Strengthening Professional Development Partnerships While Bridging Classroom Management Instruction and Practice

Article excerpt

Introduction

Classroom management is often noted as one of the most influential factors in determining success for first-year teachers and as the most influential factor in students' academic success (Marzano & Marzano, 2003). However, according to Haycock (2006), nearly half of this country's new teachers leave the classroom within their first five years, and for many of these teachers, the struggle with classroom management is the number one reason they leave the profession (Weiner, 2002). While school systems have responsibility in the ongoing professional development of their new hires, teacher preparation programs must also examine the role they play in building the foundation upon which their graduates develop and grow. Preparing new teachers to successfully manage a classroom is one of the most important tasks of teacher education programs. A strong partnership with local schools provides student teachers the opportunity to experience the real world of teaching and can greatly strengthen this foundation.

Inconsistencies

Teacher education programs have the task of developing thoughtful and socially progressive educators who can teach effectively. Smagorinsky, Cook, Moore, Jackson, and Fry (2004) indicate, however, that for many preservice teachers there seems to be a great divide between what their university professors teach and what they see practiced in the field. This inconsistency is challenging for many preservice teachers as they struggle with creating their own teacher identities (Stoughton, 2007). It is often difficult for preservice teachers to practice the management strategies taught in their university courses when the structure of their field experience classroom, the style of their cooperating teacher, and/or the requirements and restrictions from K-12 school administrators limit the types of strategies they are able to implement and practice in the field. This leaves the first year of teaching as the only true classroom management training ground for these novice teachers. In order to maximize the effectiveness of first-year teachers, teacher preparation programs and their school partners must work collaboratively to provide preservice teachers opportunities in which to implement and learn from a variety of classroom management strategies.

In 2001, Landau found that most universities addressed classroom management issues in the context of methods courses, with some programs having an additional stand-alone classroom management course to reinforce the concepts and theories. Instruction in methods courses and stand-alone courses typically consists of content related to organizational procedures, effective instructional strategies, and the formulation of a behavior management plan. Whether the classroom management content is integrated into methods courses or comes from a stand-alone course, Siebert (2005) indicates that many candidates feel unprepared to manage their own classrooms and have specifically voiced concern about their ability to apply the theory they learned in their college courses to the reality of the classroom.

Oliver and Reschly (2007) suggest that teacher preparation programs need to give teacher education candidates more than the intellectual understanding of the issues related to classroom management. They should also provide ample opportunities for guided practice and feedback in organizational procedures and instructional strategies, as well as implementing both preventive and corrective behavior management strategies. As previously noted, a problem arises when the field experience site does not provide adequate opportunity for observation or practice of a variety of appropriate procedures and strategies. Some candidates simply observe and implement their cooperating teacher's procedures, strategies, and behavior management system, and seldom have the opportunity to learn from developing and implementing their own. According to Charles (2008), the most effective way to develop successful classroom management skills is to create your own personalized plan given the most current and relevant information available. …