Academic journal article Education

Teacher Retreating: The Little Known Behavior That Impacts Teaching and Learning

Academic journal article Education

Teacher Retreating: The Little Known Behavior That Impacts Teaching and Learning

Article excerpt

A classroom is a complex social organization that can be examined using constructs associated with small group sociology (Bracey, 2009; Etzione, 1968; McFarland, 2001; Schlechty, 1976; Waller, 1961). Students and their teachers interact with one another to achieve group goals, and, as a result, each member of the group has various roles to play. The teacher has the critical role of leader while students assume various roles needed to achieve instructional goals and help the class function as a cohesive unit. How the teacher functions in this critical role of leader determines, to a great extent, how well the group will reach its goals. The teacher has specific instructional behaviors and specific management behaviors that are used to elicit the desired student interactions needed to be successful.

The article provides an overview of findings and conclusions based on data taken from four independent studies completed during a four year collaboration with a school district in the southeastern region of the United States. These sociologically based studies were designed to provide a better understanding of the impact that the classroom environment has on both teaching and learning. Although these studies were designed to investigate several variables that impact the learning environment, it became evident to the researchers that one rarely discussed variable, teacher retreating, had a powerful impact on the ability of teachers to teach and students to learn. The information reported here will assist teacher educators in the instruction of both teacher candidates and experienced teachers regarding best practice in providing quality learning environments (Savage-Davis, E, Costner, R.H., Ratcliff, N.J, Jones, C. R., Sheehan, H., Scott, M., & Hunt, G.H., 2011; Ratcliff, N., Jones, C., Costner, R., Savage-Davis, E., & Hunt, G., 2010; Ratcliff, N., Jones, C., Costner, R., Savage-Davis, E., Sheehan, H., & Hunt. G., 2010).

What is Teacher Retreating?

Before one can understand the concept of teacher retreating, one must have an operational definition of student non-compliance which was referred to as student rebellion by Schlechty (1976) and student defiance by other researchers (Smith and Bondy, 2007). For the current research, non-compliance (i.e., rebellion or defiance) is operationally defined as that behavior which occurs when students knowingly disregard a verbal or written behavior control directive made by their teachers. To further clarify, Kapalka (2006) suggested that students exhibit non-compliance when they do not respond to their teacher's request within 20 seconds. As Jones and Jones (2013) indicated, student non-compliance is a serious problem that can disrupt a teacher's ability to function as the leader in the classroom. Smith and Bondy (2007) noted that student defiance is quite common in school settings; in fact, Gregory (2005) reported that student defiance of a teacher's request is one of the most common causes for discipline referrals in school settings. Therefore, it becomes critical that teachers understand how to react to student non-compliance in order to prevent an escalation of unwanted behaviors.

Teacher retreating, a term defined in the educational literature by Schlechty (1976), is a behavior that occurs in the classroom when a teacher backs down after one or more students undermine the teacher's authority by failing to comply. For example, if the teacher were to ask a student to take his or her seat and the student does not comply, that teacher will be retreating if no action is taken in response to the student's non-compliance or rebellion. Thus, retreating occurs when teachers are aware that students are not doing what they have been asked to do, but yet, fail to respond to this lack of compliance.

Sometimes, retreating occurs after the teacher makes repeated attempts to gain compliance but finally gives up when the student still refuses to comply. …

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