Bibliographic Reference: Little, S. G., & Akin-Little, K. A. (2008). Psychology’s contributions to classroom management. Psychology in the Schools, 45, 227-234.
Problem/Background: The purpose of this essay is to summarise a research paper that focused on an ongoing problem of student behaviour in classrooms and teachers’ effective classroom management (CRM). The background for this research paper has been brought about due to severe incidents happening at US schools. There was also the added recognition that student behaviour in the classroom was of major concern within the teaching spectrum. Evidence of psychiatric disorders contributing to the lack of discipline was also brought to the fore. This led the researchers to produce a survey looking at the need for empirically validated approaches to classroom management.
Method/Procedure: The method used for this research was in the form of a nationwide survey of 149 teachers, mostly women (81%) with the majority being regular teachers with various levels of teaching experience and qualifications who were attending in-service training in science education. The teachers were surveyed on their use of important CRM principles. The categories of CRM regarded the teachers’ use of (1) Rules, (2) Reinforcement of Appropriate Behaviour and their (3) Response to Class Disruption and (4) Response to Chronic Offenders. Each of these categories was broken down into specific items. The results were reported as a percentage of teachers engaging in that specific procedure at school. The survey was piloted beforehand by a group of 10 teachers to ensure comprehension. Additional questions were also asked regarding corporal punishment.
Results: The results found that with Rules the majority of teachers (98%) were involved in their own rule making although the majority of teachers said there was a school wide discipline plan while few involved the parents (8%). Teachers’ use of verbal praise (97%) scored high within the category Reinforcement of Appropriate Behaviour. Response Class Disruption was not so high with a verbal reprimand and moving the child closer (both 83%) as methods the teacher engages in. Response to Chronic Offenders also scored lower percentages with privileges revoked (63%) and notes sent home (62%). With regard to corporal punishment, 47% reported corporal punishment was allowed in the school.
Discussion: The types of further discussion relating to the results of this research starts with recognising that the teachers all fully engage in CRM, while on the other hand there was still a high priority on having safe and effective schools. The survey also highlighted students wanting attention, be it through praise or even discipline. In addition, there was still a high percentage of teachers leaving the profession because of stress brought on by poor CRM. Furthermore, there was a need for group reinforcement and not solely on individuals. The researchers had to add that there could be a discrepancy with the results and what the teachers stated and reality may not be the same.
Conclusion: To conclude this short essay, (school) psychologists have recognised the need to be proactive in their response to discipline and recognise the teacher’s need for effective CRM procedures with attention to behavioural consultation and effective treatment. Psychology has helped with CRM but there is still a need for effective training to overcome unruly students and stress-related from this.
The topic I have chosen for this essay is ‘the teacher’s presence/manner’. The reason I have chosen this topic is that during the SIT course I have noticed a few inconsistencies in my manner/presence. These issues have been picked up by my peers, the instructors, and me. I am pleased to say the issues that made me choose this topic are not problems. They are just points that need refining for me as an English teacher and I hope by explaining them will bring a better understanding of my classroom management. I have also embedded in the essay, the topic of challenging the students for the purpose of education. I also would also like to explain that I have been teaching an upper intermediate group of students ranging from level 9 to level 15. I would like to talk about my presence and manner in relation to dealing with certain levels of English. Basically, the teacher’s manner and presence should be natural and the voice natural but befitting the level that the students are, thus challenging them.
The main issue that I have come to find out in this course is my voice that seems a bit unnatural and modified for ESOL students with broken-up sentences and not complete sentences. I realize that as a teacher your voice is not only to transmit information, but also mood atmosphere, and emotion for the students. This is why I have come to recognize this subject through the impact of others, which has made it a learning experience. I think that my peers and instructors have dealt with the issue very encouragingly. I had one lesson where I had to give a warmer. I was observed and given feedback. During the feedback, I was asked about my voice and why I spoke slower. I had to admit that I really did not know. It was also commented during feedback that I spoke like this outside the classroom. In the feedback session, I was also told by my instructors that I needed to lift my voice up although it could be fine for instruction there were still not complete sentences, which lost intonation. I must have never really thought about that much because I had another lesson this time a bit longer and once again I repeated myself with the slower talking as if the slower I talk the easy it is to understand. I think as a quick observation that I may speak slower to make sure I am understood although I have no proof that there are problems speaking faster. I think with clear instruction at a smooth pace, I can, once finished talking, step aside to allow the students to construct their own knowledge and understanding without slowly rabbitting on. Also with this understanding, I can be a skillful teacher who uses his voice and knowledge to enhance students’ participation and understanding.
Anyway back to my second lesson this time fifty minutes long. Again it was noticed my language become a little unnatural. I wasn’t using contractions or connected speech. It was commented that I speak normally to my peers so why don’t I speak to my students the same. This was good feedback for me. It was at this stage of the course that my voice and instruction in class became a focus of mine to understand why I did speak slower without complete sentences. I was asked if I had only done lower-level learners. This is true and I have been teaching kids of twelve and thirteen recently. So I think maybe this point was true. Maybe, I had got into a rhythm of using basic language that I never knew was fixed. So, I am glad this was pointed out to me. I guess you could also say that I may think that the students are unaccustomed to thinking critically and unable to learn difficult material. I think you must learn that the students know a lot more than they are given credit for.
Now I have recognized I have an issue to tackle I have dealt with it by becoming more aware of the situation. I haven’t shouted across the room but I have quietly mentioned it to a few people and during feedback, I have listened to my peers discuss it. The first thing I think of is the keyword ‘variety’. Variety for my voice because, If I can use my voice along with a number of parameters like volume, pace, pitch, and modulation, this will hopefully with practice make my voice more interesting. I think becoming more conscious of the issue of voice sound and facing up to it instead of denying it will make for a more relaxed classroom with good performances from the students and me because the language and instructions are clear. Moreover even simple exercises like stretching the muscles controlling the aperture in the back of my throat I think will work.
Also, I think now and in further lessons, I will limit my language to what is needed and be sensitive to what I am saying. I think that language can play a big part in how you are perceived by people and I would not like the upper intermediate group to think that I am not devaluing their level of English. I think that a teacher can dominate quite unintentionally. I would like to think that I respect the students’ level of English and I am appropriate to it. One of the steps I can take in the pursuit of getting the more natural verbal sound is to recognize students’ knowledge and experience. I should realize my talking and likewise, the students talking helps their understanding and knowledge. I should also like to point out that their knowledge is not so much given and received as constructed by themselves individually and collectively which is more of a reason to make my instruction clear and limit teacher talk time.
A few final points with regards to feedback I think my instructors have responded well and given me clear examples of the issues that need dealing with. I think they noticed that you could become a bit disoriented with the language, which is not natural. If the language doesn’t flow I think the lesson will become a bit stilted.
To conclude I think that some of the points raised in my essay not only have a bearing on me but also on the students who see and hear when my voice/manner/presence is employed constructively to inspire to help them find their own voices, to model a commitment to eloquent speech, and to honor the individual and collective knowledge that students invariably hold.