Social Education 57(6), 1993, pp. 326-328
1993 National Council for the Social Studies
Classroom Management for Responsible Citizenship: Practical Strategies for Teachers
Dorene D. Ross and Elizabeth Bondy1
Classroom management is a major concern in U.S. public schools (Elam, Rose, and Gallup 1991). Although this concern is well placed, it is important for the public, teachers, and administrators to recognize that inappropriate emphasis on classroom order and control of students can impede the achievement of other important educational aims. In a democratic society, teachers are obligated to work toward developing the capabilities of students, one dimension of which involves responsible citizenship, or the ability and inclination to play an active role in improving society for all people (Ross, Bondy, and Kyle in press). This obligation requires that teachers select classroom management strategies likely to help students develop and use community values and skills including compassion, mutual respect, responsibility, and equality (Goodman 1992). Essential communication and social skills necessary for responsible citizenship include listening, expressing opinions, cooperating, and collaborative problem solving.
Brophy (1985) notes that most research on classroom management focuses on how to control behavior rather than on how to promote the values and skills of responsible citizenship. Most research investigating classroom management has addressed the differences between effective teachers (those who maintain order) and ineffective teachers (those who fail to maintain order). The research, however, has not investigated the characteristics that differentiate effective teachers who emphasize community-related values and social skills from effective teachers who focus exclusively on order. Nevertheless, we must not underestimate teaching practices that promote classroom order. Evertson, Emmer, and their colleagues have provided the most comprehensive classroom management research. Table 1 summarizes four guidelines for effective classroom management derived from their work (Evertson 1989; Evertson and Emmer ; Evertson et al. 1984; Sanford and Emmer 1988).
Teachers who fail to use the guidelines identified in the classroom management research, or who fail to use them consistently, are likely to have chaotic classrooms. Achieving an orderly classroom, however, should not be an end in itself. If teachers hope to develop students' understanding of and commitment to the values and skills of responsible citizenship, they may need to do more than implement the guidelines that have emerged from the classroom management research; strict implementation of the guidelines is likely to achieve order by promoting obedience rather than by teaching students to make socially responsible choices based on internalized community values. To develop community values and the social skills needed for responsible citizenship, teachers must use additional practices to manage their students.
Developing the Values and Skills of Responsible Citizenship: Socialization Strategies
At the outset, teachers should state the rationale for rules (i.e., prescriptions for general classroom behavior) and routines (i.e., prescriptions for specific behavior, such as how to set up and clean up science lab materials). The rationale behind rules can also be (and should be) communicated in other ways. Many children's books address values issues. Discussing the underlying values in books and how the values might apply within the classroom helps children understand the classroom values structure. Teachers can use current events activities to help children see that classroom values guide the action of all members of our society. Teachers can also use decision stories (i.e., stories in which two important values conflict) to help children grapple with difficult value decisions. Schuncke and Krogh's Helping Children Choose (1983) offers many examples of decision stories appropriate for elementary schoolchildren.
- Always provide a rationale for rules and routines. In a review of research on successful socialization practices, Brophy (1985) notes that parents of well-socialized children set standards and expect children to cooperate, but they do not expect immediate and unquestioning obedience. Successful parents recognize that children do not automatically construct internal standards for action by learning to comply with rules established by adults. To help their children construct a moral philosophy, parents share with them the values used to determine rules and routines. Recognizing that rules are based on community values such as caring for others, fairness, honesty, or justice helps children develop criteria for evaluating their behavior and that of others, even in situations where parents or teacher have not specified rules.
- Give students opportunities to make decisions in the classroom. Pepper and Henry (1985) argue that democracy is based on principles of shared decision making. In a classroom, this means that the teacher shares with students the power to make as many decisions as possible. Benson (1987) echoes the idea that children must learn how to use power. He stresses that involving children in significant decisions communicates a respect for their abilities; an atmosphere of mutual respect, in turn, contributes to children's feelings of belonging. The specific practices described in this section provide opportunities to develop and practice community values and related skills of communication and collaborative problem solving.
- Involve students in developing classroom rules. Cooperatively constructing rules helps students feel a part of the class, creates a sense of ownership of classroom rules that makes cooperation more likely, and provides opportunities to discuss the rationale behind rules so that students will understand the values on which rules are based. Although most rules would be developed before problems occur, teachers should also involve students in analyzing past events and constructing solutions to avoid problems in the future (Goodman 1992).
- Involve students in developing and revising classroom routines (e.g., procedures establishing when to sharpen pencils or how students should behave after they have completed seatwork). Teachers should involve children in developing classroom routines for the same reasons children should be involved in developing rules: If children are to believe they have the power to shape their classroom experience, teachers must allow them to raise questions and suggest revisions. For example, students may believe that signing out on the chalkboard to go to the bathroom is too public and embarrassing for them. Through negotiation, the class might develop a more private procedure.
- Whenever possible, use classroom routines that provide opportunities to make choices. Although classroom routines such as when students are allowed to sharpen pencils may seem trivial, they play an important role in the moment-to-moment life of the classroom. These routines are as value-laden as any lesson the teacher teaches. Because students experience these trivial events with such frequency, the values they carry tend to be especially well learned. If teachers want to promote self-discipline and responsibility, options that enable the children to make decisions and exercise responsibility are more desirable than those that deny these opportunities.
- View inappropriate behavior as an opportunity for collaborative problem solving. According to classroom management research, teachers should use inappropriate behavior as an opportunity to teach appropriate behavior. Guidelines for responding to inappropriate behavior range from asking the student to stop the inappropriate behavior to using logical consequences to teach students the relationship between their actions and the results of their actions. In many cases, the latter is exactly what the teacher should do, making sure to stress the rationale behind the classroom rule or procedure and to remind the student of group agreements where appropriate. At other times, the problem may be disruptive enough to suggest that one or more children have not learned underlying classroom values. Here teachers must stress appropriate behavior at the same time teaching problem-solving strategies and classroom values. Stensrud and Stensrud (1981, 165) state that by giving students the right to participate in the making of decisions that affect their lives, we encourage the learning of self-discipline and cooperation. A central distinction between coercive structures and self-disciplining ones is that the latter is based on cooperative goal structures.
The practices that follow provide students opportunities to develop values of respect, compassion, mutual responsibility, and equality as well as communication and social skills needed for responsible citizenship.
- Effective communication provides a basis for collaboration. Working collaboratively requires that a teacher understand children's perspectives and help each child understand the perspectives of both the teacher and other children. Advocates of a human relations model of discipline (McDaniel 1980) have described specific practices that help people see through the eyes of others. Writers such as Ginott (1971), Gordon (1970), and Dreikurs (1968) have recommended practices that help teachers understand students' perspectives (e.g., active listening, door openers, and "I" messages). Teachers should teach these strategies to students to help them become collaborative, caring classroom members.
- Class meetings provide opportunities for collaborative problem solving. Many problems confronted in classrooms are group problems (e.g., bickering or noisy behavior in communal areas). At the heart of a model for teaching community values and social skills is what Glasser (1965) calls "the classroom meeting," a large group session at which the teacher and students present problems and propose and consider solutions. The classroom meeting is an expression of democracy in action, a cooperative venture that embodies respect, responsibility, and concern for the group. Power and Kohlberg (1986) note that classroom meetings permit students to raise issues important to them, help establish routines and rules that influence their lives, and, therefore, provide instruction about democratic principles and procedures. They stress (1986, 17) that teachers should "be willing to speak up strongly as advocates of justice and community in the democratic meetings."
- Collaborative planning and evaluation is the key to solving individual problems. Although the strategies suggested thus far will help prevent many classroom problems, every teacher faces individual children who have moderate to severe problems functioning within the classroom. Many problems have roots in children's inability to work and play cooperatively. Gaining self-control requires that children learn to resolve conflicts cooperatively by learning to perceive the perspective of other children, to avoid direct confrontation, and to use appropriate social interaction strategies (Ross, Bondy, and Kyle 1993). Children who lack these social skills will be unable to live peacefully with classmates. To help children develop social competence, Rogers and Ross (1986) suggest that teachers provide time for peer interaction, intervene to help children develop social skills, and use structured classroom groups to foster social acceptance and development. In addition to working on social skills, children should work with the teacher to solve specific problems. In his responsibility training model, Glasser (1965) has described a set of steps for teachers to follow when students behave in ways that cause problems for the group. Glasser's method is designed to help the students accept responsibility for their behavior choices and plan alternative action that takes into account the group's needs. Pepper and Henry (1985) stress that teachers and students should generate alternatives collaboratively and that any new agreements must be acceptable to both. Within such an agreement, teachers and students should specify consequences for future inappropriate behavior and that the teacher is responsible for following through with consequences.
In more serious cases, teachers and students may develop a contract that specifies external reinforcement for positive behavior. Although the use of external reinforcement is not a practice we recommend enthusiastically, a few children have had so little successful experience in a classroom that they do not know how it feels to work cooperatively. External rewards can provide transitional motivation for such children on their way to developing community values and social skills.
By examining curriculum and classroom environment in an effort to determine the role they play in classroom management problems, and by sharing their reflections with students, teachers create models for their students of the values and skills of responsible citizenship. For instance, teachers who show concern that some students do not find the curriculum meaningful demonstrate their sense of responsibility for the learning of all members of the classroom community. When teachers talk with students to gain understanding of their views of the curriculum, they demonstrate the community values of respect and caring. When teachers share with students their thinking about solving curriculum problems, they again create models for respect, caring, and commitment to the well-being and success of the group. In addition to modeling commitment to community values, teachers model important communication and social skills when they examine their curriculum in this public way.
- Model the values and skills of responsible citizenship. Classroom management research discusses the connection between curriculum and management (Brophy 1985); in our view, however, the research underemphasizes the significance of this connection. We have observed serious management problems in classrooms where the curriculum fails to engage students in activity they find meaningful. Furthermore, Wayson (1985) explains that students who do not feel that people within the school accept and care about them are not likely to cooperate with teachers. It is important, then, that teachers consider students' perceptions of the curriculum and the classroom environment as part of their effort to offer them the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for responsible citizenship.
Decisions about how students should live in a classroom should have foundations in the teacher's educational aims. No one set of most effective techniques for organizing classrooms exists. Decisions about what is best and effective must be based on the teacher's (or school's) vision. We have advocated the aim of responsible citizenship, which entails the development of community values and communication and social skills. Traditionally, classrooms have been organized according to authoritarian power relations. Teachers have laid out their expectations, and students have complied. Students who failed to obey received a predetermined punishment. Under these conditions, students may work quietly and stay in their seats. But what do they learn about themselves, other students, adults, and the society in which they live? Do they learn values of community by participating in this type of stratified system in which they have little power and control?
We are not arguing that teachers and students are equals in the classroom. We believe that teachers have a legitimate authority they should use "to teach [children] how to live according to community values" (Goodman 1992, 104). They do this by creating routines, rules, and practices that help students become responsible for themselves and to others. Although we may see the teacher as having the overall plan that guides classroom activity, students play a central role in the construction of group life through a continuing dialogue with members of the group. In our discussion of classroom practices that promote the development of responsible citizenship we have tried to shift the emphasis away from controlling students' behavior to teaching students how to be responsible members of a community. It is through their relations with others in the classroom that students will learn important lessons about how to live in a community.
1The ideas presented in this article are abbreviated and revised from a chapter that appears in Ross, Bondy, and Kyle (1993).References
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