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How can the classroom best be managed?
Dasha Bunks
Liberty University
PSYC 775 - Teaching of Psychology
Dr. Winn
Expectations for classroom conduct and social interaction are learned and can be taught using proven
principles of behavior and effective classroom instruction.
Explanation Students’ ability to learn is as much affected by their interpersonal and intrapersonal
behavior as it is by their academic skills. Student behavior that does not conform to classroom rules or
teacher expectations cannot simply be regarded as a distraction to be eliminated before instruction can
take place. Rather, behaviors conducive to learning and appropriate social interaction are best taught at
the beginning of the academic year and reinforced throughout the year. These behaviors can be taught
using proven behavioral principles. For students exhibiting more serious or consistent problem
behaviors, understanding the context and function of the behavior is a key element in teaching
appropriate replacement behaviors.
A common assumption is that instruction is only intended for those who are “ready to learn” and
that the learning environment will be improved if those who disrupt or distract from it are removed.
• Improved social and classroom behavior, like academic skill, can be shaped and taught. In the
most effective classrooms, classroom rules and expectations represent a social curriculum that is
taught and retaught throughout the academic year. The first 2 weeks of school are considered a
crucial time for teachers to establish their rules and expectations.
• Proactive disciplinary strategies that avoid behavior problems are always better than reactive
strategies that try to reduce problem behaviors after they are already present. Thereafter,
student behavior that does not conform to classroom rules becomes an opportunity to bring
student attention back to classroom expectations.
• Classroom rules and expectations can be taught and retaught using the same principles as those
used in academic instruction, including clear presentation of a goal, task, or behavior;
opportunities for practice, with timely and specific feedback; reinforcement of desired behavior;
and behavioral correction as needed.
• A range of behavioral principles, including praise of appropriate behavior, differential
reinforcement (desired behaviors or responses are reinforced and inappropriate behaviors or
responses are ignored), correction, and planned consequences, can be used to consistently teach
and remind students of their expectations.
• On the schoolwide level, these same principles can be used to clarify expectations and reward
positive behavior through programs such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS).
• The problem-solving process known as functional behavioral assessment (FBA) has enabled
teachers and school psychologists to identify the antecedent events and functional relationships
associated with inappropriate behavior. The information drawn from an FBA enables school
personnel to identify appropriate replacement behaviors—that is, more adaptive behaviors that
allow students to reach the same behavioral goal in a more acceptable way.
Effective classroom management is based on;
(a) Setting and communicating high expectations,
(b) Consistently nurturing positive relationships, and
(c) Providing a high level of student support.
At both the classroom and the school level, the development of an effective learning climate is based on
structure and support. In terms of structure, students need to have a clear understanding of the
behavioral rules and expectations of the classroom, and these expectations must be communicated
directly and frequently and consistently enforced. Yet we also know that support is essential. To be both
effective and culturally responsive, teachers can develop and maintain strong, positive relationships with
their students by consistently communicating that they are firmly com mitted to supporting all of their
students in meeting those high academic and behavioral expectations.
Relevance for Teachers
Students profit from a predictable structure and high expectations for both academic achievement and
classroom behavior. For example:
• A safe and well-arranged physical environment, a predictable schedule, and rules that are clearly
explained and consistently enforced all contribute to a safe and orderly learning climate that reduces
distraction and keeps the focus on academic instruction.
• High expectations, especially when communicated in a punitive manner, are not sufficient to establish
and maintain a positive and productive learning climate. The most effective teachers, schools, and
programs also emphasize the development of supportive and nurturing relationships with students.
• Maintaining a high ratio of positive statements and rewards to negative consequences, as well as
expressing respect for all students and their heritage, builds trust in the classroom.
At the school level:
• Programs such as Restorative Practices10 enable students to gain an understanding of how to restore
relationships damaged by disruption and violence through strategies such as collaborative decision
• Social-emotional learning strategies11 explicitly teach students interpersonal and intrapersonal skills
(e.g., managing emotions, establishing positive relationships, and making responsible decisions) needed
to succeed in school and society.
Balancing structure and support is central to culturally responsive classroom management and is
associated with lower levels of suspension and bullying when applied at the school level.
American Psychological Association, Zero Tolerance Task Force. (2008). Are zero tolerance policies
effective in the schools? An evidentiary review and recommendations. American Psychologist,
63, 852–862. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.63.9.852
Evertson, C. M., & Emmer, E. T. (2009). Classroom management for elementary teachers (8th ed.). Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Skiba, R., & Peterson, R. (2003). Teaching the social curriculum: School discipline as instruction.
Preventing School Failure, 47(2), 66–73.
Slavin, R. E. (Ed.). (2014). Classroom management and assessment. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Sprick, R. (2006). Discipline in the secondary classroom: A positive approach to behavior
management (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA:
Jossey-Bass. Sugai, G., & Simonsen, B. (2015). Supporting general classroom management: Tier 2/3
practices and systems. In E. T.
Emmer & E. J. Sabornie (Eds.), Handbook of classroom management (2nd ed., pp. 60–75). New York, NY:
Taylor & Francis.
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