April 21, 1998
Inquiry Project Reflection
The question we chose to research examined how to prevent unnecessary conflict in our classroom(s). In reviewing the first part of our inquiry project, we discovered that our initial assumptions were correct. These assumptions were that discipline problems such as verbal interruptions, off-task behavior, physical movement intended to disrupt, and generally hostile students definitely exist in most classrooms. However, our assumption that the majority of teachers often ostracize or humiliate their students when attempting to discipline them was proven wrong in our field experience.
During our first four weeks in Park Forest Middle School, we observed an eighth grade English class. Immediately, our eyes were opened to our cooperating teacher's very easy going demeanor. Based on what we had seen so far of the students and their classroom behavior, we wondered if his approach to classroom management was the best option. In our original inquiry project, we spent a great deal of time examining the importance of referent power. As we personally perceived the concept of referent power, it seemed to us that the students had not established this relationship with their teacher. Some of the students showed a blatant lack of respect for the teacher and their classmates by calling names or rolling their eyes. However, after reflecting on what referent power is we realize that he has established referent power with some students, but not all. Referent power cannot be established with every student by the teacher because it takes equal participation from both the teacher and student. this teacher establishes referent power with students by questioning them on their extra-curricular activities, behavior in other classes, and showing overall interest in their lives. We noticed these actions in homeroom and in between classes more than in his actual English classes.
Although our cooperating teacher showed an obvious interest in his students' lives, and the students seemed to appreciate that interest, the discipline problems in class still persisted. Therefore, the possibility stands that referent power is not the answer to classroom management. Referent power alone will not encourage a student to do his/her work or behave in a teacher's classroom. However, referent power does make the students and the teacher feel more comfortable in their interactions with one another.
Based on our eye-opening experience with referent power, we reconsidered our stance on dealing with classroom management problems. We devised and implemented a plan which allowed for more structure in a classroom environment. This plan consisted of an agreed upon set of expectations comprised by the teacher and students together in order to attain an environment in which all students feel comfortable learning. Those expectations include not talking out in class, not walking around the classroom in the middle of lessons, respecting others' space and belongings in class, and showing respect for individuals while they are speaking by holding comments until the speaker has finished.
Another aspect of our plan included establishing a way to grab the attention of the class in peer-group work situations or whenever necessary in conducting class. We asked the students what they felt would quickly grab their attention, and they helped us determine two ways to do so. One way was to hold up a hand in the air in the middle of the classroom and wait . . . for the class to quiet down. Another attention-getter was to turn the lights off in the classroom and wait until the class quiets. These methods seemed to work well with the students, which might be because the students actively participated in determining them.
In addition to establishing the rules, we established consequences. Before implementing the consequences, we make every effort to allow the students to modify the disruptive behavior. For example, a student who calls out in class would spark the teacher response, "I need to see hands, please." Afterward, the students should raise their hands to answer the questions, and the teacher should be appreciative of that action. However, if the students fail to do so, consequences must be enforced. One consequence we established deals with on-task behavior in group work. Most work done in our unit consisted of group work, and we allowed the students to choose their own groups with the understanding that the groups may be changed by the teachers or separated in the event that all group members are not contributing to the tasks at hand. In such a case, the separated individual will be expected to do all of the work that the rest of the group is doing, but s/he must complete it alone.
Aside from planning what we would do in the event of a problem, we also thought about what could be done to prevent problems from arising. The most important method of preventing off-task behavior in groups was to assign a recorder and a facilitator to monitor group actions. The recorder was responsible for writing what each group member contributed each day and what the group accomplished as a whole. It was the job of the facilitator to ensure that the group remained on task. The facilitator was required to make a list of tasks to be accomplished each day. Blank handouts were provided to these group members daily to make these tasks as simple as possible. If the group strayed from the tasks, the facilitator pulled the group together. the recorder and facilitator handed in these items daily at the end of class. If one or both of these members were absent, other group members would assume the roles for that day. Each day the records of the facilitator and of the recorder were kept in a folder and at the end of the unit a grade was assigned on the completion of these tasks.
Determining efficient classroom management is important in all aspects
of education, especially in literacy education. Teachers and students alike
require a comfortable environment which fosters open communication of ideas
among all individuals in the classroom. An integral part of literacy education
is language. When a teacher has no control over his/her classroom, it is
impossible for students and teachers to vocalize important thoughts and
ideas. It is this exchange of ideas among the class members which encourages
critical thinking and response. When a classroom does not provide a safe
and efficient learning environment for students, the opportunity for this
exchange is lost. Therefore, it is necessary to establish classroom management
standards whose conditions are acceptable to both the students and the teacher
and that the teacher feels comfortable enforcing.