How to Apply Thomas Gordon Model of Classroom Management to the Classroom

The Thomas Gordon model of classroom management focuses on communication and relationships.
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Thomas Gordon, author of a model of classroom management called Teacher Effectiveness Training, derived T.E.T. from principles of psychology in an attempt to shift the responsibility for behavior from teacher to student. The management style promotes problem-solving techniques, positive relationships and communication strategies, and often includes school-wide strategies. There are four basic components to T.E.T.: the behavior window, active listening, I-message and no-lose conflict resolution.

1 The Behavior Window: Owning Problems

Gordon's classroom management philosophy is based on the behavior window, a framework for problem ownership, he created in the late 1960s as part of parent education. The initial framework divides parent view of children's behavior into upper and lower portions, which represent acceptance and unacceptance of the child's behavior. Later models included varying levels of acceptance and unacceptance, but the goal was to determine how the adult view of the situation affected acceptance of behavior and acknowledge that acceptance could change. In the classroom, the behavior window is designed to help teachers recognize problems that interfere with classroom instruction and determine ownership for the problems. In the model, problems are owned by either the child, the adult, both parties or no parties.

2 Active Listening: Understanding Messages

Integrating the Gordon model into the classroom includes the use of active listening as a strategy for communication between student and teacher. The active listening strategy is employed when the problem belongs to the student; it gives the student an opportunity to express his feelings with the knowledge that the teacher will understand and accept what he's feeling and saying. For example, if a student routinely doesn't complete assignments, instead of creating consequence for the disruption, the teacher would speak with the student privately and listen to the student's reasons for his behavior.

3 I-Messages: Communicating Teacher Needs

When the problem is determined to belong to the teacher -- such that the teacher is not able to perform her job because of interference from a student -- the I-message strategy is employed. In this strategy, the teacher communicates to the student -- without blame, in a nonjudgmental way -- how the student is causing problems for the teacher. The principle behind this communication strategy is that students will develop a respect for the teacher's right to meet her own needs. For example, if a student routinely disrupts classroom instruction, the I-message would include the teacher's inability to complete her lesson plan and do her job.

4 No-Lose Conflict Resolution

In cases where active listening or the I-message strategies don't improve student behavior, Gordon suggests six steps for no-lose conflict resolution. The goal of this process is to find a solution that's acceptable to both student and teacher. The foundation of no-lose conflict resolution should be implemented in classroom language and atmosphere long before any problems appear. Students should know that blame will not be placed and their needs will be listened to and considered. Conversation focuses on concerns rather than sides of the two parties, a practice that can also be implemented in both active listening and I-messages. The six steps to the no-lose conflict resolution are to define the needs of teacher and student, brainstorm solutions, evaluate solutions, choose a solution, implement the solution and check the results.

Based in Los Angeles, Jana Sosnowski holds Master of Science in educational psychology and instructional technology, She has spent the past 11 years in education, primarily in the secondary classroom teaching English and journalism. Sosnowski has also worked as a curriculum writer for a math remediation program. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from the University of Southern California.