New report says teachers not taught proven methods of classroom management

teacher-classroom-managementTeacher preparation programs are leaving teachers to fend for themselves and to discover their own path to classroom management instead of relying on “proven” strategies based on research, according to a new report. And this philosophy, says one group, that will lead to classroom inefficiency at best and lack of student achievement at worst.

The report, “Training Our Future Teachers: Classroom Management,” was conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a research and policy group often criticized by teacher colleges as “methodologically flawed” and “ideologically based.” NCTQ is a Gates-funded initiative that is part of the “corporate school reform” movement, and it advocates for tougher teacher evaluation practices and methods.

In its new report, NCTQ argues that while teacher preparation programs do heavily emphasize classroom instruction, classroom management skills based off of “proven” techniques are often left out of formal instruction and don’t require evaluation.

Because of this lack of focus on management skills, even “the most brilliantly crafted lesson can fall on deaf ears—or, worse, be upended by disruptive behavior,” according to NCTQ.

(Next page: “Proven” techniques?)

“Proven” techniques

According to NCTQ, “considerable research” exists on classroom management–much of it consolidated into three “authoritative” summaries of 150 studies conducted over the last six decades.

NCTQ explains that these studies are in agreement that some classroom management strategies are more likely to be effective than others, and NCTQ then isolated the five most important strategies on which to train teacher candidates, which the group refers to as the “Big Five”:

1. Rules: Establish and teach classroom rules to communicate expectations for behavior.

2. Routines: Build structure and establish routines to help guide students in a wide variety of situations.

3. Praise: Reinforce positive behavior, using praise and other means.

4. Misbehavior: Consistently impose consequences for misbehavior.

5. Engagement: Foster and maintain student engagement by teaching interesting lessons that include opportunities for active student participation.

After identifying the Big Five, NCTQ analyzed materials from 122 programs in 79 institutions in 33 states, mostly collected through open-records requests, and took note of each program’s lecture schedules, teacher candidate assignments, practice opportunities, and instruments used to observe and provide feedback on teaching episodes and textbooks.

What NCTQ found was that though 97 percent of the teacher prep programs analyzed provide “some kind of instruction on classroom management…these strategies are generally scattered throughout the curriculum.”

Most teacher prep programs also do not draw from research when deciding which classroom management strategies should be taught and practiced, because only 16 percent of programs evaluated by NCTQ teach all of the Big Five strategies.

“Especially out of favor seem to be strategies that impose consistent consequences for misbehavior, foster student engagement, and—most markedly—use praise and other means to reinforce positive behavior. Half of all programs ask candidates to develop their own ‘personal philosophy of classroom management,’ as if this were a matter of personal preference,” states the report.

NCTQ also notes that only one-third of programs require the practice of classroom management skills as they are learned, and this “disconnect” extends to the student-teaching experience.

“Regrettably, while we found some programs which did quite well on certain aspects of classroom management, we did not find any one program that did well across the board: teaching the five most proven strategies and creating opportunities for practicing them with plenty of strong feedback,” said Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ, in a statement. “The field’s leadership continues to send strong signals that teachers who can deliver a sufficiently engaging lesson will never have a behavior problem they have to solve. Any teacher can tell you that just isn’t the case.”

For more in-depth findings from the report, visit NCTQ’s key findings.

(Next page: Are teachers not getting the prep they deserve?)

Are teachers being thrown to the proverbial wolves?

NCTQ argues that some of today’s leaders in education endorse an approach that teachers should “be able to rise to a level of instructional virtuosity that eliminates the need for defined strategies to manage a classroom.”

Some educational leaders maintain “that the teacher candidate should instead learn to ‘manage many kinds of learning and teaching, through effective means of organizing and presenting information, managing discussions, organizing cooperative learning strategies, and supporting individual and group inquiry,’” according to NCTQ.

The report notes that there are some institutions, such as the University of Virginia, that are “paying more attention to research and to the alignment of instruction and practice.”

The report also proposes solutions for states and provides advice to teacher prep programs.

Still, NCTQ’s report leaves more questions asked than answered. For example:

  • What should teacher preparation programs teach in terms of classroom management skills, if any?
  • How has the perception of what it takes to “manage” students changed over the last few decades? And is this making a difference in teacher prep programs today?
  • What is the right research to follow when it comes to teaching in the classroom?

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Meris Stansbury

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