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Classroom management

Excellent link giving practical advice about solving behavioural problems.

Classroom management - a better term than ‘discipline’

Definition of classroom management

The ways in which student behaviour, movement and interaction during a lesson are organised and controlled by the teacher to enable teaching to take place most effectively (Richards 1990).

Definition of discipline

To maintain order and to keep the group on task and moving ahead, not to spot and punish those students who are misbehaving(Greenwood and Parkay, 1989)

Prevention is better than cure. Important to keep the primary activity flowing smoothly,
Best teachers anticipate when misbehaviours are likely to occur and intervene early to prevent them. Most effective interventions are subtle, brief, almost private. Therefore they do not interfere with classroom activities.

Causes of deviant behaviour (Cole and Chan, 1987)
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Models of discipline

The Canter model (Canter 1989)

The teacher will not tolerate deviant behaviour. No excuses, teachers are consistent in the treatment of discipline.

Pay attention to students that behave well.

Start by sending a letter to parents out-lining the behaviour expected from the student, what punishments there would be for transgressing these standards, and what the student and parents can expect the teacher to do to help the student in return.

In class, if the student misbehaves the name would go on the board with a warning. If the behaviour continues, a detention would be given. If the behaviour continues, then two detentions would be given. If the student fails to attend detentions or if behaviour continues then the student would be referred to the deputy head.


The letter is a negative way to start off the year.

This approach is rather mechanistic, and amounts to the teacher over-controlling the students.

Some parents like this approach, as they feel something is being done about discipline.

The Glasser model (Glasser 1965)

Students are encouraged to become responsible for their own behaviour. Classroom rules are discussed in classroom meetings where the teacher stays in the background. Students evaluate their own behaviour.

Glasser believed in creating schools without failure.

He built upon Freud's belief that

1.      We need to be loved

2.      We need to feel a sense of achievement

Glasser suggested the following eight steps:

1.      Build a good relationship with the child

2.      Listen carefully to the child's problems

3.      Consider the alternative ways the child has considered solving the problem

4.      If none of the alternatives work then get the child to brainstorm for more alternatives

5.      Commit to paper the chosen alternative and shake hands on it.

6.      Hold a follow up meeting. Avoid dwelling on the child's excuses for not fulfilling the agreement, but instead draw up a more feasible plan.

7.      Allow the child to suffer the natural consequences of his or her behaviour (e.g. lower grades).

8.      Do not give up on the child. If things do not work out then keep trying.

Teacher effectiveness training model

This is about communication. The teacher should actively listen to the student, to help him overcome the problem. If it is the teacher's problem then the teacher and student work together to generate a number of possible solutions. Non-aggressive language is used. The teacher would say, for example "I am upset" rather than "you are lazy". The teacher is trying to create a situation whereby neither the teacher nor the student loses.

The logical consequences model

The student is responsible for his or her own behaviour. The student therefore faces the consequences for their behaviour. For example, if homework is not done then the student stays behind after school to complete it. This helps the student to understand his or her own behaviour.

Logical consequences - Rudolf Dreikurs


Dreikurs’ work is based on the Adlerian theory that human behaviour is motivated by the individual’s desire to achieve certain goals. Dreikurs suggests that children make mistakes in their assumptions about what sorts of bvr. will achieve the goals they desire, and this leads to their misbehaviour.


There are four mistaken goals of misbehaviour:







The true primary goal of all bvr. is to find a sense of belonging and significance.

Children (and many adults) adopt one or more of the 4 mistaken goals because they believe that:


·      attention or power will help them achieve belonging or significance

·      revenge will give some satisfaction for the hurt experienced in not feeling a sense of belonging or significance

·      giving up is their only choice because they really believe they are inadequate


One way of getting a sense of belonging or significance is to gain attention. of acceptable ways of attracting attention in school:


·      achieve at a high level

·      display socially acceptable bvrs. of unacceptable ways to get attention in school:


·      to misbehave

·      to be disruptive and lazy

·      to ask for favours

·      to throw things

·      to cry, yell, fight etc.


How can the teacher deal with these bvrs?


Dinkmeyer and Dinkmeyer (1976) suggest a number of steps that clarify Dreikur’s model:


·      attempt to determine the student’s motives and help the student understand them

·      help students change their mistaken goals and assumptions for some that are more useful

·      teach children to apply logical consequences perhaps using class discussions to develop class rules and analyze problems.





J gives students understanding of the consequences of their misbehaviours, and thus tends to promote a high degree of autonomy and responsibility


J Edwards(1993) notes it also promotes respect between teachers and students


L it may be over-simplistic to categorise all bvrs in the four classes of goals and to attribute all misbehaviour to mistaken assumptions about hoe to achieve goals.

HOWEVER Jan Nelsen in her book Positive Discipline says “When Rudolf Dreikurs explained the Four Mistaken Goals people often asked, ‘How can you keep putting children in these boxes?’ he would reply ‘I don’t keep putting them there, I keep finding them there’.”


L clear logical consequences can’t always be arrived at for all bvrs., or for all students.



Kounin’s Management Model (1970)

Teacher behaviours and discipline (Classroom Management).

1) With-It-Ness - more aware of what is going on in class. Measured by teacher successfully asking student to desist. If not with it - teacher instructs wrong students to desist, or too late - activity had been going on for sometime, or too late -activity had been going on for sometime, or too early - before activity started.
Borg (1973) - Several components to with-it ‘teacher desist behaviours’.

2) Overlapping - teacher can deal with an off-target task without interrupting what he is to doing.
3) Smoothness and Motivation There are many different changes of activity in a school day; transition from one activity to another needs to be smooth.
Avoid-lesson slowdown or interruption - ‘Jerky transitions’.

4) Group alerting skill Involve every student. Use questions to take student’s by surprise. Keep them occupied.



J the major strength of this model is that it focuses in prevention of problem bvrs.

J Mc Caslin and Good (1992): “A management system based on Kounin’s principles provides expectations and understandings around which there is generally shared meaning between teachers and students…the system allows the class to function in a relatively smooth and predictable way”.


Lwhat works with young children may not work with older children - different techniques need to be used

Lif the goal of education is to develop independent thinkers, the continued use of teacher-determined rules and procedures may be quite inappropriate.

LIt is largely restricted to controlling bvr in teacher directed activities and doesn’t tackle all discipline problems.


LIt does not develop personal responsibility in students

Behaviour Modification Model

Attention Seeking Behaviour

Attention seeking is a major cause of classroom discipline problems, as well as being very worrying for the teacher.

Behaviour manifestation

Teacher feels that the child needs help, but such help becomes rewarding to the student, and the attention seeking behaviour may get worse.

Child might fool around in class in order to get attention from peers. The child might be unpopular, so fooling around is seen as a way to win friends! Student might be insolent, to show that he is tough or daring.

Tackling the problem

The teacher should firstly draw up a table showing particular behaviours and the teacher's usual response. The teacher should then become aware of where they are reinforcing the behaviour.

Why Sammy finds it more rewarding to be disruptive


Teacher's original response

Teacher's response could be

Sammy comes into room quietly at start of lesson

Teacher is relieved that Sammy is not disrupting and begins lesson

Friendly smile of approval, perhaps "hi, sammy".

Sammy gets books out

Teacher starts

Friendly smile and "well done Sammy"

Sammy puts up hand to answer a question

Teacher does not want the possibility of a silly answer, so student ignored

Teacher asks Sammy, ignores a silly answer or praises a good answer.

Sammy works quietly

Teacher is thankful that Sammy is behaving

Teacher praises Sammy for putting in an effort, and shows an interest in the work produced.

Presland (1989) - common sequence for a behavioural intervention program.

Teachers reinforcers - grades, smiles, attention.

Token system

marks for following rules. Exchange for small rewards.


Student may not exhibit required behaviour, so reward may never happen. One way around this is to use Shaping, reward for behaviour that approximates to desired behaviour at first and then only reward for behaviour that is a closer approximation in future.

Some behaviours are just too bad to ignore, and therefore require a sanction

rewards must be sought after.
system distracting and dehumanizing in itself.
One idea (Nay, Schulman, Bailey and Huntsinger, 1976)
Allowing children to have own area of one square yard around desk. Removed to ‘no mans land desk if bad, for 20 mins. Clear signals. Lights red/green for permission to leave area. Model of lips, for when to talk.

Another problem

Once rewarded children expect rewards to continue.
Lepper and Greene (1975) rewarded children for playing with geometric puzzle, by giving them attractive toys to play with. Compared with unrewarded group the children played less with puzzles when not rewarded.

Intrinsic reward - Extrinsic reward

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Intrinsic reinforcement

- brought about by not making the task too easy or too hard. Although external rewards given continually during the early stages, it’s best to phase these out as soon as possible.

Extrinsic reinforcement

- Premack principle (Premack, 1965). Allow child to play with an activity he finds enjoyable after completing desired task.
Bijou and Sturges (1959) - 5 categories of reinforcers.

Parents are good reinforcers - able to give money. Special privileges.

Michael (1967) - 7 principles for using reinforcement.

Effective reinforcers vary from one individual to the next.

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Inhibitory - Disinhibitory effect

- useful when a model is punished; this has an effect on the behaviour of someone who has based their behaviour on the model. A leader is punished, and the followers learn from this.
behav1.htm - extinction


the removal of reinforcers of undesirable behaviour should bring about the extinction of that behaviour.

Corrective Strategies

Corporal punishment given to males and blacks mostly (McFadden and associates, 1992) mainly repeat offenders - recidivists.



Three most effective forms of corrective strategies

1 Reprimands

Effective because of social ties.

2) Time - outs (3 types)

If time-outs (being sent out of the classroom) are used then child is not receiving an education, or could do what they like once outside. Time out removes the positive reinforcement (no classmates to impress). Best to send child to a staffed 'time-out' room for ten minutes.

3) Response Cost

Loss of reinforcers e.g. not watching TV.
Kaufman and O’Leary (1972) - no difference in effectiveness between giving rewards and starting off with reward credits and then taking them away for bad behaviour.
Good - child not removed from learning environment Very good if combined with reinforcement technique.

Gump (1969) - found that teacher led group activity - engages students the most. Student presentations produced the lowest involvement amongst students.
But McCaslin and Good (1992) - point out that sticking to class rules too rigidly will not encourage independence of thought.

Foundation for Preventive Discipline






The goal of behaviour modification is to change or eliminate a bvr.

Operant conditioning techniques are used, including reinforcement, models, extinction and punishment.







·      TIME OUTS






Task -

Using your textbook,  describe each of these, giving an example of their use, and noting any EVALUATIONS that can be made







J behaviour modification techniques provide specific recommendations for managing classrooms

J bvr. modification techniques provide teachers with useful and effective ways of dealing with misbehaviours


LHumanistic educators think behaviour modification smacks too much of bvr. control

*     it pays too little attention to the dignity and worth of the student

*     it fails to recognise the value of autonomy and self-direction, opting instead for externally imposed control and direction.

LSince these techniques are based on  the Behaviourist theory, all the criticisms of that perspective apply (it is based on environmental determinism, it is reductionist, much of the theory was developed from data extrapolated from animals to humans,

Learning theory doesn’t explain how all behaviours are acquired, so bvr. modification cannot be used to control or extinguish all problem behaviours)


Source: Lefrancois,G., Psychology for Teachers, Wadsworth 1997,9th Edition

Marland’s (humanistic) approach (1975)

1 Caring for children

- Let them know you care. Memorise students’ names. Learn as much as you can about each student.

2 Setting Rules

Can’t have fixed rules and enforce them consistently. Students have to find out many rules for themselves, usually as they infringe them. Doyle (1986) - Rules and Procedures need to be set at the beginning of the school year. Best teachers - hover over students at beginning of year, making sure procedures are adhered to.

3 Give Legitimate Praise

For specific behaviour. Also be specific about which behaviour should not continue.

4 Use Humour

Teachers should not take themselves too seriously. Defuse a confrontation by making light of the situation. e.g. Student says you can’t spell and you call yourself a teacher - teacher gets on bended knee and asks ‘make me perfect again, like I used to be".

5 Shaping the Learning Environment

Considering where the teacher’s desk should be, in relation to (troublesome) pupils. Student’s work on the walls.

Humanistic approach

Cater directly to children’s social and emotional needs.
Develop social skills
conflict resolution skills
negotiations, comprising, turn taking, explaining, listening, apologising, soliciting intervention (going to get help), using humour, invoking chance (tossing a coin, to decide something).

Experimental program

Solomon et al (1988) - program successful.
Teachers should concentrate on teacher-student relationship and inter-student co-operation.

To make the student-centred approach work, teachers need to:

  1. Create a climate of trust in the classroom to encourage curiosity and the desire to learn. Teachers must believe that children are basically trustworthy.
  2. Involve the children in making decisions about their education. A group consensus should be reached through collaboration and compromise. Voting should not be used (Why?).
  3. Help build the child's self-esteem. Teachers should value their students and care for them.
  4. Understand their students reactions, thoughts and feelings from the inside. Student's need to be understood rather than evaluated and judged.
  5. Teachers should be open and honest with their students.

Webster’s democratic Procedures (1988)

Promote self-discipline in students.
3R’s of discipline - Reason
Principles (Table 11.1)

Cognitive Behaviour Modification

Principles of behaviour modification and thinking processes.

Good for dealing with impulsive children. It makes them more reflective,
"Don’t snap your fingers as you are disturbing the lesson" - explains why they should stop.
"Don’t snap your fingers or you will have to stay after school" - less effective - threat.
Reasoning is more appealing to children.
Parke(1974) - For young children stressing the object rather than ownership is more effective.
"The toy might break" is more effective than "It belongs to another child".
With older children, it’s more effective the other way around.
Walters and Grusec (1977) reasoning concerning arousing empathy with others, more effective than if just dealing with personal consequences (Age 6 onwards)
Older children capable of understanding abstract concepts that are used in reasoning.


The Eco-behavioural approach

(e.g. Molnar and Lindquist, 1989)

1.      Behaviour is determined by how the individual interprets any given situation.

2.      There can be more than one interpretation

3.      If the interpretation changes then the behaviour will change

4.      The change of behaviour will influence the perceptions and behaviours of others.

For example, a student might find a lesson that is difficult to understand, a threat to his self-esteem. The student then becomes disruptive. The teacher feels the disruption is wilful, and reprimands the student. The teacher should really help the student to reinterpret the lesson as not threatening.

This approach is a Cognitive approach.

Classroom Rules

Protherough et al (1989)

Stone (1990) five areas to be considered when drawing up rules.

1.      Students' safety

2.      students' respect and care for others

3.      property in the classroom

4.      students' efforts at learning

5.      obedience to the teacher


Arends (1989) rules should be actively taught early on in the term. Explain the rationale of the rules.

Perhaps negotiated the rules (Glasser 1986).

Once the rules have been set the teacher then has to be consistent and fair.

Guidelines for making a complaint.


1.      What is the worst possible thing that could go wrong if a complaint is made? Pluck up courage. What will happen if the complaint is not made?

2.      Complain directly to the person who is infringing on your rights.

3.      Write out what you are going to say. Practice with a friend.

4.      Make the complaint as soon as possible. Make sure your feelings are under control before doing so.

Making the complaint

1.      Use the "I" statement. For example, "I am disappointed in your not attending my lesson. I would like to work out some way to prevent this happening again".

2.      Do not ask "Why?". They will only rationalise their reasons, and this will prevent them taking on board what you have to say. For example "Why are you not paying attention in class?". Can you think up some excuses, that the student could provide?

3.      Do not compare the student with somebody else. For example "I wish you were as well behaved as your sister". The student will become defensive.

4.      Give the student a chance to correct their behaviour first. For example "Are you aware that there is a queue, and you need to wait over there?"

5.      Make just one complaint, avoid "furthermore....".

6.      Do not be sarcastic, as this detracts from the message, and also damage the relationship you have with the student.

Following the complaint

1.      Thank the student for listening and giving up their time. If they have agreed to change their behaviour, then thank them for that.

2.      Listen to any complaint the student has in turn.

3.      Offer any help that can be given to resolve the conflict.

4.      Schedule another meeting for a later date if this is felt necessary.

Tips on class control and management

David Fontana 'Psychology for Teachers'

  1. Interest the class
  2. Avoid personal mannerisms (e.g. speech, dress or gestures)
  3. Be fair
  4. Be humorous
  5. Avoid unnecessary threats - any threats must be carried out, so wild threats may result in the students calling the teacher's bluff.
  6. Be punctual - set a good example, avoid a riot, and don't forget to let them leave on time.
  7. Avoid anger - teachers might regret their actions, students might deliberately provoke another outburst
  8. Avoid over-familiarity - it is better for a teacher to start off formally and then to loosen off as she gets to know the students
  9. Offer opportunities for responsibility - this demonstrates the teacher's confidence in a child, and allows the child to feel partially responsible for what happens in the classroom.
  10. Focus attention - teachers should focus their requests on specific students. This will get the rest of the class looking at the pupil concerned, and hushed silence should follow. General requests can be ineffective.
  11. Avoid humiliating children - they will want to re-establish their loss of face by disrupting even more. If the teacher is sarcastic, then he can not complain if the child is sarcastic back.
  12. Be Alert - good eyesight, move around, insist children remain in their places
  13. Use positive language - "Look in your book", rather than "Do not turn round". Positive statements tell children what they should do. Negative statements do not tell students what they should do, but might suggest, to others, behaviour they may not have thought of.
  14. Be confident - students will pick up on a lack of confidence, and feel that the teacher is used to not being obeyed.
  15. Be well-organised - stopping the lesson to fix the overhead, will give an opportunity to the students to play
  16. Show that one likes children - if the teacher shows a real concern for their student's education and welfare, then it is unlikely that they would want to make life hell for her.


from a primary school -Columbia school -Tower Hamlets

strategies for resolving conflicts. Each child has a turn to say, without interruptions and whilst maintaining eye contact:

1.      what the other has done to upset them

2.      how they feel about it

3.      what they would like to happen in the future

no instructions or arguments are allowed. They take turns until all have finished. The adult acts as a referee only. If they take too long, the adult can make a judgement, and take action. Older pupils add:

1.      why did you do it?

2.      shake hands and apologise

A child could be asked to fill in a form.

name etc.


what I did

what rule I broke

why I did it

what I can do to make it better

teachers comments

signatures of student and teacher

teachers could be asked to fill in a form

classroom behaviours questionnaire-frequency per day

0) never 1) less than once 2) at least once 3) several times 4) many times

task avoidance e.g. day dreaming, chatting, disputing instructions

interrupting teacher e.g. showing off, clowning, lateness

defiance of authority e.g. refusing, swearing at teacher, answering back

hindering other children working e.g. squabbling, interrupting peers, chatting

verbal hostility towards Peers e.g. swearing at Peers, being unkind, teasing

physical hostility towards peers e.g. poking, hitting, tripping, fighting, stealing

inconsiderate interpersonal behaviour e.g. running, pushing, showing, noisy

inconsiderate use of property/equipment/environment

over reaction to normal situations e.g. destroys own work, sulks, storms out of room

any other behaviour not covered above

Hierarchy of sanctions or Discipline Ladder

1.      the look

2.      hand sign

3.      rule reminder

4.      warnings one two and three

5.      sanctions related to the behaviour problem

6.      move place

7.      time out, kept in at play

8.      letter home

9.      report to teacher

10.  letter home from head teacher

11.  on report to head teacher

12.  formal warning letter from head teacher

13.  one-day exclusion

14.  two-day exclusion

15.  five-day exclusion (Governors meets)

16.  permanent exclusion (Governors meeting, local education authority involved)

The seriousness of the misdemeanour will decide how far along this hierarchy a teacher should start. Victims need to know what punishment was given as well.

Effectiveness starts early

In the first three weeks of the year the most effective classroom managers:

1.      achieved more workable systems of rules

2.      were better in touch with their students' needs

3.      gave clearer directions and instructions (Emmer, Evertson and Anderson, 1980)

In junior high schools during the first three weeks there was less emphasis on the teaching of rules and procedures. These teachers became effective by:

1.      communicating clearly what they expected of their students

2.      checking up on whether students did what was expected

3.      providing information to help correct deviant behaviour

4.      giving students responsibility for getting their own work done

Too much un-wanted behaviour

the following behaviouristic techniques can be used:

1.      extinction-ignoring the attention seeking behaviour

2.      Strengthening compatible behaviour-e.g. asking the child before he blurts out the answer or when he puts his hand up

3.      punishment-as a last resort

Strategies for correcting too little wanted behaviour

1.      modelling

2.      reinforcing

3.      shaping successive approximations

4.      contracting-agreeing with the child what he must do for a period of time in order to receive some reward

Borg & Ascione (1982)


Students were on task and avoided both mild and serious deviant behaviour.

Experimental group teachers obtained more favourable scores than did control group teachers on 14 out of 17 variables and 9 out of 16 teacher behaviours were significantly superior.

Teacher behaviours



Seatwork significance level

Recitation significance level

Questioning Positive

Teacher frames question before calling on student to answer



Questioning Negative

Calls on pupil then asks question



Alerting Cue

Teacher alerts non-workers that they may be called upon or their work checked



Goal directed prompts

Teacher asks about work plans or work progress



Work showing

Teacher asks student to show their work or demonstrate a skill



Peer involvement

Asking another student to respond to the student's work



Loud reprimand




Soft reprimand




Suggest alternative behaviour




Describe desirable behaviour




Concurrent praise

e.g. on-task behaviour praised



Specific praise - Academic

A particular student's academic work is praised



Specific praise - non-academic

A particular student's behaviour is praised



General praise - positive

with emotion and feeling



General praise - negative

without feeling



Attention given

privilege or rewards



Teacher interruption

Irrelevant remark by teacher that disturbs the student's work



Further Reading

Borg and Ascione, 1982, Journal of Educational Psychology,74,85-95

Don Clarke and Anne Murray (1996), Developing and implementing a whole-school behaviour policy, David Fulton Publishers.

Richard Todd (1998), Classroom Teaching Strategies, Prentice Hall.

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