Classroom Management Prepared by Grant Miller, Graduate Research Assistant, Boston College and Tracey Hall, Ph. D., Senior Research Scientist, National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum Introduction




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NCAC


Classroom Management



Curriculum Enhancement






This report was written with support from the National Center on
Accessing the General Curriculum (NCAC), a cooperative agreement
between CAST and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Cooperative Agreement No. H324H990004.
The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position
of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs,
and no official endorsement by the Department should be inferred.

Classroom Management


Prepared by Grant Miller, Graduate Research Assistant, Boston College and
Tracey Hall, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, National Center on Accessing the
General Curriculum

Introduction

The Question


How is order established and maintained in learning environments? Dollase (1992) and Gordon (1991) contend that this is the biggest challenge student teachers face, and the research reviewed below illustrates that this question also concerns practicing teachers and administrators. The question is complicated because it prompts a series of other questions concerning when and where order is established and whether all students will benefit. Yet, no matter how nuanced or general the solutions may be, establishing and maintaining order is central to what educators do. In the introduction of his 1986 literature review of classroom management, Walter Doyle contends, “Classroom teaching has two major task structures organized around the problems of (a) learning and (b) order” (pp. 394–395). The studies concerning order since the late 1980s highlighted for this review support this notion of the interrelatedness of order and learning. In fact, none of these articles adequately differentiate order from engagement or learning. Instead, the underlying assumption is that classroom order encourages student engagement, which supports learning. Without order a teacher is hard-pressed to promote student learning. As a result, according to Doyle (1986), classroom management results in the coupling of order and learning. The progression of strategies teachers utilize to promote order and student engagement and learning, then, is what Doyle labels “classroom management.”

Definition


It is important to stress why order is the focus of this paper (as it also is in Doyle’s 1986 literature review). For many educators, classroom or—for that matter—school management evokes several terms such as “order,” “discipline,” “cooperation,” and “misbehavior.” These terms are casually mentioned sometimes but are not well defined, often leaving the reader to assume that they are either mere synonyms or antonyms. Doyle’s (1986) literature review concerning classroom management, however, offers some appropriate working definitions that help distinguish each term. First, imagine a hierarchy of concepts where “order” is at the top with “discipline” below. According to Doyle, order prompts engagement whereas a teacher uses discipline to curb misbehavior. The result is cooperation. “Misbehavior,” as Doyle contends, “is any action by one or more students that threatens to disrupt the activity flow or pull the class toward a program of action that threatens the safety of the group or violates norm of appropriate classroom behavior held by the teacher, the students, or the school’s staff (Doyle, 1986; p. 396). Thus, a common assumption is to equate management with discipline, only focusing on an individual student’s misbehavior with the goal of achieving student cooperation. Yet, as Doyle (1986) points out, “‘cooperation’ rather than ‘engagement’ (in the sense of involvement with content) is the minimum requirement for student behavior” (p. 396). In other words, engagement is learning; cooperation is passivity.

The research reviewed below goes beyond this notion of student passivity, focusing instead on “order,” which should not be confused with discipline. No doubt, order in a learning environment does depend to a degree upon passivity from some students; however, as Doyle (1986) contends, “order, in classrooms as in conversations, is achieved with students and

depends upon their willingness to follow along with the unfolding of the event” (emphasis in original, p. 396). In other words, Doyle continues, order is not “absolute silence, or rigid conformity to rules, although these conditions are sometimes considered necessary for specific purposes (e.g., a major test). Order in a classroom simply means that within acceptable limits the students are following the program of action necessary for a particular classroom event to be realized in the situation” (p. 396, emphasis in original). Furthermore, order is much broader than discipline or cooperation. It includes: “organizing classroom groups, establishing rules and procedures, reacting to misbehavior, monitoring and pacing classroom events, and the like” (p. 395).
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