In addition to being highly knowledgeable in the subject matter, teachers also need to know how to manage classroom dynamics effectively. This entails organizational and disciplinary skills that both help make different types of classroom interactions more systematic and aligned with the learning objectives. Otherwise, classes that are conducted by teachers with very minimal classroom management skills tend to produce less favorable outcomes, such as low student achievements. Some studies, in fact, suggest that when teachers are inefficient at managing disruptive classroom behavior, the average pace of cognitive development among all students suffer greatly.
If you are a native English speaker who intend to teach English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL), it will be well to note that the paired factors of 1) disruptive behavior of students, and 2) inability of teachers to effectively manage classroom behavior, jointly cause an alarming number of new educators to leave the teaching profession. This means that in addition to generating mediocre results in terms of the learning goals for students, ineffective classroom management also cause stress, deep resentment and burnout among many teachers, to the point of compelling some of them to consider another profession. In second or foreign language learning, the cultural and linguistic gaps among students and teachers can also aggravate the learning conditions in many ways.
That said, the underlying principle should be obvious: teachers need to develop classroom management skills in order to attain positive learning outcomes. While it is true that managing student behavior is not an absolute guarantee to success, well-managed classroom behavior is a requirement for establishing an environment that is conducive to learning. After all, learning takes place most positively when students are properly motivated to learn.
Given this teaching scenario, don’t lose heart nonetheless. Disruptive behavior is a normal occurrence in the learning process such that veteran educators have established different methodologies and techniques in order to quell learning disruptions. In addition, the demand for English language educators are in the uptrend globally simply because there is a real need to learn the lingua franca of globalization among non-native speakers. Behavior among learners also varies, depending on many factors such as location, economic segmentation, and the motivation to learn. While there is a real linguistic and cultural gap between teachers and students, such differences have been used by enterprising educators as positive inputs for learning.
If you happen to handle classes where disruptive behavior is present, then there are classroom management techniques that you can implement to reduce or even eliminate disruptive classroom behavior. This article presents two solutions–one a process and the other a set of methodologies–that you can use in various combinations depending on the learning conditions in each of your classes.
A. Class Management Process
This set of steps aim to transform the classroom environment into one that actively encourages learning. By modifying both the physical and human aspects of the classroom, teachers will be able to establish an ecosystem that has a positive atmosphere and one that compels everyone to attain learning goals.
1. Have a plan., Nothing beats a comprehensive strategy for achieving learning goals. Each learning session must follow a pre-planned outline that details 1) the expected learning outcomes; 2) how the teacher is to introduce, demonstrate, or explain a lesson or subject matter; 3) the techniques by which the teacher will motivate the class to actively participate in the learning process; 4) how the students will participate; and 5) the alternative strategies in case the actual learning outcomes and student behavior are not what has been expected.
2. Establish the best learning climate possible. Excluding human factor, the overall learning conditions in any classroom can be modified readily. How a room looks and feels have a direct impact on learning. Lighting can be configured depending on the teaching purpose, for example (well-lit rooms facilitate clear reception of all sensations especially those that are visual while a darkened room magnify sound sensations and may be good for articulating pronunciations, and other verbal concepts; a spotlight focuses students’ attention to a particular learning stimulus such as the teaching conducting a lecture, a visual image, or the whiteboard.). Get rid of disruptive background noise (a faulty electric fan or air conditioning unit, for example) whenever possible. Clutter and other visual pollution that unnecessarily divert people’s attention should also be addressed.
3. Conduct class sessions efficiently. Clarify the goals you want your students to achieve and the ways by which they can achieve them. Never appear to be disorganized to your students. Be consistent in order to set an example and establish a clear system for different classroom activities.
4. Practice authority positively. Develop mutual respect but integrate wholesome humor in your interactions. This will allow you to reach out to all your students and to avoid neglecting any one. Maintain a positive and accessible demeanor so that your students will be encouraged to communicate. Practice the so-called three F’s required of successful educators: firmness, fairness, and friendliness.
B. Class Management Techniques
Managing student behaviour is critical to the success of your teaching sessions. You can use any of the following techniques in order to establish the right learning attitude among your students.
1. Subject Focus. Everyone in your class should be primed for learning before you introduce a new subject matter. When students are engaged in chatter that is unrelated to the subject matter or appear to be doing something not related to the lesson, don’t continue your teaching until you get their full attention. Temporarily stop discussing the subject matter whenever you think students are not paying attention since that would be a waste of time and effort. Otherwise, opting to teach even when students are not paying attention will establish the notion that it is okay to be rude and to ignore someone speaking to you.
2. Modelling. For the learning process to be healthy and effective, teachers need to establish their leadership and authority inside the classroom. They also need to exhibit the very traits they want their students to develop and possess. As role models, teachers should know and practice how to show respect and concern for others so that students can emulate their actions. In addition, teachers should show decisiveness and fairness in order to establish a good, disciplined environment for learning.
3. Proximity and Modality. Students tend to be more involved when teachers are at arm’s length compared to when they are more distant. This is because people tend to do whatever they want given the chance to do so. In a classroom setting, students in locations that are farthest from the teacher are likely to do their own thing and misbehave compared to those who are in close proximity to the teacher. To address this issue, move across the room during lectures or seatwork as much as possible. Equally engage as many students as possible and make it clear that you confer due attention to everyone and care about their learning achievements.
4. Reward System. Teachers should understand what motivates students and use these as platforms for cognitive development. Human needs such as a sense of belonging and affirmation can be used for further nurturing good classroom behaviour. Also called “Positive Discipline” by some educators, this technique showcases positive traits instead of calling students’ attention to bad behaviour. Praise and reward often accompany this technique and are used to reinforce everyone’s preference for good behaviour.
5. Regular and Random Aptitude Assessments. To check whether students are learning as much as expected, teachers should give regular tests in the form of announced exams, seat works, group activities, and other assignments such as random concept checking. Unannounced quizzes should also be regularly given not only to monitor students’ progress but also to compel students to consistently pay attention in order not to fail in the surprise quizzes.
6. Lesson Management. The teacher’s understanding of people’s motives and behaviour is just one side of the coin. The other side concerns teachers themselves. The fact is, while it is assumed that teachers know their subject areas adequately, sharing their knowledge is another matter. Due preparation and planning is necessary to conduct each learning session successfully.
Teaching is a rewarding profession and is critical in preparing the next generation of people for meeting the challenges of tomorrow. It can also be a highly stressful discipline especially for new teachers who are easily intimidated by adverse classroom dynamics. These guidelines should be able to help teachers streamline their classroom engagement strategies in order to yield positive outcomes–both for them and their students.