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Models of Classroom Management

Several methods exist to guide you in your quest for appropriate management techniques.  These methods cover an array of models from highly directive behaviorist techniques to democratic and nondirective, facilitative procedures.


Highly directive models of classroom management
Highly directive models occur when teachers direct students’ behavior and control them with the use of external rewards and punishment. Instructional methods that accompany this model are lecturing, drill and practice, and questioning. Because few students are engaged at one time, this model has recently come under scrutiny. Assertive Discipline, an approach advocated by Lee Canter, is a behaviorist model of classroom management that maintains teachers have the right to establish rules, require student compliance and expect parental and administrative support.

Behavior Modification, a concept proposed by B.F. Skinner, is also highly directive. In this model, behavioral problems are defined and measured to determine what antecedents (triggers) or consequences (reinforcers) must be adjusted to successfully guide behavior. Punishment is an option in these models. Three types of acceptable punishments can be considered: private and consistently applied reprimands, time outs that remove the student from the reinforcing situation, and response cost of which a token system is the most common.

Democratic models of classroom management
Jacob Kounin’s and Rudolf Dreikus’ theories of classroom management typify the Democratic Model. As its name implies, the democratic model allows students to participate in the management of the classroom.

Kounin maintained that teachers should prevent misbehavior rather than dealing with it once it occurs. His term, with-it-ness, applies to teachers who are consistently aware of what is occurring in the classroom. Students typically respect teachers who exemplify with-it-ness.

Kounin coined the term the ripple effect. The ripple effect refers to the tendency for teacher reprimands or praises to spread to students other than those for which they were intended. Because misbehaviors are most likely to occur during transition times, Kounin encouraged teachers to maintain student focus by encouraging involvement. The greatest involvement occurs through the use of small group activities. During small group activities, teachers should make students accountable, have alerting cues and vary activities to prevent boredom.

Rudolf Dreikurs advocated logical consequences to misbehavior instead of punishment in his Democratic Model of classroom management. He believed that children make errors in their assumptions regarding what behaviors lead to desired goals. For example, often students who want attention get it by misbehaving. Teachers who give too much time and attention to misbehaviors are reinforcing the very behavior they want to diminish. For this reason, minor misconduct often ceases when teachers stop supporting the undesired behavior with attention. Logical consequences relate to the misconduct and seek to rectify the wrong. A policy of requiring students to assist in cleaning the room when they leave trash on the floor is an example of a logical consequence.

Harry Wong’s democratic model advocates a businesslike approach. It is currently used in many induction programs. Learning students’ names, explicitly teaching routines and establishing a simple list of rules complete with consequences for violation and rewards for compliance, all combine to create an environment of security for students. According to Wong, both praise and criticism should be specific; teachers should praise students publicly, while criticism should be given privately.

Humanistic models of classroom management
Humanistic models of classroom management are the most student-centered and the least directive in their approach. Carl Rogers advocated that students should have freedom to learn. According to Rogers, the goal for students is self-discipline and teachers should be facilitators as opposed to directors. The instructional methods that accompany Roger’s model are inquiry learning, group projects, and self-assessment. Students are viewed as important participants in the learning process. While Rogers did not advocate total permissiveness, he believed a list of rules would violate the autonomy of students. While the humanistic model communicates warmth and caring, it is not well suited for beginning teachers, as it lacks specific recommendations.

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