Teaching classroom management

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a self-appointed group that generated quite a stir in 2006 with its report about reading education (“What Education Schools Aren’t Teaching About Reading–and What Elementary Teachers Aren’t Learning“), released a report about the absence of high-quality instruction in classroom management for prospective teachers in December of 2013: Training our teachers: Classroom management. Readers of Behavior Mod will likely find the report rather distressing, because it shows a glaring absence of tutelage in the use of behavioral principles in teaching.

The NCTQ identified five classroom management strategies that it considered especially valuable for students to acquire during their teacher preparation programs:

  • Rules: Establish and teach rules;
  • Routines: Build structure and establish routines with the classroom;
  • Praise: Reinforce positive behavior using praise and other means;
  • Misbehavior: Address misbehavior; and
  • Engagement: Foster and maintain student engagement.

Reviewers for the NCTQ examined documents (syllabi and related materials) for teacher education courses to ascertain the extent to which the courses covered these topics.

Of course, these ideas are not new. Oliver and Reschly (2007) described a similar set of recommendations, and they are predicated—as the report notes—on an extensive body of evidence. Most of us would, I suspect, hope that teachers would be taught how to use behavioral principles to help their students learn routines, engage in activities, and so forth.

What I find discouraging is that so many of the ideas are not just ignored but so often seem to be actively disparaged in teacher education. I reject, for example, empty praise such as “Good boy,” because I want teachers to use behavior-specific praise (e.g., Sutherland, Wehby, & Copeland, 2000), but I do not reject praise to the extent that others do (e.g., Kohn, 2012). I often feel like the lone behaviorist among the teacher educators with whom I work.

Anyway, The report (Greenberg, Putman, & Walsh, 2013) from the NCTQ merits a review.

Greenberg, J., Putman, H., & Walsh, K. (2013). Training our teachers: Classroom management. Washington, DC: National Council on Teacher Quality.

Kohn, A. (2012). Criticizing (common criticisms of) praise (entry on “The Answer Sheet”). Washington Post, 3 February 2012.

Oliver, R. M., & Reschly, D. J. (2007). Effective classroom management: Teacher preparation and professional development. Washington, DC: National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality

Sutherland, K. S., Wehby, J. H., & Copeland, S. R. (2000). Effect of varying rates of behavior-specific praise on the on-task behavior of students with EBD. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 8, 2-8, 26. doi:10.1177/106342660000800101

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