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Week #2: Introduction to Classroom Management


Basic Assumptions about Human Beings and Examining the Socially Constructed Classroom Reality


We begin our examination of classroom management at the beginning. No, not by looking at what do we do (however, that will come later), but what we believe and value. It could be said that “we teach who we are.” In week #1, we examined some of the ways that we obtain our values, or in the case of cognitive style, ways that we differ that would inherently affect what we value. While questions related to human nature are certainly complex, it is useful to start with a discussion of how we view the basic nature of the students that we teach. Here are a few questions that should spark our class discussion, and your thinking (you will be asked to explore this area in section 1 of your CMP).


1.       Which view of human nature do you agree with more?

·        Humans are basically good (as Rogers would propose). If left to develop in a nurturing environment, we would grow into self-responsible and noble creatures.

·        Humans are basically wild and in need of social conditioning (as Skinner would propose).  If left on our own, we grow to become brutish, selfish and unruly.  So therefore, we need to be conditioned to act in a socially acceptable way.


2.     In your estimation, are most young people more internally or externally motivated.  Do they do most activities out of internal drives such as enjoyment, a sense of accomplishment, a desire to learn? Or do they act because someone is externally rewarding their action or out of fear that they will lose something or someone’s approval or rewards (i.e., grades, love, money, praise, awards)?


3.     Should it make a difference to students being “on task” if the teacher is in the room or not?  Imagine one class where, if the teacher left, the “lid would come off,” and another where essentially nothing would change.  What is the difference?


Examining the (Socially Constructed) Classroom Reality

As it Relates to Classroom Management


Each classroom has its own “reality.”  The same group of students, if they were to move from one room and teacher to another, could experience a distinctly different reality.  Each class may feel different, students may experience a different level of motivation, or a different expectation for what is acceptable, and very often they may find themselves consequently acting entirely differently in these different settings.  This can be true even if the explicit expectations (i.e., rules, stated expectations, stated curriculum, and school policies) are essentially the same in the two situations.  While much of what varies from class to class is on the level of the explicit and stated, there is much of this “classroom reality” that is socially constructed and thus below the level of the explicit.  For a quick affirmation of this principle, ask a few teachers what they expect their class to be and feel like, and then observe the actual classes.  Most teachers suggest that they want about the same types of things, but what actually manifests itself looks significantly different from one class to another.  For example, many classes appear very productive, while others appear chaotic, and some feel very warm, while others feel hostile, etc.  And while much of what any class will be like (especially early in a year) is determined by what the students come into the class with, the primary variable in the equation is the teacher.  The teacher’s choices, words, actions, and affect help create the classroom reality day after day.  As Ginott suggests, to a very great extent, “the teacher creates the weather” in the room.


While there are many inter-related factors that contribute to any classroom’s “socially constructed reality,” there are a few factors that can be examined separately.  The handouts provided in class will help make sense of each of these separate factors in more depth.


Social Frames

In any society, there are implicit relationships that exist to help promote functional behavior between adults and children.  Your handout outlines 3 of those relationships or social frames.  First, there should be a relationship between freedom and responsibility.  Children/students should be given freedom to the extent that they are responsible.  Second, there should be a relationship between achievement and being rewarded.  Children should be given recognition and rewards when they try and/or are successful.  Third, there should be a relationship between students showing loyalty and respect and adults giving back caring and respect.  One could say that any society, household or class is more or less “functional” to the extent that these frames operate successfully.


Teacher use of Power

All teachers need to use some form of power to achieve their goals.  Power is in a sense “the right to ask others to do something.” As teachers we need to ask students to do many things in a day, and we need to make our requests out of some basis of power.  Power comes in many forms, and the forms that one chooses should be consistent with the talents and values one possesses, as well as what will achieve the best learning outcomes for one’s students.  Your handout outlines 5 types of teacher power that researchers suggest exist in any classroom.  They all need to operate to some degree, but some will be emphasized and utilized more than others for most of us.  These 5 types of power are Position, Attractive/Referent, Reward, Coercive and Expert. 


Common “language” exchanged

It could be said that our language defines our reality.  We need words to explain what is.  The language in the classroom is a powerful influence and defines the very nature of what is going on.  This idea may sound very abstract, but examine the language in a classroom.  As you listen and observe, ask yourself these questions; “What is acceptable to talk about in this class?” “What is the purpose of the language used?” “What emotional climate is being created by the use of the language?” “Is the language used consistent with the messages being sent?”  Examine the language used by the 3 teachers in the handout. It is very possible that they all desire about the same explicit outcomes, but do you think their language exchanges will produce similar results?


Unspoken/implicit expectation

We all have biases, experiences, personalities, and life-views that affect the way we look at other people.  Since it could be said that, “we teach who we are,” those internal values play themselves out in subtle and not so subtle ways.  Each teacher must ask him or herself if they treat different types of students differently and/or have different expectations for students based on preconceived notions.  Examine any classroom and observe if the commonly manifested stereotypes and biases found in society at large are recreated in the classroom reality.  It is doubtful that if a conspicuous and substantial effort is not made to redefine expectations to develop a more equitable and conscious climate, they will be.


Interaction of personality/learning style types

After taking the PLSI you should have some grasp of your learning style.  And after our discussion you should be aware of the finding that, if we as teachers do nothing at all to be sensitive to learning style differences, then students who are similar to us type-wise will like our courses better and get better grades.  And those who are most different will be, in effect, penalized because of their type.  Each teacher must ask themselves the question, is her/his classroom reality one where all learning styles are valued and given a chance to express themselves, or will there be inherent frustration and repression for certain types?  The more learning style thinking is brought to the level of awareness the less it will be part of the hidden curriculum and the better it can be addressed purposefully.


The “Hidden Curriculum”

The hidden curriculum could be defined as what is learned in totality by students minus what is planned for, and it contains many of the areas mentioned earlier to some extent.  But it also includes how what we do in our classes effects students.  There is that which we intend to teach, and then there is that which our teaching choices and behaviors actually teach.  What we do each day defines “reality” for our students.  What we assess defines that which is valuable to our students.  The systems that we choose to use prepare students to be part of the broader systems in society.


Social Frame Development and Classroom Management


          Social Frames are culturally embedded, socially-developed, implicit roles and relationships that operate to help society function.  In our society, as well as many others, sociologists have determined that there are at least three main frames that implicitly operate.  They involve the deference shown by a young person, and the deportment shown by a significant adult.  They can be characterized by the following:


Deference (student)    

Deportment (teacher/parent)

Student shows RESPONSIBILITY...


They should receive corresponding FREEDOM

Student is SUCCESSFUL....       


They should be REWARDED

Student shows LOYALTY and RESPECT.... 

They should be shown WARMTH and CARING


Discussion Questions:

1.          What do you think would happen if in any of these three cases a student showed the appropriate deference and did not get the expected response from the teacher?


2.        What if the student was given the response without having shown the deference? For example being given freedom without showing responsibility?


3.        What do you think a student would be like if they were raised without any significant adult giving appropriate deportment, and then placed in a class where these were commonly functioning frames?




Examine the following teacher language patterns.  Classify and then label the types of language that are occurring in each case.  What type of classroom climate would be manufactured by the use of each of these hypothetical language patterns?


Teacher A:

·         (after handing out an assignment) “I don’t want to see all the sloppy papers that I saw the last time.”

·         “Stop talking or I will . . .”

·         (after a wrong answer) “No, you guys aren’t getting this”

·         (sarcastic responses on a regular basis)

·         “I told you guys to get to work”

·         “When are we ever going to learn?”


I’d label this language _________________

The affect on the classroom climate (and/or socially constructed reality)

would be __________________.


Teacher B:

·         (gives directions and students are still talking) “listen to me!”

·         “There is too much noise in the room”

·         (after directions are given, and students were not paying attention, and they do not do what the teacher wants) “OK, I told you to keep the glue in the box until you get your paper ready” (as students are still not listening). “Put the glue away I said!”


I’d label this language _________________

The affect on the classroom climate (and/or socially constructed reality)

would be __________________.


Teacher C:

·         “Take a look at this group, see how they . . . that is what I am looking for.”

·         “I know it is almost lunchtime, but I need you to stay with it for 15 more minutes.”

·         (after some students were not attentive to directions) “Someone was talking, I think I will start the directions over, I need 100% attention.”

·         (after a good answer) “Yes (and rephrase the key information or process thinking)”

·         (after an incorrect answer) “OK, you seemed to be doing . . . and that would be right for that process, but what we were looking for was . . ., given that do you want to try again?”

·         (after a poor effort) “We have got to do a better job with this than last time.  We need to get this stuff down by this week.  We will need to have it for the test next week and for your projects.”


I’d label this language _________________

The affect on the classroom climate (and/or socially constructed reality)

would be __________________.


Expectations and Management


Consider how your expectations affect your class as a collective and your students individually.  Do you treat boys differently than girls? Why? Do you have different expectations for students given what you perceive as differences in the socio-economic background? Most teachers would say that they do not, but after examining the Anyon research last week, we might observe that the reality of what is taking place in schools generally suggests that teachers have very different expectations for students depending their “class.” And as a result, they treat students of different groups very differently.

Moreover, if we ask most teachers what their “explicit” level expectations are, we tend to get somewhat similar responses. But if we examine what expectations are experienced by students we see dramatic differences. So, how are expectations communicated? The answer is probably very complex, but we can assume that it involves verbal and non-verbal messages that are inferred by students.  As we noted in week #1, “We teach who we are.” And we can assume that who we are and what we value will be communicated one way or another. Our likes, dislikes, biases, world-views, politics, assumptions about class, gender, ethnicity and the like will all influence how student experience our class.


Discussion of 2 Research studies related to expectancy and academic performance:

  • Students who were assigned to the “rising star” group were treated differently by their teachers and performed better. (Pygmalion in the Classroom)
  • Students who were told that they were (because of their eye color) inferior began to lose motivation and performed worse than students who were told that they were superior.


We teach what we value. Are you aware of your values? Do your values only promote the success of “some” of your students?


Imagine a student that you really like, believe will be successful in life, has lots of potential, believe they like and respect you, and you feel invested in their future. How would you treat that student? Ask yourself why you do not treat every student in your class that way.  Then find a way to do it.

Teaching Style/School Climate Continuum Matrix




Highly functional
and productive







and unproductive,Student-centered,Teacher-centered,Self-directed learning
Teacher as facilitator
(Liberating - Intentional Climate),Efforts well-orchestrated
Teacher as conductor
(Domesticating - Intentional Climate),Self-centered effort
Passive leadership
(Enabling - Accidental Climate),Repressive leadership
Student conformity or rebellion
(Reactive - Accidental Climate),1,2,3,4 





Teaching Style Classification








·        Facilitator

  • Relationship-driven
  • Goal = self-directed students
  • Motivation = internal/ build sense of self-efficacy
  • Clear boundaries
  • Build students’ collective responsibility
  • Answers “why we are dong this”
  • Long-term goals (the management may be messy at first, but auto-pilot by end)
  • Our class


·        Orchestrator

  • Structure-driven
  • Goal = on task behavior
  • Motivation = external/ positive reinforcement
  • Clear consequences
  • Build students’ collective efficiency
  • Answers “what is expected”


  • Short-term goals (the management should be in good shape by the second week)
  • My Class




·        Enabler

  • Reaction-driven
  • Goal = keep students happy


  • Motivation = student interests
  • Unclear boundaries
  • Students - increasingly self-centered
  • Chaotic energy
  • Goals are vague (management problems happen early and are still happening by end of the term)
  • The students


·        Dominator

  • Obedience-driven
  • Goal = let students know who is boss
  • Motivation = to avoid punishment
  • Arbitrary punishments
  • Students – increasingly immune to coercion
  • Negative energy
  • Goals is to break students will (students respond out of fear, but slowly increase hostility and rebellion)
  • Those students