Each classroom management theory has its merits and weaknesses. Teachers use theories to support their own philosophy of eduction and classroom management style. Effective classroom management results in a smooth-running classroom where learning can occur. Teachers manage the classroom by foreseeing and preventing problems, facilitating appropriate behaviors and addressing problem behaviors as necessary.
In the context of classroom management, behaviorism is firmly established in practice. Teachers use operant conditioning to produce desired behavioral outcomes. B.F. Skinner's behaviorist theory provides the theoretical support behind such practices as Behavioral Intervention Plans--contracting with students for desired behaviors in exchange for rewards and the earning of points or stars. Any teacher who use rules with consequences is also engaging in the behaviorist practice of negative reinforcement.
Glasser's choice theory (formerly known as control theory) posits that students must learn to control their own behavior. The teacher's role is to guide the student in reflecting on his behaviors and exploring the reasons behind it. Choice Theory encourages discussion, reflection and even making amends in the place of simple rewards and punishments. It is designed to help students understand the motivations behind their behaviors so they can learn to make better choices on their own.
One of the newer and more popular classroom management theories is Alfie Kohn's democratic classroom. A harsh critic of behaviorism in his book, "Beyond Discipline", Kohn takes a stand for student-directed learning that puts management in the hands of the classroom community. Such democratic classrooms fall in line with the social learning theories of Piaget and Vygotsky, empowering students by giving them both control of and responsibility for their own learning with the teacher acting as facilitator.
Most student behavior is appropriate. Lee Canter's theory of assertive discipline reminds us to recognize positive behavior as a way of encouraging more of it. Teachers need to communicate their expectations and expect compliance, noticing students who do comply and redirecting those who don't. In assertive discipline, teachers have the right to teach without interference and students the right to learn without disruption.
Classroom management theories provide the anchor for best practice in the classroom. Creating a positive learning environment takes work, and keeping it even more. Staying current on researched-based methods can help. Whether using one or combining practices from each, students will reap the rewards of a classroom free of distractions and conducive to learning.
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