Perceptions of Education Majors and Experienced Teachers regarding Factors That Contribute to Successful Classroom Management

Article excerpt

Education majors and experienced teachers identified factors that they believed contributed to a successfully managed classroom and reported a percentage for the perceived influence of each factor. The participants also identified components (and their values) perceived to comprise the teacher's influence. The education majors attributed 41% of the influence for a successfully managed classroom to the teacher, whereas the teachers attributed 49% of the influence to themselves. Overall, the education majors and teachers attributed the greatest amount of a teacher's influence to the way in which the teacher presented information and interacted with students.

If you were to define a successfully managed classroom as one in which students achieve academic competencies, exhibit desirable social skills, develop increased self-respect, and move toward greater independence, (1) what factors would you list as contributing to such a classroom and (2) what percentage of influence would you attribute to each factor? Any factor you list, and the amount of influence you attribute to it, will probably emerge from your past experiences and the beliefs that you have formed from those experiences. For example, if you have had success as a teacher, you might list the teacher as a principle factor. You might also rank high on what researchers (e.g., Ashton & Webb, 1986; Dembo & Gibson, 1985) refer to as personal teaching efficacy, which reflects your beliefs about your own ability to affect student learning, and/or on general teaching efficacy, which reflects your beliefs about any teacher's ability to affect change. On the other hand, someone who has been unsuccessful in classroom management might be more inclined to list the teacher as having minimal influence. Indeed, research suggests that teachers who have a low sense of efficacy place more responsibilities for learning outcomes on students and other nonschool factors (Hall, Hines, Bacon, & Koulianos, 1992: Weber and Omotani, 1994).

Anyone's list obviously could consist of numerous factors with varying weights. Nonetheless, if teacher educators are to be effective in working with teachers and prospective teachers--whether the goal is to help them reflect upon their role, debunk erroneous beliefs, or increase their own sense of efficacy--a logical starting point would be to assess what perceptions they do hold. Other researchers, of course, have previously sought to identify the elements that teachers and prospective teachers perceive as accounting for student successes and failures. One approach has been the use of written descriptions of actual teaching events. Placek and Dodds (1988), for example, used critical incident descriptions to discover the elements that preservice teachers saw as contributing to successful and unsuccessful teaching, and Killen (1994) used journal entries of practicing teachers to identify the themes related to successful and unsuccessful teaching experiences as well as the reasons for successes and failures. Hall and his colleagues (1992) used an attribution rating scale in which teachers indicated on a 6-point scale the importance of given elements in explaining why certain students performed successfully and why others had poor performances; the ratings were then correlated with different dimensions of efficacy.

The present study was quite limited in scope, seeking to identify factors contributing to successful classroom management (a more global approach than reference to specific teaching events or specific outcomes with targeted students) through the use of an open ended question. The study or a variation of it could easily be conducted in a teacher educator's own classroom as a means of facilitating discussion and pinpointing the current thinking of students. More specifically, the study sought to identify (a) the factors perceived by teacher trainees and experienced teachers as contributing to successful classroom management as well as the percentage of influence each factor was believed to carry and (b) the components perceived to comprise what a teacher brings to the classroom (i. …