Facing Student Disengagement: Vocational Teachers' Evolution of Their Classroom Management

By Girardet, Céline; Berger, Jean-Louis | Journal for Educational Research Online, September 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Facing Student Disengagement: Vocational Teachers' Evolution of Their Classroom Management


Girardet, Céline, Berger, Jean-Louis, Journal for Educational Research Online


1. Introduction

How can I change my classroom management practices to address student disengagement? This is a question that many teachers ask themselves. Indeed, classroom management is a major concern of not only beginning but also experienced teachers (OECD, 2009). Classroom management includes multiple aspects, such as teachers' behaviors to create a structured and effective classroom environment, actions taken to promote change in students' behaviors, or measures to help students fulfill their responsibilities (Woolfolk Hoy & Weinstein, 2006). Originally, the research on classroom management aimed to identify predictors of teacher effectiveness (Emmer & Sabornie, 2015) and typically emphasized behavior control (Evertson & Neal, 2006). Nowadays, researchers increasingly agree on an approach to classroom management that encourages the development of students' self-regulation (Bear, 2015). In this paper, the emphasis is on an approach to classroom management that is consistent with motivation and self-regulation theories. How schools and teachers can promote students' motivation and engagement has become a central topic for researchers and educators (Christenson, Reschly, & Wylie, 2012). Motivational theories in the field of educational psychology have brought detailed explanations of how student motivation translates into behavioral, cognitive, and emotional engagement (Skinner, Furrer, Marchand, & Kindermann, 2008). In addition, instructional practices, notably how teachers interact with their students and manage their classrooms, have been studied as sources of student motivation and engagement (Midgley, 2002).

Research has progressed extensively in regard to understanding practices that encourage student motivation and engagement.1 However, there is limited evidence to explain why teachers adopt or discard those instructional practices. If we want to guide teachers toward practices that foster student engagement, we need to ad- dress the following questions: What are the factors driving teachers toward the use of teaching practices? What factors are in play when one tries to change such practices?

This study aims to address these questions from a teacher perspective and to provide clues regarding which factors should be encouraged in teacher education to guide teachers' evolution toward engagement-enhancing classroom management practices. Taking into account not only teacher education but also teachers' professional lives and working contexts will enable a dynamic understanding of teacher change.

1.1Why do teachers adopt certain practices and others don't? The importance of teachers' beliefs

While extensive research has been conducted regarding which practices encourage student engagement (Reeve, 2009), further studies are needed to explain why teachers adopt or discard those instructional practices and how the process of change in practices takes place. Such an explanation might come from the research indicating that beliefs are critical in defining behavior and organizing knowledge; in this view, instructional practices are assumed to be grounded in teachers' beliefs (Buehl & Beck, 2015). Beliefs are the products of subjective evaluations and judgments and play a critical role in explaining teachers' ways of thinking, understanding and behaving (Pajares, 1992). There is some evidence that one's belief system is arranged like an idiosyncratic web in which various and inconsistent beliefs coexist and are interrelated (Chi, 2008). In contrast, teachers' knowledge consists of empirically verifiable assertions that are based on scientific proof. Even if beliefs and knowledge are conceptually distinct, they are empirically difficult to distinguish (Calderhead, 1996; Kagan, 1992). Furthermore, while the knowledge base of teaching is learned during teacher education and beyond, beliefs are considered less malleable as they are grounded in a wide range of personal experiences including not only teacher education but also one's own schooling and well-remembered events (Calderhead, 1996; Richardson & Placier, 2001). …

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