Element 5: Teachers create and maintain safe and challenging learning environments through the use of classroom management skills
Create an environment of respect and rapport
5.1.1 Demonstrate a variety of strategies to develop rapport with all students.
5.1.2 Establish supportive learning environments where students feel safe to risk full participation.
Establish a climate where learning is valued and students’ ideas are respected
5.1.3 Demonstrate strategies to create a positive environment supporting student effort and learning.
Manage classroom activities smoothly and efficiently
5.1.4 Provide clear directions for classroom activities and engage students in purposeful learning activities.
Manage student behaviour and promote student responsibility for learning
5.1.5 Demonstrate knowledge of practical approaches to managing student behaviour and their application in the classroom.
5.1.6 Demonstrate knowledge of principles and practices for managing classroom discipline.
Assure the safety of students
5.1.7 Understand specific requirements for ensuring student safety in schools.
I believe that the way in which teachers utilise their classroom management skills will inadvertently influence and affect what students gain and absorb from their learning environment. Therefore it is important that all teachers adopt a pedagogy that encompasses effective classroom and behaviour management practices that allow for a safe and challenging learning environment. Teachers need to be wary though of their values and educational philosophy so that their discipline strategies are in harmony with their convictions. This stops students from being confused as well as internal/personal conflicts (Edwards & Watts, 2004, pp.20).
Teachers need to customise and provide learning experiences that are motivating, engaging, and exhibit clear expectations and goals. They need to also ensure that students feel valued and that their opinions are respected so they feel safe to risk full participation. I believe this is achieved when teachers develop a positive rapport with students by listening to their needs, sharing their interests, recognising their efforts and making it clear that it is okay to make mistakes. Valuing teacher-student relationships can also be achieved by non-judgmental, non-punitive and non-blameful interactions (Edwards & Watts, 2004, pp.245). All of this in turn develops mutual respect and trust between the teacher and student – two things that are important when practising effective classroom management.
I have in past professional experiences, always valued all students’ contributions and opinions during class discussions (Appendix 3). I have demonstrated this by taking time to listen to their response, giving recognition or commendation, providing feedback or comments, and displaying their work around the classroom (Edwards & Watts, 2004, pp.245). On previous practicum, I was keen to get to know my students by engaging with them not only inside the classroom, but also outside such as during lunch, sports, Halloween Disco and also during their Swimming Scheme.
During my second year of practicum, I designed a HSIE lesson with Early Stage 1 students called ‘This Is Me!’ I introduced the lesson by preparing a selection of family photographs which I showed to the class and used descriptive language to describe their appearance, personality, characteristics, etc. This not only modelled descriptive language, but it also allowed me to develop a rapport with students by showing them aspects of my life outside of the classroom. Then the role was reversed and students had to describe something about their family or themselves. This enabled me to also learn something new about my students. I have also facilitated to students’ learning by designing tasks that are within their zone of proximal development (McInerney & McInerney, 2006, pp.58). In past professional experiences, establishing a relationship with students and taking time to understand how they learn and the level of their abilities allowed me to design tasks that were challenging, yet achievable (Appendix 5). I also had to bear in mind that their learning was scaffolded so that a supportive learning environment was established (Appendix 5).
Another example of this was demonstrated in a PDHPE ‘Bullying’ lesson with stage 2 students where I scaffolded students’ learning by reading well known fables, and then facilitating a class discussion about the hidden messages or morals of the stories in terms of developing positive relationships with other people. This then lead students to work in groups to act out how they would respond when confronted with a given scenario. I thought this was beneficial for students as it allowed them to feel valued within their group, develop their decision making and negotiation skills, and also take responsibility for their own learning, hence develop independence and self autonomy (QTF, NSW DET, 2003).
I have used a range of strategies for managing students’ behaviour and safety. Such include implementing the school reward system, giving verbal praise to students who are well behaved, standing in front of the class and using my facial and body language to gain their attention and silence, and clapping as a cue (Appendix 5). I also like to be specific with my praise as it tends to motivate other students to stay on task e.g. Sally can help me write on the board today because she raised her hand instead of calling out. During past professional experiences, I have found though that all students are different and may not respond in the same way to a classroom management strategy. Therefore it is important that when subjected to a new class, I trial and error various strategies to determine which are effective.
I still need to widen my range of behaviour management strategies and will do so during my next practicum and also through reflective thinking. Through this, I will be able to understand how complex, situation-specific and dilemma-ridden teaching really is, and be able to make valid and practical decisions during ongoing classroom situations (Edwards & Watts, 2004, pp.37). I will also familiarise myself with the school policies, enquiring with the school staff and classroom teacher, observing and also engaging in wider reading of theories and practices. I will also continually develop my pedagogy.
Edwards, C. & Watts, V. (2004). Classroom Discipline and Management – an Australasian perspective. Queensland: John Wiley Sons Australia, Ltd
McInerney, D. and McInerney, V. (2006). Educational Psychology: Constructing Learning. Sydney: Pearson Education Australia.
NSW Department of Education and Training (2003). Quality teaching in New South Wales public schools: A classroom practical guide. Sydney: Author.