Classroom Behavior Management Policies
Bridging the Gap Between Systems Theory and Elementary Classroom Management
An Evolution: Systems Theory and Classroom Management
Systems Theory by the Three B’s
Robert Freed Bales
Living systems theory
Social entropy theory
Entropy management in organizations
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
The concept of the whole
GST and integrative studies
Science and society
The importance of the individual
A Comparison of the Three B’s
Classroom management definition and challenges
Strategies and methods
Techniques and training
Self-efficacy and beliefs
Culturally responsive classrooms
Theory — and model-based strategies
Comparison to Bertalaffny
Top recommended classroom management strategy
Sociology and the study of social systems has taken many forms over the years. Shifting from metaphysical to purely scientific, theories are diverse and complex. Three such theorists, Robert Freed Bales, Kenneth Bailey, and Ludwig von Bertalaffny have spent a better part of their lives trying to understand and integrate the concept of social systems and to help achieve greater clarity on what defines a system, how it works, and how it applies to society. An analysis of Bale’s, Bailey’s, and Bertalanffy’s theories follows and helps to show how each theory is defined, including key components, and how, if possible, each theory may be applied to practice. Additionally, a comparison of the three theorists is provided to showcase the similarities and differences of their perspectives.
Systems Theory by the Three B’s:
Robert Bales, Kenneth Bailey, and Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Philosophers and theorists are risk takers. They are willing to delve fearlessly into a new concept, or way of thinking, to break the bounds of tradition and to challenge norms. And once their concept or thought is complete, they take the next step by testing their theory and eventually presenting it to the world — despite the inevitable criticism they will face. Some theories never make it into mainstream society, but others change the world forever. Regardless, all theorists can be classified as having an intense willingness to know more, to push the boundaries of what is accepted, and to break the rules.
Three such theorists, Robert Freed Bales, Kenneth D. Bailey, and Ludwig von Bartalanffy, have had a dramatic influence on the perspectives of systems and social science. Highly respected and well-recognized for their work, they have provided much of the foundation that theorists and philosophers use to study and understand how systems work in today’s ever-evolving society. To gain a greater understanding of these influential risk-takers, this essay will provide a detailed description of the men behind the theories, as well as a comparison of their similarities and differences. Since each theorist provides great detail about each of his subjects, it was not possible to provide an in-depth analysis within the space allotted. However, it was the goal of this essay to provide the basic structure of each theory and, if possible, focus on how it relates to social systems or society in general.
Robert Freed Bales
Originally from Ellington, Missouri, Robert Freed Bales received a BA and MS degree in Sociology from the University of Oregon and a PhD in Sociology from Harvard in 1945. After graduating, Bales was then invited to join the Department of Social Relations at Harvard as an Instructor. In 1957, after serving a variety of Sociology positions, such as Assistant Professor, Lecturer, and Associate Professor, he was then appointed as Professor of Social Relations. From 1960 to 1967, Bales served as Director of the Laboratory of Social Relations and finally retired 3. As Emeritus Professor in 1986. After his death in 2004, an article in the Harvard Gazette included this statement about Bales, “He was trusted and admired by colleagues in each discipline. They and his students regarded him with deep affection. Freed was one of few faculty members in Social Relations who had moral authority derived from his colleagues’ recognition that he placed the welfare of the department above personal motives,” (Kagan et al., 2006).
As a theorist, Bales’s main work focused on the interpersonal interaction in small groups, a central topic in social psychology. Published in 1950, Bale’s first book, Interaction Process Analysis: A Method for the Study of Small Groups, included a series of early studies on interactions in alcohol addiction therapeutic group settings “By studying many such groups, Bales hoped to discover recurring patterns that might be used predictively in the composition and functioning of groups formed for problem solving or other managerial purposes. This work reflected his conception of social psychology as the scientific study of social interaction, in which the group and its activity, rather than the individual, are the primary units of analysis. At the same time, he paid close attention to the role of individual personality in social interaction and was a lifelong student of personality theory. In all of his efforts, he sought to integrate the psychological and sociological sources of social psychology,” (Kagan et al., 2006).
Furthermore, Bales was considered a pioneer “in the development of systematic methods of group observation and measurement of interaction processes, including several technological innovations designed to facilitate observation itself and the rating of observed behavior in progress,” (Kagan et al., 2006). In his last book, Social Interaction Systems: Theory and Measurement (1999), his goal was to develop “a theory of personality and group dynamics integrated with a set of practical methods for measuring and changing behavior and values in a democratic way.” For the comparative essay, this book will be used to represent Bales’ work.
In Social Interaction Systems: Theory and Measurement (1999), Bales describes how he felt a great need to achieve what he called a “new theoretical integration,” and to actually apply methods to theory, to move from research into data. He claims that because many social psychologists complained about the lack of integration, he focused on integration throughout most of his research career, “I have felt that we must make a transition from an individually centered frame of reference (still the mainstream approach) to a larger framework centered on multiple-person systems of social interaction and their dynamics. Almost all of my work has been an attempt to give substance to that aspiration,” (Bales, 1999).
Bales defined “social-interaction systems” as groups of all sizes and types, and used methods based on his social-interaction systems theory to gain a more broad understanding of these groups and their influence on behavioral dynamics. Bales affirmed, “I believe that wherever actual social interaction continues over substantial time, certain behavioral, mental, and social processes tend to emerge and need to be studied together. These processes have regularities and patterns of interdependence (mutual shaping of each other) which almost require them to be treated as parts of a “system.” These “systemic” characteristics are recognizably similar over a large range of group sizes,” (Bales, 1999).
The concept of values also plays a key role in social interaction. On this subject, C. Kluckhohn (1954), stated, “Very central to groups of all sizes and kinds, as I see it, is that their internal processes and dynamics are represented, propelled, and regulated by concepts and urgencies in the minds of their members that behavioral scientists call “values.” ”
In a group setting, a value can be based on an individual’s assumptions and expectations, that he/she will have some kind of role, that there will be some development and maintenance of status differences, that there will be some division of labor, some kind of leadership, and some differentiation of social roles, as well as some non-compliance from other individuals and deviation from others’ values. Above all, it is expected that there will be both conflict and cooperation between leaders and their subgroups and so on. Therefore, the “evaluation” process comes from the individual group member’s interior mental picture of the external “drama” of social interaction, Bales (1999). “Thus, all social-interaction systems, irrespective of their size, include “values” as major organizational foci for cooperation and conflict and as sources of dynamic processes and change. Essentially the same may be said of values as they interact with each other in the mental processes of individual personalities,” affirmed Bales.
Bales (1999), also stated, “the most efficient way of representing the most important features of a group of almost any kind, and probably of most personalities, is by measurement of the degree and extent of acceptance or rejection of certain very general mental attitudes, called “values.” The measurement of values can be an efficient approach because many, if not most, of the more important concrete kinds of social behavior as remembered in the mind and projected in expectations are represented cognitively in more brief and condensed form as “values.”
Bale’s aspiration to apply his theories was realized with the creation of SYMLOG (SYstematic MultiLevel Observation of Groups). Described by Bales as a new field theory, SYMLOG represents a comprehensive integration of findings and theories from sociology, psychology, and social psychology and is unique in its high degree of integration, breadth, and practical implementation (Bales, 1985). According to Bales, 1999, the concept behind SYMLOG is that “every act of behavior takes place in a larger context, that it is a part of an interactive field of influences.” Further, “the approach assumes that one needs to understand the larger context — person, interpersonal, group, and external situation — in order to understand the patterns of behavior and to influence them successfully.” With SYMLOG, measurement procedures are used to assess individual behavior patterns and values, as well as to observe these patterns and values in their larger context (Bales, 1999).
The theory is based on findings that are the result of systematic observation of real groups, and performing research to observe the ways in which individuals with different kinds of personalities affect each other in task-oriented groups. This research was conducted over a long period of time with business teams and organizations in the United States and other countries. The methods used have been proven as valid, reliable, and relevant to a wide range of conditions and are intended to improve productivity and performance, increase satisfaction, and reduce stress by understanding the group better (Bales, 1999).
According to Bales, (1999), SYMLOG application may include “assessment of the teamwork and leadership potential of individuals for selection and training, leadership training, and the training of educators in a broad sense, including teachers, coaches, therapists, and other professionals who work primarily with people. The method also provides information and facilities for many kinds of fundamental and applied research in social psychology and sociology.”
Due to Bale’s groundbreaking theory and extensive research, SYMLOG became the foundation for the SYMLOG Consulting Group (SCG.) the organization is dedicated to the ongoing development and practical use of SYMLOG in applied and academic settings. Located in San Diego, California, SCG is still thriving today, with offices and representatives in thirty countries (SYMLOG Consulting Group Website, 2010).
Kenneth D. Bailey
An American sociologist and systems scientist, Kenneth Bailey was born in 1943. In 1963, he completed his BS in mathematics, earned an MA in sociology in 1966, and a PhD in sociology in 1968. Bailey became a professor of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles and is currently a professor emeritus (Wikipedia Website, 2009). Bailey is also a member of the American Sociological Association, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), where he was president in 2003, (ISSS website, 2007). He has written several books, but for the purposes of this paper, we will focus on Sociology and the New Systems Theory, Toward a Theoretical Synthesis (Bailey, 1994). In the book, Bailey’s goal was to present a more integrated perspective on social systems theory, and for the first time, he attempted to synthesize the interrelated approaches of living systems theory, social entropy theory, and autopoiesis. To Bailey, there had been a serious lack of integration in the systems movement, “One of the guiding principles of the systems movement is the need for integration,” (Bailey, 1994, p.xiii).
According to Bailey, the integration of these three approaches is what he refers to as the “new systems theory” or the “new social systems theory,” as it applies only to systems approaches that directly contribute to social science (Bailey, 1994, p. xiii).
Living systems theory
The culmination of some thirty years of effort, James Grier Miller led a number of scholars in the development of the living systems theory. Living systems theory is considered to be a concrete systems approach, which is defined as being “anchored in physical space-time, and is an interrelated (nonrandom) set of objects such as persons or other organisms.” An abstracted system, however, “has relationships or roles as the basic units of analysis rather than objects.”
To Miller, concrete systems are preferred because they are easier to understand, operationalize, and provide clear links from the social sciences to other disciplines, (i.e., natural sciences) (Bailey, 1994, p. 169). Miller identifies a living system as a system that maintains a state of negentropy, taking in energy and information. As stated by Miller, “The living systems are a special subset of the set of all possible concrete systemsThey all have the following characteristics:
They are open systems, with significant inputs, throughputs, and outputs of various sorts of matter-energy and information.
They maintain a steady state of negentropy even though entropic changes occur in them as they do everywhere else. This they do by taking in inputs of foods or fuels, matter-energy higher in complexity or organization or negentropy, ie. Lower in entropy, than their outputs (Bailey, 1994, p. 169).”
Also, the theory basically states that all living systems are composed of subsystems, each processing information, or matter-energy, with two subsystems, the reproducer and the boundary, processing both matter-energy and information (Bailey, 1994, p. 171). Miller’s book, Living Systems (1978) originally presented nineteen basic subsystems at seven levels, however, he and his wife and co-author, Jessie Miller, have since added the twentieth subsystem, known as the timer, as well as an eighth level, known as the community (Miller and Miller 1992; Bailey, 1994, p. 171-172). According to Bailey, “These twenty subsystems are responsible for the ongoing day-to-day operation of the living system,” (Bailey, 1994, p. 172).
In modern society, Bailey claims that “energy and information are symmetrically interrelated in a complex fashion,” and that “efficacious usage of energy depends upon information, while transmission of information in turn is only possible through the use of matter to carry the message, and the expenditure of energy to move the message from its origin to its destination,” (Bailey, 1994, p.176). Specifically, “the relationship between matter-energy and information is one of the most crucial issues in systems science, and is in a sense the key to understanding how societies operate,” stated Bailey.
A few cross-level applications of living systems theory have been performed, as well as numerous theoretical extensions and applications that have appeared since 1978. Some of these applications were conducted by Miller and his students and colleagues, while others were conducted by researchers who were not directly affiliated with Miller but who had read his theory.
Miller and his co-workers performed the largest application of the theory in a study of 41 United States Army battalions. In fact, this study is one of the largest known studies of organizations (Miller, 1985). The conclusions from this massive study indicated that “living systems concepts are understandable to Army personnel, that Army units can be described as living systems, and that LST can help not only in describing phenomena, but also in identifying sources of problems. Besides the army, LST has been applied to a number of different areas, including the family (Miller and Miller, 1980), and small groups,” (Miller and Miller, 1983; Bailey, 1994, p. 207-208).
Social entropy theory
The second focus of Bailey’s book was social entropy theory (SET). According to Bailey, “Social entropy theory uses the society (in its entirety) as the basic unit. It is not viewed as a “set of individuals” but as a concrete system or population of individuals interacting over physical space-time within boundaries,” (Bailey, 1994, p. 229). In addition, Answers.com defines social entropy as a “macrosociological systems theory” and a “measure of the natural decay within a social system. It can refer to the decomposition of social structure or of the disappearance of social distinctions.”
Due to the intense study of functionalism and the need to escape some of the challenges that functionalists encountered, social entropy was born. Functionalism is defined in the following way, “In psychology, a broad school of thought that originated in the U.S. In the late 19th century and emphasized the total organism in its endeavors to adjust to the environment. Reacting against the school of structuralism led by Edward Bradford Titchener, functionalists such as William James, George Herbert Mead, and John Dewey stressed the importance of empirical, rational thought over an experimental trial-and-error philosophy. The movement concerned itself primarily with the practical applications of research and was critical of early forms of behaviourism,” (Answers.com, 2010).
SET is based on a number of its own principles as well as the following “two critiques of classical functionalism:
Functionalism suffered from overreliance on outmoded concepts such as equilibrium
Functionalism was not sufficiently broad to achieve an adequate analysis of complex society,” (Bailey, 1994, p. 219).
Bailey felt that both critiques of functionalism are consistent, with the first critique exemplifying the second. He also felt that functionalism was overly narrow and over dependent on equilibrium and therefore felt it was necessary to expand the model to include both nonequilibrium and equilibrium analysis. As a result, he stated, “we are less likely to preclude important phenomena that we must study in order to truly understand the social world. Specifically, broadening the model to incorporate both equilibrium and nonequilibrium analysis means not only that we have removed the basic classical complaint about functionalism (that it does not facilitate study of social change) but also that we have updated the model, and allowed it to incorporate modern physical approaches to systems theory,” (Bailey, 1994, p. 219-220). Entropy management in organizations
For many managers, they may not be aware of what social entropy is or how it applies to their organization. but, Bailey claimed that regardless of this knowledge, managers are engaging in entropy management, “Although such managers generally do not describe themselves as managing entropy levels, this is in fact what they are doing. They are continually balancing the constant increase of internal entropy through decay of physical plant (“depreciation” in tax terms), use of materials, obsolescence of information, etc. This internal entropy increase is offset through inputs of new raw materials (matter-energy), new information, new technology, etc.,” (Bailey, 1994, p. 243).
Therefore, entropy management consists of effectively managing all of the necessary pieces of an organization, and the function and relationship of those pieces to the greater whole. Specifically, this relates to regulating inflows, outflows, and throughflows, ensuring the order of proper raw materials, personnel, etc., and regulating security to protect technology or information from being stolen (Bailey, 1994, p. 243).
Unfortunately, one of the limitations of social entropy theory is that it does not test hypotheses, and therefore there were no examples of its application in Bailey’s book. It does, however, present a set of hypotheses that could be tested. In addition, Bailey stated that “SET has the limitation of not being a true general systems theory. Rather, it is an application of some system principles to the study of society,” (Bailey, 1994, p. 249).
The third theory that Bailey covers is autopoietic theory. Considered an exciting and new viewpoint, autopoiesis relates specifically to systems theory and generally to social and behavioral science. In spite of its appeal, however, the concept’s application to social groups is somewhat controversial and seen as inaccessible to sociologists (Bailey, 1994, p. 285).
Simply put, autopoiesis means auto or self-creation (Answers.com). A more advanced definition is provided by Varela, Maturana, and Uribe (1974) and describes the autopoietic organization as a “unity by a network of productions of components which participate recursively in the same network of productions of components which produced these components, and realize the network of productions as a unity in the space in which the components exist,” (Bailey, 1994, p. 288.)
A second definition of autopoiesis by Maturana (1980b) was also provided, and Bailey felt that it overlaps and expands on the previous definition, “A dynamic system that is defined as a composite unity as a network of productions of components that (a) through their interactions recursively regenerate the network of productions that produced them, and (b) realize this network as a unity in the space in which they exist by constituting and specifying its boundaries as surfaces of cleavages from the background, through their prefential networks within the network, is an autopoietic system,” (Bailey, 1994, p. 290).
Using Maturana and Varela’s definitions of the basic elements of autopoiesis, Bailey feels that the concept is very clear. Basically, in Bailey’s words, an autopoietic system “is a living system which can be distinguished from its nonliving counterpart (such as a machine) of equal complexity by at least two features of the former that are not shared by the latter: the autopoietic living system reproduces itself (produces the processes which produce it) and produces and maintains its boundaries,” (Bailey, 1994, p. 291).
Application to social systems
There is uncertainty, however, around the concept of autopoiesis and its applicability to social systems. At the time of Bailey’s book, there was no consensus on the matter, which Bailey felt was disconcerting. Some theorists felt that it could be applied, while others were unsure, stating the need for greater clarity.
Luhmann (1982, 1984, 1986, 1990) believes that social systems are autopoietic, with communication as the social system’s basic unit. He stated, “Social systems use communication as their particular mode of antopoietic reproduction. Their elements are communications which are recursively produced and reproduced by a network of communications and which cannot exist outside of such a network. Communications are not “living” units, they are not “conscious” units, they are not “actions.” Their unity requires a synthesis of three selections: namely, information, utterance, and understanding (including misunderstanding),” (1986, p.174).
Beer agrees with Luhmann that human societies are autopoietic, saying, “any cohesive social institution is an autopoietic systemas examples I list: firms and industries, schools and universities, clinics and hospitals, professional bodies, department of state and whole countries.” (1975, p. 70). Also, Facheux and Markidakis agree that social systems are autopoietic; “Varela’s views are valid for all living systems, but take particular significance for social systems”(1979, p. 216). Further, Zeleny (1989) says that all “spontaneous” social systems are autopoietic.” (p. 311).
Despite some consensus, there are still conflicting viewpoints. Mingers, Maturana and Varela (the originators of autopoietic theory) do not feel that autopoiesis applies to social systems. Bailey agrees with Varela (1979, p. 55) that a much more generalized version, such as his concept of organizational closure, can be applied to social systems, “but without the particular specification of physical processes of component production” (Mingers 1989, p. 176, italics added). Therefore, it appears that many theorists do not define autopoiesis as literally applying to social systems, yet most will agree that the theory can be applied in a more general way. In Bailey’s own words, “Thus, it would seem a crime not to attempt to generalize and expand the basic concepts of autopoietic theory in such a way as to explicate these factors, while avoiding a narrow, technical transport of emphasis on physical production.” Bailey continues, “Thus, it is agreed to this point that physical, biological autopoiesis will not be applied to social systems, but that we will continue the effort to develop a theory of social autopoiesis which parallels the theory as developed for cells and physical living systems.” (Bailey, 1994, p. 313).
In the conclusion of Bailey’s book, he recognizes that there is much more work to be done. There is no consistent common language and definition of terms, and this can make it difficult for theorists to reach consensus. On this, Bailey (1994) commented, “It is frustrating from a systems standpoint that there is still so much difference in the meaning of terms, particularly in the autopoietic jargon. It would be nice if at least everyone shared the same definition of structure. Thus, there is still no common language, and translating between “structuration” and “structural coupling” remains a formidable task.” Despite this, Bailey recognizes that theory is an evolutionary process and he hopes that readers will use the information he provided to build on going forward (Bailey, 1994, p. 348).
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
A reputable systems theorist and one of the founders of General Systems Theory (GST), Ludwig von Bertalanffy was born in 1901 in Vienna, Austria. In 1926 he completed his PhD thesis and went on to teach at a number of institutions, including the University of Vienna, University of London, Universite de Montreal, University of Ottawa, University of Southern California, the Menninger Foundation, University of Alberta, and the State University of New York at Buffalo (Search.com Website, 2010). Although Bertalanffy died in 1972, his contributions to the study of systems are still recognized and well-respected today. According to the International Society for the Systems Sciences Website, Bertalanffy “was one of the most important theoretical biologists of the first half of this century [20th].” Also, in Bertalanffy’s book, Perspectives on General System Theory, which was a compilation of Bertalanffy’s work after his death, Ervin Lazlo honored the theorist by stating, “In this volume of papers, spanning some forty years of penetrating thinking and pioneering struggles — often uphill — the reader encounters a rare phenomenon which he should prize all the more for being so much in need today: a breadth of vision coupled with penetrating logic, founded on solid technical and experimental knowledge. It is only the truly great scientist who can rise above his field, having mastered its techniques and theories, and take in broader horizons,” (Bertalanffy, 1975, p. 10).
For this paper, we will focus on two of Bertalanffy’s books, General System Theory, Foundations, Development, Applications (1968) and Perspectives on General System Theory (1975).
The concept of the whole
In Perspectives (p.149), Bertalanffy addresses the concept of the whole, and the fact that throughout history, it still applies today, “Aristotle’s statement, “The whole is more than the sum of its parts,” is a definition of the basic system problem which is still valid. Aristolelian teleology was eliminated in the later development of western science, but the problems contained in it, such as the order and goal-directedness of living systems, were negated and bypassed rather than solved, and the problem is still not obsolete.”
Also, in General Systems Theory, (p. 8) Bertalanffy provides a review of history and how “systems” or the “whole” of society (versus the individual) have influenced major events, “Events seem to involve more than just individual decisions and actions and to be determined more by socio-cultural “systems,” be these prejudices, ideologies, pressure groups, social trends, growth and decay of civilizations, or what not.”
Therefore, according to Bertalanffy, the basic definition of general system theory (GST) is the general science, or scientific exploration, of “wholes” and “wholeness” (1968, p. 37; p. 157). Prior to this understanding, the term was considered to be a “vague, hazy, and semi-metaphysical concept,” (Bertalanffy, 1968, p. 37).
But based on Bertalanffy’s considerable scientific background, he sees the concept of a whole or system as going beyond the metaphysical, and on to something that is very real and tangible, “We must strongly emphasize that order or organization of a whole or system, transcending its parts when these are considered in isolation, is nothing metaphysical, not an anthropomorphic superstition or philosophical speculation; it is a fact of observation encountered whenever we look at a living organism, a social group, or even an atom,” (Bertalanffy, 1975, p. 150). He also sees this as a new evolution of scientific theory, “Classical science in its various disciplines, be it chemistry, biology, psychology, or the social sciences, tried to isolate the elements of the observed universes — chemical compounds and enzymes, cells, elementary sensations, freely competing individuals, and other things — expecting that by putting them together again, conceptually or experimentally, the whole or system — cell, mind, society, would result and be intelligible. Now we have learned that, for an understanding, not only the elements but their interrelations as well are required; say, the interplay of enzymes in a cell, or many conscious and unconscious processes in the personality, the structure and dynamics of social systems, and so forththis requires, first, the exploration of the many systems in our observed universe in their own right and specifities. Secondly, it turns out that there are general aspects, correspondences, and isomorphisms common to “systems.” This is the domain of “general systems theory.” Indeed such parallelisms or isomorphisms appear — sometimes surprisingly — in otherwise totally different “systems,” (Bertalanffy, 1975, p. 157).
Bertalanffy saw, on a scientific level, how a system could actually be considered as a fully functional “whole,” similar to those seen in nature, but instead represented through the interaction of individuals. “It can be said that the concept and model of “system” is central in recent developments of the social sciences, as shown by American functionalism in sociology and French structuralism in anthropology. Rather prosaic phenomena such as business enterprises, professional specialization in tribes and nations, and urban development appear to follow life cycles and system laws which can even be stated in mathematical equations (eg, the law of allometric growth)” (Bertalanffy, 1975, p. 76).
Because this concept was cropping up elsewhere in different disciplines, he also saw it as an opportunity to create a theory that was interdisciplinary, with the potential to provide “a possible approach toward unification of science,” (Bertalanffy, 1975, p. 157).
GST and integrative studies
Interestingly, the concept of general systems theory can also be applied to education, or integrative studies, to obtain greater meaning. Professor Mather (1951) stated the following during a symposium on “Integrative Studies for General Education,”: “One of the criticisms of general education is based upon the fact that it may easily degenerate into the mere presentation of information picked up in as many field of enquiry as there is time to survey during a semester or a yearif you were to overhear several senior students talking, you might hear one of them say, “our professors have stuffed us full, but what does it all mean?”…More important is the search for basic concepts and underlying principles that may be valid throughout the entire body of knowledge.” (Bertalanffy, 1968, p. 50). To create a whole of anything, all “parts” must fit together and interact. A unity or cohesiveness is needed to achieve greater meaning.
Science and Society
Bertalanffy also warns against the dangers of defining society solely on science. He admits that we already have a solid understanding of physics and biological science and that this knowledge is usually very helpful when used in the appropriate context. However, Bertalanffy also feels that there is a great need to understand the “laws of human society.” He states, “If, therefore, we would have a well-developed science of human society and a corresponding technology, it would be the way out of the chaos and impending destruction of our present world,” (Bertalanffy, 1968, p. 52).
It is quite evident how strongly Bertalanffy feels about this subject as he goes on to say, “It is an empirical fact that scientific achievements are put just as much, or even more, to destructive as constructive use. The sciences of human behavior and society are no exception. In fact, it is perhaps the greatest danger of the systems of modern totalitarianism that they are so alarmingly up-to-date not only in physical and biological, but also in psychological technology. The methods of mass suggestion, of the release of the instincts of the human beast, of conditioning and thought control are developed to highest efficacy; just because modern totalitarianism is so terrifically scientific, it makes the absolutism of former periods appear dilettantish and comparatively harmless makeshift. Scientific control of society is no highway to Utopia,” (Bertalanffy, 1968, p. 51 — 52).
The importance of the individual
In response to Bertalanffy’s somewhat dark perspective provided above, he feels that we can gain an understanding of human society using a more gentle approach. Rather than approach the concept of society as being a rigid “system,” we can define it based on the influence, and uniqueness, of the individual. In what might be considered his most prolific statement, Bertalanffy, (1968) states, “Such knowledge can teach us not only what human behavior and society have in common with other organizations, but also what is their uniqueness. Here the main tenet will be: Man is not only a political animal; he is, before and above all, an individual. The real values of humanity are not those which it shares with biological entities, the function of an organism or a community of animals, but those which stem from the individual mind. Human society is not a community of ants or termites, governed by inherited instinct and controlled by laws of the subordinate whole; it is based upon the achievements of the individual and is doomed if the individual is made a cog in the social machine. This, I believe, is the ultimate precept a theory of organization can give: not a manual for dictators of any denomination more efficiently subjugate human beings by the scientific application of Iron Laws, but a warning that the Leviathan of organization must not swallow the individual without sealing its own inevitable doom.”(p. 52-53).
In Bertalanffy’s books, there was really no reference on how to actively measure or apply these principles to a real-life organization. His theories were vast and profound, but the uncertainties are still unresolved. In Sheila Guberman’s, “Reflections on Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s “General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications,” (date
) she states, “Bertalanffy’s intention was to create a mathematical science of “wholeness,” which does not depend on our mind, since a “solid science” should not. Unfortunately, he didn’t succeed in resolving these problems. His fate is similar to Einstein’s: he formulated the Unified Field Theory but didn’t succeed in resolving it.”
A Comparison of the Three B’s
After performing an extensive review of the theories and literature created by Bales, Bailey, and Bertalanffy, one thing is clear: systems theory is complicated, with a capital “C.” There are almost as many differing viewpoints as there are definitions, as many contradictions as there are similarities. What is compelling, however, is the genuine desire to know the truth, to figure out the mystery that is known as “systems” and to determine how it relates to social science. To understand the inner workings of society as well as the inner workings of each individual, and how those interactions, personalities, values, boundaries, etc., influence the whole. Unfortunately, both Bales and Bertalanffy have passed and are therefore no longer able to contribute. Yet, their theories continue to have an impact, and are continually being used to move toward greater synthesis, greater clarity, and a greater understanding, with the hope of obtaining real answers.
As stated earlier in this paper, Bales was the pioneer of social interaction systems and interpersonal interaction in small groups. His work is the most recent of the three theorists and appears to be the most tangible. Compared to Bailey and Bertalaffny, his theories are significantly more proven and established. Bale’s goal was to develop theories that could be tested through research and therefore applied to real life, “I have always felt a compulsion to ground my thinking in empirical data,” (Bales, 1999, p.xvi).
Also unique among the theorists, Bales took his theories to another level with the creation of the SYMLOG consulting agency. Bales actually put his theories into practice, and he created tangible assessments that could be used for training in organization development, teamwork, and leadership. Through SYMLOG, Bale’s theories are continually being tested and studied. The agency also studies social interaction through direct observation, another key component of Bale’s work. (p. 4) Again, he is putting his theories into practice and is helping organizations in the process.
Similar to the other theorists, Bales does not go into great detail on how his theories or assessments can be applied to the educational environment. He references its applicability to the educational environment, but doesn’t go into detail about how it applies. In Social Interaction Systems Theory and Measurement, (1999) Bales discussed the negative influence of more dictatorial methods of leadership and included a reference to educators, “Boot-camp authoritarianism on the part of the leader, a teacher, or a “brain washer” in the dominant role can extract obedience from recruits, but this kind of process tends to begin and end with hazing and abuse, in order to weaken the self-picture and self-confidence of the victim. It takes hours of repetitive training to instill mindless obedience; it tends to produce brutality in the victim as well as in the perpetrator, and in actual combat it carries the hazard that the senior officer will be shot in the back, whether or not he was the actual drill sergeant,” (p. 150).
Another important reference to education, according to Bales, related to what he deemed “critical moments of choice,” “The implications for leaders, teachers, trainers, educators and therapists are also daunting. If real change is to be brought about, the choices made by the individual at these critical moments must be brought into a clearer focus for the individual and for the group, and must result in the emergence of overt behavior that is different from before. All attempts to elicit change are preliminary and subsidiary to those critical moments of choice,” (p. 243).
Of all three theorists, Bailey was possibly the most complex and multi-layered, making it difficult to cover all of his concepts in this paper. He established the new systems theory and was intent on synthesizing interrelated approaches such as living systems theory, social entropy theory, and autopoiesis. In contrast to Bales, Bailey’s theory is quite underdeveloped as far as real application goes. One significant study was performed on social entropy management but other than that, very little has been done to really put Bailey’s work to the test. It seems that much of Bailey’s difficulty was due to the fact that there was a real lack of consistency in definitions — and it was clear that this lack of consistency created many obstacles to achieving a true synthesis. Bailey recognized that his theories were incomplete when he stated, “much remains to be done,” (Bailey, 1997, p. 348).
To determine how Bailey’s theory applies to education, or classroom management, there was virtually no information provided. Similar to Bales, one could make inferences to the general idea of systems and its applicability to the classroom. However, it seems that his work was geared more toward achieving a synthesized perspective and therefore gaining a greater understanding of how the different theories can be integrated, rather than on defining the new system theory as it applies to the “real world.”
Developed by Bertalanffy, general system theory focuses on studying the concept of wholeness. He had a slightly different approach than other theorists in that he was intent on merging scientific principles with sociology. Many earlier theories had been either more metaphysical in nature or too grounded in science and Bertalanffy felt that the two could be merged. Bertalanffy’s concepts could be applied to reality, as they appear to make practical sense, however, like Bailey, he appeared to still be in the definition stage of what general system theory is and what it means, rather than at the point of putting his theories into practice.
It was important to all three theorists to integrate past theories and approaches, to gain a greater understanding of the work that was done before them. Bales described his desire for a “new theoretical integration” and Bertalaffny hoped to achieve a “unification of science.” Bailey’s entire theory was built on a theoretical synthesis of three theories. It does seem, however, that many of the viewpoints appear to be moving in the same direction. Bertalanffy, stated, “Surveying the evolution of modern science, we encounter a surprising phenomenon. Independently of each other, similar problems and conceptions have evolved in widely different fields,” (1968, p. 30).
Boundaries and open systems
Another crucial area of similarity exists between Bailey and Bertalaffny regarding the concept of boundary. According to Bailey, “The boundary has special significance in systems theory as it, by definition, separates the system from its environment. In so doing, it effectively defines and operationalizes the system,” (Bailey, 1990). Bertalaffny also agrees with the importance of the boundary in systems theory, “Any system as an entity which can be investigated on its own right must have boundaries, either spatial or dynamic. Strictly speaking, spatial boundaries exist only in naive observation, and all boundaries are ultimately dynamic. One cannot exactly draw the boundaries of an atom (with valences sticking out, as it were, to attract other atoms), of a stone (an aggregate of molecules and atoms which mostly consist of empty space, with particles (in planetary distances), or of an organism (continually exchanging matter with environment,” (1968, p. 215). In addition, Bailey and Bertalaffny agree on the concept of open systems. Bailey states, “An open system in the modern sense possesses boundaries which allow not only matter-energy but also information to cross. In addition to transfers of information or “negentropy,” open systems allow transfers of entropy, according to Klapp (1975, 1978). All living systems, and thus all social systems, are open systems,” (1968, p.49). Bertalanffy’s definition is very similar, “We express this by saying that living systems are basically open systems (Burton, 1939, Bertalaffny, 1940a). An open system is defined as a system in exchange of matter with its environment, presenting import and export, building-up and breaking-down of its material components,” (Bertalaffny, 1968, p. 141).
Application to education
Unfortunately, a key similarity is that none of the theories apply directly to education, or the educational environment. There are some inferences, and readers could make assumptions that the classroom could be considered a system, but this is not clearly defined by any of the theorists. Furthermore, there is no real way to apply the theories to the classroom environment. There are no specific methods of implementation provided to bridge the gap between theory and practice. The most likely of all methods come from Bailey, but it is not clear exactly how his assessments are used by educators.
Above all, Bales, Bailey, and Bertalaffny had one thing in common: they were all pioneers. Although each of their theories can be considered works in progress, they have all contributed greatly to science, to the way we define a system, and to our ever-evolving view of society.
Classroom management may sound like a simple, easy-to-grasp concept. But unfortunately, that’s not the case, especially for new teachers. Classroom management is one of the top causes for concern, anxiety, and burnout for teachers. Through a thorough review of recent research literature on the topic of classroom management, the Depth portion of this paper covers the challenges many teachers face, the various strategies and methods being used and contemplated, and a comparison of these methods to Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s general system theory. Furthermore, a singular theory is highlighted to demonstrate how simple methods can lead to a thriving, effective classroom environment.
Benhar, M. (2009). Does a course in classroom management affect teachers’ self-perceived efficacy in classroom management? PhD dissertation, City University of New York, New York. Retrieved December 23, 2009 from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text.
This dissertation reflected on an unfortunate yet common occurrence: teacher burnout. Despite the various causes, the research focused primarily on classroom behavior problems as a key contributor to the burnout process. Researchers also sought to determine if there was a correlation between the teacher’s negative feelings, their level of burnout, and the negative attitudes they might have toward a new instructional course on classroom management. As a result, a study was conducted of 77 graduate Master’s students, all of whom were in a special education department. Twenty-nine of the participants were enrolled in classroom management classes and 42 were enrolled in classes on the exceptional child. Demographic information was gathered on each participant and the Teacher Self-Efficacy in Behavior Management and Discipline Scale (SEBM) was used to evaluate how each teacher perceived his/her ability to effectively manage the classroom.
Study results indicated that students of the classroom management course had a better ability to identify interventions and target behaviors compared to the students in the exceptional child course. That said, overall results showed that the differences between participants regarding self-efficacy were not significant. It does appear, however, that classroom management courses may have a positive impact on a teacher’s level of confidence. That author, Michael Benhar, stated, “I believe that based on the content of both courses, the graduate students may feel more qualified and capable of dealing with disruptive behaviors, but are still lacking knowledge on how to improve academic skills or reduce external influences from the home that neither course discussed in depth.”
Clark, D. (2007). Classroom management challenges in the dance class. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 78(2), 19-24. Research Library
Dance is a unique subject to teach as students have the ability move around freely. For a dance teacher, this can present a number of challenges when managing the classroom. In this journal article, author Dawn Clark provides helpful management strategies to run an effective dance class, and focusing on instructional phases such as planning, greetings, introductions, instruction, transitions, performance times, closure, and preparation for unexpected events.
One thing is clear throughout this article, that preparation, structure, expectations, and communication are absolutely necessary to managing a successful dance class. The author’s suggestions make common sense and can be easily applied to the dance environment. She emphasizes the need to plan in advance, to preset the lesson, establish rules and expectations, execute transitions, observe all students, keep the class moving smoothly and on time, and be prepared for unexpected events. By doing so, an instructor can create an organized, productive, and safe learning environment for the students. The author also emphasizes the importance of maintaining a positive attitude, encouraging students, and ending the class on an upbeat note, “Students need to leave class feeling positive about themselves and about dance.”
Gill, B., Zimmer, R., Christman, J., Blanc, S. (2007). State takeover, school restructuring, private management and students achievements in Philadelphia. Rand Corporation. PROQUEST. http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2007/RAND_MG533.pdf
The state of Pennsylvania conducted a radical and somewhat controversial experiment in 2002 by replacing Philadelphia’s nine-member school board with an appointed School Reform Commission (SRC) which then hired a new CEO. The state was extremely dissatisfied with the Philadelphia school district’s low achievement and budget issues and therefore decided to turn the management of 86 low-achieving schools over to for-profit and non-profit organizations. The concept of this initiative was to improve school achievement by employing a diverse provider model and bringing the experience of the private sector into play. Some of the schools received extra funding but no additional intervention, known as the Sweet 16 schools, some were privately managed, and others were restructured, receiving both extra staff and funding.
The purpose of the extensive research report was to evaluate the achievement impacts of the above four-year restructuring initiative by using annual assessments in reading and mathematics to measure those impacts. It was difficult to fully assess the diverse provider model as the district’s implementation diverged from the theory in significant ways, although how it diverged was not disclosed in the report. Also, the overall results were mostly inconclusive. In any of the four years, results for the Sweet 16 schools were not significant in reading or math in either a positive or negative way. For the restructured schools, however, results were significantly more positive, with reading scores up during the first year of the implementation and improved math scores during all three years of the implementation. Lastly, it appeared that privately managed schools did not offer academic benefits and therefore did not warrant further spending on private managers. Overall, it appears that the four-year experiment did not yield the expected results and requires more research to address additional questions. In conclusion, the report author stated, “Philadelphia provides no evidence to support private management as an especially effective method of promoting student achievement, but it does not represent a clear test of full private management in a competitive market. Whether a model of private management that involves more autonomy to managers, parental choice, and competition for students would produce better results remains an open question.”
His-Chi, H., Su-Ling, Y. & Ming-Chao, L. (2009). Classroom management strategies for Teachers with Students Having a Foreign Parent. International Journal of Learning, 16(10), 667-682. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.
In Taiwan, the numbers of students of foreign parents continues to increase. As a result, the class structure and setting in elementary schools is becoming more culturally sophisticated, emphasizing the need for multicultural education and sensibility. Without this knowledge and sensitivity, student achievement could suffer. In the journal article cited above, Gay, 2000, stated, “Culturally responsive teaching requires teachers to create a learning environment where all students are welcomed, supported, and provided with the best opportunities to learn regardless of their cultural and linguistic backgrounds.”
To gain a greater understanding of this changing environment, a study was conducted to assess classroom management strategies for classes that are undergoing these changes and for teachers who must cope with the cultural differences among students. Using in-depth questionnaires, researchers interviewed five teachers who had practical teaching experience with students of foreign parents.
Study results came in the form of teacher responses to the questions. Researchers asked teachers about the classroom strategies they use if they have students of foreign parents in their class, how they communicate with the students’ parents, and the strategies they use along with the parents to help students learn. Based on the results, most of the teachers were already using methods that encourage equality and acceptance in the classroom. However, it appeared that there were some challenges related to communication with the students’ parents. Either there was a lack of confidence or skills in this area or teachers were spending a lot of time trying to communicate with the parents and encouraging their involvement with their child’s academic performance.
The article also discussed the importance of having a true system to enact change on a higher level, one that goes beyond the individual classroom. “For real reform to occur in today’s schools, a systematized transformation must take place. It is not enough to have teachers change their teaching and classrooms to reflect their students’ diversity. The schools that they teach in must also become culturally competent educational systems,” (Brown, 2007.)
Researchers concluded with six classroom management strategies that could help teachers of students with foreign parents establish an effective multicultural classroom, including bridging cultural differences, designing classroom decoration, identifying parenting responsibility, improving learning efficacy, enhancing parent-teacher meeting functions, and creating co-reading opportunities. While these strategies were suggested in the article, it seems that the greater needs are still not being addressed. Teachers need more guidance and training in this area and to enact change on a larger scale, it should be provided by the school administration and used consistently across all schools in the city.
Hutchings, J., Daley, D., Jones, K., Martin, P., Bywater, T. & Gwyn, R. (2007). Early results from developing and researching the Webster-Stratton Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management Training Programme in North West Wales. Journal of Children’s Services, 2(3), 15-26. Retrieved from SocINDEX with Full Text database.
The number of children with disruptive behavior problems and who lack social and linguistic skills are on the rise. In fact, up to 20% of these children meet the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorder. Not only are these children rejected by their peers, but they are known to experience academic and social difficulties. Additionally, child conduct disorder “is a powerful predictor of poor long-term outcomes, including mental health problems, delinquency, academic underachievement, unemployment and drug abuse,” (Kazdin, 1985).
Furthermore, the problem is exacerbated because the teachers often feel ill-equipped to deal with these difficult students. And rather than pay attention to appropriate classroom behaviors, they tend to focus on the negative.
The good news is that teachers can play an important role in helping these children move beyond these obstacles and reach their full potential. A program known as the Incredible Years (IY) Series was designed for teachers, children, and parents to help encourage the children’s academic, emotional, and social competence. The IY Teacher Classroom Management Programme (TCM) takes the original concept a step further by providing the training teachers need to address the pupil’s emotional and educational needs, to strengthen their academic and social confidence, and to meet the needs of high-risk children by setting up specialized programs.
This journal article describes the program and reports on its first use in the UK. Two studies were conducted, the first targeted 23 teachers who attended a five-day classroom management program and the second involved blind observation of teacher classroom behavior in 21 classes, with 10 of the teachers having been trained in TCM.
Participant response to the program was significantly positive, indicating a high level of satisfaction by training attendees. Teachers felt that it would be easy to put the program into practice and felt overall confidence in their abilities to implement the principles that were taught. The strategies related to working with parents received the lowest rating, however, as some of the teachers felt that the strategies presented were not practical.
Other positive results could be seen after the classroom management training, “Shores, Gunter and Jack (1993), for example, report four disapproval statements for every 167 positive approval statements after classroom management training.”
Results from the second study indicated that teachers who had been trained in the TCM program performed better, with statistically significant differences between the non-trained and trained groups.
In general, many teachers feel unprepared for the behavioral challenges they will face in the classroom. As the studies above indicate, it is necessary to provide teachers with the skills needed to face these challenges and to provide an effective and harmonious learning environment. Yet, even though the need is there and there are programs available to fill in those gaps, there are not many education authorities who support these types of interventions.
Lanoue, P. (2009). The effect of professional development in perceptual control theory on administrator and teacher beliefs about classroom management. PhD. dissertation, Mercer University, United States, Georgia. Retrieved December 23, 2009, from Dissertations and Theses: Full Text. (Publication No. AAT 3374150.)
This dissertation examined how a professional development program in Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) could change the beliefs of teachers and administrators from a teacher-directed management approach to one that is more student-directed. Developed by William Powers, PCT is a theory about internal control, where each person exudes self-discipline and self-control. When employing this theory, teachers are expected to use strategies that encourage students to make better decisions about their behavior, rather than using stimulus response theory, a reward/punishment management strategy. In fact, experts in the field recommend moving away from the stimulus response theory types of practices, “Teachers who established practices that developed personal responsibility in students showed increases in student achievement results (Clark, 2004; Sullo, 2007). Sullo found that the use of internal-control psychology rather than stimulus-response psychology worked well if teachers wanted students to take responsibility for their behavior and learning.” Overall, by using PCT to help alter teachers system of values or beliefs about classroom management, it is believed that educators can create high-achieving academic classroom environments for all students.
In two school clusters in a large metropolitan school district, teachers and administrators were surveyed to investigate the impact of a professional development (PD) program in PCT on their beliefs on the level of teacher control in classroom management. One cluster had experienced professional development in PCT and the other cluster had not.
According to the survey results, professional development in PCT did have an effect on teachers and administrators, thereby altering their beliefs from a teacher-directed to student-directed approach. This result indicated that teachers and administrators are capable of changing their system of values at the belief level. By using the PCT principles of reflection, interaction, and role-playing, their references of student and teacher interaction in the classroom changed. By looking at their own beliefs, educators have the ability to enact change in the classroom as well as use PCT to work with students and to help change their beliefs. “Using PCT, students, teachers and administrators can self-regulate by shifting internal references and regulating internal perceptions,” (Lanoue, 2009).
Another key implication from the study focused on the importance of having support from education leaders. To change behaviors, it was recognized that professional programs are needed and should therefore be implemented across the school system. “In understanding PCT, a process should be developed for teachers to evaluate and explore personal references at the system of values level or beliefs through reflection and interaction, which is important in creating a change that was not previously experienced,” (Lanoue, 2009).
Encouraging positive teacher-student relationships through the use of PCT is the third study implication. In a student-directed classroom, students learn to take responsibility for their actions. Also, a stronger teacher-student relationship can translate into a better relationship between the student and his/her curriculum and result in enhanced student performance.
While the results from this study favored the PCT approach, further research on beliefs is recommended to truly understand this complex topic.
Lillig, K. (2003). Implementation of situational leadership as an effective classroom management model in the traditional middle grade level classroom. MS. Ed. Dissertation, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, United States — Illinois. Retrieved December 23, 2009, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text. (Publication No. AAT 1469324)
Classroom management can be a challenge, especially for young teachers. What makes it even more challenging, however, is the lack of training in this area for new teachers, “As teacher education institutions prepare student teachers to enter the classroom they remain ill equipped to actually manage the classroom they are about to lead,”(Lillig, 2003). To gain a greater understanding of classroom management techniques, this thesis focuses on the Situational Leadership Theory. “The Situational Leadership Theory (Hersey & Blanchard, 1982) was originally designed as an organizational leadership model for industry; a contingency model that accepts the premise that no one best style of leadership exists for all situations,” (Pascarella & Lunenburg, 1988). Basically, Situational Leadership addresses the individual circumstances of each classroom scenario, and allows teachers to determine their own preferred leadership style.
The thesis also reported on a study that was conducted to verify if the Situational Leadership model could be applied to real-life classroom management. Sixteen teachers from six public schools in Illinois (serving grades 6-8) were surveyed using the Leadership Style Assessment for Classroom Teachers instrument. The participants were also asked to have two colleagues complete the Leadership Style Assessment for Classroom Teachers – Other instrument.
Based on the data analysis and study findings, researchers confirmed that for preservice and inservice teachers, Situational Leadership is an effective classroom management model. Going forward, researchers recommend replicating the study by using a larger sample of schools, teachers, grade levels, and subject areas, basing curriculum on the Situational Leadership model and including it in preservice and inservice teacher training, and providing Situational Leadership training for school administrators and implementing the model in school and classroom management.
Pounder, J. (2008). Transformational leadership: practicing what we teach in the management classroom. Journal of Education for Business, 84(1), 2-6. Retrieved December 23, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 1580346511.)
At a Hong Kong university, Professor James Pounder (and author) conducted a study to examine the effects of a transformational leadership style in the collegiate classroom. Since the classroom can be considered a quasi-organization, his goal was to put management principles, theories, and concepts into practice, with instructors becoming managers and students becoming subordinates.
According to the journal article, characteristics of transformational leadership include inspiring the respect and admiration of subordinates, communicating a vision and high-performance expectations, caring about each person’s needs and concerns, and promoting intellectual stimulation by encouraging followers to move beyond past beliefs to embrace new ways of thinking. Based on numerous studies, transformational leadership has had a positive effect on subordinates’ effort, performance, and satisfaction and has great potential when used in an educational context.
Over the course of two semesters, five instructors provided a leadership study to 18 class sections of students, with an average of 24 students in each section. Developed by Bass and Avolio (2000), the study is known as the MLQ Form 5x-Short.
The study results supported the hypothesis, and “indicated that scores on each of the transformational classroom leadership dimensions were significantly and positively correlated with scores on each of the classroom leadership outcomes,” (Pounder, 2008). Even when results were broken down per instructor, a similar pattern of correlations was revealed. Therefore, those instructors who displayed transformational leadership qualities “had a positive and significant influence on student perception of classroom dynamics measured in terms of three leadership outcomes: extra effort, effectiveness, and satisfaction,” (Pounder, 2008). It was also noted that these implications are especially relevant to higher education.
Rosas, C. & West, M. (2009). Teachers Beliefs about Classroom Management: Pre-service and Inservice Teachers’ Beliefs about Classroom Management. International Journal of Applied Educational Studies, 5(1), 54-61. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.
Since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, expectations for teachers to provide a productive classroom environment that encourages positive academic achievement for all students have increased dramatically. To achieve this, effective classroom management is key, “Teaching is a complex profession requiring teachers to be effective in implementing and maintaining order while delivering effective instruction,” (Friedman, 2006). However, this requires a delicate balancing act that many teachers, both novice and experienced, are uncomfortable with. In addition, this added stress can lead to teacher retention issues and burnout. According to Gonzalez, Brown and Slate (2008), “one of the primary factors for teachers leaving the profession was “difficulties with student discipline” (p.1).
This journal article reports on a study that targeted the classroom management beliefs of preservice and inservice teachers in Ohio. Study questions focused on defining those beliefs and examining how they differed between the two types of teachers. Study participants consisted of over 5,300 preservice teachers in their final semester and more than 1,100 inservice teachers.
Overall, the study results revealed that both preservice and inservice teacher participants were confident in managing classroom behaviors. Yet, when the mean differences for each question were evaluated individually, there was a distinct difference in responses regarding disruptive student behavior, “On a 9-point Likert scale, preservice teachers indicated a low level of confidence in their ability to guide an unruly student to on-task behavior. In contrast, inservice teachers indicated a high level of confidence with this crucial classroom management skill,” (Rosas and West, 2009). Compared to preservice teachers, experienced teachers expressed more realistic expectations regarding classroom management, with an understanding of the importance of established routines and supervised student performance.
More important, this study brought to light the fact that teacher education programs “should provide a stronger focus on effective classroom management strategies to effectively redirect students who become disruptive,” (Rosas and West, 2009). Outside of all other training, this area seems to be limited, and affecting the self-confidence of new teachers.
Shernoff, E. & Kratochwill, T. (2007). Transporting an evidence-based classroom management program for preschoolers with disruptive behavior problems to a school: An analysis of implementation, outcomes, and contextual variables. School Psychology Quarterly, 22(3), 449-472. Doi: 10.1037/1045-38184.108.40.2069.
Evidence-based classroom interventions, or EBIs, are regarded as highly effective and proven scientific methods. Every year, billions of government dollars are spent on educational interventions and professional development activities, but, “despite these expenditures, many school-based interventions have been inadequately researched or found to be ineffective,” (Kavale & Forness, 1999). Not only is there a great need for teacher training in classroom management, but there is a need for interventions that have been thoroughly tested and deemed effective. This journal article reported on a study that compared two methods, self-administered videotape modeling (VM) and self-administered videotape modeling plus consultation (VMC). It was the goal of researchers to determine how the use of these methods would impact teachers’ implementation of classroom management strategies, acceptability, reductions in disruptive behaviors, and barriers to sustaining EBIs in practice settings. Located in a mid-size Midwestern city, four preschools with similar accreditation and licensing were chosen for the study. Study participants consisted of two teachers from each of the four preschools.
The concept behind videotape modeling is modeling theory (Bandura, 1986), with the belief that by watching videotaped examples of teacher-student interaction, educators can improve their instructional skills in ways that reduce inappropriate behaviors and promote social competence. Furthermore, inclusion of the Incredible Years Classroom Management Program can help educators strengthen their classroom management abilities as well as use praise and incentives effectively, prevent behavioral issues and improve family outreach. The Incredible Years Classroom Management Program provides seven videotapes with more than 250 brief examples of teachers managing difficult classroom behaviors.
Study results indicated that VMC teacher confidence was higher than VM teacher confidence. It was speculated that the consultation provided for VMC teachers helped increase their confidence in their abilities to respond to challenging situations. Regarding reduction in disruptive behavior, however, results were mixed. But despite these results, there were other positive study outcomes for VMC students, specifically related to social competence development and increased adaptation to the school environment. “In the current study, it is plausible that VMC teachers were using more of the positive strategies than VM teachers because VMC teachers’ skills in recognizing such behaviors had improved because there were more positive and prosocial behaviors to praise among VMC students,” (Shernoff & Kratochwill, 2007).
Overall, study outcomes show that training is a necessary component to transferring EBIs to practice settings (Drake et al., 2004). Study results also indicate the importance of professional development programs that have been previously implemented and tested under university-based conditions. An additional key thought worth mentioning was the author’s recognition that change cannot happen overnight, and that while these programs offer positive results, it will take time to integrate these interventions with educational settings.
Simonsen, B., Fairbanks, S., Briesch, a., Myers, D., & Sugai, G. (2008). Evidence-based
Practices in Classroom Management: Considerations for Research to Practice. Education & Treatment of Children, 31(3), 351-380. Retrieved from SocINDEX with Full Text database.
This journal article was unique in comparison to the other literature included in this annotated bibliography. Rather than focus on a study, hypothesis, and results, the author focused on conducting a literature review on evidence-based classroom management practices. Her goal was to provide an update on the latest classroom management research and strategies on how to translate that research into practical classroom practice. As a guideline, she defined evidence-based classroom management practices as those practices that were evaluated “using sound experimental design and methodology (group experiment, group quasi-experimental, experimental single subject designs, or causal comparative), demonstrated to be effective, supported by at least 3 empirical studies published in peer-referred journals,” (Simonsen et al., 2008).
In her search, the author reviewed ten recent classroom texts, grouping them into the following five categories: classroom arrangement, classroom structure, instructional management, procedures intended to improve appropriate behavior, and procedures intended to reduce inappropriate behavior.
Twenty general practices met the criteria for evidence-based, with commonalities among the different approaches adopted by various organizations. All of the practices exhibited five empirically-supported features of effective classroom management, such as maximizing structure, posting, teaching, reviewing, monitoring, and reinforcing expectations, engaging students in observable ways, using a continuum of strategies in response to appropriate behaviors, and using a continuum of strategies in response to inappropriate behaviors.
The article also provided an implementation guide for teachers on what to do before the school year begins, what to do at the beginning of the school year, and what to do throughout the school year to ensure successful classroom management. She also included a classroom assessment that teachers can use to evaluate their own progress and observers can use to provide feedback to help teachers implement the aforementioned critical features.
Despite the fact that the five critical features of classroom management are applicable to classrooms today, the author noted that roughly half of the studies included in the literature review were conducted twenty or more years ago. Therefore, she recommends readers to continue to search for their own updates and to validate and expand on past research.
Tiano, J. Fortson, B., McNeil, C., & Humphreys, L. (2005). Managing classroom behavior of Head Start children using response cost and token economy procedures. Journal of Early and Intensive Behavior Intervention, 2(1), 28-39. Retrieved from ERIC database.
A disconcerting fact is that problematic behaviors exhibited by young children appear to be on the rise. More than ever, teachers need the help of classroom management strategies that work. This journal article reports on a study that examines the use of three different behavior management strategies in Head Start classrooms. One of the strategies, response cost, has been shown to be effective in previous studies. But the additional strategy used, known as the Level System, is fairly new and relatively untested.
The study location was a Head Start classroom in southwestern Pennsylvania. Participants included three children, all age four, a primary teacher, and a teacher’s aide. The children participating had been previously identified by the teacher as exhibiting disruptive behavior. Two of the children completed the entire study but one child withdrew from the program before the follow-up condition was conducted.
Teachers were required to incorporate the different strategies and current strategies into their regular classroom. The response cost program consisted of a board with four levels with “sunny” and “cloudy” zones. Each child had a shape assigned to him/her and was thus moved down based on his/her behavior. The Level System incorporates some of the response cost and token economy strategies. It is also a board, but with seven levels — three sunny, one neutral, and three cloudy. The children’s prospective shapes are then moved down for inappropriate behavior or moved back up for appropriate behavior.
Because this was a very small study, it was difficult to generalize findings. Also, inspection of student data did not yield conclusions on treatment efficacy. Despite this, the study offered some insight. When asked to the two classroom management programs, the teacher stated that the response cost had a greater impact compared to the Level System because the children had fewer changes to behave inappropriately and still earn the reward. Yet, she also stated that an advantage of the Level System was the ability to move the shapes back up the board, which couldn’t be done with the response cost system. In addition, the teacher felt that the frequent moving of shapes was time consuming, a view that is supported by McGoey and DuPaul (2000), “teachers may choose not to implement token economies because these systems require much time and effort from the teacher.”
On a positive note, the Level System and use of labeled praise statements may have encouraged the teacher to attend to and reinforce appropriate classroom behavior. By concentrating on appropriate behaviors and providing social rewards for those behaviors, there is greater opportunity to promote a more positive classroom atmosphere (Filcheck, McNeil, Greco & Bernard, 2004). That said, the study’s methodology cannot confirm whether or not the use of praise influenced child behavior or if child behavior influenced the teacher’s use of praise.
Unal, Z., & Unal, a. (2009). Comparing Beginning and Experienced Teachers’ Perceptions of Classroom Management Beliefs and Practices in Elementary Schools in Turkey. The Educational Forum, 73(3), 256-270. Doi: 10.1080/00131720902991343.
Better classroom management means a more effective environment of instruction and learning. Like many other journal articles, this journal article reported on a study that focused on the differences of classroom management styles between experienced (teaching experience of eight years and above) and inexperienced (teaching experience of zero to seven years) teachers and the influence of classroom size. Conducted in Turkey, the study collected data from 282 elementary school teachers using the Attitudes and Beliefs on Classroom Control Inventory. All of the teachers’ classroom management styles were measured against a conceptualized framework originally created by Glickman and Tamashiro (1980) and Wolfgang (1995), and according to three approaches to classroom interaction: non-interventionist, interventionist, and interactionalist. These approaches represent somewhat of a spectrum, with non-interventionist representing using little teacher power and control, allowing students to self-correct their own behaviors, and interactionalists providing an environment of mixed power, where the teacher creates the structure but allows some fluidity with the students managing some of their own behaviors. Interventionists represent the opposite side of the spectrum, establishing a teacher-controlled environment. It appears that this is the most commonly used classroom approach. “It seems that teachers still determine the rules by themselves and like to run the classroom with these rules,” (Witcher et al., 2002).
Study results showed that both experienced and inexperienced teachers favor being in control of their classrooms while interacting with students when making decisions. Also, a considerable difference was found when evaluating people management, indicating that experienced teachers prefer to be in control. In addition, study results showed a positive correlation between classroom size and the level of control used in the teachers’ classroom management strategies.
Similar to other studies, the author concluded that beyond classroom management style, there is a significant need for educators and administrators to understand teachers’ concerns. With that understanding, institutions would be able to provide new and experienced teachers with much-needed teacher education and preparation programs, professional development programs, and support during the first years of teaching.
Ullucci, K. (2009). “This has to be family”: Humanizing Classroom Management in Urban
Schools. Journal of Classroom Interaction, 44(1), 13-28. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.
Evidence-based interventions and classroom management strategies aside, author Kerri Ullucci takes a unique look at some real-life teaching experiences in the urban classroom. She attempts to uncover the myths associated with urban schools, and confronts some of her own fears surrounding the issue, “As I continue to work with pre-service teachers, I worry that they have bought into deficit mentalities about students in urban schools. I worry that they treat them as needing to be contained, subordinated and to some degree, broken.” And ultimately, through her personal observation, she reveals some fascinating and powerful classroom management styles that go beyond the traditional to prove that elementary students in urban schools are just as willing to behave as they are to learn.
For this study, six teachers, one man and five women, from highly diverse, low-income, public elementary schools were chosen to participate. Teachers were selected by members of their school communities because of their reputations as being exceptional teachers and because of their abilities to create and support multicultural classrooms. The author spent many hours observing each teacher to determine how each one utilized their classroom space, managed their students, and built community in culturally responsive ways. “Through working with exceptionally skilled teachers of children of color, I sought to provide an initial look into their meaningful management practices,” stated Ullucci.
Through her observations and field notes, Ullucci noted many similarities between the six teachers. All teachers had classrooms that reflected diversity through multicultural materials and books and were set up in a way that fostered interaction and communication. They provided instruction in English but were also willing to acknowledge multilingualism, and children with biliterate identities. Some classroom environments were extremely tidy and organized and others were less organized and somewhat cluttered. Classroom setup typically consisted of desk groupings of four to six, which allowed for student interaction and group work. Regardless of classroom setup, all six teachers were able to manage their classrooms effectively, to encourage open communication and participation.
Another similarity between all of the teachers was the lack of behaviorist approaches or structured discipline programs. Ullucci said, “I cannot emphasize enough how few examples of behaviorist management techniques appeared in these classes.” These teachers didn’t seem to be overly concerned with controlling their students. However, Ullucci did note that the classes had consequences. She observed teachers having to give students direction or redirect them and when doing so, instructions were clear and to the point. Ullucci elaborated further, “While I am not saying that behaviorist approaches do not serve any purpose under any circumstance, what was so refreshing here was that teachers simply did not find them necessary. They chose to expect more from their students.”
Apparently, this method of classroom management was working. Rather than use punitive discipline policies, these teachers focused on community building first and management tactics second. Also, through relationships, interaction, and communication, teachers were able to instill a sense of belonging, and according to Ullucci’s observations, with magical results.
Wills, H., Kamps, D., Hansen, B., Conklin, C., Bellinger, S., Neaderhiser, J. et al. (2010). the
Classwide Function-Based Intervention Team Program. Preventing School Failure, 54(3), 164-171. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.
Adequate yearly progress (AYP) Walker, Ramsey, & Gresham, 2004) and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB; 2001) require school administrators and teachers to accelerate student learning while simultaneously managing a variety of academic and behavioral student needs. Add to that an increase in students who are at risk for serious behavior disorders (SBD) and a lack of academic skills and the result is a classroom environment of high teacher stress and the use of more reactionary, punitive tactics such as suspensions, extensive time-outs, and expulsions. Unfortunately, these practices are not effective because they remove the student from the educational environment, they do not improve student behavior, and they may even accelerate behavioral problems (Sugai & Horner, 2002).
Fortunately, there are programs available to help. One such program is known as classwide function-based intervention team, or CW-FIT, and was created to address common functions of problem behavior. This journal article focuses on the structure of the CW-FIT program in urban schools as well as provides supportive evidence of its effectiveness.
The multi-level CW-FIT program provides four main components to help teachers manage the array of student behaviors they encounter on a daily basis. The program strategies and components build on a history of well-documented evidence-based strategies (Stage & Quiroz, 1997), including group contingencies (Tankersley,1995; Embry, 2002) and self-management (Hoff & DuPaul,1998; Shapiro & Cole, 1994), to keep the entire class on task and to reduce disruptive student behavior.
Both students and teachers have experienced the positive effects of the CW-FIT program. According to data collected from more than 700 students and 35 classrooms after implementing the CW-FIT intervention, disruptive behaviors were decreased, on-task behavior increased, and teacher attention to appropriate behaviors improved. Based on an end-of-the-year satisfaction survey, 17 of 19 teachers reported that they enjoyed the CW-FIT intervention. Many teachers stated that CW-FIT helped them protect teaching time by boosting student engagement, reducing disruptions, and avoiding reactionary punishments. Teachers also commented that the intervention helped them to stay more positive.
Student feedback was upbeat as well, noting that the teacher was more positive, they were able to accomplish more work, and they enjoyed working as a team to earn rewards.
Despite the fact that the CW-FIT intervention seemed quite involved and intensive, the effectiveness of the strategies are supported by data from students and teachers alike.
Literature Review Essay
Classroom management defined
According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, classroom management is defined as the process of ensuring that classroom lessons run smoothly despite disruptive student behavior. The definition also implies the prevention of disruptive behavior. Although classroom management may sound like a straightforward, cut-and-dry task, it is actually quite complicated and influenced by a multitude of factors. Even the simple definition of classroom management can vary. For example, Brophy (1986) defines effective classroom management as “the ability to establish, maintain, and (when necessary) restore the classroom as an effective environment for teaching and learning.” Others describe classroom management as a delicate navigation of advance planning (Franklin, 2006); rule setting; the establishment and implementation of daily protocols, routines, and interventions; and the teacher’s own presentation (Baker, Lang, & Lawson, 2002; Freiberg, 2002). Martin and colleagues define classroom management as including three broad dimensions: instructional management, people management, and behavior management (Martin and Baldwin 1992, 1994; Martin, Yin, and Baldwin, 1998; Martin and Shoho 1999, 2000).
Classroom management theories and methodologies vary widely as well, and are a source of great debate. “While addressing student behavior was critical for teachers, especially given the many different approaches that existed (Bucher & Manning, 2001), determining the method to use in managing the classroom was even more challenging,” (Glickman & Tamashiro, 1980).
Some theories have been empirically proven and implemented in the classroom while others are brand-new, non-evidence-based approaches. Interestingly, different approaches can work in different situations, but it is ultimately up to the teacher to determine the best classroom management style that aligns with his/her personality, beliefs, abilities, and training.
Classroom management challenges
Repeatedly throughout the research literature, classroom management was listed as one of the top causes of concern among experienced and inexperienced teachers. Problematic behavior is on the rise, making the classroom environment more difficult to manage and increasing the stress level of teachers. Friedman (2006) declared that poor management “often leads to misbehaviors which interfere with teaching and learning, and produces tremendous stress.” As a result, many teachers simply decide to quit. Gonzalez, Brown, and Slate (2008) stated that one of the primary factors for teachers leaving the profession was “difficulties with student discipline.” According to preservice teachers, their frustration with their inability to manage student behavior is left unaddressed by their cooperating teachers (Key 1998; Goodnough 2000), as well as by their faculty advisors (Farkas, Johnson, and Duffet, 1997). These findings are cause for concern because teachers who perceive problems with classroom management are more likely to leave the teaching profession (Taylor and Dale 1971; Goodnough 2000). In additions, Herman and Marlowe (2005), stated, “A major source of burnout [for teachers] is the personal conflict that occurs between teachers with predetermined beliefs about their role of authority, and oppositional children …” (p. 175). Furthermore, “The ability to effectively manage a classroom is one of the most important jobs of a classroom teacher,”
(Marzano & Marzano, 2003).
Also, the National Commission on Teaching America’s Future (2005) reported that problematic student behavior was cited as one of the main reasons for transfer requests. Johns, Macnaughton, and Karabinus, (1995) declared that classroom management “is possibly the most difficult aspect of teaching for many teachers.”
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 was also referred to in many of the articles in the literature review. The Act was created to implement the theories of standards-based education and to ensure a quality education for all students by requiring schools to improve their accountability and performance. According to Lanoue, 2008, “NCLB established a new set of academic achievement goals for all students in public education. School leaders had a greater responsibility for improving student achievement and teachers were no longer able neither to deviate from state curriculum standards nor pass the responsibility for learning to students and parents. In this new era of education, the responsibility for learning shifted from the home to inside the classroom with a greater responsibility given to teachers and school leaders for improving student achievement.”
While the NCLB was intended to help students, it has received a mixed response from critics and can oftentimes provide additional pressure for already overwhelmed teachers. Along with “Adequately Yearly Progress” (AYP), a federal mandate providing goals for each school and district, “this type of legislation raises the stakes for teachers to establish learning environments where all children achieve academically,” (Rosas & West, 2009).
Above all, it appears that one of the biggest reasons for difficulty with classroom management is the lack of appropriate classroom management training. Throughout the literature, the need for classroom management tools and training was reiterated over and over again. Simonsen et al., (2008) stated, “Teachers should be trained and supported in implementing practices that are likely to be successful.” According to Rosas and West (2009), “teacher preparation programs must ensure that graduates not only be highly qualified in the content area they teach by NCLB definition, but also possess the skills necessary to create a safe learning environment that promotes academic achievement.” This makes sense, since many teachers feel uncertain about dealing with disruptive behavior, and if they had the knowledge and proper tools they needed to handle that behavior, they could go into the classroom feeling confident and capable and ultimately, experience greater productivity and job satisfaction. Unfortunately, this seems to be where the greatest disconnect occurs in the system — an overwhelming need for training exists and yet there is a serious lack of administrative support and consistent training provided.
Along with a lack of appropriate training, lack of experience can also impact a teacher’s ability to effectively manage the classroom. Unal and Unal (2009) stated, “Though it is true that some teachers adapt to classroom management techniques easily, classroom management is a skill that can be gained through training and many years of experience in the field.” For many individuals, it can take between four and seven years to develop into a proficient teacher (Carter and Doyle 1995; Gonzalez and Carter 1996; Varrella 2000).
For this paper, 15 current publications on classroom management strategies were reviewed. Of the 15, 13 were dated within the past three years. Most of the publications were journal articles but the review included a few dissertations and theses.
Strategies and methods used
As mentioned earlier, there are a great number of classroom management strategies and methods available. This diversity of approaches was reflected in the diversity of the literature review as well. The spectrum of approaches ranged from specific management tips and techniques and building culturally responsible classrooms to evidence-based programs and management strategies that were directly based on theory. Two of the publications reviewed were completely unique in their method or perspective. But despite the differences and unique points-of-view, there were several threads of consistency that could be seen throughout the literature.
Techniques and training
A 2007 article by Dawn Clark, titled, “Classroom Management Challenges in the Dance Class,” provided a “how to” of classroom management strategies for the dance environment. Of all the publications, this one offered the most specific and applicable management strategies. Although the author did not state what theory or program she based her management strategies on, it was clear that she was an experienced and effective teacher. She highlighted many of the key components of successful classroom management that resonated with other publications in the literature review, such as the importance of preparation, structure, expectations, and student encouragement. Clark (2007) stated, “Successful management begins well in advance of the school year, and it is an aspect of every phase of class, from planning through closure.”
Self-efficacy and beliefs
Four publications covered the complex subject matter of self-efficacy and beliefs. As stated by Bandura (1997) and Zimmerman (1995), “self-efficacy beliefs influence goal setting and the strategies for attaining these goals by influencing motivation in the face of obstacles.”
Michael Benhar’s dissertation, “Does a Course in Classroom Management Affect Teachers’ Self-Perceived Efficacy in Classroom Management?” (2009) focused on teachers’ negative feelings, their level of burnout, and their willingness to participate in a classroom management course. The study highlighted in the dissertation was based on the teacher self-efficacy construct. As a result, study participants were required to complete the Teacher Self-Efficacy in Behavior Management and Discipline Scale (SEBM; Emmer & Hickman, 1991) before the course began and after its completion. According to the Rand Corporation, teacher efficacy is defined as “the extent to which the teacher believes he or she has the capacity to affect student performance,” (McLaughlin & Marsh, 1978, p. 84).
A journal article by Rosas and West (2009), “Teachers Beliefs about Classroom Management: Pre-service and Inservice Teachers’ Beliefs about Classroom Management,” also concentrated on teacher beliefs but instead offered a comparison between inservice, or currently practicing, and preservice, prior to graduating and practicing, teachers. Unlike Benhar, the study was not theory-based but researchers did use a statewide Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) survey to gather data and a 9 Point Likert Scale to compile and compare the results. Both preservice and inservice teachers expressed a high level of confidence regarding classroom management but there was a drastic difference when comparing their beliefs about their abilities to handle disruptive behavior, with preservice teachers feeling less confident in this area. Similar to Benhar, it was speculated that more teaching experience and classroom management training would help to raise their beliefs about their abilities prior to teaching in a real-life classroom.
Similar to Rosas and West’s journal article, Unal and Unal’s 2009 article, “Comparing Beginning and Experienced Teachers’ Perceptions of Classroom Management Beliefs and Practices in Elementary Schools in Turkey,” focused on the different classroom management styles of inservice and preservice teachers as well as their perceptions and beliefs. The study methodology was based on a continuum that was conceptualized by Wolfgang (1995) and Glickman and Tamishiro (1980) which represented the three approaches to classroom interaction: non-interventionist, interactionist, and interventionist, ranging from low teacher control to high teacher control. To examine classroom management styles, researchers used the validated Attitudes and Beliefs Classroom Control Inventory (ABCC) created by Martin, Yin, and Baldwin (1998a).
Compared to Rosas and West’s (2009) article, study results indicated that years of experience did not seem to have a noteworthy impact on teachers’ beliefs and attitudes on the instructional and behavior management subscales of classroom management. Results regarding people management, however, displayed a difference between inservice and preservice teachers, indicating that beginning teachers preferred classroom management strategies that were mixed, involving both students and teachers, while experienced teachers preferred to remain in total control. This could also be a contradiction of Rosa and West’s journal article, where study results suggested that as teachers become more experienced, they will become more confident in their abilities. The study highlighted in Unal and Unal’s article is suggesting the opposite, where beginning teachers are more open to a mixed control classroom while experienced teachers prefer to maintain control. Further study implications point to the influence of teachers’ experiences on their management beliefs as well as changes in their beliefs over time, “The constant change of teachers’ classroom beliefs over time indicates that there is a disconnection between education students’ beliefs toward classroom management during their coursework and the time they begin to gain real experience in schools,” Unal and Unal (2009.)
Additionally, a 2009 dissertation by Philip Lanoue, “The Effect of Professional Development in Perceptual Control Theory on Administrator and Teacher Beliefs About Classroom Management,” discussed a professional development program based on the Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) and its usefulness in changing teacher and administrator beliefs from teacher-directed to student-directed. The concept was to allow students to take responsibility for their own learning, but in order for teachers to allow this to happen, they must change their own beliefs. Stimulus/response, or reward/punishment, methods were a popular approach to classroom behavioral management. Yet, according to Ford (1994), “this seldom worked.”
What was different about PCT was that it focused more on an internal-control psychology model, and actually put the responsibility back on the students. Along with William Glasser’s choice theory, PCT focused on the fact that the only thing a person can really control is his/her self. This required teachers to employ strategies that supported students’ abilities to make better choices regarding their behavior. As a result, by developing self-discipline, students had a greater chance of succeeding (Ford, 1994).
Almost identical to the study conducted in Unal and Unal (2009), researchers used the Attitudes and Beliefs of Classroom Control Inventory Revised (ABCCR) to assess the level of teacher control related to the teacher control belief continuum created by Glickman and Tamashiro (1980.) Two groups were studied, one group having participated in a professional development program in PCT and one that had not. Results from the study were positive, and confirmed that teachers and administrators were able to change their beliefs, which could ultimately result in greater positive changes for students, their relationships with their teachers, and their academic performance.
Culturally responsive classrooms
As cultures continue to merge throughout the world, more and more classrooms must create a culturally responsive environment that respects and celebrates diversity. Two journal articles in the literature review focused on different aspects of this topic, one titled, “Classroom Management Strategies for Teachers with Students Having a Foreign Parent,” by Hsi-Chi Hsiao, Su-Ling Yang, and Ming-Chao Lee (2009) and “This Has to be Family”: Humanizing Classroom Management in Urban Schools,” by Kerri Ullucci (2009).
Hsiao, Yang, and Lee’s article covered the importance of classroom management strategies for teachers who have students with a foreign parent. The study methodology was not based on a particular theory or program and consisted of in-depth face-to-face interviews. Interview data were then collected and compared. The purpose of the study was to gain greater insight into creating a classroom environment that was becoming increasingly more multicultural, and to provide management strategies that would be effective for all students. Research findings offered a number of key strategies to employ in a multicultural classroom.
In Ullucci’s journal article, the study methodology was similar to Hsiao, Yang, and Lee’s study in the sense that it was not based on a theory or program. Her goal was to observe highly effective elementary teachers in urban schools and to report on their classroom management strategies. While her focus was not specifically on the multicultural classroom, throughout her observations, there were many references to the necessity of creating a culturally responsive classroom in an urban environment. What’s even more interesting about this study is that the teachers themselves seemed to have their own ways of managing their classrooms — beyond traditional methods — and their methods were working. Ullucci stated, “While I am not saying that behaviorist approaches do not serve any purpose under any circumstance, what was so refreshing here was that teachers simply did not find them necessary. They chose to expect more from their students.”
Rather than use methods and strategies that are based on trail-and-error or are still in the early phases of development, many schools prefer to implement programs that have been thoroughly studied and based on evidence. Four of the journal articles in the literature review focused on these types of proven strategies, including articles written by Shernoff and Kratochwill (2007), Simonsen et al. (2008), Hutchings et al. (2007), and Wills et al. (2010).
The article “Transporting an Evidence-Based Classroom Management Program for Preschoolers with Disruptive Behavior Problems to a School: An Analysis of Implementation, Outcomes, and Contextual Variables,” by Shernoff and Kratochwill (2007), discusses a study in which the Incredible Years Classroom Management Program was evaluated to determine the effectiveness of two of its training methods, self-administered videotape modeling (VM) and self-administered videotape modeling plus consultation (VMC). Researchers also utilized the Teacher Strategies Questionnaire (TSQ; Webster-Stratton et al., 2001) to evaluate teachers’ self-reported adherence to the program strategies. The study results showed that by viewing behavioral situations and solutions, followed up with consultation, teachers were better able to apply what they learned to the classroom environment. Also, researchers discovered further confirmation that training is a key part of applying EBIs to practice settings. The evidence-based program may be validated, but training is necessary to transport the methods into the everyday teaching environment.
Compared to Shernoff and Kratochwill’s (2007) article, the journal article by Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers, and Sugai (2008), titled “Evidence-based Practices in Classroom Management: Considerations for Research to Practice,” didn’t focus on just one study, but rather a literature review of 20 evidence-based practices in classroom management. According to the article, evidence-based referred to classroom management practices that were “evaluated using sound experimental design and methodology, demonstrated to be effective, and supported by at least three empirical studies published in peer-refereed journals.” Details of each of the practices were provided along with instructions on how to implement the critical features of classroom management according to the evidence-based strategies. Specific theories were not mentioned but the concepts behind the practices were basic and consistent with many of the articles cited in this literature review.
Wills, Kamps, Hansen, Conklin, Bellinger, Neaderhiser, and Nsubuga (2010) article, “The Classwide Function-Based Intervention Team Program,” was unlike the other two articles mentioned above in the sense that the Classwide Function-Based Intervention Team Program (CW-FIT) was not specifically labeled as evidence-based. However, the structure of the program, the positive feedback, promising data, and the use of program strategies and components that build on a “history of well-documented evidence-based strategies,” (Stage & Quiroz, 1997) may be considered evidence enough to fit into this category. The four components of the program were also stated as being based on years of empirical support (Stage & Quiroz, 1997.)
To improve classroom management, the CW-FIT program teaches students three primary skills, including how to get the teacher’s attention, how to follow directions, and how to ignore inappropriate behaviors. Similar to some of the evidence-based strategies outlined in the Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers, and Sugai (2008) article, activity-based and tangible rewards were also used to encourage appropriate behavior and to keep students excited about their progress.
Another journal article, “Managing Classroom Behavior of Head Start Children Using Response Cost and Token Economy Procedures,” by Tiano, Fortson, McNeil, and Humphreys (2005) focused on the effects of using response cost and token economy procedures in a preschool environment. Similar to the article by Wills et al. (2010), this practice was not defined as being validated, or evidence-based, yet studies have shown the effectiveness of response cost and token economy procedures in reducing disruptive student behavior. In fact, these procedures have been evaluated in several research studies, for example, Iwata and Bailey’s (1974) study with special education children, in a study by Sullivan and O’Leary (1990), and with children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in a study by McGoey & DuPaul, 2000).
A new program called the Level System was also studied. Although there is only a small body of literature that supports this system’s effectiveness, inappropriate behaviors were reduced with its usage (Filcheck, 2003; Filcheck, McNeil, Greco, & Bernard, 2004.) Both the response cost and token economy method and the Level System allow teachers to move shapes on a board based on student’s behavior. But with the response cost and token economy method, shapes can only go down, from “sunny” to “cloudy.” And with the Level System, there are more levels and greater ability for students to move up and down the board. Therefore, behavior can be improved and thus rewarded.
In comparison to the other evidence-based strategies listed above, this system is unique because it applies to preschoolers. It is simplistic in nature but appropriate for the targeted grade level because the students can see immediately where they stand, and whether they are deserving of a reward or need to improve their behavior. Unfortunately, the token economy methods may be considered as too time-consuming for many teachers (McGoey & DuPaul, 2000). In addition, these methods may be difficult to implement in larger classrooms.
Theory- and model-based strategies
Three articles were dedicated to classroom management strategies that were based on either an innovative theory or model. Kimberly Lillig’s dissertation (2003), “Implementation of Situational Leadership as an Effective Classroom Management Model in the Traditional Middle Grade Level Classroom,” described the Situational Leadership Theory (Hersey & Blanchard, 1982) and its use in classroom management. Comparable to the Perceptual Control Theory
outlined in Lanoue’s dissertation (2009), the Situational Leadership model “takes students through the stages of increased self-direction and empowerment as the teacher moves from a directive role to one of facilitating and monitoring,” (Grow, 1991, p. 144). Originally designed as an industrial organizational leadership model, Situational Leadership upholds the notion that leadership styles should not be rigid, but able to change as different situations arise. According to Blanchard (1997), “successful leaders are those able to adapt to their style to fit the requirements of the situation.”
To assess the effectiveness of applying the Situational Leadership model in a classroom environment, researchers used a Leadership Style assessment to survey sixteen Illinois teachers.
Study results indicated a positive correlation between the Situational Leadership model and effective classroom management for both preservice and inservice teachers. Yet, like many of the other studies highlighted in the literature review, further testing and validation of the model is needed.
Another article by J. Pounder, “Transformational leadership: practicing what we teach in the management classroom,” (2008), focuses on leadership characteristics, specifically transformational leadership, and the effects of this leadership style on students. Transformational leadership is defined as a leadership style where the leader influences students to exert extra effort, encourages respect, and promotes intellectual stimulation. A leader with this leadership style basically encourages the best out of his/her subordinates. Similar to the creation of the Situational Leadership model, transformational leadership was originally designed for conventional organizations. The author of the journal article, James Pounder, conducted the study highlighted in the article. His objective was to take leadership theories, concepts, and principles used in a conventional organizational context and transfer them to the university classroom setting. Of all the theories covered in the literature review this one seemed rather vague, with even the definition of transformational leadership changing between “style” and “concept.” Also, compared to the other publications, it was the only study performed in the university environment, so it is uncertain if the principles can apply to elementary students. Furthermore, at this point, the article only tests the theory, and doesn’t provide any real instruction on how transformational leadership can be implemented in the educational environment. It appears that further study is needed to determine how to take the theory and turn it into a tangible classroom management technique.
Despite these facts, however, the study results were positive. Therefore, the concept of transformational leadership seems to have potential, but more work needs to be done for it to be implemented in the university environment and then studied to determine if the leadership style could then be translated to the elementary school environment.
The final publication of this group and of the literature review was written by Gill, Zimmer, Christman, and Blanc, a 2007 research report titled, “State takeover, school restructuring, private management and student achievements in Philadelphia.” Compared to all of the other publications, this was the only one that reported on what could be considered a dramatic, four-year experiment. In 2002, the state of Pennsylvania performed a complete takeover of the school administration of Philadelphia’s schools. The administration was then replaced by a School Reform Commission, a new CEO, and different types of management, including private and non-profit.
The theoretical model chosen for the takeover is known as the diverse provider model. Unlike the Situational Leadership and transformational leadership models, the diverse provider model is described as “flexible, competitive school marketplaces in which districts manage a varied portfolio of schools, providers have wide rein to innovate, and both are held accountable for student outcomes by strong contracts and through the availability of meaningful choices for students and parents,” (Hill, 2002, 2006). The diverse provider model is also intended to diagnose “urban school failure as the result of a lack of sound management practices by district and school leaders, union contracts that impose narrow work restrictions, and a rigid professional bureaucracy that eschews innovative practices,” (Hill, 2002, 2006).
For some of the schools in the study, student achievement was improved as a result of the takeover. However, overall, it appeared that the results were inconsistent and inconclusive, leaving many unanswered questions. Also, it appears that there were ways in which the diverse provider model was not adhered to, but details on this were not specified.
Most of the studies in the literature review focused on classroom management techniques, but this “study” was unique in that it went beyond the classroom to include a complete revamping of school management. By improving school management, the hope was that student performance would also improve. But for most of the schools, this was not the case. Therefore, it appears that there was a real disconnect between the implementation of the diverse provider model, the management of and the relationships with the different school administrators, and the individual management of each school. “Finally, research suggests that districts must also get to know each external partner well so that they can capitalize on the strengths of each organization and mitigate the weaknesses. The Philadelphia model’s likelihood of creating successful and diverse educational options was dependent, to a large extent, on the district’s flexibility and vigilance in managing its relationships with the private sector,” (Gill et al., 2007).
Comparison to Bertalanffy
As stated earlier, the literature review was organized into the following categories: techniques and training, self-efficacy and beliefs, culturally responsive classrooms, evidence-based strategies, and theory — and model-based strategies. In this section, we will compare these various strategies with Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s general systems theory and his various viewpoints. It is challenging, however, to compare some of the strategies with Bertalanffy’s theories because they are still somewhat at the 10,000-foot level, and have never been tested or practically applied. Therefore, at this point, we can only compare the strategies provided in the research articles with Bertalanffy literally in theory.
In the techniques and training category, Dawn Clark provided an article that offered very specific classroom management techniques and guidelines. It is challenging to say that these techniques align with Bertalanffy’s vision, since he does not offer methods that can be applied, but it does seem that the underlying structure that’s provided, including the preparation, the expectations and boundaries that are given, are consistent with Bertalanffy’s viewpoint on how an effective “system” or “whole” would operate. For the purposes of this paper, the term “system” will most likely represent the classroom. In general, Clark’s strategies are very concrete and appear to be beneficial methods to use when teaching a dance class.
The self-efficacy and beliefs category focuses on the influence of self-perception, and how beliefs can play into a teacher’s confidence or lack of confidence in his/her abilities to manage a classroom. Benhar, Rosas and West, Unal and Unal, and Lanoue, all created articles that were centered on the power of self-perception as well as on how a person’s beliefs can shape his/her experience, especially as a teacher. Teacher training was also cited as being an important part of shaping a teacher’s self-perception, simply by providing the tools and training needed was shown to boost confidence. Based on these articles and studies, one could reflect that true change is based on hierarchy, that is must originate from those individuals that are leading the organization. In this case, it would be the school administrators. School administrators must be on board and willing to change their beliefs in order to help change the individual teacher’s beliefs. In Bertalanffy’s work, he discusses the importance of hierarchy within a system, “Systems are frequently structured in a way so that their individual members again are systems of the next lower level.” He continues, “Such superposition of systems is called hierarchical order. For its individual levels, again the aspects of wholeness and summativity, progressive mechanization, centralization, finality, etc., apply. Such hierarchical structure and combination into systems of ever higher order, is characteristic of reality as a whole and of fundamental importance especially in biology, psychology and sociology,” (Bertalanffy, 1968, p. 74).
This viewpoint is helpful in showing that there is a hierarchical order to every system and that it does have an influence. However, Bertalanffy does not discuss this influence. It would be beneficial and interesting to know how Bertalanffy felt about how individuals influence each other in the system — beyond their hierarchical status.
Regarding culturally responsive classrooms, articles written by His-Chi et al. And Ullucci demonstrate the importance of meeting the unique and diverse needs of each student. This is directly in alignment with Bertalanffy’s viewpoint on the importance of the individual. He recognized that although we are all part of a greater “whole,” that we must also be honored as individuals. In fact, he felt very strongly about this point, because in his mind, without recognizing the individual, the impacts to our society could be catastrophic.
Evidence-based strategies were covered by Shernoff, Simonsen, Wills, Tiano, and Hutchings. Of all the strategies in the literature review, these strategies were the most concrete, tested, and applied. Shernoff and Hutchings discussed the Incredible Years Classroom Management Programme, Simonsen performed a literature search on current evidence-based strategies being used, Wills documented the CW-FIT program, and Tiano discussed the potential of a response cost and token economy strategy.
Because the strategies highlighted were practical, proven, and based on scientific methods, one can assume that Bertalanffy would support these approaches. All were highly structured and organized, providing training and implementation. In fact, these evidence-based strategies go beyond what Bertalanffy had accomplished because they actually have proven methods and means of implementation. They have taken Bertalanffy’s theories to the next level, by putting the available programs into practice and then testing their validity. Studies have also shown that proper teacher training helps to provide desirable outcomes.
Simonsen focused on a continuum of strategies that could be used to respond to appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Methods included use of structure, preparation, and expectations to help cope with disruptive behavior. The need for organization was a key component in effectively managing the classroom and aligns with the need for organization in the system. Both Simonsen and Tiano mentioned the use of positive reinforcement strategies, with Tiano specifically discussing the response cost and token economy approach. In Bertalanffy’s view, this approach could align with stimulus-response theory. He stated, “one concept which prove to be of a key nature is the organismic notion of the organism as a spontaneously active system,” (Bertalanffy, 1968, p. 106). He continues, “Even under constant external conditions and in the absence of external stimuli the organism is not a passive but a basically active system. This applies in particular to the function of the nervous system and to behavior. It appears that internal activity rather than reaction to stimuli is fundamental. This can be show with respect both to evolution in lower animals and to development, for example, in the first movements of embryos and fetuses,” (Bertalanffy, 1960a).
Therefore, based on Bertalanffy’s perspective, one can assume that humans are not biologically built to be passive, but active, and that response to stimuli is influenced by the mind, rather than from external influences. As a result, it seems that Bertalanffy would not agree with the stimulus-response methods currently used to motivate positive behavior in elementary school students.
That said, several of the studies covered in the literature review do show that positive language and reinforcement is needed. But perhaps this goes beyond just simple stimulus-response, because these methods are more about changing the teacher’s beliefs about their students and therefore helping motivate students desire to improve their academic performance, and thus changing the student’s beliefs. This desire is what could be considered making positive changes on the inside, to create a positive result or outcome on the outside. This is just speculation, however.
Another evidence-based strategy was reported in an article by Wills. The CW-FIT program was highlighted and tested with positive results. This theory also referenced the concept of self-management, and the importance of the student changing his/her beliefs which thus affected each student’s behavior.
The final category, theory- and model-based strategies, covered two similar types of theory and one more extreme “experiment” based on the diverse provider model. Lillig discussed the concept of situational leadership, which is a leadership style that was originally used for industry and then studied in the classroom environment. Because most of Bertalanffy’s background is rooted in the scientific, he might agree with this style as it originated from a more structured, scientific systems model. From a contrary viewpoint, however, this strategy seems like it might be in beginning stages of theory, by applying business theory to the classroom environment. It seems like there is something missing, that adjustments might need to be made to ensure the success in the educational setting.
Also, the situational leadership style is based on the idea that situations and circumstances change, and therefore the leadership style should be flexible enough to change along with it. Bertalanffy agrees with the idea that interrelations and interactions change, and that flexibility is needed within the system.
Another theory-based model, known as transformational leadership, was highlighted in Pounder’s article. Transformational leadership is another strategy that was taken from the organization and applied to the classroom environment. It was tested in a study to determine how teachers’ leadership qualities influence student behavior. The study was conducted on university students, however, so it is uncertain if this method could effectively apply to elementary school students. Similar to the situational leadership style, Bertalaffny might agree that it has potential to be effective. Yet, he might also agree that both methods are somewhat narrow in focus and would require additional testing before implementing on a greater scale. Overall, it seems like something is missing with these approaches, that there should be more involved in attaining true classroom management than taking what has worked in an organizational environment and applying that to elementary school students.
An article by Gill discussed the diverse provider model, which is possibly the most extreme of all studies included in this paper. The model was not thoughtfully used or even explained, so the theory behind the model is still a mystery. Simply put, the state of Pennsylvania completely restructured Philadelphia’s schools — and with mixed results. What’s more is that the diverse provider model was not followed consistently, which made the restructuring process seem more like an experiment than a well-thought-out plan. As a result, it would be safe to assume that Bertalaffny would probably not agree with this method. In fact, it seems like this sort of “management” is more in alignment with what Bertalaffny fears most about the management of society, and its potential for destruction. Gill, the report author, also comments on the need to handle such a delicate situation with greater thought, “Districts must pay close attention to developing a systemwide environment that truly supports school partnerships with external organizations. They must remove bureaucratic obstacles, monitor performance, ensure that partnerships are sustainable despite turnover of school and district administrators, and create a productive tension between centralization and autonomy,” (Gill, 2007, p. 8). Additionally, it seems that the individual student needs were not taken into consideration, as it was a very drastic method that yielded disjointed results.
From theory into practice: useful methods for classroom behavioral management
After reviewing the theories of Bales, Bailey, and Bertalaffny and performing an extensive literature review of current research, these findings show that classroom management strategies are extremely diverse. Concepts and strategies vary widely and are in different stages of development. Some ideas are untested and more revolutionary in nature and others are used regularly and continue to generate tangible results. Regardless, it is evident that there are as many strategies available as there are individual perspectives. This makes it clear why so many teachers have difficulty with this area. Yet, despite the diversity of viewpoints or methods used, there are a number of similarities and consistencies that stand out. Rather than focus on distinct methods, the following core components can be used to build a solid foundation for effective classroom management (and are not in sequential order).
Structure = order
In a majority of the successful strategies cited, creating a solid classroom structure was imperative. Without the structure, there could be no order. As a system, this could refer to the structure in which all of the individuals reside. In the classroom, this could refer to the actual physical room in which the students and teacher interact. Also, structure refers to the structure of the curriculum, lesson plans, and flow of subject matter. Providing a pleasing classroom environment and structured curriculum helps the teacher maintain control of classroom behavior and helps the students understand what is expected of them while in that setting.
Preparation is also an essential part of any classroom management strategy. Teachers must be prepared well in advance of teaching, or students could lose interest and engage in inappropriate behavior. Preparation and structure go hand in hand to create an environment of order and organization. These two elements provide the foundation for a successful classroom.
For some teachers, expectations may also be referred to as rules, and in reference to the system, they are known as “boundaries.” Expectations are key as they keep the environment safe and teach students about appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Some teachers post rules up in the front of the classroom while others are more subtle, not posting the rules but still enforcing them in his/her own way. Either way, these boundaries must be established in order for a teacher to earn students respect and to inspire positive student performance. Expectations are what keep the classroom in order, productive, and running on time, and help to create a nurturing and safe environment for all students.
As seen in the literature review, most experienced teachers have gone through their share of “growing pains” by making mistakes. But for novice teachers, classroom management causes the greatest amount of anxiety because it is not consistently covered prior to teaching. Many new teachers feel ill-equipped to handle disruptive student behavior. This concern for proper training was mentioned repeatedly, and it’s evident there is a real need for appropriate teacher training on classroom management.
In several of the studies, it was indicated that teachers with positive attitudes are more likely to inspire their students to succeed. Students need to feel that they matter, that they are important (again, this resonates with Bertalanffy’s concept on the importance of the individual), and that they have a unique contribution to make. Study results showed that student performance improved when the teacher increased positive reinforcement.
This concept is a little trickier to define, but is basically in alignment with the idea of promoting self-control, or internal control, and the ability of the teacher to empower students to take accountability for their academic performance and behavior. In the article by Lillig, the following statement by Long is included, “The teacher’s goal is to move students from being directed, dependent individuals to autonomous, independent ones,” (1987). Teachers who empower their students honor them as individuals and honor their unique contribution to the class. The teacher can further emphasize this concept by creating a classroom setting that is culturally responsive, by displaying various pictures and objects of different cultures and ways of life, as well as specifically honoring the unique cultures of the existing students.
Above the rest: the top classroom management strategy
Out of all the classroom management strategies reviewed, there was one article that stood out from the others: the journal article written by Kerri Ullucci. Ullucci reported on and conducted her own study of individuals who were recognized within their own communities as being exceptional teachers. Her study was small but concentrated, and her methods were simple: just her direct observation of each teacher.
There was a certain warmth to Ullucci’s article that was unique in comparison to the other 14 publications that were critiqued. Her article evoked memories of the favorite teacher you may have had in childhood, the teacher who made you feel special and who’s name you will always remember. These are the teachers that Ullucci studied, and their “methods” are remarkable. In fact, some of their methods aren’t really methods at all, and even may be considered as anti-management approaches (if comparing to more rigid, evidence-based strategies or programs.) the methods used were simple, effective, and full of heart.
Therefore, the six teachers that Ullucci observed did not refer to any specific management techniques. However, there were certainly underlying techniques being used and most of these techniques align with the aforementioned classroom management strategies of structure, expectations, training, encouragement, and empowerment. Classroom structure was different for each teacher but ultimately set the stage for how each class operated. “Peter’s room smells like butterscotch. It is mid-morning and a pot of coffee is brewed, sitting on the back counter.Peter’s classroom looks like no other. It seems as if we are in a living room rather than a class,” (Ullucci, 2009). Ullucci goes on to describe how Peter’s classroom operates, “I am not sure I have been in a class where more children are trying to be involved at any given time. When Peter asks a question, all hands go up. When they get the answers right, they whisper “Yes!” To congratulate themselves. While Peter is very demanding of them, a sense of warmth and genuine care exists in this classroom as well,” (Ullucci, 2009). This statement alone is unique compared to all the studies that have been done and results that were reported. Beyond the scientific, beyond the methods, students need to feel that their teacher cares about them. This alone can make a significant difference in how each person views themselves and the world, and to interact with society as a whole. This always goes back to the idea of empowering the individual, of encouraging good behavior. And perhaps this is what makes a teacher special and memorable — they are able to accomplish this naturally.
Culture in these classrooms was also celebrated. Gloria’s class “creates a multicultural atmosphere in quiet, natural ways. She often included students’ home languages matter-of-factly.” Also, in Gloria’s class, “Children were encouraged to use any and all languages, including sign language, as a means of expression.” (Ullucci, 2009).
Classrooms could be tidy and organized or cluttered and busy. Regardless, each teacher had a structured environment that worked for his/her personal style. In Kate’s class, “The atmosphere has a sense of purposeful movement. Students seem to always been on the go. Children to sign out to go to the bathroom. They come and go as they need to. They get up to get their supplies, ask questions or meet with the student teacher,” (Ullucci, 2009). Also, Kate encouraged open communication with her students, “Kate held weekly class meetings, where students shared worries and good things happening in their lives,” (Ullucci, 2009). Again, this “technique” was not really seen in the other studies included in this paper.
In addition to her observations, Ullucci organized her notes to make sense of the similarities of the practices all of the teachers used. She discovered three key strategies: classroom setup and physical manifestations of diversity, personal connections, talking about feelings, and directly discussing race and racism, and classroom management techniques.
Classroom setup and physical manifestations of diversity
As stated above, this was an important component to each of the teacher’s environments. Because they taught to a culturally diverse group of students, they reflected that diversity through the use of pictures, books, art, and objects. Gloria stated, “I just have a personal, my own personal belief, I think that if you have a classroom full of kids from other countries you need to acknowledge that and have materials available,” (Ullucci, 2009). In addition, the teachers arranged desks in clusters or groupings to help encourage student interaction. Ullucci (2009) commented, “By organizing one’s space to encourage collaboration and discussion, teachers break with the notion of school as a place where individuals work, competitive approaches and teacher-centered instruction are the norm.”
Personal connections, feelings, and race
Another key strategy was the use of personal communication and connection. Again, this strategy was rare among all the other strategies reported on. In Kate’s class, a class meeting is held on a weekly basis to address problems, personal or school-related. According to Ullucci, (2009) “This type of community meeting, which focuses on the emotional well being of the students, speaks to Kate’s interest in her students as peopleShe sees their emotional health as something she needs to address as a teacher.”
Simple in theory, this strategy has the potential to have an enormous impact on the student’s lives and self-esteem. To create an environment where a student can be heard, and is valued for his/her opinion, is truly revolutionary.
Classroom management techniques
While behaviorist approaches to classroom management were not evident, Ullucci did feel that each teacher had his/her own method of managing the classroom. According to Peter, “You set boundaries and you have follow-through. A lot of the extra work is that [setting boundaries], but if you’re consistent in that, you’ll be successful because those kids will know real quick and real fast that there are limits and there is a consequence[it’s about] Respect, responsibility, accountability,” (Ullucci, 2009).
Overall, with all the difficulty and anxiety many new teachers face with classroom management and all the different types of training and strategies available, could it really be as simple as stated in Ullucci’s article? In a word, yes. The classroom can be also be described as an effectively organized system, with boundaries and structure, interaction and respect for the individual. By adding in genuine concern for your students and open communication, it seems that the sky’s the limit. Perhaps effective classroom management comes down to something we all hope for as individuals — that someone cares enough about each of us to provide firm boundaries, respect, and love.
Like any great achievement, the process takes time. This is especially true for complex concepts. Systems theory has undergone its own evolution, and it continues to evolve today. Earlier theories are being refined and tested as new visions and mindsets surface and as new questions arise. Robert Freed Bales, Kenneth Bailey, and Ludwig von Bertalaffny were three pioneers of systems theory, all coming from different backgrounds and points-of-view but with the same goal in mind: to know the truth. Bales focused on empirical data, and on applying his social interaction systems to practice. Bailey strived to achieve a theoretical synthesis of living systems, social entropy, and autopoiesis. And Bertalaffny created general systems theory in an attempt to integrate systems theory concepts. While not all of the theories are being actively applied, they were ground breaking. These men helped to build the foundation of systems theory that many scientists and sociologists use today.
One thing that has made the systems theory process so challenging is the many diverse perspectives, definitions, and lack of consistency. Originally, systems were considered a more metaphysical concept but many theorists felt the need to ground this concept using scientific principles. The merging of these two concepts became a source of great debate, and further complicated an already complicated situation. Furthermore, varying perspectives have led to various hypotheses and even more questions. All three theorists above would agree that despite a lifetime of work, there are still many unanswered questions.
What is interesting, however, is that despite the theoretical debate, there is a great number of consistencies and like conclusions being made. Although viewpoints are not exact, it’s as if all theorists are moving in the same general direction — whether they realize it or not. And as this movement continues, it seems that more questions will be answered, definitions will be agreed upon, and certain key theories will be used consistently.
In the Breadth portion of this paper we discussed the three B’s — Bales, Bailey, and Bertalaffny — and provided a comparison of their different theories. A comparison was also provided along with an enhanced focus on Bertalnffy’s work. Of the three, Bale’s social interaction systems theory was the most applicable and widely used. His intent was to create a theory that would be supported by empirical data, and he succeeded. With Bailey and Bertalaffny, however, their theories seemed to stay in the philosophical stage. Neither of their theories were extensively tested or applied to the real-world environment. This also made it difficult to apply Bertalanffy’s theories to the Depth portion of this paper, which focused on classroom management. It was virtually impossible to apply a theory that is somewhat unresolved to an environment that is very much in need of training and tools.
The annotated bibliography included 15 current research publications centered on the concept of classroom management in elementary schools. Most of the publications were journal articles, with a few reports and dissertations.
The literature review paralleled the theories in many ways. The strategies and methods being used are widely varied and inconsistent. There are many wonderful ideas and similar approaches, but overall, there is still not a single method that has been thoroughly tested and implemented across the elementary school environment.
Many of the studies indicated positive results but the methods still required further testing and validation. Some of the research articles offered specific guidelines on how to improve classroom management while others were in the beginning phases of testing. The downside is that classroom management is a concern to many teachers, and it is considered to be the main cause of teacher stress and low retention. There is a need for concrete methods and training, but at this point, the methods being offered are fairly new and inconsistent.
Above them all, however, one strategy stood out. What was interesting is that it was not highly proven or rooted in theory. Yet, the overall themes it touched on were very much in alignment with systems theory as well as common sense classroom management techniques. An article by Kerri Ullucci focused on her direct observations of six teachers in urban elementary schools. The teachers were well-recognized and respected and therefore Ullucci participated in their classrooms to understand what they were doing right. What she discovered were six different approaches that all reflected many of the same core components.
First, beyond the other research findings, this was the only article that used the word “family” in the title and expressed a sense of warmth. Just by reading the article, the reader could remember back to his/her childhood and favorite teacher. The other publications focused on handling “disruptive behavior” and the stress related to classroom management. These are still very real issues, however, Ullucci’s article was less about classroom management and control and more about what it takes to be an amazing teacher. Through her observations, she saw that students who were treated with respect and honored as individuals were more likely to perform, and to feel good about themselves. Ullucci witnessed multi-cultural classrooms that celebrated the cultural diversity of the class through pictures, books, artifacts, and art. These classrooms were also open to freedom of expression, talking about feelings and open communication. Students were also encouraged to speak different languages, which is not typically the norm in standard classrooms. In many ways, these teachers broke the rules. And yet, they also had specific classroom management techniques.
To encourage student interaction and discussion, classrooms were not laid out in rows, but usually in clusters of desks or tables. Teachers provided an organized structure and expectations, but did not force the issue. Boundaries were set and the rules were enforced. It wasn’t as if the teachers were taken advantage of, but rather, according to Ullucci, there was a mutual respect in these classrooms. And the students lived up to the teachers’ expectations.
Compared to all of the other research findings, this format seemed to be the most successful and make the most logical sense. But the hard part is teaching these methods to new teachers. Is this something that can be taught? Could it be solely based on a teacher’s personality? Regardless, new teachers need training so they can feel confident leading their classes.
The Application portion of this paper is in the form of a PowerPoint. Some of the more evidence-based strategies from the research findings were included along with high-level classroom management techniques that any teacher could apply directly to his/her classroom. The techniques are very basic and simple, but realistic. Further teacher training is also recommended.
Overall, classroom management, like systems theory, is evolving. It is time to turn theories into processes, concepts into applications. it’s just a matter of educational leaders coming together to create a consistent approach, to test it, and to begin implementing it on a wide scale. Teachers are in great need of training methods that work, and they are out there. The good news is that positive change IS happening, but it seems like it has been — and continues to be — an unnecessarily long and painstaking process. The ideas are there, now it’s just a matter of putting those ideas into action.
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