Classroom Management in Secondary Schools: A Study of Student Teachers' Successful Strategies

Article excerpt


The purpose of this paper is to identify strategies for preventing and managing classroom discipline problems that any teacher, even a student teacher, can use successfully. Sixty-eight student science teachers, during their first weeks of student teaching, each reported, in an account of a well-remembered event about classroom management, successfully using one or a combination of 18 different proactive and reactive discipline strategies adapted from Levin and Nolan (2003). Three strategies, however, were particularly fruitful: changing the pace of the lesson, using the least intrusive intervention along a sequence of nonverbal to verbal strategies, and conferring privately with a chronically disruptive student.


What strategies for preventing and managing classroom discipline problems can any secondary teacher, even a student teacher, use successfully? Preventing and managing discipline problems in the context of a classroom's swiftly occurring and often unpredictable events is a complicated enterprise, especially for a student teacher, who is just beginning to develop the skills to monitor student engagement while executing a fresh lesson (Kounin, 1970). The ability to prevent and manage discipline problems, however, is what principals (Veenman, 1984), inservice supervisors (Zuckerman, 1997), and the public (Gallup, 1983) focus on when assessing the effectiveness of any teacher. Thus classroom discipline problems are a pressing concern for most teachers (Doyle, 1986; Fuller, 1969; Ganser, 1999; Wi I lower, 1975; Veenman, 1984).

The strategies that expert teachers use to prevent and/or manage classroom discipline problems are not necessarily useful to all teachers (Kounin, 1970). Experts have not only more (and more elaborate) knowledge than most teachers, but their knowledge is organized into more efficient pattern recognition and information retrieval schemas (Glaser, 1985; Hankins, 1987; Simon & Simon, 1979). Thus many teachers are likely to find the strategies that student teachers have used successfully are more helpful than those that expert teachers, such as their supervisors, recommend. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to identify some successful strategies for teachers, including novice teachers and those responsible for coaching them, in order to prevent or manage a classroom discipline problem.

This study reports how 68 student teachers each identified a classroom discipline problem and successfully used a strategy or combination of strategies to prevent or manage it. The findings are based on each student teacher's written account of a well-remembered event. A wellremembered event is an incident or episode from a teacher's own practice that he or she considered especially salient or memorable (Carter, 1990, 1993, 1994; Carter & Gonzalez, 1990). Along with a description of the event itself, such accounts ordinarily consist of an analysis of the event, including its implications for teaching. These accounts have been found to generate rich, reliable information about how teachers think about their practical problems (Carter, 1990, 1994; Carter & Gonzalez, 1990; Zuckerman, 2000).



One hundred forty-one secondary science student teachers (18 cohorts, each consisting of from 3 to 12 student teachers) were asked to submit, during the sixth week of their student teaching semester, a one-page account of a well-remembered event about classroom management. To prepare for writing the account, they were encouraged to keep, during the fifth week, a journal of their classroom management experiences. They were told the account should include not only a description of the event itself but an analysis of the event, including its implications for teaching.

All of the student teachers were preparing for New York State certification to teach one of the natural sciences in grades 7-12. …


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