Element 5- Teachers create and maintain safe and challenging learning environments through the use of classroom management skills
I have created a learning environment in the three classrooms that I have completed practicum in. These learning environments provided students with a safe and supportive environment where I developed a rapport with students. I was able to develop rapport with all students through introductory activities and informal conversations with students. I also ensured that I learnt all students’ names within the first day to further develop a strong rapport with students. This was a particularly vital element in creating a positive and supportive learning environment. Evidence of my ability to establish such an environment is demonstrated in students’ participation in various lessons and in the discussions held within the classroom. Feedback from my supervising teacher demonstrates my achievement in this area. Throughout my various practicum experiences, I have also utilised several behaviour management strategies best suited to the students within the classroom. This includes rewarding students with a PE lesson of their choice at the end of the week, using various grouping strategies to engage students in learning activities and employing a multitude of methods to regain attention within the classroom. In creating a safe learning environment, I have also demonstrated awareness of safety issues and addressed these across several Key Learning Areas, particularly Science and Personal Development, Health and Physical Education lessons. This can be seen in the safety considerations mentioned in the lessons that I have created.
I will continue to develop my knowledge of various behaviour management strategies so that I will be prepared for the various classroom dynamics that I will encounter. I will also employ a wider range of strategies to develop rapport with all students in the classroom.
I need to utilize student profiles when entering the classroom as a means of developing rapport with students and a means of collecting work samples for assessment. I need to experiment with more behaviour management strategies such as negotiating classroom rules, providing students with choice and finding alternative methods to clapping hands as a means of regaining students’ attention.
I believe that a supportive learning environment is one of the key building blocks to facilitating student’s engagement and deep understanding and learning in the classroom. One way to achieve this is to develop a strong rapport with students from the first moment of interaction. I believe that it is vital that students are treated with respect and seen as equal to all their peers and the teacher in the classroom. I also believe that it is important that understanding of students’ interests outside of the classroom and their personalities will also assist in the creation of an environment they feel comfortable in and will enhance their learning within the classroom.
The use of discussions in the classroom is an effective tool for engaging students and exploring opinions and ideas. I believe that teachers have an important role in monitoring the dynamics of the discussion and should know how to encourage the development of quality discussion. This includes knowing when to encourage conflicts to come out in the open within a group, when to quiet an outspoken student or how to frame critical questions in terms that can be understood and will not threaten self-esteem (Brookfield, 1987, cited in O’Dea, 2006). Monitoring student's verbal and nonverbal behaviours, and student engagement and participation all assist in the facilitation of a more democratic, balanced and successful discussion. It is also vital that all students’ ideas are valued and respected, particularly in these situations.
Having a behaviour management strategy and knowledge of various approaches to maintaining a productive classroom environment is essential in creating a quality learning environment. I believe that providing clear directions for learning activities is one simple method that will facilitate this and keep students engaged. This requires careful planning and having open lines of communication between the teacher and students. I also believe that the limited use of positive reinforcement is another method of managing behaviour in the classroom. However, it is important that when a reward is given, it is relevant to the learning activities being conducted, such as the reward of extra PE time. Developing a set of classroom rules as a class is another practice that provides students with ownership in the classroom and helps them set the level of behaviour expectations. When devising these rules, I believe that it is important that positive statements are used such as “I listen when others are speaking” as opposed to “I do not speak when others are speaking”.
Glasser’s choice theory has also influenced my approach to classroom behaviour management. The idea at the centre of this theory is that the only person’s behaviour that I can control is my own. Therefore, as a teacher, my role is to establish a strong relationship with students and support them in achieving quality outcomes in their learning. This also requires the establishing values of respect and responsibility in the classroom.