A number of different classroom management theories have been the subject of literature written to help teachers more effectively manage their classrooms. Each of these theories can contribute valuable ideas to the development of an effective classroom management plan.
One of the major classroom management theories is known as judicious discipline. This theory suggests that educators should abandon the justice model, which advocates an “eye for an eye” approach to punishment for rule violations. Instead, it suggests that educators should adopt a completely different approach – that of a fiduciary relationship of trust and care (Gathercoal, 2004).
According to the judicious discipline approach, the justice model of discipline is effective in the development of fair and just rules, but it often leads to consequences that may work as a detriment to educators who seek to change the attitudes of misbehaving students. This theory argues that criminalizing students’ misbehavior and using detention to isolate them from others is not helpful to students in trouble. Students experiencing problems are already feeling badly about themselves, and they do not need educators compounding their problems and making them feel even worse. Instead, these students should be provided with help and support to resolve their problems in ways that will increase their feelings of self-worth.
The criminal justice system is traditionally used as a last resort for resolving problems in the community after everything else has failed. Therefore, the judicious discipline model argues that it does not make sense for educators to use the criminal justice model first, before using educational and mentoring approaches. Consequences should not be predetermined acts designed for retribution or to foster obedience. Rather, they should become ways for students to learn responsibility. Educators should identify issues central to students’ emotional development and educational needs in order to determine the best course of action (Gathercoal, 2004).
The self- restitution theory of classroom management focuses on solving behavior problems with out the use of heavy authority, threats, and punishments. The emphasis is on developing a school environment that satisfies needs and is free from fear and coercion. In this kind of environment, teachers can help students to deal with the root causes of problems by reflecting on the needs that led to their behavior (Charles & Senter, 2008).
According Diane Gossen, punishments and rewards are not effective in promoting desirable classroom behavior because they discourage student reflection on personal behavior, stifling the development of moral and emotional intelligence. To solve this problem, teachers should adopt an approach that provides a needs-satisfying environment where students who behave inappropriately are encouraged to reflect on their behavior, identify the need that triggered it, and create a new way of behaving that reflects the kind of person they want to be (Charles & Senter, 2008).
Self-restitution theory suggests a three-step process for dealing with problem behaviors. The first step in helping a student who has misbehaved is to stabilize the student’s identity by removing fear or anger so learning can take place. Students should be told that it’s okay to make a mistake, and that the problem can be solved. The next step is to help the student to understand that the behavior was not the worst possible choice, and that most behavior occurs when a person senses a need that is not being met. The teacher can then review the needs that often bring about behavior, and ask whether the student thinks any of these needs might have led to what he or she did. The final step is to encourage the student to think about the kind of person he or she wants to be. The effect is to motivate the student to judge the behavior against the image of the person he or she would like to be, and to help the student identify a way of meeting the need that is consistent with his or her inner sense of morality (Charles & Senter, 2008).
Gossen also suggests that teachers use self-restitution with the least coercion possible, using a method she refers to as the Least Coercive Road. In using this method, teachers should reduce the number of interventions made into student behavior, giving students more freedom to learn by making their own choices. The Least Coercive Road also involves the establishment of a class social contract for behavior. Teachers should encourage students to think about and discuss their beliefs about the kind of class they would like to be, how they would like to work together, conduct themselves, help each other, and enjoy their experience together. These ideas should then be used to develop agreements about desirable and undesirable behavior, which are formalized as the class social contract (Charles & Senter, 2008).
The moral intelligence theory of classroom management focuses on developing universal virtues of goodness, which enable a student to act properly and resist pressures that can damage his or her character. The seven essential virtues are empathy, conscience, self-control, respect, kindness, tolerance, and fairness. According to Michele Borba, the first three of these virtues make up the moral core (Charles & Senter, 2008).
The seven essential virtues emphasized by the moral intelligence theory can be taught in school through a five-step process. The first step in working to improve a character trait is to draw it strongly to students’ attention over time. A different character trait can be emphasized each month. The second step to teaching a character trait is to convey to students exactly what the trait means and why it is important and relevant to their lives. The next step is to show the behavior. When discussing a trait, the teacher should model it, and use role-play to act out an example of the trait with a student. The fourth step involves providing frequent opportunities for students to practice the moral habits or behaviors that make up the character trait. Finally, teachers should be sure to reinforce students as they improve (Charles & Senter, 2008).
According to Borba, successful discipline depends strongly on creating a moral learning community in the classroom. The classroom environment should be a place where students feel safe and cared about. In this kind of environment, the teacher connects with the students, shows care for them, and models character traits.
Moral intelligence theory also stresses that teachers must not allow misbehavior to persist. If allowed to continue, misbehavior can develop into an attitude that weakens the character of the student. The teacher must target the specific behaviors that damage respectful classrooms and student character. These behaviors include vulgarity, meanness, bullying, and disrespect. Teachers can address these problem behaviors by using a four-step approach to discipline, which involves responding, reviewing, reflecting, and making right. First, the teacher responds to the problem by calmly finding out what happened. Next, the teacher reviews the rules or behavior expectations with the student and explores why the behavior was wrong. Then, the teacher reflects on the problem by quickly going over the effects of the behavior and any impact it may have on the victim. Finally, the teacher helps students atone for wrongs they have done (Charles & Senter, 2008).
In their book, The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, Wong and Wong (2009) describe their theory of classroom management. According to Wong and Wong, classroom management is the single most important factor that governs student learning. Classroom management refers to all the things a teacher does to organize students, space, time and materials so student learning can take place. Wong and Wong explain that in a well-managed classroom, students are deeply involved with their work; they know what is expected of them and are generally successful; there is relatively little wasted time; and the climate of the classroom is work-oriented but relaxed and pleasant (Wong & Wong, 2009).
Wong and Wong stress the importance of consistency in the classroom. Consistency comes from implementing procedures and routines. When classroom procedures and routines are predictable and consistent, there are no surprises. Everyone knows what to do, and what is supposed to happen in the classroom. The procedures and routines organize the classroom so that the numerous activities that take place there run smoothly and without stress. This structure provides for an environment conducive to learning. In this kind of environment, the students are able to work, pay attention, cooperate and be respectful to others, exhibit self-discipline, and remain on task. By having a classroom management plan in place from the start of the school year, a teacher can establish a well-managed classroom, and prevent it from becoming a breeding ground for confusion and discontent (Wong & Wong, 2009).
Another influential theory for classroom management is William Glasser’s Choice Theory. Choice theory states that all we do is behave, that almost all behavior is chosen, and that we are driven by our genes to satisfy five basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun (William Glasser Institute, 2010). Glasser’s theory is based upon the following series of statements that he calls The Ten Axioms of Choice Theory:
1) The only person whose behavior we can control is our own.
2) All we can give another person is information.
3) All long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems.
4) The problem relationship is always part of our present life.
5) What happened in the past has everything to do with what we are today, but we can only satisfy our basic needs right now and plan to continue satisfying them in the future.
6) We can only satisfy our needs by satisfying the pictures in our Quality World.
7) All we do is behave.
8) All behavior is Total Behavior and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology.
9) All Total Behavior is chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking components. We can only control our feeling and physiology indirectly through how we choose to act and think.
10) All Total Behavior is designated by verbs and named by the part that is the most recognizable.
Choice theory, with the Seven Caring Habits (supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting respecting, and negotiating differences), replaces external control psychology and the Seven Deadly Habits (criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and bribing or rewarding to control). According to Glasser, external control is destructive to relationships, and will result in people becoming disconnected from each other. Glasser argues that this disconnection is the source of almost all human problems. Choice theory can be used to create a classroom environment where relationships are based upon trust and respect, and all discipline problems have been eliminated (William Glasser Institute, 2010).