A Case of Classroom Management
This paper is a review of the scholarly article that I have chosen from a journal called “Journal of Curriculum Studies” and the article that caught my attention was “Classroom management as manner and method”. It immediately appeared to be a well organized piece of writing with a logical structure and interesting points that the author manages to prove in the end.
The parts of the article that generate most interest are the two case studies and the analysis section. Both case studies open with a vivid and evocative description of the teacher and her classroom organisation. The snippets of informal conversation allow the reader to develop an insight into the personality of the teacher and also the atmosphere in her classroom. I found it interesting to compare the two very different styles of classroom management. The analysis section is helpful in highlighting the similarities and differences between the two. The first is pupil centred and somewhat Rogerian in principle as the children are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning. The authors describe the second as “teacher centred” (p 716) and this is exemplified by the fact that Kai dedicates eighty percent of teaching time to whole class based activity.
A lot of the material contained within the introductory section of the article is unnecessary and uninteresting. It is padded with a lot of irrelevant theory that does not help to define the purpose of the article or relate to the case studies it contains. The section entitled “The Study”, left on its own, would have been sufficient in setting the scene for the research that follows.
This research article opens and closes with references to how its content can be applied to beginning teachers. It does therefore bare relevance to me as a student teacher and I found the opening reference to classroom management as a common problem for most beginning teachers comforting as this area was my biggest pitfall during school experience last year.
The article is also a good source for relevant, practical advice about how to approach classroom management. The fact that the research focuses on “two experienced teachers” (p 705) is helpful as it presents an opportunity to learn from two teachers who have had the benefits of time and experience in perfecting their classroom management skills. I found that I could learn from reading about the way in which these teachers interacted with the children. For example, Darlene deals with disruption during one lesson in a subtle and effective manner. She avoids halting her lesson in response to a minor disruption. Instead she controls the situation by “putting her hand up, moving towards the child, or saying his name quietly without interrupting the lesson.” (p709) This vividly displays one approach of dealing with a discipline issue and helps me to visualise how I can put certain theory that I have read into practice. For example, Cohen et al recommend “stopping unacceptable behaviour before it escalates” (2000, p 286). In this passage the article displays a good example of how to do so.
One of the main aims of the article is to examine the “holistic view” (p 705) of the teacher and in turn to see how this approach translates into the practice of classroom management. This is topical with regard to the changing role of the teacher and also in light of the new developments within the Northern Ireland Curriculum, proposed by CCEA (Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment). Throughout the article there is great emphasis placed upon instilling in children basic values such as trust, politeness and mutual respect. It is implicit within the article that this is one of the main functions of a teacher. For example, Kai states:
“If they don’t learn anything else, then I would like for them to just be good people, know how to treat one another, respect themselves.” (p 717)
It is obvious that teaching children basic values such as right and wrong can have a positive impact upon the day to day running of the classroom. However I feel that this holistic role of the teacher is over emphasised within this article. There is a danger that teachers will simply enforce their own morals and values onto the children. This is seen, to an extent, with the example of Kai. The authors state that she is the “socialising agent” within the classroom (p 721). This indicates that she has a set of morals that she sees as appropriate and that the topic is not open for debate amongst the children.
Throughout the article the theme of holistic teaching is closely linked to what the authors call the “community theme” (p 710). This topic is relevant in light of the emphasis placed on Citizenship within the newly proposed curriculum here. Making room for circle time or group discussion when children can debate issues such as human rights and their rights and responsibilities as part of a community is becoming increasingly important.
This article also raises the relevant issue of making children aware of expectations in terms of their behaviour and their learning. Darlene, in case study one, states that “why is important to kids”. This serves as a reminder that when I am teaching I should make clear to the children what they should focus their learning on. The article also highlights that “conscious modelling” (p 713) in terms of behaviour will have a positive impact upon classroom management. This complies with Kyriacou’s view that, “pupils will expect you [the teacher] to be a good example of the expectations that you convey.” (1991, p 72)
The authors are very thorough in relating the various aspects of classroom management they discuss to other literature. For example, Darlene’s classroom practice is connected to Kounin’s theory about what makes an effective classroom manager. (1970 cited on p 709) However the use of other related literature is one of the negative traits of this article. The authors relied too heavily upon the opinions and theories of others, so much so that it is hard to distinguish between their ideas and observations and those they paraphrase and quote. This is evident when during the second case study a quote from Wolfgang is used to comment upon the teaching style of Kai. (p 716) In cases like this the authors do not share enough of their own insights with the reader and their writing subsequently lacks conviction.
Within the individual case studies the authors have devised lists of the qualities displayed by each teacher. This helps break the narrative and is a good recap for the main points discussed. The main points drawn from each case study are then clearly presented in tabular form within the analysis section. The two lists of the methods and manners employed by each teacher serve as a useful basis for comparison of their two styles. This table also serves as a checklist for good practice as regards classroom management.
The authors have used a number of different research methods, ranging from interviews, video recordings and first hand classroom observations. They have a very thorough approach and explain in detail how they conducted their research in the opening sections. However, I feel that they could have made more use of the student interviews they conducted and this would have added an interesting dimension to the article. They make only passing references to how the children perceive their teacher’s classroom management style. For example, in the footnotes of the article the authors state that during “…student interviews, Darlene’s students also described her as funny.”
At the beginning of the article the reader is made aware that the research contained within the article is part of a larger study called the “Manner in Teaching Project” (MTP). A brief outline of what this larger study involves and how it is conducted would have been helpful in terms of setting the scene for the content of this research article. The article does not in anyway indicate how the findings from the two studies it details compare to those from the rest of the study.
The section entitled “conclusions” is very short and does attempt to deal with the three fold purpose of the article stated at the very beginning. It comments upon “who a teacher is, what a teacher believes and how these beliefs are manifested in the teacher’s conduct.” (p 705) The fact that it is so reminiscent of the summary makes it more repetitive than informative. I personally found that the closing section entitled “Implications for teacher education” much more helpful in merging key themes within the article. The emphasis here is placed upon the relationship between the teacher and child. This humanistic interpretation of classroom management greatly enhanced my understanding of the article.
As a whole the article is interesting and is pitched at an accessible level in terms of language and content. My main criticism is that it would have been more useful had the authors been less descriptive in their approach and interpreted more the implications of the teachers’ behaviour. I found their neutral stance frustrating for although kai’s authoritarian approach to classroom management openly clashed with the child centred approach they promote within the concluding sections, they are not at all wary of her methods or manner within the classroom. The balanced view of the two different styles of classroom management leaves it up to the reader to decide which is more effective in terms of promoting positive behaviour and nurturing children’s’ growth as individuals. In this sense, the open ended or rather “speculative” (p 724) conclusions work well as they encourage the reader to think for themselves and draw their own conclusions.