everyone can relate to the fact that some teachers really ‘stood out’ and became memorable throughout their school learning experiences because they; cared, were kind, were funny, helped them in their learning, or went the extra mile. These positive relationships are the reason students love teachers and why they become passionate learners.
Classroom management and creating agents of change in a global community
Growing evidence has shown that our educational and technological environment has changed extremely rapidly, and outdated teaching pedagogies will not serve the students of the future. One of the most interesting and effective pedagogies is that of service learning in and out of the classroom to create ‘Agents of Change’.
How do learners demonstrate that they are caring and kind in and out of the classroom?
A Change Agent is a person who advocates the adoption of a concept, action, or innovation to produce positive change in their immediate or greater environment.
For example, a student who actively seeks to educate themselves and their communities around recycling and boycotting plastic bags and straws, while finding viable alternatives becomes a Change Agent themselves for environmentally sound practices and awareness.
Through a focus on service learning, students come to understand that they have a direct impact on the world around them, and that living a life of moral purpose and direction is fulfilling and desirable. Learning is connected and not isolated to one subject, it has meaning when applied in the ‘real world’.
Students who have come through their education system understanding that they are not there purely to get a piece of paper – a high school qualification or college degree, but also to understand how they can be the change in the world that they would like to see are deeply empowered. Service learning linked with student passion and opportunities becomes an intrinsic motivation for ongoing contribution long after schooling.
Visible Learning supports this with research and proof that service learning has an effect size of .58 (.40 is a normal year of growth).This is considered one of the best practices in teaching and learning in education for connected, conceptual and personalized learning.
Inquiry Based Learning and Classroom Management
The modern educator can incorporate this pedagogy in education into their classroom management by seeking opportunities, both inside the classroom and in the community for inquiry-based conceptual service learning.. By planning lessons around global concepts and issues, and then providing students with opportunities to make a real difference in their local community, learning takes on a whole new level of importance and meaning.
Inquiry-based learning is an effective method of engaging students by creating learning provocations that are more effective than simple ‘route memory’ learning. The role of questioning is taken on by the students themselves taking an active role in their learning process. Students are guided to explore the material, ask questions, and share thoughts and ideas in small groups. Outcomes are less predictable, and the learning takes place as an experiential process that involves activating curiosity and wonder instead of merely delivering content information. This is popular amongst students as it releases some of the one-way authority of a traditional teacher / student relationship and transfers the responsibility/ownership and ‘power’ to the student and their peers.
However, the ‘loose’ nature of inquiry-based learning could lead some educators into thinking it would play havoc with their classroom management plans. There is much more conversation, the direction taken is led by the students themselves and the opportunity for increased noise, moving around and free activity could leave some teachers running for cover at the thought.
Which is why classroom management and planning becomes even more important. Inquiry based learning classrooms generally involve students in planning; inviting student voice and choice over seating in small groups, as opposed to the teacher in front with individuals in rows. It makes sense that individuals and groups will complete tasks at different speeds, so it is useful to get learners to engage in a reflective activity, such as journaling, while waiting for others to complete tasks. Learners need to know how they can extend or challenge themselves in their own learning. Learning targets are clearly displayed and understood by learners, learners know why, what and how they will learn. They know what they need to do, who they can ask for help, and what their goals are for their own learning.
The increased two-way communication involved in inquiry based/personalized learning means that the rules of engagement must be clearly laid out in terms of classroom management/roles and responsibilities, in order for everyone to be heard, respected, and for learning to take place.
There is a powerful and positive knock-on effect – each of the learners who emerges from their education skilled with global competencies as; communicators, collaborators, critical thinkers, problem solvers, creative, risk takers, caring, open minded, adaptability, perseverance and empathetic. Learners have confidence in their own abilities and a strong moral code will go on to influence many others in their lifetime, spreading the positive and powerful outcomes of service learning.
Students do not have to wait until they have left school or college to understand the ‘real world’ and how many aspects of it play out in ‘real life’.
Students will also understand that they cannot become an ‘Agent of Change’ alone. It is the combination of dedication, opportunities, commitment, and shared goals between the student, the teacher, the school, the organisation they are working with in the ‘real world’, the community at large and even beyond that into society and government – that have to work together to promote positive change in the world.
Every teacher or educator would want to impart such meaningful and relevant knowledge, skills, and understanding with their students. Creating environments and opportunities conducive to this involves looking at learning, how to create agents of change by improving classroom management, relationships, by, making changes to improve teaching and learning now for the future.
Tara brings passion and a deep understanding of service learning, rooted in years of experience, to her training. Her training builds bridges from theory to implementation while generously sharing her resources and knowledge to ensure our success. Tara works with the whole school (administration, teachers, students, and SL leaders) to build a sustainable program that is embedded in the curriculum and tied to the mission. She energized a faculty on a Friday afternoon, no easy feat, leaving them with a desire to learn more about SL and to become more involved. I cannot recommend Tara highly enough.