Maintaining a Learning Environment

A teacher’s classroom management decisions do not stop after the planning and establishment that is crucial to beginning the school year. As the school year progresses, classroom management involves maintaining the learning environment through conscientious decision-making concerning students and the classroom.

Teachers in a classroom teach groups of children. Maintaining the learning environment, therefore, requires teachers to focus on group processes. Jacob Kounin’s landmark findings from the late 1960s on the management of classroom groups identified that the means by which teachers prevent problems from occurring in the first place differentiated them as more effective managers. Kounin, whose work was reaffirmed by Paul Gump, a noted ecological psychologist in Kansas in the 1980s, identified several strategies that teachers use to elicit high levels of work involvement and low levels of misbehavior. These strategies are: (1) with-it-ness (communicating awareness of student behavior), (2) overlapping (doing more than one thing at once), (3) smoothness and momentum (moving in and out of activities smoothly, with appropriately paced and sequenced instruction), and (4) group alerting (keeping all students attentive in a whole-group focus). These tools help teachers to maintain the flow of instruction.

When Problems Occur

Though effective managers anticipate and monitor student behavior and learning, misbehavior and misunderstanding do occur. When inappropriate behavior occurs, effective managers handle it promptly to keep it from continuing and spreading. Though teachers can handle most misbehavior unobtrusively with techniques such as physical proximity or eye contact, more serious misbehavior requires more direct intervention. The success of intervention depends on orderly structures having been created and implemented at the beginning of the school year.When students have misunderstandings about academic content or instruction effective managers look for ways to reteach content and to improve the clarity of their communication.

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