Classroom-management preparation is intricately tied to beginner-teacher success. Beginner teachers are more likely than their experienced peers to work in challenging schools. When they do not have the necessary training or support to execute lesson plans, many teachers leave the profession entirely.
Preservice teachers cannot learn about classroom management if teacher education does not provide it. In the past decade, there has been some improvement in the number of teacher-prep programs relying on evidence-based classroom management, but there remains an underemphasis on those strategies in the coursework.
According to the latest review from the National Council on Teacher Quality, just under half of teacher-prep programs sufficiently cover essential classroom-management strategies. That is despite clear evidence that effective classroom-management preparation can lead to positive academic, behavioral, and social-emotional outcomes for students.
Below are five evidence-based ways for teacher educators to improve preparation, compiled from multiple studies that I have conducted on classroom management as well as reading numerous empirical studies on the topic. Even current teachers, whether they had adequate training or not, can consider how these elements inform and enhance their own classroom.
1. Understand how students’ personal and cultural needs dictate how a classroom is managed (culture).
Culturally responsive classroom management must be embedded and central in classrooms. Teacher education programs need to prioritize classroom management in the context of their students’ diverse personal and cultural differences. Teacher educators should expand their curricula to include culturally responsive classroom-management strategies. They should also assess indicators of this knowledge, such as recognizing personal biases and embedding student experiences in lessons, throughout courses.
2. Implement practical instructional methods to develop preservice teachers in classroom management (methods).
When classroom management is taught to preservice educators, it often occurs in a classroom context without real-life opportunities to engage with this practical skill. I’ve personally seen this happen at three institutions where I was a teacher educator and heard countless other similar experiences.
Often, preservice teachers read or write about classroom management, focusing on types of classroom-management theories rather than observing, practicing, or modeling it. Instead, research suggests several more-effective instructional methods:
- Integrate technology by showing videos of exemplary classroom practice, filming preservice teachers’ field placements to reflect on personal or peer practice, and using virtual reality tools to give students more authentic opportunities to practice strategies.
- Rotate curriculum between theory and practice, embedding case studies as examples.
- Role-play and allow for controlled experiences managing classrooms.
3. Identify practical strategies for preservice teachers to create a safe, supportive classroom environment (practice).
Focus on research-based classroom-management strategies, which include establishing rules, routines, and expectations; constantly praising students’ specific actions; and being strategic about responding to student misbehavior. The journal article “Evidence-Based Practices in Classroom Management: Considerations for Research to Practice” and the NCTQ report exploring the “the big five” classroom strategies are both effective introductions to these strategies.
4. Create positive teacher-student, student-student, and teacher-parent relationships (relationships).
Emphasize strategies for building:
- Teacher-student relationships, by teaching how to exhibit warmth, care, respect, and empathy through eye contact, body positioning, and seating arrangements;
- Student-student relationships, by empowering students to build self-esteem, offering positive enforcement of effort, encouraging student ownership of content, and facilitating collaborative learning; and
- Teacher-parent relationships, by actively engaging parents and hosting student-centered school events.
5. Respond to student misbehavior in an authentic classroom environment (partnerships).
Design or extend field experiences so that preservice teachers can observe, process, and reflect on classroom-management actions. Provide designated time to discuss what was seen in classrooms and consider the management-based decisions that occurred. Also, coordinate preservice teacher experiences with field-placement schools through effective communication and collaborative meetings.
As a next step, teacher educators need to consider how to incorporate this framework—CM-PReP for short—into their program or preexisting courses as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Each objective provides specific guidance built from research to prepare effective classroom managers.
Culture, practice, and relationships in particular should permeate throughout all classrooms. However, changing programs, coursework, and curriculum takes time and effort. Teacher preparation is notoriously slow to change the status quo, even for minor coursework adjustments.
Yet, preservice teachers need to be prepared on day one, and programs need to act expediently to get them ready. It is problematic and arguably unethical to disregard the importance of classroom management in effective teacher preparation.
This lack of classroom-management training is particularly salient for graduates of alternative-certification programs, as states like Texas increasingly rely on those programs. Furthermore, it is a problem that disproportionately handicaps students of color, who unfortunately receive more frequent and harsher consequences, particularly among beginning teachers.
Teacher educators, administrators, and policymakers need to work toward facilitating improvement in even just one of these five categories each semester, which would prompt substantive improvements that altogether prepare better classroom managers.