Classroom Management Resource Page      Shindler      School Climate      PLSI       Teaching   -    Workshops by JVS


Chapter 4: Classifying Approaches to Classroom Management (from Transformative Classroom Management, by John Shindler)


There are many ways to classify orientations to classroom management. In chapter 3 we examined how cognitive style and world-view contribute to how we approach teaching. In this chapter we will examine how classroom management practices differ based on one’s orientation to discipline itself.  To help accomplish this, we will incorporate a 4-quadrant matrix for characterizing management style orientation that has grown out a series of research studies into teacher practices (Shindler, Jones, Taylor, Cadenas, 2003, 2004, 2005).  This Management Orientation Matrix, depicted in Figure 4.1 below, has proven useful in helping distinguish one category or practice from another, and will provide one of the fundamental frameworks for the ideas in the coming chapters of this book. The vertical axis of the matrix represents the level of effectiveness of the management practices, and the horizontal axis represents a continuum of theoretical orientation, from more student-centered on the left, to more teacher-centered on the right.


IntentionalFigure 4.1: Four-quadrant Matrix of Management Style Orientation and Practice:


Efforts well-orchestrated
Teacher as conductor
(Domesticating - Intentional Climate),Ineffective/
Accidental,Teacher -
Centered,Conductor,Dominator,Enabler,Facilitator,1,2,3,4,Self-directed learning
Teacher as facilitator
(Liberating - Intentional Climate),Self-centered effort
Passive leadership
(Enabling - Accidental Climate),Repressive leadership
Student conformity or rebellion
(Reactive - Accidental Climate) 

















Horizontal axis – teacher vs. student centered

The horizontal axis of the matrix represents the range of practices related to the locus of power, ownership, and fundamental goals for any class.  This axis ranges from a very teacher-centered to a very student-centered orientation. While this dichotomy represents a bit of an oversimplification, it offers a very basic contrast in teaching philosophy, as we will see when we examine each of the sub-factors – ownership, goals and assumptions, in more depth.


Ownership and Power

In the teacher-centered class, the power rests primarily with the teacher, as does the ownership for decision-making. In a teacher-centered class, the students need only follow instructions.  In a student-centered class, the teacher takes on the role of guiding the students’ efforts. Ownership for decisions, large and small, is given to the students, whenever possible. This leaves the students with a higher burden for solving problems and making consequential choices. The question that best defines the contrast in this continuum is, “who has their hands on the steering wheel of the class?”


Goals and Purpose

The underlying goal of a teacher-centered class is order. The underlying goal of a student-centered class is student self-reliance.  In the teacher-centered class, success is defined by how well the students execute their responsibilities and the level of efficiency that exists in the learning environment. The rationale behind this thinking is that in an orderly and obedient classroom, there is less wasted time, and more on-task behavior, which benefits everyone. So the view in a teacher directed class is that the ends - students who are more productive more of the time, justify the means – teacher direction. In the student-centered class, success is defined by the amount of personal and collective growth that the students experience over the course of the term. The rationale behind this thinking is that when students are put in positions in which they must take ownership for their own learning and are expected to be self-responsible, they learn lessons that are as valuable as anything that they can learn from the curriculum.


Basic Assumptions and Motivation

At the heart of a teacher-centered approach is the assumption that students need to be managed or they will misbehave by nature. Basic to a student-centered approach is that students have an inherent desire to learn and improve. Therefore, in the teacher-centered thinking, it is desirable to take a teacher-directed approach because the students need it.  Whereas, the student-centered thinking would suppose that the reason that students might appear to need a teacher-directed class is that they have become dependent on them, and are just lacking the opportunities to develop their own self-responsible nature.


As a result of these basic assumptions a teacher-centered approach is very comfortable with the use of extrinsic rewards. This approach finds rewards and punishments a very effective way to change behavior. Since the result is often more desirable behavior more of the time, the ends support the use of the means. A student-centered classroom resists the use of extrinsic rewards and punishments, and views them as vehicles that rob a student of their intrinsic motivation. This approach sets out to create a learning environment that is inherently motivating, and relies more heavily on tapping into student interests and meeting students’ basic needs.



Chapter Reflection 4#: Where would you place your management orientation along the horizontal continuum? Are you more inclined toward a more student-centered or a more teacher-centered approach to classroom management?



Vertical axis – Effectiveness and Intentionality

The vertical axis of the matrix is related to the effectiveness of the management practice. At the top of the axis are the most effective forms of practice defined by high function, sound relationships, high levels of motivation, and high productivity. At the base of the axis are the least effective forms of practice defined by low function, relationship dysfunction, low motivation and a lack of productivity.


In our research into classroom practice (Shindler, Jones, Taylor, Cadenas 2004) we have seen that the degree of effectiveness is related most strongly to first, the intentionality of the system of management and second, the degree to which the locus of control of the teacher is internal rather than external. Therefore, the peak of this axis represents practices that are less accidental and reactive and more systematic, deliberate and reflect an increasing level of teacher ownership for student outcomes. Let us examine both of these sub-factors in more depth.


Intentional and Conscious

Put simply, more effective teacher practices are demonstrated by those who know what they are trying to accomplish and how then intend to accomplish it. That is, they are “intentional” in their practice. This approach is contrasted to those that are short-sighted, reactive and unconscious, which could be described as “accidental.” Intentional practice is characterized by efforts undertaken within a larger scheme within which each specific teaching act fits.  An accidental set of practices has no such coherence, and therefore collectively amount to little if anything beyond a series of disconnected strategies. This lack of vision creates a lack of confidence and a feeling of discontinuity in the students, in other words, a sense that they are part of a class that lacks leadership.


Internality and Responsibility

If you talk to a teacher who does an effective job of classroom management and helping their students succeed, you will hear in their words the underlying convictions – “I believe it is about what I do”, and “I am responsible for helping my students succeed.” The frame of mind that is expressed in this attitude is both internal – “success will be dependent on the investment I make in my variable in the equation” and responsible – “My job is to help every student succeed.” Contrast this to the mindset of a teacher who, after a sufficient amount of training and practice, still demonstrates ineffectiveness and experiences a high level of student failure. In most cases, the attitudes that these teachers express are both external – “there is nothing that I can do with these kids,” and irresponsible – “it is not my fault.” While there are hundreds of choices to be made in one’s career related to which classroom management practices are most desirable and worthy to adopt, our underlying attitude in this area will be the single most determining factor in our success. Simply put, success is impossible apart from the mind-set that one is responsible for their student’s learning and behavioral outcomes.



Chapter Reflection 4#: Recall a teacher that you judge to be excellent. When they speak about their students and their profession, how would you characterize their language? Does it reflect a more internal or external locus of control?



The Resulting Matrix: 4 Differing Approaches to Management

When we position one axis across the other, we are left with 4 quadrants that characterize 4 very different approaches to classroom management and teaching in general. Throughout the book, each particular management approach/style will be referred by its style number, 1-4, to represent each of the 4 quadrants of the matrix. Those at the top have been assigned 1-style and 2-style, while those at the bottom were assigned 3-style and 4-style. Numbers are only used to distinguish quadrants, not to assign value.  The orientation that is most your style and best for you will be left to you to decide – the 4-style or Dominator, 3-style of Enabler, 2-style of Conductor or the 1-style or Facilitator. However, you will be persuaded very early in the book (if you need persuading or have not been persuaded by now) that either a 1 or 2 orientation will produce profoundly greater degrees of success for both the teacher and the students.


As far as which orientation, 2-style or 1-style, is more effective, the reader is asked to judge for him or herself the approach that best fits their own personal teaching style and goals. A sound, healthy classroom with a fully functioning social contract (see ch.9) can be achieved with either a 2-style or a 1-style management approach. But as the reader will discover throughout the book there are advantages and disadvantages of each orientation (see table 4.x).


A Brief Description of each of the 4 Classroom Management Approaches


4-Style or Dominator Management Approach

The essence of the 4-style orientation is the teacher as “boss.” The 4-style teacher feels the need to dominate by both overt and covert means. Students in the class see quickly that they have only two choices, to be obedient or rebel. While there appears to be a high degree of intentionality to the 4-style management practice due to the authoritarian display of power, a closer examination reveals much less in reality. Because the teacher acts so frequently out of a reactive mode, students are seldom fully sure what to expect. The mood of the teacher has a great deal to do with the climate of the class on any particular day. Moreover, the 4-style manager is typically a fan of extrinsic rewards, “sit and get” teaching methods, and the use of grading for the purpose of coercion.


As we will discuss in more detail in chapter 20 (Moving up from 4-style to 2-style management), at the heart of the 4-style management approach is a “pain-based logic.” To attain their desired outcomes the teacher resorts to the delivery of pain to students in the form of punishments, threats, anger, public humiliation, victimizing humor, putting names on the board, and shaming. As a result, the 4-style classroom takes on a combative and hostile climate. As the pain is exchanged between the teacher and the student, over time an increasing number of negative side effects occur, including a decrease in motivation, a lack of trust, an emotionally unsafe climate, and various acts of displaced aggression.


3-Style or Enabler Management Approach

The defining characteristic of the 3-style manager is passivity. They experience perpetual disappointment that the students are letting them down. The 3-style teacher operates under the faulty assumption that if they make enough reasonable verbal appeals to students (rather than taking deliberate action and/or delivering meaningful consequences), at some point, the students will respond with functional behavior. In most cases, the 3-style teacher is acting out of the rejection of what they see as the unhealthy, authoritarian, 4-style manager. Yet, what they produce is often just as accidental and chaotic as what they are trying to avoid. And commonly, when the 3-style manager become too frustrated with the students’ dysfunction and lack of respect, they react with episodes of hostility, which brings them even more inner conflict.


The fundamental problem is that the 3-style teacher preaches self-direction and internal motivation, yet do little to promote them. They confuse the need for a structure with being controlling, which they see as objectionable. The 3-style is typically well intentioned, but inherent in this approach is a lack of courage to lead. Their commitment to promoting student interests is noble, but over time students learn that they are able to act as they please. As a result, a high degree of “Social Darwinism” becomes the defining quality for the peer relations. Without intending to, the 3-style teacher has helped promote a rather unsafe emotional climate, thus their label the “enabler.” Cooperative learning and engaging hands on activities that are the preference of the 3-style teacher increasingly descend into playtime and a chance for students to “mess around,” as a result of a lack of clear direction and purpose.



Chapter Reflection 4#: Recall teachers A and B from exercise 2.1. How would you classify their management styles on the matrix in Figure 4.1 above?



2-Style or Conductor Management Approach

The most popular classroom management training in the past few years has been defined by the 2-style orientation. Those such as the Canters, Wong, Jones, and others would best be described as teacher-centered approach proponents. The Canters provide the useful term “assertive discipline” which provides a contrast to the passive (3-style) or hostile (4-style) approaches that they recognized as so ineffective.  The 2-style “Conductor” builds their approach on logical consequences, rather than personal attacks and negativity.


The Conductor takes a very intentional approach to management. A successful 2-style begins early in the year with a period of training and education in rules, procedures, and consequences. As if under the command of an orchestra conductor, the class is trained to respond to directions in a very efficient manner. The structure in the 2-classroom is evident. It is built on consistency and clarity. Out of this structure, the goals of a productive learning environment, respect, accountability and positive relationships are constructed.  The 2-classroom includes a heavy reliance on encouragement and rewards. The pedagogy in the 2-style approach tends to lean toward direct instruction, but includes multiple methods that have been demonstrated to obtain results.


1-Style or Facilitator Management Approach

Relatively few teachers choose to take the path of the “facilitator” or 1-style manager. The ultimate goal of the 1-style manager is to create a class that is self-directed and manages itself. These teachers understand that to do this it will take time, but are willing to live with what might feel like a little less predictability so as to achieve their long-term goals. One-style management goals are defined by an intentional promotion of the students’ intrinsic motivation and sense of personal responsibility. Students in the 1-classroom grow in their ability to answer both the “what are we doing?” as well as the “why are we doing it?” kinds of questions. An implicit understanding of the community expectations is cultivated. To achieve this end, the 1-style teacher makes a devoted attempt to help student recognize the value of functional and responsible behavior.


The 1-style approach places the emphasis on the process of learning over end products, and personal growth rather than the attainment of rewards or the students’ relative success in comparison to other students.  The 1-style orientation values long-term student empowerment over what might be considered methods that appear to be “working” in the short-term.  The goal is not to merely have the student appear on task, but to know that the learning is building toward a positive orientation toward learning itself.  The pedagogical approaches that define the 1-style orientation are typically constructivist, collaborative and problem-based.



Chapter Reflection: Recall the last teacher that you have observed.  Which style would best characterize his/her management approach?



Table 4.x Key Characteristics of Each of the 4 Management Orientations






1-Style Teacher


  • 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


2-Style Teacher


  • Conductor
  • 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




3-Style Teacher


  • 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


4-Style Teacher


  • 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



Comparing the advantages of 2-style vs. 1-style management approach

As you reflect on your own personal values and what you envision wanting to accomplish in your classroom, you may find yourself being drawn more to either the 2-style or 1-style approaches to management. Each approach is developed over the next several chapters, often side by side. Table 4.x outlines a brief list of advantages of each orientation.


Table 4.x Advantages of Each of the Intentional Management Approaches

Advantages of the 2-style approach

Advantages of the 1-style approach

Can get functioning system in place relatively quickly

Working toward a self-regulating system eventually

Clearly understood teacher and student roles likely

Increasingly empowered students over time

Relatively simple to repeat each year and export to other teacher’s classrooms

Promotes a lot of learning and insight into the skills necessary to participate in a democratic system.

The overt structure of the system is readily appearant to administrators, parents and other teachers

The implicit structure becomes evident (and impressive) to others who are able to spend time in the class and appreciate the intention.

Low stress on the part of teacher and students related to low ambiguity and chaos

Leads to high levels of teacher and student (needs) satisfaction



Chapter Reflection 4#: What would you anticipate to be the forms of resistance to using a 1-style approach in a school characterized by a 4-style environment? The experience of Erin Gruwell depicted in the movie “Freedom Writers” may be useful to consider as you reflect.



Can I Incorporate Practices from all 4 Approaches?

Technically, one can use practices that would fit into any number of orientations, however, there is a cost. First, incorporating practices from the 3 or 4 orientation will have a destructive effect on your 2-style or 1-style based classroom plan.  Often without knowing it, a very sound 2-style or 1-style teacher will use 4-style orientation practices such as punishments, unhealthy praise, or public shaming (especially in the form of putting names on the board), and without knowing it they are handicapping their ability to be more fully successful with their students.


Students cannot articulate, in most cases, that the use of particular practices feel contradictory and operate to send mixed messages, but they certainly experience it. And very often when a teacher is relatively likable and successful with their intentional forms of practice, it is difficult to measure the damage 3-style and 4-style practices inflict on their classes. As you continue reading you may notice that much of the content of the book is devoted to illumination why 3-style and 4-style practices are destructive, and often deceptively so.


“I cannot decide between a 2-style or 1-style approach, can I use some of each?” This is a common question. Incorporating a little from one and a little from the other is certainly workable. And, we should remember that the main consideration in the process is to move our practice upward on the vertical axis. Yet, if you mix approaches, you may be sending mixed messages. A common example of a mixed-orientation message would be when we in some cases allow students to be self-directed, and in other similar situations we simply give orders. This can send the message that, “sometimes I trust you and sometimes I don’t.” On first glance, this is probably how we genuinely feel towards our students.  So what is the problem? Take a moment to reflect from the perspective of the student. What do you hear in that message? Is it trust? Who has their hands on the steering wheel of the class? The students need to be clear as to your answer, or they will show their frustration.  As you progress through the book, it is likely that you will encounter ideas that will facilitate your decision to move one direction or the other.


Moving from a 3 to a 1-Style Orientation

If you have a strong commitment to a student-centered approach, but realize that your efforts have led you to what you would characterize as a 3-style, there is hope. And of all those that choose to pick up this book, you may be the one with the most to gain. It is likely that you have felt a temptation to adopt 2-style approach, yet the encouragement of others who are finding success with a more teacher-centered approach does not leave you entirely convinced, or comfortable abandoning your student-centered principles. You have likely had to endure a great deal of disparagement. No one gets criticized like the 3-teacher. Because of what appears to be a very active (albeit hostile) approach by 4-style teachers, people usually leave them alone. But for you they somehow feel free to give advice.


Improvement of your situation begins with an examination of the essence of the vertical axis – Intentionality and internality. Don’t confuse taking action for being controlling. As you explore the coming chapters, you will discover how much planning and deliberate effort must go into helping students become self-directed. The methodological pathway is spelled out in detail. Chapters 8, related to promoting a success psychology, and then 9, outlining how to create a social contract should provide a solid framework and practical steps for one’s efforts toward succeeding at creating a 1-style classroom.


What to Expect in the Rest of the Book

Look for references to the management style orientation matrix in the coming chapters. When you see this symbol, it will identify a reference being made to the matrix.

student centered,teacher-centered,Intentional,Accidental,1,2,3,4






Chapter 20 offers an examination of the 4-teacher, and a set of steps to move from a 4-style to a 2-style approach.  It includes an in-depth analysis of why 4-style management is so prevalent despite its apparent drawbacks. Many chapters incorporate the lens of the contrasting approaches of the 2-style and 1-style orientation to their topic areas.  Chapter 17 is devoted entirely to how to move from a 2-style to a 1-style approach for those readers who feel that they would ultimately like to attempt to develop a 1-style classroom


Journal Reflections:




Class Activities: